BFI Southbank celebrate Glenda Jackson with month-long season

The BFI celebrate the immense talent of actor GLENDA JACKSON with a month-long season of film and television spanning her incredible career, taking place at BFI Southbank from 2 – 31 July. 

GLENDA JACKSON: THE ART OF CONVICTION will feature screenings of her Oscar-winning performances in WOMEN IN LOVE (Ken Russell, 1969) and A TOUCH OF CLASS (Melvin Frank, 1973), a complete screening of the stunning mini-series ELIZABETH R (BBC, 1971), Jackson’s take on Ibsen, HEDDA (Trevor Nunn, 1975), and her triumphant return to television following her long political career, ELIZABETH IS MISSING (STV/BBC/PBS, 2019). A highlight of the season will be GLENDA JACKSON IN CONVERSATION on 5 July, providing audiences with a unique opportunity to hear from one of the greatest actors of our time, who has a track record of choosing roles that are centred on independence and conviction, and whose talent and intensity have burned through big and small screen alike. GLENDA JACKSON: THE ART OF CONVICTION is co-programmed by BFI Lead Programmer Justin Johnson, and BFI Television Programmer Marcus Prince.

Jackson won her first Oscar for Ken Russell’s fine take on DH Lawrence’s WOMEN IN LOVE (Ken Russell, 1969), about two independent sisters who become attracted to a couple of male friends, beginning in motion an unconventional courtship, rife with jealousy, anger and isolation. Jackson once again teamed up with Ken Russell for DH Lawrence adaptation THE RAINBOW (1989); this time Ursula (Jackson’s character from WOMEN IN LOVE) is played by Sammi Davis, as she finds herself navigating the challenges of her adolescent awakenings, while Jackson plays Ursula’s mother Anna. 

Daring and controversial at the time of release, SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY (John Schlesinger, 1971) grapples with the emotional fallout from a polyamorous relationship between a young artist, a lonely doctor and a divorcée played by Murray Head, Peter Finch and Glenda Jackson respectively. Melvin Frank’s A TOUCH OF CLASS (1973) stars Jackson as a woman who jets off to Malaga to begin an affair with a married man, played by George Segal. However, everything that could go wrong does so, for this seemingly incompatible couple; this British romcom followed Jackson’s star turn on The Morecambe and Wise Show and she was rewarded with another Oscar® for her hilarious and nuanced performance.

Winning five Emmys, including best actress for Glenda Jackson, ELIZABETH R (BBC, 1971)drew over 10 million viewers – meaning that, for a whole generation, Jackson is the definitive Queen Elizabeth I. The six episodes allowed space for Jackson to take her Elizabeth from a young, struggling queen to a wily ruler, and finally a disillusioned old woman, in a true acting masterclass. The series will screen in its entirely over one two days from 30 – 31 JulyMARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS (Charles Jarrott, 1971) depicts the threat posed to the English throne by Protestant Queen Elizabeth I’s younger Catholic cousin. It is packed with British acting talent, including Vanessa Redgrave and Timothy Dalton, with Jackson once again (following ELIZABETH R) portraying Queen Elizabeth I. The film provides its best moment when the two women meet (something that did not happen in reality), with Jackson on towering form as the determined, intelligent queen. MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTSwill also be released on BFI Blu-ray on 11 July.

Glenda Jackson’s political convictions undoubtedly attracted her to the subject matter of GIRO CITY (Karl Francis, 1982), about a group of Welsh investigative journalists covering the Troubles in Northern Ireland, who unearth censorship and corruption back home. Always fully engaged with the issues of the world around her, and seeking political solutions to them, Jackson appeared on many current-affairs and talk shows over the years, a compilation of which will screen alongside GIRO CITY; GLENDA JACKSON AND POLITICS will provide an insight into the issues that matter the most to her.

In THE MAIDS (Christopher Miles, 1975), Glenda Jackson and Susannah York reprise their acclaimed theatre roles in this adaptation of Jean Genet’s play. When the owners of the house are out their two maids find pleasure in a masochistic role-play, where they take turns acting as their employer. In the process, they begin to recognise the unbridled disgust of the ruling class that simmers beneath their everyday deeds. Jackson takes on Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler in Trevor Nunn’s 1975 film HEDDA, in which she triumphs as the general’s daughter whose disdain for her new husband and the home he’s bought her is all too apparent. When a visit from a former lover brings fresh attention, it’s clear that a domestic crisis is on the horizon. Trevor Nunn, who was Artistic Director of the RSC at the time, made a seamless move into directing for the screen, and Jackson was nominated for yet another Oscar® for her exceptional performance.

Poet and novelist Stevie Smith is the subject of biopic STEVIE (Robert Enders, 1978), about the accomplished writer who lives an unremarkable life in a suburban house with her aunt, and reminisces about her past. Jackson and co-star Mona Washbourne bring to life an insightful script about an artist at different stages in her life, as she changes roles and faces inevitable truths. In TURTLE DIARY (John Irvine, 1985) two lonely Londoners played by Glenda Jackson and Ben Kingsley find refuge from their lives in their visits to see the turtles at London Zoo, and start hatching plans to liberate the creatures – and perhaps themselves too. With a script by Harold Pinter, TURTLE DIARY is a rarely seen British treat.

In THE ROMANTIC ENGLISHWOMAN (Joseph Losey, 1975)Jackson stars opposite Michael Caine as a woman in a mundane relationship with a popular novelist, who decides to travel to Germany on a trip of self-discovery. There, she meets a mysterious younger man and unwittingly puts herself and her family in danger the closer she gets to him. A newly widowed doctor played by Walter Matthau has begun dating again in HOUSE CALLS (Howard Zieff, 1978), but finds being single difficult and his romantic life seems doomed to fail. That is, until he starts to fall for a patient played by Glenda Jackson.

John Hopkins’ powerful script for HORROR OF DARKNESS (The Wednesday Play, BBC, 1965)revolves around a couple who live happily together until Robin comes to stay and a toxic love triangle emerges. It will play alongside LET’S MURDER VIVALDI (The Wednesday Play, BBC, 1968), a TV play that follows a senior civil servant and his wife, who enjoy a ‘civilised marriage’, until he decides to seduce a young colleague played by Jackson. Eugene O’Neill’s extraordinary play STRANGE INTERLUDE(American Playhouse, HTV/Channel 4, 1988) follows the complicated love lives of four characters over the decades: Glenda Jackson is magnificent as the tortured, and at times manipulative, Nina Leeds, who fascinates and frustrates the men around her.

The star-studded cast of Nuria Espert’s 1986 Lyric Theatre production of Lorca’s THE HOUSE OF BERNARDA ALBA (Channel 4/Holmes Associates, 1991) were reunited to film the work for Channel 4. Jackson is terrifying and magnificent as the unbending matriarch Bernarda, who decrees an eight-year period of mourning for herself and her five daughters following the death of her husband. In condemning her daughters to a prison-like existence she hopes to keep ancient traditions alive, but as sexual desire enters the household, her authority is challenged.

An uncompromising sense of conviction led Jackson to leave behind acting and serve as a Labour MP for more than 20 years from 1992 to 2015, however she made a triumphant return to the stage with the title role in King Lear at The Old Vic, followed soon after by the TV adaptation of Emma Healey’s debut novel ELIZABETH IS MISSING (STV/BBC/PBS, 2019), for which she won a BAFTA. ELIZABETH IS MISSING offers a sensitive and heart-wrenching story of a woman’s search for the truth around her friend’s disappearance – yet, suffering from dementia, Maud (Jackson) finds that few will take her seriously.

Jackson’s brave career choices have left us a marvellous record of her immense talent – many of which we showcase in this one-month season.

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