Tony Richardson
Cecil Antonio Richardson

(1928-06-05)5 June 1928
Died14 November 1991(1991-11-14) (aged 63)
Los Angeles, California
  • Director
  • producer
  • screenwriter
Years active1952–1991
(m. 1962; div. 1967)
Children3, including Natasha and Joely

Cecil Antonio Richardson (5 June 1928 – 14 November 1991) was an English theatre and film director, producer and screenwriter, whose career spanned five decades. He was identified with the "angry young men" group of British directors and playwrights during the 1950s, and was later a key figure in the British New Wave filmmaking movement.[1]

His films Look Back in Anger (1959), The Entertainer (1960), A Taste of Honey (1961), and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962) are considered classics of kitchen sink realism.[1] He won the 1964 Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Picture for the film Tom Jones. He was also a two-time BAFTA Award winner, and was twice nominated for the Palme d'Or.

With his wife Vanessa Redgrave, Richardson was the father to actresses Natasha Richardson and Joely Richardson.

Early life

Richardson was born in Shipley, West Riding of Yorkshire in 1928 to Clarence Albert Richardson, a chemist, and his wife, Elsie Evans (née Campion). Lived on the edge of Saltaire as a young child and kept grass snakes with his childhood friend Joan Naylor.[2] He was Head Boy at Ashville College, Harrogate and attended Wadham College, University of Oxford. His Oxford contemporaries included Rupert Murdoch, Margaret Thatcher, Kenneth Tynan, Lindsay Anderson and Gavin Lambert. He had the unprecedented distinction of being the President of both the Oxford University Dramatic Society and the Experimental Theatre Club (the ETC), in addition to being the theatre critic for the university magazine Isis.[3] Those he cast in his student productions included Shirley Williams (as Cordelia), John Schlesinger, Nigel Davenport and Robert Robinson.[4]


Richardson's house from 1928 to 1948, 28 Bingley Road, Saltaire, Shipley

In 1955, in his directing debut,[5] Richardson produced Jean Giraudoux's The Apollo of Bellac for television with Denholm Elliott and Natasha Parry in the main roles.[6] Around the same time he began to be active in Britain's Free Cinema movement, co-directing the non-fiction short Momma Don't Allow (also 1955) with Karel Reisz.[7]

Part of the British "New Wave" of directors, he was involved in the formation of the English Stage Company, along with his close friend George Goetschius and George Devine. He directed John Osborne's play Look Back in Anger at the Royal Court Theatre, and in the same period he directed Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon. Then in 1957 he directed Laurence Olivier as Archie Rice in Osborne's next play The Entertainer, again for the Royal Court.

In 1959, Richardson co-founded Woodfall Film Productions with John Osborne and producer Harry Saltzman, and, as Woodfall's debut, directed the film version of Look Back in Anger (1959), his first feature film. The Entertainer (1960), A Taste of Honey (1961), and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962), based on the novel by Alan Sillitoe, also were produced there.

BFI plaque commemorating Richardson's contribution to cinema

Many of Richardson's films, such as A Taste of Honey and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, were part of the acclaimed kitchen sink realism movement popular in Britain at the time, and several of his films continue to be held as cornerstones of the movement.[8][9]

In 1964, Richardson received two Academy Awards (Best Director and Best Picture) for Tom Jones (1963) based on the novel by Henry Fielding.[10]

His next film was The Loved One (1965), in which he worked with established stars, including John Gielgud, Rod Steiger and Robert Morse, and worked in Hollywood both on location and on the sound stage.[11] In his autobiography, he confesses that he did not share the general admiration of Haskell Wexler, who worked on The Loved One as both director of photography and a producer.[12]

Among stars that Richardson directed were Jeanne Moreau, Orson Welles, Rob Lowe, Milton Berle, Trevor Howard, David Hemmings, Nicol Williamson, Tom Courtenay, Lynn Redgrave, Marianne Faithfull, Richard Burton,[13] Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Mick Jagger, Katharine Hepburn, Seth Green, Tommy Lee Jones and Judi Dench. His musical composers included Antoine Duhamel, John Addison and Shel Silverstein. His screenwriters were Jean Genet, Christopher Isherwood, Terry Southern, Marguerite Duras, Edward Bond (adapting Vladimir Nabokov) and Edward Albee. Richardson and Osborne eventually fell out[14] during production of the film Charge of the Light Brigade (1968). The basic issue was Osborne's unwillingness to go through the rewrite process, more arduous in film than it is in the theatre. Richardson had a different version. In his autobiography (p. 195), he writes that Osborne was angry at being replaced in a small role by Laurence Harvey to whom the producers had obligations. Osborne took literary revenge by creating a fictionalised and pseudonymous Richardson – a domineering and arrogant character whom everyone hated – in his play The Hotel in Amsterdam.

Richardson's work was stylistically varied. Mademoiselle (1966) was shot noir-style on location in rural France with a static camera, monochrome film stock and no music. The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968) was part epic and part animated feature. Ned Kelly (1970) was what might be called an Aussie-western. Laughter in the Dark (1969) and A Delicate Balance (1973) were psycho-dramas. Joseph Andrews (1977), based on another novel by Henry Fielding, was a return to the mood of Tom Jones.

In 1970, Richardson was set to direct a film about Vaslav Nijinsky with a script by Edward Albee. It was to have starred Rudolf Nureyev as Nijinsky, Claude Jade as Romola and Paul Scofield as Diaghilev, but producer Harry Saltzman cancelled the project during pre-production.

In 1974, he travelled to Los Angeles to work on a script (never produced) with Sam Shepard, and took up residence there.[15] Later that year, he began work on Mahogany (1975), starring Diana Ross, but was fired by Motown head Berry Gordy shortly after production began, owing to creative differences.

He wrote and directed the comedy-drama The Hotel New Hampshire (1984), based on John Irving's novel of the same name and starring Jodie Foster, Beau Bridges and Rob Lowe. Although it was a box-office failure, the film received a positive critical reception.

Richardson made four more major films before his death. His last, Blue Sky (1994), was not released for nearly three years after he died. Jessica Lange won a Best Actress Oscar for her performance in the film.[16]

In 1966, Richardson is alleged to have financed the escape from Wormwood Scrubs prison of the spy and double agent George Blake.[17][18]

Personal life

Richardson was married to English actress Vanessa Redgrave from 1962 to 1967. The couple had two daughters, Natasha (1963–2009) and Joely Richardson (born 1965), then he left Redgrave for French actress and singer Jeanne Moreau.[19] In 1972, he had a relationship with Grizelda Grimond, who was a secretary for Richardson's former business partner Oscar Lewenstein, and daughter of British politician Jo Grimond. Grizelda Grimond gave birth to his daughter, Katharine Grimond, on 8 January 1973.[20]


Richardson was bisexual, but never acknowledged it publicly until 1985, the same year he contracted HIV.[21][22][23] He died of complications from AIDS on 14 November 1991 at the age of 63.[21]



Year Title Director Producer Writer Notes
1955 Momma Don't Allow Yes No Yes Short film; co-directed with Karel Reisz
1959 Look Back in Anger Yes No No
1960 The Entertainer Yes No No
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning No Yes No
1961 Sanctuary Yes No No
A Taste of Honey Yes Yes Yes
1962 The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner Yes Yes No
1963 Tom Jones Yes Yes No Won Best Picture and Best Director Oscars
1964 Girl with Green Eyes No Yes No
1965 The Loved One Yes No No
1966 Mademoiselle Yes No No
1967 The Sailor from Gibraltar Yes No Yes
Red and Blue Yes No No Short film developed for the anthology Red White and Zero; directed with Peter Brook and Karel Reisz
1968 The Charge of the Light Brigade Yes No No
1969 Laughter in the Dark Yes No No
Hamlet Yes No Yes
1970 Ned Kelly Yes No Yes
1973 A Delicate Balance Yes No No
1974 Dead Cert Yes No Yes
1975 Mahogany Yes No No Uncredited; replaced by Berry Gordy
1977 Joseph Andrews Yes No Yes
1982 The Border Yes No No
1984 The Hotel New Hampshire Yes No Yes
1990 Women & Men: Stories of Seduction Yes No No Anthology film; directed with Frederic Raphael and Ken Russell
1994 Blue Sky Yes No No


Year Title Director Producer Notes
1952 The Sound of Stillness No Yes TV Movie
Happy and Glorious No Yes Six Episodes
1953 Wednesday Theatre Yes Yes Episodes: "Curtain Down"; "Box for One"
1954 Parliament of Science Yes Yes TV Movie
1955 You Know What People Are Yes Yes Six Episodes
It Should Happen to a Dog Yes Yes TV Movie
Appointment with Drama Yes Yes Episodes: "The Rivals"; "The Birthday Present"; "Absence of Mind"; "The Apollo of Bellac"
Mr. Kettle and Mrs. Moon Yes No TV Movie
BBC Sunday-Night Theatre Yes Yes Episodes: "Markheim"; "The Makepeace Story #1: The Ruthless Destiny"; "The Makepeace Story #2: A New Generation"; "The Makepeace Story #3: Family Business"
Othello Yes Yes TV Movie
1956 Tales from Soho No Yes Six Episodes
The Gambler Yes Yes TV Movie
ITV Play of the Week Yes No Episode: Look Back in Anger
1957 Theatre Night Yes No Episode: The Member of the Wedding
1960 BBC Sunday-Night Play Yes Yes Episode: A Subject of Scandal and Concern
1978 A Death in Canaan Yes No TV Movie
1986 Penalty Phase Yes No TV Movie
1988 Beryl Markham: A Shadow on the Sun Yes No TV Movie
1990 The Phantom of the Opera Yes No Two Episodes


sources: Adler; Little & McLaughlin; Richardson

Year Play House City Run
1954 The Changeling Wyndham's London 1 performance
1955 The Country Wife Theatre Royal Stratford East London 3 weeks
Mr Kettle & Mrs Moon[24] Duchess London
1956 The Mulberry Bush[25] Royal Court London
The Crucible[25] Royal Court London
Look Back in Anger Royal Court London 151 performances
Cards of Identity Royal Court London
1957 Look Back in Anger John Golden, Lyceum New York 1 year
The Member of the Wedding Royal Court London
The Entertainer Royal Court London 4 weeks
The Apollo of Bellac Royal Court London
The Chairs Royal Court London
The Entertainer Palace London 6 months
The Making of Moo Royal Court London
Requiem for a Nun Royal Court London
1958 The Entertainer Royale New York
The Chairs & The Lesson Phoenix New York 17 performances
Flesh to a Tiger Royal Court London
Pericles Shakespeare Memorial Theatre Stratford-on-Avon
1959 Othello[26] Shakespeare Memorial Theatre Stratford-on-Avon
Orpheus Descending Royal Court London
Look After Lulu! Royal Court London 45 performances
New London 5 months
1960 A Taste of Honey Los Angeles
Booth, Lyceum New York 376 performances
1961 The Changeling Royal Court London
Luther Royal Court[27] London 28 performances
Phoenix London 239 performances
1962 A Midsummer Night's Dream Royal Court London 29 performances
Semi-Detached Saville London
1963 Natural Affection Booth New York 31 performances
Luther Lunt-Fontanne, St. James New York 6 months
Semi-Detached Music Box New York 12 performances
Arturo Ui Lunt-Fontanne New York 8 performances
1964 The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore[28] Brooks Atkinson New York 5 performances
The Seagull Queen's Theatre London
St Joan of the Stockyards Queen's Theatre London 3 weeks
1969 Hamlet Roundhouse London 10 weeks
Lunt-Fontanne New York[29] 52 performances
1972 The Threepenny Opera Prince of Wales London
1972 I, Claudius Queen's Theatre London
Anthony and Cleopatra Bankside Globe Playhouse London
1976 The Lady from the Sea Circle in the Square Theatre New York
1979 As You Like It Center Theatre Long Beach
1983 Toyer Kennedy Center Washington
1984 Dreamhouse L.A. Stage Co. Hollywood



  1. ^ a b "BFI Screenonline: Richardson, Tony (1928-1991) Biography". Retrieved 25 December 2023.
  2. ^ Richardson, pp 1–5
  3. ^ Richardson, p.45
  4. ^ Adler, p.26
  5. ^ David Parkinson, 'Richardson, Cecil Antonio [Tony] (1928–1991)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
  6. ^ "Giraudoux Play on Television 'The Apollo of Bellac'", The Times, 13 August 1955
  7. ^ "Momma Don't Allow (1956)". British Film Institute. Archived from the original on 9 August 2016.
  8. ^ "Tony Richardson & The Kitchen Sink". Make A Noise!. Retrieved 29 August 2022.
  9. ^ "10 essential films from the 'Kitchen sink realism' movement". 2 May 2021. Retrieved 29 August 2022.
  10. ^ "Tony Richardson; Leading Film Director for 30 Years". Los Angeles Times. 15 November 1991. Retrieved 29 August 2022.
  11. ^ Crowther, Bosley (12 October 1965). "Screen: A Searing Look at the Funeral Profession:Waugh's 'Loved One' Adapted to Film". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 29 August 2022.
  12. ^ Richardson, p. 163
  13. ^ Until dismissed by Richardson for repeatedly failing to show up on set as contracted (Richardson, pp. 212–3)
  14. ^ Heilpern, pp.346–51
  15. ^ Richardson, p. 242.
  16. ^ "Blue Sky: the 1990s nuclear drama that won Jessica Lange her second Oscar". British Film Institute. Retrieved 29 August 2022.
  17. ^ "John Quine". The Daily Telegraph. London. 12 June 2013. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 8 February 2019.
  18. ^ "Cold War 'superspy' George Blake, who escaped from a UK jail and became a Russian hero, dies at 98". Irish Independent. 26 December 2020. Retrieved 28 December 2020. On the night of October 25, 1966, the trio (financed by Oscar-winning movie director Tony Richardson)
  19. ^ needs substantiation
  20. ^ Richardson, p.233
  21. ^ a b Hattenstone, Simon (13 June 2016). "Vanessa Redgrave on why she was ready to die: 'Trying to live was getting too tiring'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2 July 2023.
  22. ^ Nikkhah, Roya (21 May 2011). "Joely Richardson breaks silence over family scandal claims". The Telegraph. Retrieved 24 July 2023.
  23. ^ "The Tumultuous Tony Richardson". Legacy. 14 November 2011. Retrieved 24 July 2023.
  24. ^ Richardson was fired by the author J.B. Priestley, who took over directing himself
  25. ^ a b As Asst. to George Devine
  26. ^ Starring Paul Robeson
  27. ^ Also Nottingham, Paris, Amsterdam, Edinburgh Festival
  28. ^ Starring Tallulah Bankhead
  29. ^ Also toured