Glenda Jackson obituary: Women in Love and Elizabeth is Missing legend dies aged 87

Glenda Jackson, best known for her prestige contributions to film and politics, has passed away at the age of 87.

The two-time Oscar and BAFTA-winning actress and MP died peacefully at her home in Blackheath, London this morning after a brief illness. Her family were at her side.

Born in Market Street, Birkenhead, Jackson was named after Hollywood film star Glenda Farrell. Shortly after her birth, the family moved to Lake Place, Hoylake.

She began acting after joining an amateur dramatics group as a teenager while working in Boots near Birkenhead.

Jackson won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, and joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1963.

That year saw her make an uncredited screen appearance as a partygoer in the kitchen sink drama This Sporting Life, as well as two guest parts in the crime series Z Cars.

Her first piece of awards recognition came when she landed a Tony nomination for her performance as Charlotte Corday in a filmed adaptation of the play Marat/Sade (1967).

After appearing in the psychological drama Negatives (1968), Jackson then landed the lucrative role of headstrong artist Gudrun Brangwen in Ken Russell’s big-screen adaptation of the DH Lawrence novel Women in Love (1969).

Her acclaimed performance won her the first of two Best Actress Oscars, as well as Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations.

After receiving a second BAFTA nod for her role in the BBC adaptation of Howard’s End (1970), Jackson then reunited with Russell on the critically-underwhelming Tchaikovsky biopic The Music Lovers (1971).

However, 1971 brought further success for Jackson, starting with her portrayal of royal monarch Queen Elizabeth I in two separate productions.

Firstly, she played the historical figure in the acclaimed mini-series Elizabeth R for which she earned another BAFTA mention as well as three Emmy nominations.

That same year saw her play the character again in the historical drama Mary, Queen of Scots alongside Dame Vanessa Redgrave.

Additionally, she would also pop up in the musical The Boy Friend, while also fitting in the first of a few celebrated guest appearances on The Morecambe and Wise Show.

However, Jackson’s most celebrated role in 1971 came as Alex Greville, a frustrated office worker caught in a love triangle with two men in the melodrama Sunday Bloody Sunday. Once again, she scored a second Best Actress nomination, only to lose out to Jane Fonda for Klute (1971).

After starring in The Triple Echo (1972) and Bequest to the Nation (1973), Jackson then took on the role of Vickie Allessio, a fashion designer caught up in a catastrophic love affair with an American businessman in the romantic comedy A Touch of Class (1973).

The role won her a second Best Actress Oscar, as well as her sole Golden Globe. Once again, she opted not to attend the former’s ceremony, later claiming she was ‘busy’.

The 1970s continued to be busy for Jackson, starting with her involvement in films like The Tempter (1974), The Maids (1975) and The Romantic Englishwoman (1975).

Shortly after, she landed her fourth and final Oscar nomination for her performance as a manipulative socialite in the drama Hedda (1975).

Later roles in the 1970s included her portrayal of poet Stevie Smith in Stevie (1978) as well as The Incredible Sarah (1976), Nasty Habits (1977), House Calls (1978), The Class of Miss MacMichael (1978) and Lost and Found (1979). Unsurprisingly, she was awarded a CBE for her contributions to acting.

After appearing alongside Walter Matthau in the romantic comedy Hopscotch (1980), Jackson then landed a fourth Emmy nomination for her portrayal of Hollywood actress Patricia Neal in the television film The Patricia Neal Story (1982). She later scored a Golden Globe nod for her role as Yelena Bonner in another small-screen biopic; Sakharov (1994).

During the 1980s, she also featured in films like The Return of the Soldier (1982), Giro City (1982), Turtle Diary (1985), Business as Usual (1988), The Rainbow (1989), Doombeach (1989) and King of the Wind (1990).

After appearing in 90s television dramas A Murder of Quality (1991), The House of Bernarda Alba (1991) and The Secret Life of Arnold Bax (1992), Jackson then made the decision to quit acting in order to stand as a Labour parliamentary candidate in the 1992 General Election.

When Labour came to power in 1997, Jackson became a junior minister with responsibility for London Transport. She resigned two years later, to make a bid to become Labour’s candidate for the London mayor, only to be defeated by Frank Dobson.

A staunch left-winger, she became a fierce critic of Tony Blair’s New Labour project and spoke out against the invasion of Iraq. She later threatened to stand against Blair for the party leadership unless he announced his intention to stand down.

The most controversial moment in her political career came in April 2013, when she proceeded to ridicule recently-deceased Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher during a tribute at Parliament.

In 2015, Jackson made a long-awaited comeback to acting starting with the role of ancient matriarch Dide in a series of Radio 4 plays based on Blood, Sex and Money, based on a series of novels by Émile Zola.

She then returned to the stage, playing the title role in William Shakespeare’s King Lear at the Old Vic. Once again, she received an Olivier nomination for Best Actress but lost out again for the fifth time.

However, Jackson then landed a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for her role in a Broadway revival of Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women.

Shortly after, she made a long-awaited return to television with her starring role as Elizabeth, an elderly grandmother suffering from dementia in the BBC drama Elizabeth is Missing (2019).

Jackson’s powerful performance won her a television BAFTA for Best Leading Actress as well as an International Emmy. The latter victory proved a significant one as it allowed her to celebrate achieving the Triple Crown of Acting.

A couple of years later, she starred alongside fellow British stars Olivia Colman and Colin Firth in the drama Mothering Sunday (2021).

Fittingly, her last on-screen role will be alongside Sir Michael Caine in the upcoming fact-based drama The Great Escaper.

Glenda is survived by her son, the Daily Mail newspaper columnist Dan Hodges, and a grandson.

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