Born 83 years ago today in 1928, Tony Richardson developed the ideas that led to the formation of the English Stage Company and became the foremost representative of the British ‘New Wave’ of directors. He directed John Osborne’s seminal play ‘Look Back in Anger’, writing both the theatre and playwright into British theatrical history. In the same period he directed Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon. Then in 1957 he directed Sir Laurence Olivier as Archie Rice in Osborne’s ‘The Entertainer’.
In 1959, Richardson co-founded Woodfall Films with John Osborne, and, as Woodfall’s debut, directed the film version of ‘Look Back in Anger’ despite having no track record in making feature films (he had, however, been a pioneer in Britain’s Free Cinema movement; co-directing the non-fiction short ‘Momma Don’t Allow’ with Karel Reisz in 1955). The film was one of the new ‘Kitchen sink’ style dramas that became poular at the time. It style of social realism, which often depicted angry young men in gritty domestic lives of lower income Britons, exploring social issues and political controversies.
He followed that with another John Osborne play, ‘The Entertainer’ (1960), made the dark ‘Sanctuary’ and ‘A Taste of Honey’ (both 1961). In 1962 he released another classic, ‘The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner’ in story of “a rebellious youth” (played by Tom Courtenay), sentenced to a borstal (boys’ reformatory) for robbing a bakery, who rises through the ranks of the institution through his prowess as a long distance runner. During his solitary runs, reveries of his life and times before his incarceration lead him to re-evaluate his privileged status as the Governor’s (played byMichael Redgrave) prize runner.
In 1964 Richardson received two Academy Awards (Best Director and Best Picture) for ‘Tom Jones’ (1963). The film was scripted by regular collaborator John Osborne and is notable for its unusual comic style: the opening sequence is performed in the style of a silent movie, and characters sometimes break the fourth wall, often by looking directly into the camera and addressing the audience.
Richardson and Osborne eventually fell out during production of the film ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’. The film was nominated for six BAFTA Film Awards, but failed to win in any category and was indeed heavily criticized foe it’s depiction of upper class officers as incompetents who were more concerned with appearances than with substance, and who disdained doing the real work of training and leading their men.
After the woeful ‘Ned Kelly’ (1970) which starred a mis-cast Mick Jagger, Richardson made a few crime films beforte returning to form in 1982 with ‘The Border’ starring Jack Nicholson as a corrupt US border agent who decides to clean up his act when an impoverished woman’s baby is put up for sale on the black market.
Married to Vanessa Redgrave between 1962-67, he is father to Natasha and Joely Richardson. He died of complications from AIDS in 1991.