Even When It Rains in L.A., Lynn Is the Redgrave No One Ever Describes as All Wet
05/05/1980 at 01:00 AM EDT
It's not easy being the kid sister of Britain's first family of Repertory and Revolution. Lynn Redgrave's parents are, of course, Sir Michael and Lady Redgrave (Rachel Kempson). Her actor brother, Corin, is an activist in the Workers Revolutionary Party, of which her gifted sister, Vanessa, is La Pasionaria. So even when Lynn broke through with an Academy Award nomination in 1967 for Georgy Girl, Vanessa was up for an Oscar too, for Morgan! (Liz Taylor won for Virginia Woolf.) Similarly, as Lynn made her way to Broadway (My Fat Friend) and Hollywood (Everything You Wanted to Know about Sex), Vanessa grabbed the headlines with her ardent pro-PLO activism (including the Best Inflammatory Speech at the 1978 Oscars). But that's ancient history. Now Lynn has become co-star with Wayne Rogers on CBS' House Calls, a Top 10 series mid-season and the property that may finally free "the other Redgrave" from the long shadow of her lineage.
Of course, the fact that House Calls is that rather déclassé of genres—TV sitcom—might once have rocked the House of Redgrave. But at 37 Lynn is free of pretension. "I personally don't have any snob feeling about one medium over another," she says. "Besides, most people are too smart to sniff at something that's working." (The plot was pretested in the Walter Matthau-Glenda Jackson movie of the same name.) Lynn meanwhile takes other dramatic roles like 1978's maxi-series Centennial, last year's Beggar-man, Thief and the upcoming CBS movie Gauguin, the Savage with David Carradine. She plays the French painter's abandoned wife, Mette, with such feeling that Carradine was awestruck. "She's incredibly strong," he raves. "She's a man-sized woman ("5'10"), a bright-eyed, rosy-cheeked gal who's not tame like the rest of us."
Ironically, Lynn finds that her Redgrave legacy means more in the States than in the U.K. "Nepotism is rampant in America," she finds. "If you are a Redgrave or a Fonda you bet they will remember your audition." But, she adds, there's a down side too. "If you're not twice as good as the competition, people are never going to forget how bad you were." Not, she insists, that she competes with her sister, whom she sees "maybe once a year. Vanessa walking through something as an actress is better than almost anyone else," says Lynn justifiably. "I love her truly—while disagreeing with her views on almost everything except acting and motherhood. I live here happily in a capitalist society; she's trying to start a revolution. We don't get into it personally. Together we just stick with discussing Ibsen and the kids."
So while Vanessa made news for plunging into unwed motherhood, Lynn married her first and only husband, John Clark, 46, before having Benjamin, 11, and Kelly, 10. John had been a child star in England before they met in 1966 co-starring in a TV play, What's Wrong with Humpty Dumpty? They lived together and married a year later in the living room of director Sidney (Just Tell Me What You Want) Lumet. After trying London and Dublin, they settled in New York, where Lynn worked in theater and was one of Barbara Walters' successors as host of TV's Not for Women Only talk show for over two years. "Once you've been in America, the energy and enthusiasm are very hard to live without," says Lynn, who now feels "more like a New Yorker than a Londoner." She has, in her own genteel fashion, found a political cause: the battle against an Equity dues surcharge that penalizes foreign actors. "It's like Britain saying we're not going to let Picasso in because we've got a very nice painter in England," she snorts.
Clark was his wife's manager until they moved to L.A. for House Calls. "It's very hard for a husband to be a hatchet man and a friend at the same time," explains Redgrave. "He suddenly said, 'I'm fed up with it. I can't do these sorts of things and keep my sanity.' " A theatrical director (he did Lynn's Broadway version of Shaw's Saint Joan), Clark hopes to move into film or TV and has acquired one mass-murder property, Killing Time, with his wife in mind.
When the couple take off—as when Lynn was on French location for Sunday Lovers with Roger Moore—a live-in housekeeper takes care of the children, cats Emmy and Oscar, puppy Biscuit and the two hamsters. In their rented five-bedroom colonial in Beverly Hills, Lynn does most of the cooking. "There's nothing I won't try, sushi and tempura, tandoori chicken, soufflé maison," says the once rolypoly actress who slimmed down 50 pounds on one meal a day after seeing herself in Georgy Girl. The pressures of TV shooting schedules are such, however, that Lynn still stops at fast-food joints. When she recently put in her kids' order, the response was a booming, "Hee hee, House Calls." The Americanized scion of the House of Redgrave smiled back triumphantly: "I'm big in Burger King!