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Glenda Jackson

Glenda May Jackson, CBE, (born 9 May, 1936) is a British actress and politician, currently Labour Member of Parliament for the constituency of Hampstead and Highgate in the London Borough of Camden.


She was born into a working-class family in Birkenhead, Wirral, then Cheshire now Merseyside, across the River Mersey from Liverpool and her father was a bricklayer. She attended the West Kirby County Grammar School for Girls, then worked for two years in a Boots pharmacy store, before studying at RADA in Bloomsbury.

She has one son by her ex-husband, Roy Hodges whom she married in 1958 and divorced in 1976.

Career in acting

Having studied acting at RADA, Jackson made her professional stage debut in Terence Rattigan's Separate Tables in 1957, and her film debut in This Sporting Life in 1963. Subsequently a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company for four years, she worked for director Peter Brook in several productions, including of Peter Weiss' Marat/Sade as Charlotte Corday. Jackson also appeared in the film version.

Fame came with Jackson's starring role in the controversial Women in Love (1969) for which she won her first Academy Award for Best Actress, and another controversial role as Tchaikovsky's nymphomaniac wife in Ken Russell's The Music Lovers added to her image of being prepared to do almost anything for her art. She confirmed this by having her head shaved in order to play Queen Elizabeth I of England in the BBC's 1971 blockbuster serial, Elizabeth R. Her portrayal of Elizabeth I is considered unparalled in accuracy by Elizabethan scholars.She received two Emmy Awards for her work in this series. In the same year, she also appeared in a BBC Morecambe and Wise Show, playing Cleopatra in a comedy sketch which is generally recognised as one the funniest sequences in British TV history.

Filmmaker Melvin Frank watched this and saw her comedic potential and offered her the lead female role in his next project. She earned a second Academy Award for Best Actress for this particular comic role in A Touch of Class (1973), and Eric and Ernie apparently sent her a telegram saying: 'Stick with us kid, and we'll get you a third!'. She also portrayed Queen Elizabeth in a film about the life of Mary, Queen of Scots and she has been recognised as one of Britain's leading actresses. In 1978, she was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

Until recently, a theatre and arts academy in Borough Road, Birkenhead was named after her. It has been demolished by Wirral Council and replaced with flats.

Career in politics

She retired from acting in order to enter the House of Commons in the 1992 general election as the Labour MP for Hampstead and Highgate. After the 1997 general election, she was appointed a junior minister in the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair, with responsibility for London Transport, a post she resigned before an attempt to be nominated as the Labour Party candidate for the election of the first Mayor of London in 2000. The nomination was eventually won by Frank Dobson, who lost the election to Ken Livingstone, the independent candidate. In the 2005 general election, she received 14,615 votes, representing 38.29% of the votes cast in the constituency.

As a high profile backbencher she became a regular critic of Blair over his plans to introduce top-up fees. She also called for him to resign following the Judicial Enquiry by Lord Hutton in 2003 surrounding the reasons for going to war in Iraq and the death of government adviser Dr. David Kelly. Jackson was generally considered to be a traditional left-winger, often disagreeing with the dominant Blairite governing centre-left faction in the Labour Party.

By October 2005, her problems with Blair's leadership swelled to a point where she threatened to challenge the Prime Minister as a stalking horse candidate in a leadership contest if he didn't stand down within a reasonable amount of time. On 31 October, 2006, Jackson was one of 12 Labour MPs to back Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National Party's call for an inquiry into the Iraq War.

Her constituency boundaries will change dramatically at the next election. Gospel Oak and Highgate wards will become part of Holborn & St Pancras, and the new Hampstead & Kilburn ward will cross the border into Brent to include Brondesbury, Kilburn and Queens Park wards (from the old Brent East and Brent South seats). It is not yet known whether she intends to stand again.


Year Film Role Other notes
1963 This Sporting Life Extra Uncredited
1963 This Sporting Life Singer at party Uncredited
1967 Benefit of the Doubt Bit part
Marat/Sade Inmate portraying Charlotte Corday
1968 Tell Me Lies Guest
The Wednesday Play Julie Let's Murder Vivaldi
Negatives Vivien
1969 Women in Love Gudrun Brangwen Academy Award for Best Actress;
Nominated - BAFTA Award; Nominated - Golden Globe
ITV Saturday Night Theatre Marina Palek Salve Regina
1970 Play of the Month Howards End; Nominated - BAFTA TV Award
The Music Lovers Nina (Antonina Milyukova)
1971 Sunday Bloody Sunday Alex Greville BAFTA Award;
Nominated - Academy Award for Best Actress
The Boy Friend Rita Uncredited
Mary, Queen of Scots Queen Elizabeth I Nominated - Golden Globe
Elizabeth R Queen Elizabeth I TV mini-series; Emmy Award;
Nominated - BAFTA TV Award
1972 The Triple Echo Alice
1973 A Touch of Class Vicki Allessio Academy Award for Best Actress;
Golden Globe; Nominated - BAFTA Award
A Bequest to the Nation Lady Hamilton
1974 The Maids Solange
1975 The Romantic Englishwoman Elizabeth Fielding
Il Sorriso del grande tentatore Sister Geraldine
Hedda Hedda Gabler Nominated - Academy Award for Best Actress;
Nominated - Golden Globe
1976 The Incredible Sarah Sarah Bernhardt Nominated - Golden Globe
1977 Nasty Habits Sister Alexandra
1978 House Calls Ann Atkinson
Stevie Stevie Smith Nominated - Golden Globe
The Class of Miss MacMichael Conor MacMichael
1979 Lost and Found Tricia
1980 Hopscotch Isobel von Schonenberg
HealtH Isabella Garnell
1981 The Patricia Neal Story Patricia Neal TV - Nominated - Golden Globe
1982 The Return of the Soldier Margaret Grey
Giro City Sophie
1984 Sakharov Yelena Bonner (Sakharova) TV - Nominated - Golden Globe
1985 Turtle Diary Neaera Duncan
1987 Beyond Therapy Charlotte
Business as Usual Babs Flynn
1988 Strange Interlude Nina Leeds TV
Salome's Last Dance Herodias / Lady Alice
1989 The Rainbow Anna Brangwen
King of the Wind Queen Caroline
Doombeach Miss
1990 T-Bag's Christmas Ding Dong Vanity Bag TV
The Real Story of Humpty Dumpty Glitch the Witch (voice)
1991 The House of Bernarda Alba Bernarda Alba TV
A Murder of Quality Ailsa Brimley TV
1992 The Secret Life of Arnold Bax Harriet Cohen TV
1994 A Wave of Passion: The Life of Alexandra Kollontai Alexandra Kollontai (voice) TV


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