The crowd drifted out of the theater as Redgrave continued through the verses of the song but Callahan was transfixed. Nearly twenty years later, his fascination with Redgrave has not diminished.
"I just can’t get enough of watching her. I think that there is something very special going on when she acts, and I wanted to celebrate that," Callahan told The Committee Room.
|Author Dan Callahan (photo/Edward Vilga).|
Redgrave's autobiography, simply titled Vanessa Redgrave: An Autobiography, was published in 1994.
"It’s an odd book," Callahan told TCR in regard to the autobiography. "There is a lot of information, but it seldom feels like the right information in the right place at the right time, if that makes sense. She skips over things a lot. And then she will linger over things that don’t seem at all important, particularly towards the end. So it is, I think, unsatisfactory in many ways. That’s part of why I wanted to do my book."
|Redgrave with Richard Harris in Camelot, 1967.|
"It was the work that fascinated me, and there’s so much of it," Callahan explained to TCR. "As far as her private life goes, I didn’t want to pry. I think there are some things that are none of our business unless the person involved wants to share it. On the other hand, when it came to her politics, which have been very public, I felt free to press as much as I wanted."
|Redgrave with Jane Fonda in Julia, 1977.|
But fully-fledged movie stardom never quite happened for Redgrave.
|Playing for Time, TV movie, 1980.|
In sorting through Redgrave's fabulous hodgepodge of a career, Callahan found two of her greatest performances came in relatively modest films made for American broadcast television -- Playing for Time (1980), featuring Redgrave, her head shaved, her face scarred, as one of a group of female musicians in a Nazi death camp who stave off the gas chamber by forming an orchestra to entertain their captors; and Second Serve (1986), starring an unrecognizable, dark-haired Redgrave as the transgendered tennis star Renee Richards.
|Redgrave unrecognizable in Second Serve, TV movie, 1986.|
Callahan's admiration for Redgrave does not prevent him from pointing out instances where her formidable instincts seem to have gone astray. Of a 1988 American television version of Robert Bolt's play A Man for All Seasons, starring Charlton Heston as Sir Thomas More, Callahan says Redgrave's portrayal of More's assertive but uneducated wife is done in the manner of a "schizophrenic llama."
|Redgrave with Philip Seymour Hoffman in O'Neill's Long Day's Journey|
Into Night, New York, 2003.
In his book Callahan notes that is it is characteristic of the up and down nature of Redgrave's career that soon after completing the talking dog role -- "at this very lowest point in her filmography" -- Redgrave signed on to play the "most testing and difficult theater role of her career," that of Mary Tyrone in a Broadway production of Eugene O'Neill's classic drama Long Day's Journey into Night.
|Redgrave in The Ballad of the Sad Cafe, 1991.|
Among Redgrave's finest screen performances is her turn as the mannish, slow-witted Miss Amelia in The Ballad of the Sad Cafe. "In her best work, and Miss Amelia definitely counts among her best, Redgrave's performances are made up of almost nothing but risks...Her total immediacy, yoked to a huge imagination, is an exceedingly rare quality on stages or screens," Callahan writes in his biography. Actor and director Simon Callow directed The Ballad of the Sad Cafe, a little-seen 1991 screen adaptation of the Carson McCullers novella.
|Redgrave campaigning for seat in Parliament, 1974.|
Callahan is also the author of a book on classic Hollywood star Barbara Stanwyck (Barbara Stanwyck: The Miracle Woman, 2012). Is it more difficult to write about a living and still very much active subject?
|Vanessa Redgrave and brother Corin at anti-Vietnam|
war rally, London, 1968 (photo/AP).
At first Callahan sought Redgrave's cooperation with his biography. "I sent her a letter telling her I was planning on doing a book. I had a vague hope that I might get a response, but I didn’t," Callahan says. "To be honest with you, once I started, I knew I didn’t want to talk to her. She’s very intimidating, and there is no way I could have done an honest book if I had been influenced by her in any way, particularly when it came to writing about her years as a member of the Workers Revolutionary Party."
|Redgrave with James Earl Jones in Driving Miss|
Daisy, New York, 2010 (photo/Rosegg-AP).
The WRP broke up in the 1980s after its domineering leader, Gerry Healy, was accused of sexually abusing female members of the party. Both Vanessa and Corin remained loyal to the discredited Healy.
|Redgrave with Jesse Eisenberg, co-star in the play The|
Revisionist, New York, 2013.
The Committee Room. Time Spent with TCR is Never Wasted.