Joyce Redman, best known for a scene of sensuous gastronomic excess with Albert Finney in the 1963 film “Tom Jones,” for which she received one of her two Oscar nominations for supporting actress, died of pneumonia on Thursday, May 10, in Kent, England. She was 96.
The actress received her second Oscar nom for her role as Emilia in the 1965 film version of “Othello” that starred Laurence Olivier and Maggie Smith.
Redman’s scene with Finney was memorable: “Eyes locked, lips smacked and jaws rotated as the two of them tucked into a succulent feast while eyeing up the afters,” the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper said. “Sinking one’s teeth into a role is one thing. This was quite another, and deliciously naughty, the mother of all modern mastication scenes.”
A few years earlier Redman and Finney had both appeared with Charles Laughton onstage in Jane Arden’s “The Party.”
Redman studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and made her stage debut in a small role in a 1935 production of “Alice Through the Looking Glass.” She was appearing regularly on the West End by the late 1930s and also appeared in “The Words Upon the Window Pane” and “Johnson Was No Gentleman,” two productions that were part of the BBC’s early television efforts before the war.
At the Old Vic and New theaters, she appeared with the likes of Olivier and Ralph Richardson during the 1940s.
She appeared in Shaw’s “The Devil’s Disciple,” “Twelfth Night” and as Wendy in “Peter Pan” in the early ’40s, and distinguished herself in productions of Ibsen’s “Peer Gynt” opposite Richardson and “Richard III” and “King Lear,” both starring Olivier.
The actress also took to the stage on Broadway during the late 1940s, appearing in Old Vic productions of “King Henry IV, Part II,” “Uncle Vanya,” “Oedipus Rex” and “The Critic”; in the brief run of Mary Hayley Bell’s original play “Duet for Two Hands”; and starring in 1948-49 in Maxwell Anderson’s “Anne of the Thousand Days” opposite Rex Harrison, who won the Tony for best actor. While in the U.S., she starred as Lady Macbeth on in a 1949 live-television production of “Macbeth” for NBC’s “The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse.”
Redman also appeared in Paris at the Comedie Francaise and returned to Broadway in 1960 for “Rape of the Belt.” (The actress made her final appearance on the Rialto in 1987 playing Mrs. Higgins in a revival of “Pygmalion” that starred Peter O’Toole and Amanda Plummer.)
Redman’s film debut came in 1942’s Powell and Pressburger war film “One of Our Aircraft Is Missing,” but she did not make another film appearance until “Tom Jones” 21 years later. Nor did she spend much time on British television until later in her career, though she did star as Becky Sharpe in a BBC adaptation of “Vanity Fair” in 1956. After “Tom Jones” and “Othello,” she returned to the bigscreen in 1968 for the Deborah Kerr-David Niven comedy “Prudence and the Pill.”
The actress appeared in telepics and guested on series later on, appearing in a 1978 adaptation of “Les Miserables”; Agatha Christie adaptation “The Seven Dials Mystery,” with John Gielgud, in 1981; and “Prime Suspect: Scent of Darkness,” with Helen Mirren in 1995.
Redman’s last screen effort was the 2001 BBC/A&E telepic “Victoria and Albert,” in which she played the British monarch as an elderly woman.
Redman was born into a Protestant Anglo-Irish family in Newcastle, Ireland, and was educated by governesses.
Survivors include three children; five grandchildren; and Redman’s niece, actress Amanda Redman.