Well, today, while perusing the New York Times' voluminous Fall Preview sections, there it was - an ad for the first New York staging of Edward Albee's Pulitzer Prize winner, "Three Tall Women," starring Laurie Metcalf, Alison Pill and, top-billed, Glenda Jackson, each playing the same woman in different stages of her life. Glenda Jackson is back and I. Can't. Wait.
The production opens at the John Golden Theater on March 29th, following a month of previews. In his capsule descriptions of Broadway's fall productions, Times reporter Steven McElroy writes that the show is about Albee's "relationship with his adoptive mother who didn't approved of his homosexuality," but noticeably missing, for some unfathomable reason, is any mention of Jackson's first acting assignment after a 25-year absence.
Jackson made a crucial decision to walk away and, when she did, people - her fans, the critics - seemed to walk away, too. In the opposite direction. In the past few years, Jackson's name has rarely been invoked in reviews or film essays.
For those moviegoers who have forgotten, or younger moviegoers who don't know Glenda Jackson and don't care, she was a force of nature. She was positively electric. There was always this unquenchable hunger in a Glenda Jackson performance. It was as if she wanted to make acting so much more than what it was. She was restless, active - an indication perhaps that there was an activist buried inside her and aching to get out.
It was during her last few years of acting that Jackson became involved in politics, entering the House of Commons in the 1992 general election as the Labour Member of Parliament for the constituency of Hampstead and Highgate in the London Borough of Camden. Her days in politics became numbered when, in 2013, she criticized the policies of Margaret Thatcher, an unpopular move, and she decided not to seek re-election in 2015.
I'm confident that she gave the same on-going passionate performance in her new role as a politician as she did on stage and on screen. It will be a pleasure, once again, to witness that no-nonsense Jackson drive - that sometimes frightening energy that she brought to so many films.
So many films... Where do I start?
If I were to pick, the essentials for a Glenda Jackson film festival would include:
"Women in Love" and "The Music Lovers." Two by Ken Russell, the first an Oscar winner for Jackson. "Women in Love," adapted by Larry Kramer from D. H. Lawrence's 1920s novel about the complex relationships among two women and two men, is sex-charged in an adult way that evades today's smirky, sexless films. It is highlighted by (1) Jackson's willfully unsympathetic performance as one of the women, (2) several bracing sex scenes and (3) a full-frontal nude wrestling sequence involving Alan Bates and Oliver Reed. "The Music Lovers," meanwhile, is Russell's contemplation of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's struggles with his homosexuality and his unwise marriage to a nymphomaniac. Richard Chamberlain plays Tchaikovsky and the homosexual panic that overcomes him, unleashed in a small private room on a speeding train, is truly harrowing, not the least of which is Jackson's predatory sexuality role in it."Stevie." Robert Enders' endearing adaptation of Hugh Whitemore's West End stage play is essentially a precise acting duet between two titans of the British stage and cinema, Jackson and Mona Washbourne, respectively playing the poet Stevie Smith and her beloved aunt. Through the tricky, observant wordplay of Smith's poetry, which Jackson recites directly into the camera at intervals, and her bracingly articulate conversations with her aunt, we come to know Smith and her emotional problems intimately.
"Sunday Bloody Sunday." John Schlesinger's lascerating psychodrama, written by Penelope Gilliatt, in which Jackson and Peter Finch, whose characters are vaguely aware of each other, share the same callous young lover (male) who alternates between them. Finch, subtle as always, plays a doctor dealing with Jewish guilt about his sexuality and his family's expectations for him to marry. Jackson, whose character has more masculine qualities than Finch's, is positively intimidating here, never more so than when she screams at a child for chasing a dog fatally into traffic.
"Turtle Diary." Harold Pinter adapted the Russell Hoban novel for director John Irvin. It's a gentle tale about two people - Ben Kinglsey and Jackson (also atypically gentle here) - who bond over the sea turtles in captivity at a London zoo. Although they would never call themselves animal activists, they are - and they plot to kidnap the turtles and return them to the ocean. The supporting cast includes the singular Eleanor Bron (always compulsively watchable), Richard Johnson, Jeroen Krabbe and the invaluable Michael Gambon as another gentle soul taken with Jackson.
"The Boy Friend." Finally, another Russell title, his G-rated, yet wildly gay, adaptation of the charming Sandy Wilson musical with Twiggy in an awesome performance as a backstage assistant for a cheesy acting troupe(performing the Wilson show) who is called into service, a la Ruby Keeler, to take over the lead role when the star breaks her leg. The star, Rita Monroe, is played by an uncredited Jackson who gives a wickedly snarky performance. The idea of Twiggy replacing Jackson in anything adds to the hilarity of this whizzing, breezy musical.
These few titles make me long to see Glenda Jackson again. She's 81 now and the likelihood that she will ever make another movie is slim. It is also unlikely that we will ever see the likes of her again. But then there's Broadway, Albee and "Three Tall Women."
~Poster art for "Three Tall Women"
~Jackson with Oliver Reed in "Women in Love"
~photography: MGM/U.A. 1969©
~Jackson with Mona Washbourne in "Stevie"
~photography: First Artists 1978©
~Jackson with Peter Finch and Murray Head in "Sunday Bloody Sunday"
United Artists 1971©
~Jackson with Michael Gambon in "Turtle Diary"
~photography: Britannic 1995©
~photography: MGM 1971©
~Glenda Jackson today