Saturday, August 1, 2015

Dynasty: Bridges, Barrymores or Redgraves?

Lynn Redgrave's passing earlier this week (you can read my obit here) has me thinking of acting dynasties and of the privileged moments when multiple members of the same acting clan appeared together on screen. Who's your choice for most accomplished acting dynasty? The Barrymores, the Bridges, the Fondas, the Hustons, the Redgraves? Perhaps Blythe Danner and Gwyneth Paltrow? Kirk and Michael Douglas? Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli? Will , Jada Pinkett and Jaden Smith? I'd add sisters Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine, but they never appeared together onscreen.

Dynasty: Bridges, Barrymores or Redgraves?

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Lynn Redgrave (in background) watches her real-life sister, Vanessa, buss her real-life niece, Natasha Richardson, in the exquitite 2005 film "The White Countess."
Lynn Redgrave (in background) watches her real-life sister, Vanessa, buss her real-life niece, Natasha Richardson, in the exquitite 2005 film "The White Countess."

Lynn Redgrave's passing earlier this week (you can read my obit here) has me thinking of acting dynasties and of the privileged moments when multiple members of the same acting clan appeared together on screen. Who's your choice for most accomplished acting dynasty? The Barrymores, the Bridges, the Fondas, the Hustons, the Redgraves? Perhaps Blythe Danner and Gwyneth Paltrow? Kirk and Michael Douglas? Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli? Will , Jada Pinkett and Jaden Smith? I'd add sisters Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine, but they never appeared together onscreen.

For the Redgraves, a high point is James Ivory's haunting The White Countess (2005) in which the late (and exquisite) Natasha Richardson plays opposite her mother Vanessa Redgrave and her Aunt Lynn as defunct royals, White Russians struggling for survival in 1936 Shanghai on the eve of Japanese occupation. Living in reduced circumstances, Richardson turns to prostituion to support her shockingly ungrateful mother and aunt (played by her real-life aunt and mother), who imperiously decide that she is a bad influence on her young daughter. Their talk of bloodlines and suitable employment really resonates to the degree that you think you're watching a real-life family feud.  (Of Lynn's other performances, I'm fondest of Georgy Girl, Gods and Monsters and her brief but indelible moment in Kinsey as the sexologist's interview subject.)

Three famous Barrymores, Ethel, John and Lionel, appeared together -- interestingly, also as royals -- in Rasputin and the Empress (1932), a so-so historical drama in which Lionel is the mad monk. Too bad they all died too young to witness the phenomenal career of their great-niece and granddaughter, Drew.

Love those Bridges boys, Beau and Jeff, in The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989) and also Jeff and his father, Lloyd, in Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988).

While I'm an admirer of Henry Fonda, his daughter, Jane, son, Peter, and granddaughter, Bridget, not so fond of Henry and Jane together in  On Golden Pond  (1981), though I appreciate the daughter's efforts in producing a movie that earned her dad an overdue Oscar.

As for the Hustons, director John memorably helmed his father, Walter, to an Oscar in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) and his daughter, Anjelica, to a statuette in the mob drama Prizzi's Honor (1985). Still, I think Anjelica's greatest performance was in her father's final film, The Dead (1987).

Your thoughts -- and favorites?

Film Critic
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Carrie Rickey Film Critic
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