Since the first posting of this story, the date of death was determined to be May 24. Ms. Kempson was the widow of actor Michael Redgrave. Her children included the acclaimed actor, Corin Redgrave, seen in New York recently in The General From America and Not About Nightingales. The children were expected to be attending their mother's services this week. Refund lines were reported for the May 24-25 performances of Broadway's Long Day’s Journey Into Night, the Eugene O'Neill play which features Vanessa Redgrave in an acclaimed performance that has earned her a 2003 Tony Award-nomination. She missed the Saturday and Sunday shows and is expected back May 27, a spokesman told Playbill On-Line. Standby Pamela Payton Wright appeared as Mary Tyrone in Long Day's Journey Saturday and Sunday.
Lynn Redgrave is appearing in one of seven one-acts that make up Off-Broadway’s two-evening experience, Talking Heads. Her performance schedule may be altered in the coming days (her playlet was replaced by one starring Christine Ebersole at the May 24 matinee at the Minetta Lane Theatre, though a production source told Playbill On-Line Redgrave went on for the May 25 evening performance).
The Redgrave sisters were within reach of their mother: Ms. Kempson was living in upstate New York recently. The Associated Press reported Ms. Kempson's funeral will be May 29 at St. Peter's Church in Lithgow, NY. AP reported the date of death as May 24.
Ms. Kempson played classic and contemporary roles in a long career, and was known for her precise performances and stylish approach. Her work seems to have been eclipsed by her role as wife, mother and grandmother to stage stars. Her granddaughter is Natasha Richardson (of Broadway's Anna Christie and Cabaret).
Ms. Kempson met Redgrave in 1934 at Liverpool Rep, where they played opposite each other. Her credits before their marriage included work at Stratford’s Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, in the 1930s. After she played mother to three children (who would become international stars), she returned to the London stage, often appearing with her husband. Among their hits, The Times reported, were Uncle Harry (1944) and Jacobowsky and the Colonel (1945). An obituary in The Times suggested "there was always something slightly chilly and withdrawn about her performances, which seemed…to exclude her from any role too big, tough, audacious or distressingly passionate."
Ms. Kempson, who penned an autobiography, was the daughter of a father who was an instructor in the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth. She was educated at a convent school during World War I. She later studied at RADA, where her perfect diction and refined style got her noticed. A contract with the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Stratford, followed.
She was a founding member of the English Stage Company at the Royal Court in the 1950s. In the 1970s, she appeared with Alec Guinness in A Family and a Fortune (1975) and The Old Country (1979). In 1989 she played Volumnia in Coriolanus at the Old Vic.
Among her films appearances are "Georgy Girl" (with daughter Lynn) and "Out of Africa." She also played Lady Manners in TV's "The Jewel in the Crown."
Her last stage appearance in 1998 was a reading of Chekhov's The Lady with a Dog, alongside Vanessa, Lynn and Gregory Peck at the Los Angeles Central Library.
Michael Redgrave, who had been in ill health for years, died in 1985. Ms. Kempson was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1959 and had the title of Lady Redgrave.