Aside from being Tony winners and rather on the tall side, Tommy Tune and Vanessa Redgrave have something else in common: In 1971, they made movies for Ken Russell, who was the acknowledged wild man of cinema in his heyday (from 1969’s “Women in Love” to 1984’s “Crimes of Passion” and on), and both of them showed up at Lincoln Center’s recent “RussellMania!” festival to salute the 83-year-old director and see how the fruits of their mutual labors held up after almost 40 years.
Back then, Russell was making one of his infrequent forays into theatre pieces. He gave The Devils its due—John Whiting’s adaptation of Aldous Huxley’s “The Devils of Loudun,” which starred Anne Bancroft and Jason Robards on Broadway—moving the sex and gore ahead of the religious rhetoric. Unsurprisingly, Redgrave had herself a field day as the sexually hysteric, hunchback nun whose demented tales turns Oliver Reed into a barbecued vicar. Those sitting near her in the audience report that she cackled appreciatively over her character’s crazy cackles on screen.
Directly after “The Devils,” almost as an anecdote, Russell directed his merriest film, “The Boy Friend”—merriest on screen, he has said; off screen, he called it his most chaotic, with attempted suicides and colliding egos. Sandy Wilson’s antic was, first and last, a takeoff of ‘20s stage musicals; Russell’s adaptation created a backstage-life for the actors performing Wilson’s spoofy songs, borrowing heavily from “42nd Street” and other ‘30s film musicals. The tenth-billed, long-stemmed lone American in the cast, Tune stood out in the chorus line and got to do scenes with a future Broadway leading lady, Twiggy of My One and Only. For the movie audience, he took to the stage after the screening and recreated his famous (possibly fabricated) dance step in the picture: The Maxie Ford Knickerbocker Break.
Currently, Redgrave is about to begin rehearsals Sept. 2 with James Earl Jones and Boyd Gaines for Driving Miss Daisy, bowing Oct. 25 at the Golden, and Tune is “starring” through Aug. 29 at the Peter Glebo Gallery in the West Chelsea Arts Building (526 West 26th) where his paintings, collages and watercolors are on display.
— Harry Haun