The formidable Glenda Jackson

I’ve not read many biographies but when I finished this one I wanted to start reading it all over again immediately. Reading is something I’m giving priority right now – after years of talking about it I’m finally doing it. This book shares Glenda Jackson’s astonishing journey from Boots shop assistant to double-Oscar-winning actress with a triumphant stage career, and her re-invention of herself as a politician.

“Professionals and public alike find it difficult to agree on Glenda Jackson the woman, but about one thing there is no doubt: she is an extraordinary actress of extraordinary talent and versatility, one of the greatest living stars of stage and screen. The portrait that emerges is one of a woman who, against all the odds, remains uniquely and irrepressibly herself.

I took so much from Glenda’s views on work, love, sex, feminism, motherhood and democracy. Something that came up time and time again was her work ethic, notorious bull-shit detector and her aversion of pretension. Amen to that. Despite her success she was always driven to be useful to society and use her acting skills to do good, she talks about always feeling there is more to be done and more she could do. I find her transition from acting to politics fascinating. Glenda says theatre is about telling the truth and what it is to be a human being and this is the direct link she sees with politics.

“If she’d gone into politics she’d have been Prime Minister, if she’d gone into crime she’d be Jack the Ripper”




“In 1964 she became a star of the theatre playing the insane, sexually tormented Charlotte Corday in Peter Brook’s The Marat/Sade. She went on to portray sexually aggressive women for Ken Russell, and gained a reputation for taking her clothes off — an image deeply at odds with her puritanical private life. With Oscars for Women in Love and A Touch of Class, her biggest box-office hit, Glenda Jackson established herself as the darling of the film industry — she is reputedly one of Britain’s top 200 richest women. Subsequently, she worked in films of intermittent quality, and became increasingly difficult to work with. By the 1980s she appeared almost exclusively on the stage, reinforcing her reputation as a supremely intelligent actress. But she became unhappy with the ephemeral nature of acting, and increasingly involved in left-wing politics. It took precision engineering to convince the Hampstead and Highgate Labour Party that she was more than a celebrity actress. She won through, and rose to become Junior Minister for Transport under Tony Blair. As actress or MP, Glenda Jackson continues to intrigue the public, and in her appearances there shines through a contradictory, sultry and evasive woman.”

She is extraordinary yet so ordinary at the same time. Inspiring. Thank you David.

“If I’m too strong for some people that’s their problem”