Not long after Vanessa Redgrave’s 1978 Oscar debacle, which we discussed yesterday, came another controversy: she played a real-life Jewish concentration-camp survivor, Fania Fénelon, in a CBS-TV movie, Playing for Time. Many Jews, including Fénelon herself, objected to Redgrave’s selection to play the part; Sammy Davis Jr. memorably said that it was “like me playing the head of the Ku Klux Klan.” (She won an Emmy for her performance.)
In the years since, Redgrave has remained a devout Marxist. In her 1994 autobiography, she wrote that she was still “absolutely convinced of the necessity of Marxism, and not for a single day has this conviction been shaken.” She’s also continued to be a generous supporter of Islamic terrorism. In 2002, she paid £50,000 bail for Akhmed Zakayev, a Chechen who was accused by the Russian government of involvement in terrorist acts, including that year’s Moscow theater hostage crisis; in 2007, she helped pay bail for a terrorist who’d been arrested immediately upon returning to Britain after his release from Guantánamo.
In a 2015 interview, Redgrave celebrated the election of the Marxist Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Party leader in Britain, calling it the “English Spring.” (She may be a Commie, but she’s still enough of an upper-class, far-left English snob of the Sidney and Beatrice Webb/Bloomsbury type to all but ignore the existence of Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.)
Redgrave, by the way, didn’t get the last word at the 1978 Oscar telecast we discussed yesterday. Some time after her acceptance speech, in what would become a famous moment in showbiz history, legendary screenwriter Paddy Chayevsky (Marty, Network) took the stage to present the awards for best original and adapted scripts. He began by saying the following:
Before I get on to the writing awards, there’s a little matter I’d like to tidy up – at least if I expect to live with myself tomorrow morning. I would like to say, personal opinion, of course, that I’m sick and tired of people exploiting the occasion of the Academy Awards for the propagation of their own personal political propaganda.
I would like to suggest to Miss Redgrave that her winning an Academy Award is not a pivotal moment in history, does not require a proclamation, and a simple “thank you” would have sufficed.
Chayevsky’s remarks about Redgrave were received by the audience with immense enthusiasm. (Among those who can be seen applauding lustily in the You Tube clip are Chayevsky’s fellow writers – and fellow Jews – Neil Simon and Arthur Laurents, the latter of whom had actually been a victim of the blacklist; conspicuously not applauding was Shirley MacLaine, whose own fondness for Communism we examined on this site in 2015.) In these times, however, when more and more Hollywood luminaries are loath to criticize Islamic terror but quick to demonize the only democracy in the Middle East, we can’t help but wonder how one of today’s Oscar audiences would respond to a speech like Redgrave’s and to comments like Chayevsky’s.