A graduate of Oxford, Tony Richardson rose from head of the university's dramatic society to the pinnacle of the British film industry during the early 1960s, scoring several theatrical successes as a director along the way, most notably Look Back In Anger, by John Osborne, with whom Richardson would enjoy a long professional relationship. The play became Richardson's feature-film debut, and established him as the first of a new wave of directors who would take over British cinema during the early and mid 1960s -- his subsequent movies, including The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962) and, more notably, Tom Jones (1963), established him as that rarity among British filmmakers up to that time. He was considered a successful iconoclast, challenging his audience and dazzling them as well with his creative camera work and inventiveness. Unfortunately, Richardson's 1968 reworking of The Charge of the Light Brigade fell flat at the box office, and the commercial/artistic spell was broken. He made several more films, including Ned Kelly (1969), Joseph Andrews (1977), The Border (1982), and Hotel New Hampshire (1984) -- the latter a major disaster for everyone involved -- but none of them caught the public's taste and all seemed to echo finer films from the early 1960s. His daughter Natasha Richardson, ironically enough, achieved stardom on her own during Richardson's final years, when his career -- apart from a recut reissue of Tom Jones -- was in near complete eclipse.
Biography by Bruce Eder
- Was president of the Oxford Drama Society.
- Joined the BBC as a director in 1953.
- Co-directed the short documentary Momma Don't Allow in 1955; it was shown at the first Free Cinema program in 1956.
- Co-founded the English Stage Company in 1955; first play he directed there was Look Back in Anger.
- Formed Woodfall Film Productions with playwright John Osborne and 1959's Look Back in Anger was the first feature he directed.
- Became a leader of the British New Wave movement with A Taste of Honey in 1961 and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner in 1962.
- Mainstream success and an Oscar came with his adaptation of Tom Jones in 1963.
- Turned to U.S. TV productions later in his career with A Death in Canaan in 1978 and The Phantom of the Opera in 1990.
- Last film directed was Blue Sky, released posthumously in 1994, which won Jessica Lange an Oscar for Best Actress.