Actress who starred with Olivier and Alec Guinness and was tastily matched with Albert Finney in Tom Jones
Joyce Redman, the actress, who died on May 10 aged 96, was best known for the dinner scene in Tom Jones (1963), Tony Richardson's hugely successful film version of Henry Fielding's novel, in which she and the title character (played by Albert Finney) smoulder at one another while gulping back wine, slurping oysters, tearing at chicken legs and biting lasciviously into pears.
Small, blonde and vivacious, with large blue eyes and a throaty voice, Joyce Redman won an Oscar nomination for her supporting performance as woman of the world Mrs Waters in a film which has gone down in the annals of cinema as the first to arouse audiences and directors to the erotic possibilities of food.
The scene was all the more sensual in that, while the characters probed, fingered and sucked their food, they did so without laying a finger on each other. The moment they stop eating, however, the two run for a room.
Real life, of course, never imitates art. One of Joyce Redman's oysters turned out to be bad, as a result of which she was laid up for several days.
Joyce Redman also won Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for her role as Desdemona's faithful servant Emilia alongside Maggie Smith and Sir Laurence Olivier in Othello (1965, a film version of a National Theatre production). Having made her name in the 1940s as a stage actress with Olivier, Ralph Richardson and Alec Guinness, she continued to enjoy almost constant success in the theatre on both sides of the Atlantic during a career that lasted more than 60 years.
Joyce Redman was born on December 9, 1915 in Newcastle, into an Anglo-Irish family, and grew up in Co Mayo. She was educated by governesses, along with her three sisters, and subsequently trained at Rada.
Her first London appearance was in Alice Through the Looking Glass (Playhouse, 1935) and she appeared in many productions in the West End before scoring her first major critical success as Brigid, a Catholic priest's Irish housemaid, in Paul Vincent Carroll's Shadow and Substance (Duke of York's, 1943). One critic remarked how convincingly she reminded her audience "that there is nothing so formidable as an ignorant woman inspired by faith".
Later the same season she took over the title role from Pamela Brown in Claudia (St Martin's), with which she went on tour before joining the Old Vic Company as its third leading lady (the others being Sybil Thorndike and Margaret Leighton).
Joyce Redman recalled being overawed when she first joined the company. Her terror at the prospect of playing opposite Olivier and Richardson on two successive first nights -- first as Louka to Olivier's Sergius in Arms and the Man, then as Solveig to Richardson's Peer Gynt -- became so overwhelming that she made up her mind to resign. But one evening, as she made her way home from rehearsals in south London, a flying bomb exploded near her in the street. By some miracle she was unscathed, and when she emerged from hospital a few hours later she found that she had discovered "an almost supernatural confidence", which saw her safely through those two opening performances. In Manchester a few days later, however, she collapsed from delayed shock.
Joyce Redman brought gusto to a variety of roles with the Old Vic, playing Sonya in Uncle Vanya and Lady Anne in Richard III. She was a gin-soaked Doll Tearsheet to Richardson's Falstaff in Henry IV (Part Two); a bedraggled and flirtatious Confidante in Sheridan's The Critic; and a raddled Doll Common in Jonson's The Alchemist.
Perhaps her most notable performance with the company was as Cordelia to Olivier's Lear in 1946, a performance which, according to one critic, had "that sunlit, golden joyousness one feels behind all this actress's work -- even behind the mist of her tears". Her "littleness", the review went on, "made the effect of Lear's carrying her dead body deeply pathetic".
After her New York debut as Doll Tearsheet in 1946, for the next decade or so Joyce Redman divided her time between London and Broadway. She also appeared at the Comedie Francaise.
In Mary Hayley Bell's thriller Angel (Strand, 1947), she stole the show as a 16-year-old Victorian girl of doubtful sanity, convicted on her confession to having cut her brother's throat. She played a leading role in a Broadway production of the same author's eerie Duet for Two Hands.
Back in London in 1948, her performance as the young wife in Sartre's Crime Passionel (Lyric, Hammersmith and Garrick) was praised for its combination of "childish make-believe and catlike lechery". On Broadway four months later, she scored a big success as Anne Boleyn to Rex Harrison's Henry VIII in Maxwell Anderson's Anne of a Thousand Days, one critic claiming that she "scorched" the pages of the drama "to the point where the play is not a good fire insurance risk".
In 1955 she joined the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford to play Helena in All's Well That Ends Well and Mistress Ford in The Merry Wives of Windsor. In the 1960s she appeared in numerous productions with Olivier's newly formed National Theatre Company at the Old Vic, touring with the company to Berlin and Moscow.
Joyce Redman made her film debut in a small role in the Powell and Pressburger wartime drama One of Our Aircraft Is Missing in 1942, and in 1949 made her television debut as a seductive Lady Macbeth. From then on she supplemented her stage appearances with film and television work. In the film Prudence and the Pill (1968) she and Deborah Kerr played women whose conflicting and comical attempts to avoid pregnancy by using the (then new) contraceptive pill end in failure.
Her television appearances include roles in Tales of the Unexpected (in which she co-starred with her niece, Amanda Redman); All for Love; and The Ruth Rendell Mysteries.
Her films for television included Vanity Fair (as Becky Sharp); The Merry Wives of Windsor; The Seven Dials Mystery; and Les Miserables (as Sister Simplice). She made her last television appearance aged 86 in Victoria & Albert (2001), in which she played the elderly monarch; her son, Crispin Redman, also appeared in the production.
Joyce Redman married, in 1949, Charles Wynne-Roberts, a former Army captain, with whom she had three children.