Glenda Jackson, the English actress who won two Best Actress Oscars in the 1970s, one for Women in Love and another for A Touch of Class, and was nominated twice more for Best Actress, died on Thursday at her home in London. She was 87.
Her death was confirmed by her longtime agent, Lionel Larner, who said that it came after a brief illness. "Today we lost one of the world's greatest actresses, and I have lost a best friend of over 50 years," he said.
Born on May 9, 1936 in the town of Birkenhead, England, Jackson was the daughter of a cleaning lady and bricklayer. She was always destined for the limelight, as her mother named her after the Hollywood actress Glenda Farrell. Jackson joined a local theater troupe in her teens and, at age 18, was accepted into the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.
She got her start on the stage, making her Broadway debut in the Royal Shakespeare Company's 1965 production of Marat/Sade. She would later reprise her role in director Peter Brook's 1967 film version of the play.
Jackson's breakthrough came in 1969's Women in Love, Ken Russell's psychosexual adaptation of the D.H. Lawrence novel about sisters who fall for a pair of best friends (the latter played by Alan Bates and Oliver Reed). For her performance, she won the Oscar for Best Actress, though Jackson was not in attendance to accept it. (Producer Hal B. Wallis would personally present the statuette to her in London.)
"I know if Glenda Jackson were here tonight, she'd be terribly, terribly thrilled," actress Juliet Mills said in her stead. "She's 100 percent a professional and this is a great night for professionals. I know she'd like to thank you most sincerely for this great honor."
Jackson earned her second Oscar nomination the following year for Sunday Bloody Sunday, and won her second Oscar in 1974 for the romantic comedy A Touch of Class. The actress was once again absent when she won, and the film's director, Melvin Frank, accepted on her behalf.
"You have honored a very great lady, as well as a very great actress," he said onstage. "I'm pretty sure she'd thank her director, she'd probably thank her producer, and she'd undoubtedly thank her writers. And as two-and-a-half of those fellows, I'd like to say, Glenda, you're welcome, and you are very welcome indeed. And I must congratulate you, my fellow Academy Award members, in selecting this really magnificent woman, this great lady, for this very great honor."
Jackson attended the Oscars for the first time in 1975 as a presenter, awarding that year's Best Actor winner, Art Carney, with his Oscar. She earned her fourth and final Oscar nomination for playing the title role in 1975's Hedda. Across her career, she also won three Emmy Awards and a Tony.
In her 50s, Jackson left acting to become a member of the British Parliament. She served as a Labour MP from 1992 to 2015. She returned to acting in her 80s, playing King Lear in a 2016 production of the Shakespeare play and then starring in a Broadway revival of Edward Albee's Three Tall Women in 2018. Her final film will be the upcoming The Great Escaper, in which she appears opposite Michael Caine.
"Glenda was one of our greatest movie actresses. It was a privilege to work with her on The Great Escaper recently, our second film together," Caine said. (The two previously co-starred in 1975's The Romantic Englishwoman. "It was as wonderful an experience this time as it was 50 years ago. I shall miss her."