Glenda Jackson: I watched her again this weekend, this time as the very old, mentally and physically depleted Maud in the Masterpiece Theatre production of “Elizabeth is Missing.” Her voice and her face filled the screen again– that combination of determination and vulnerability, frailty and tenacity. As a victim of dementia, Maud is a character that eviscerates the heart, and a remarkable creation that only Jackson could have pulled off at the age of 85.
But what was more exhilarating was to see in Maud the young Glenda Jackson, in Ken Russell’s 1969 production of “Women in Love.” There, she plays Gudrun, the woman made eternally memorable for her intelligence, erotic energy, and her forthrightness. It was that year–1969–the floodgates were about to open, and there was Gudrun taunting us, challenging us. She was guide and icon, destination and chart, and she was like no other character we had seen on the screen
Between Gudrun and Maud, between the promise of youth and the twilight of old age, is the tumble of the decades, experiences, twists and turns of living. And it is all on Glenda Jackson’s face, the wrinkles and cracks, and in her unsteady gait and limping shuffle. All the things that make up Maud, but not quite, not quite. Because old age always whispers (or weeps) its youth, longs for it but also is freed by it. And Glenda Jackson –in life and in her magisterial acting career– holds all these truths tight, holds both Gudrun and Maud in equal measure. To grow old this well…