With a kind of show-must-go-on resolve, only a few hours after she heard her father had died, Vanessa Redgrave formally announced Thursday that she will appeal a federal district court's decision in the Boston Symphony case.
Redgrave called the case a fight for the civil rights not only of herself but of any artist whose political views are unpopular; she hearkened back to "McCarthyism" and the Hollywood "blacklist."
Redgrave, who had been expected to appeal the judge's action, asserted at a press conference at the Los Angeles Press Club: "Judge Keeton's ruling cannot go unchallenged, and it must be reversed."
On Feb. 13, Judge Robert Keeton threw out a $100,000 jury award to the actress, ruling that the Boston Symphony could not be held liable for damages to her career that might have occurred after it canceled her narrating a 1982 series of Stravinsky's "Oedipus Rex." Keeton also said the orchestra must pay Redgrave $27,500, slightly less than she would have received for her performance and ordered her to pay the orchestra's court costs.
Asked why she went on with the press conference in spite of the death of her father, Sir Michael Redgrave, the actress at first seemed confused.
"This is not a personal issue," she said. "I have responsibilities to other people."
A best-actress Academy Award nominee for her performance in "The Bostonians," Redgrave said that she now planned to return to London immediately and would not attend the Oscar ceremonies Monday night, as she had originally planned.
Redgrave's appeal will be filed in the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, and if unsuccessful, will be brought before the U.S. Supreme Court, she said.
Both Redgrave and Daniel Kornstein, Redgrave's New York-based attorney maintained that the case involved more than breach of contract.
"The issue has nothing to do with Vanessa Redgrave's politics," Kornstein said. "Today it is Redgrave. Tomorrow it is you or me."
In an attempt to show support from the nation's artistic community, Kornstein read a letter of support from Alan Eisenberg, executive secretary of Actors Equity; sitting to Redgrave's right was Dennis Moss of the American Guild of Musical Artists.
Moss said the Boston Symphony case offers an "opportunity" to challenge "blacklisting" attempts. "Too often," Moss said, "organizations like the Boston Symphony use pretexts," such as incompatibility of rehearsal dates to avoid hiring someone. Redgrave's situation, he added, is a case where someone was hired, then fired.
Redgrave, who has been avowedly anti-Israel and an ardent supporter of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said she was asking prominent Jewish organizations for help in her case because, she said, an anti-Semitic producer could do the same thing to a Jewish artist as the Boston Symphony did to her. When questioned, however, both Redgrave and her attorney declined to name the organizations.
Prominently featured and distributed at the press conference were two letters. Redgrave read one, dated Nov. 19, from the five jury members in her case to Judge Keeton supporting her position that this was indeed a civil rights issue. Kornstein read a letter of support, dated March 19, from Robert Sherman of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law of the Boston Bar Assn., saying it would file an amicus curiae, or friend-of-the-court, brief on behalf of Redgrave.
The jury's letter stated: "We were convinced that one of the primary reasons that the B.S.O. cancelled the arrangements for Vanessa Redgrave to appear . . . (was) the disagreement with political views that Ms. Redgrave had publicly expressed . . .
The Boston bar's civil rights committee declared: "The Lawyers' Committee is particularly concerned . . . that Judge Keeton's ruling would foreclose an action under the Civil Rights Act against a landlord who evicted black tenants after receiving threats from white tenants who objected to living in a building or a community with black people."
The orchestra had argued that it fired Redgrave because of threats of violence if she appeared.
Redgrave also claimed the "blacklisting" cost her 14 months of work.
Asked to explain what some see as a contradiction between her free-speech view for artists and her repeated call upon British Actors Equity to ban artists going to Israel, Redgrave said her resolutions were part of "an international call to action" that also included a ban on artists to South Africa.
She then talked about artists who take "blood money" when they go to South Africa. Asked if she also felt artists were taking tainted money by going to Israel, she said, "I'm not saying it exactly. . . . " She explained that she had put her resolutions forward at the time of Israeli "invasions."
After the press conference, talking about her father, she said that last Friday afternoon she had taken him to see a performance of her older daughter Natasha doing Ophelia in "Hamlet" at the Young Vic. "It was the first time he saw her . . . and she was wonderful. We took him in a wheelchair. He was thrilled to pieces."