Over decades’ worth of reviews of Glenda Jackson’s work — on the stage and on screens both large and small — what struck critic after critic, above all, was her intelligence.
That intelligence, and intensity, repeatedly comes up in reviews, and not a few critics have observed over the years that Jackson, who died on Thursday at 87, often seemed smarter than her material. Here is a sampling of how critics and writers for The New York Times have described her work, from her earliest days on the stage to her movie star years to her late-in-life return to acting after a long hiatus in which she served in the British Parliament.
GLENDA JACKSON onstage is something to see: a girl in a madhouse, eyes swollen from sleeping-sickness and streaked with the red of imaginary sunsets, bare feet trodding across the bloody bandages and dirty floors of the asylum of Charenton, head bobbing wearily like a rotten cabbage on a stick. It is a performance so disturbing one can erase it from memory only through concentrated effort, an image which will undoubtedly linger long after London’s “Marat/Sade,” has gone back across the ocean. — Rex Reed
Miss Jackson is superb as the woman who is cursed with intelligence, whose every gesture is an edgy acknowledgment that her mind is on the verge of running ahead of itself, and whose humor acts as a kind of life‐saving brake, and a life‐renewing force. — Vincent Canby
Because both Miss [Vanessa] Redgrave and Miss Jackson possess identifiable intelligence, “Mary, Queen of Scots” is not as difficult to sit through as some bad movies I can think of. It’s just solemn, well-groomed and dumb. — Vincent Canby
Melvin Frank’s “A Touch of Class” is a very patchy movie — enormously funny in bits and pieces and sometimes downright dumb. When the material matches their intelligence, [George] Segal and Miss Jackson are extremely funny lovers, as on their first night when they find themselves lying in bed, each on his (or her) “wrong” side, arguing about how they will change locations with a minimum of fuss. There are also some fine farcical scenes more or less dedicated to the proposition that maintenance of a love nest is, at best, full of peril. — Vincent Canby
Once it becomes apparent that this droll, tough-minded actress is playing a tomato who wants little more from life than a few trash novels and a jogging partner, confusion set in. — Janet Maslin
My only reservation is that Miss Jackson isn’t on the screen enough. … As Miss Jackson and Mr. [Walter] Matthau demonstrated in “House Calls,” they go well together, so well that they can locate a laugh even in such an exchange as, He (seeing her handsome Swiss chalet for the first time, sounding a bit like W.C. Fields): “How many hectares do you have?” She: “Two.” — Vincent Canby
Her jaw thrust forward like a prow, her elfin eyes belying her regal bearing, her wide-screen mouth wrapping itself around those slashing, implacable consonants — they’re all exactly as you remember them and want them to be. Or if you’ve never experienced them, welcome to the pleasure. Either way, Glenda Jackson is back; even better, she’s back in a role that’s big enough to need her. — Jesse Green
Her monologues are delivered defiantly to the heavens, as if she had a direct line to a cruel and almighty God. On the basis of this supremely intelligent performance, I don’t doubt that she does. — Ben Brantley