It was just as well that his wife didn’t find out until years later that, just hours after Vanessa was born, he’d spent the night in the arms of the actress Edith Evans.
Often guilt-ridden about his homosexual affairs, Michael once cried himself to sleep after telling Rachel about a new love.
He’d seen As You Like It before, and there was no clue to suggest this production would be any better. The moment Vanessa Redgrave appeared on stage — ‘like a sinuous golden flame’, he said later — he knew with complete certainty that they belonged together.
When the curtain came down, the lanky producer-director — already famous for staging the avant-garde play Look Back In Anger and making the film A Taste Of Honey — went backstage to see her.
And, by 1953, Rachel had taken a lover of her own, the married actor Glen Byam Shaw — an affair that continued for 20 years.
‘Michael, being tolerant in these matters, was understanding and in a sense relieved,’ she commented.
Indeed, the joke in Hollywood, where his sexual proclivities were well known, was that he’d married the Amazonian Vanessa only because he could fit into her clothes.Growing up in this dysfunctional household inevitably left its mark on the children, all of whom grew up to become acclaimed actors.Their father may have hidden his bisexuality, but they were aware of unspoken tensions.But, bizarrely, Byam Shaw was also bisexual — and rumour had it that Michael was having sex with him, too.Whether or not they enjoyed a ménage a trois, both Redgraves were clearly leading a complex and unsavoury double life.Instead, Vanessa embarked on an affair with Richardson that was so torrid and intense that literally nothing else seemed to matter. Richardson’s flatmate, the playwright John Osborne, was astonished to come home one day to find that the lovers’ ardour had almost wrecked the place.