My dad's favorite movie is The Parent Trap, the new one, with Lindsay Lohan in the Hayley Mills. I've never been able to figure out his affection for it, but it's become something of a classic in our family, dutifully watched whenever it comes on cable and pulled out on VHS when we're all in the house together.

And that, a silly family comedy, is how I know Natasha Richardson best. You might think that's a shame, that a Tony-winning actress and a member of a legendary acting family would be best remembered from a remake, but I prefer to linger on how much fun she seems to be having when she and her daughter are going out on the town in London, or how well she plays the straight man when Dennis Quaid falls into the hotel pool. Because Richardson brought something to everything she was in; she was a born professional, and it never would have occurred her to slum her way through even the lightest role.

Actually, I take back what I said earlier. I know Richardson best from listening many, many times to her recording of Cabaret, the role that won her a Tony and gave hope to millions of girls singing in their cars who hoped a weak voice could be overcome with passion in performance (then again, maybe that was just me). Richardson's take on Sally Bowles, unlike the powerhouse Liza Minnelli performance of the 70s, was a woman nearly broken, without the talent to even sing the songs that were supposed to express her true feelings. That revival of Cabaret in the late 90s, directed by Sam Mendes, was suffused with darkness and sin and sadness, with Richardson's tremulous voice at the center capturing it all.

It's a strange thing, to mourn someone you don't know. We will have many years to remember Richardson's career, on stage and on screen, but right now there are people who knew and loved her, her husband and family, coping with unimaginable, shocking grief. The best any of us can do is to remember our own versions of this graceful, skilled actress. Be it The Handmaid's Tale or Nell or, yes, The Parent Trap, she's given all of us something to remember.

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