Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)

Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)
Oh, to be in England...

Friday, August 26, 2011

Dame Maggie Smith- Actor of the Week

Dame Maggie Smith as Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham in Downton Abbey
Maggie Smith can entertain me like few other actresses of any age. Whether she is firing off hilarious acerbic one liners in Downton Abbey as Violet the Dowager Countess ("What is a weekend?") or when she does witchcraft as Professor McGonagall in Harry Potter with a twinkle in her eye ("I've always wanted to use that spell").

Maggie Smith as Professor Minerva McGonagall in the Harry Potter series
"It's true I don't tolerate fools but then they don't tolerate me, so I am spiky. Maybe that's why I'm quite good at playing spiky elderly ladies."

Maggie Smith as Constance Countess of Trentham and her maid Mary from Gosford Park
As for her role as Violet, the Dowager Countess, Maggie Smith remarks, "It is very satisfying to play a character such as Violet...Julian (Fellowes) is good at those sorts of ladies. This is the third old lady I've played for him, so I am getting the hang of it now," Smith laughs.

Maggie Smith in her Oscar winning performance with Michael Caine in California Suite 1978
This wonderful actress has won 2 Academy Awards (for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie 1969 and for California Suite 1978) and has been nominated for 3 more as well as being made a Dame Commander (DBE) in 1990. She has two sons by her first marriage to actor Robert Stephens (one of whom is the yummy Toby Stephens from Jane Eyre) and had a very happy second marriage to playwright Beverley Cross who died in 1998.

Dame Maggie Smith and Dame Judi Dench in A Room with a View
I remember her first for her spate of Agatha Christie mysteries (or spoof of same by Neil Simon) from the 1970s (Murder by Death, Death on the Nile and Evil Under the Sun) but one of her best will always be as prim passive-aggressive chaperone Charlotte Bartlett from A Room with a View.

Charlotte Bartlett: I shall never forgive myself.
Lucy Honeychurch: You always say that, Charlotte. And then you always do forgive yourself.

Maggie Smith surprises Rupert Grint with a kiss at the London premiere of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince 2009
She may be spiky but that's OK. We adore you Maggie!!!!

I don't know about you but I can't wait for season 2 of Downton Abbey!

Keeping MumThe Prime of Miss Jean BrodieMy House in UmbriaGosford ParkTea With MussoliniMasterpiece Classic: Downton Abbey (Original UK Unedited Edition)Washington SquareLadies in LavenderNeil Simon's California SuiteBecoming JaneA Room With a View (Two-Disc Special Edition)


  1. I found out recently that Maggie Smith actually went through chemotherapy during the filming of the last three Harry Potters. That is dedication!

  2. Boy, she kept that pretty quiet didn't she? What a classy lady. I wish her the best of health!

  3. Maggie Smith can turn her hand at anything she does - as seen in -

  4. Did you know that Maggie is Tobey Stephens' mother (Jane Eyre)? I just found that out.

    1. Yea,I was also thrilled when I found out about that. Oh I love Maggie!!! XD

    2. Tobey Stephens is also starring in Black Sails. Just ordered the first two seasons on DVD today.

  5. I also adore Maggie Smith. Such incredible talent. I'm afraid her wit would paralyze me. I remember finding out she was Toby Stephens mother a year or so ago and at first was dumbfounded. However, their ability with facial expressions and certain looks they employ show you their similarities. suzan

  6. Hi Suzan!

    I think Maggie would be a bit scary in real life too (but fascinating). I'd love to be a fly on the wall at their family gatherings.

    1. mm... I don't think so. When asked she usually joked that she's mostly also a mean old bat in real life but I've read and watched a lot of her interviews and I've always felt she's sort of a nice, humble and vulnerable person :) (and that's not just because I love her :D)

  7. @Mary Ellen-thanks for emailing me to tell me you are having problems posting a comment. My sister had trouble doing her guest post with Internet Explorer so you may want to try Google Chrome or Firefox. In any case, I'm very glad to post it below. (by the way, I am pea green that you have seen her as Lady Macbeth!)
    There's a luscious article in last Sunday's Times (London) Culture section. I'm pretty sure you can read it on-line, but you have to pay (I think it's £1/month for access, but I'm not sure). The photo is of the actors (Hugh Bonneville as the Earl of Grantham and Dan Stevens as Matthew Crawley) being fitted with military uniforms. (If you go to and scroll down, the photos is below and on the right and alternates with other photos in a slideshow).


    Mary Ellen

  8. Thanks for that! Hope springs eternal; we'll see if this comment works. I'm using Firefox:

    I didn't realize Toby Stephens was Maggie Smith's son, but now that it's pointed out, it seems so clear! From some angles, he looks just like her.

    I didn't notice him at all until he played Kim Philby in 'Cambridge Spies'. Has that shown in North America?

    Yes, I saw Maggie Smith play Lady Macbeth in your back yard, Jenny. Or--wait! Do Canadians have back yards like Americans or back gardens like the British? Anyway, it was at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario. I was merely a tot -- didn't even drive yet, but rode up with a fellow-student who did drive and (wow!) had a car. I could go on and on about that production, but will spare you --

  9. @Mary Ellen- Your comment worked! I haven't seen Cambridge Spies. I'll look out for it if it has Toby Stephens in it.

    And the Stratford Festival really is in my backyard! It's an easy 40 minute drive from my house. I'm going to see Jesus Christ Superstar there next month with a group of girlfriends. It's supposed to be fab (Andrew Lloyd Weber came to see it) and they are thinking of taking the production to Broadway next year. We haven't had Maggie here in years, but we have had Christopher Plummer for the last few seasons.

  10. so it's internet explorer causing my problems perhaps too. I hadn't gotten an answer to that question that I asked on other sites. I'll have to see what I can do. Maybe I can quit being anonymous more often.

  11. @Suzan-Yes your anonymity is probably due to Internet Explorer. Microsoft strikes again!




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