Monday, February 18, 2013

Maggie Smith, a Dowager with attitude

Smith reckons she'll stay on as a Downton cast member for the duration, even if they have to ferry her around in a wheelchair because of her advanced age (in the series that is!).
Did y'all watch Maggie Smith on 60 Minutes? (The whole world knows by now that she's never, ever watched the show that made her a household name: "It’s frustrating. I always see things I would do differently and think, ‘Oh, why in the name of God did I do that?" she explained, with true Dowager contrariness).
I had a "Maggie squared" weekend, what with going to the movies to see Quartet (she's fantastic) and watching the final episode of Downton Abbey Season 3 (check in tomorrow for the recap!). A longtime Smith fan, I always tape any film she's in on Turner Classics, and am never disappointed. There's a reason Julian Fellowes gives her such choice material—because she always delivers. Fellowes is himself an accomplished actor, so he knows how to write for them as well as how to value outstanding actors who, like Dame Maggie, can spin straw into gold.
"What I love about Maggie is that she has this extraordinary skill to bring many different aspects of a character into her delineation, but they never seem contradictory. She never turns into a different person. A lesser actor would find it difficult to be kind and cruel simultaneously, or superficial here but quite deep here. But she manages to synthesize all these elements into a believable woman and, of course, she's very, very funny, so whatever you write for her always sounds much funnier than it was when you thought of it…. All of those reasons make her very rewarding to write for."—NPR's Fresh Air December 11, 2012
Don't miss the favorite Dowager moments, quizzes, polls, and recommended reading on Daedalus's all-things-Downton Forum! We'll be adding more, so check back often. Above is Dame Maggie in her younger years, in a vintage skit with Carol Burnett. ("Let the old bag hit the ship with the bottle!")
In the 60 Minutes interview, one could see sadness in her eyes when she said she probably won't be taking on any more stage roles. How I wish I could have seen her in Peter Schaeffer's Lettice and Lovage! Here's a clip.

And if you have a little more time, this is an entertaining mix of film role highlights.


  1. Maggie Smith is incredible. It is almost impossible to dislike her character in Downton Abbey, she brings some of her McGonagall magaic with her. She is still offensive sometimes...I hope she doesn't die.