This impressive actress landed her first lead role in 1958’s Nowhere to Go but she started her theatrical career in 1952. Since then, she has been in over 65 productions on screen in addition to over 70 theatrical productions. She is also one of the few actors to earn the Triple Crown of Acting (Tony, Emmy, Oscar). And, most importantly, she is a patron of the Jane Austen society. Win!
She’s Maggie Smith!!!
Well, I guess I should say Dame Maggie Smith, since she has one of the highest classes of knighthood (am I saying that right?).
Anyways, Magz(DBE) is amazing…and not just because she’s done enough work to have two careers. I think she’s one of the few actors who hasn’t fallen off the grid in her later years. Instead of stagnating or getting typecast as the “old lady”, she’s maintained a good amount of diversity in the roles she chooses. According to her, “When you get into the granny era, you’re lucky to get anything.” But, I think she’s just being modest.
Lately, she has played:
*Badass professor and Quidditch fanatic.
*British retiree traveling to India.
And most recently:
*A formidable Dowager Countess in Downton Abbey.
Some people might critique this list and say something along the lines of, “Well, you didn’t include all her other lady/countess-y roles.” To that, I say, PFFT! (or however you spell that sound) Look, Magz(DBE) plays a great “snarky aristocrat.” But, the above list shows that she is great at other roles, too. I mean we all love/hate her as Mrs. Medlock, but come on! Give her more credit!
Interestingly, like I said above, much of Magz’ career was either off camera or stemmed from her work in the theatre. When her theatre company, dissolved, Laurence Olivier invited her to join his National Theatre company. She worked with him on numerous stage/film productions in the 1960s, most notably in her film performance of Desdemona in Othello. Despite being critically acclaimed in almost all of her film performances, Magz has a different take on film acting: “I’ve won two Oscars and I still don’t begin to understand film acting.” Whatever you’re doing Maggie, keep doing it…because it’s working.
Before I start gushing too much (if I haven’t already), I think it’s important to talk about why she’s a T.A.W. (DBE).
She’s a great female role model for all the reasons above. Like I’ve said in other posts, I think it’s important to recognize that someone can still be a feminist even if they’re not an activist or even a “labeled” feminist. Like Dame Judi Dench (her friend) or the brilliant Meryl Streep, Maggie Smith proves that you can be more than successful in the working world and have a family if you want.
I think this recognition is important because it shows that feminism can be accessible to anyone, even heterosexual women who want to get married and have kids. Often, I think feminism gets a bad rap for being too “radical.” I think it’s hugely important to make sure all types of feminism are acknowledged, from so-called “radical” to “moderate.”
Moreover, look at what Maggie Smith is known for: her strong willed, stubborn, independent characters. Sure, lots of people will use this argument to say that she plays the same character over and over but I am looking at it from a different perspective. I think it is more than possible for someone to play characters with similar ideologies (i.e. being independent) and being the same exact character.
Either way, whether purposeful or not, I really appreciate her choice of character. It’s not easy to consistently play strong willed characters. It especially wasn’t easy in the 1950s and 60s when she was emerging as a lead actor (and working with “Larry”). I also think her choices send a good message to young girls who are too often bombarded by stereotypes of lead actresses.
So what do you think? Any Maggie favorites? (McGonagall has to be one of them!)