Sunday, December 28, 2008

Dame Maggie Smith, an Oldie but a Goodie

I watched The First Wives Club for the umpteenth time on cable last week. I saw the film a number of times in the late nineties, enjoying the kooky capers of a cast-off lot of revenge-seeking first wives, but this was my first viewing in the 21st century. It's a silly, good-natured comedy showcasing lots of grrl/womyn power in the female leads, with talents ranging from Diane Keaton to Goldie Hawn, Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Elizabeth Berkley (loved in Saved By the Bell, Razzied in Showgirls).

I had forgotten that the unsinkable Dame Maggie Smith was featured in the movie as a wealthy New York socialite who aids the first wives in their revenge schemes against their former husbands and their mistresses, and when she appeared on screen, as spicy (and old) as always, I felt all warm and fuzzy inside.

I've loved Maggie Smith, the perpetual old lady, since I first saw her in Hook, as the extremely endearing and decrepit Wendy, all grown up and with great grand children. It wasn't until years later that I realized the makeup department must have "olded" her up a bit for that particular role - I just assumed she visited the same Fountain of Youth as Sean Connery and that was why she looked younger every year in subsequent film roles (ala the Curious Case of Dame Maggie Smith).

The other old lady roles that deepened my love of the Dame?
  • Clash of the Titans (1981, as Thetis - bordering on middle aged)
  • Sister Act (1992, as Mother Superior)
  • The Secret Garden (1993, as Mrs. Medlock)
  • Gosford Park (2001, as Constance Trentham)
  • Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (2002, as Caro Eliza Bennet)
And of course, the entire Harry Potter film series, in which she plays the severe and yet infinitely lovable Professor Minerva McGonagall. Maggie took a short break from filming in 2008 while undergoing treatment for breast cancer but appears to be back in action for the sixth and seventh film installments.

What I have recently come to realize, thanks to infallible Internet sources like IMDB and Wikipedia, is that Dame Maggie Smith was not, in fact, born old (although I'm still trying to make my case for it in the Wiki user boards). She was young once upon a time, and apparently, she was a great actress back then too!

I spent an hour browsing Maggie's IMDB page and discovered lots of interesting tidbits, including the following:

Dame Maggie Smith is a two-time Academy Award winner for her roles in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969, Best Actress in a Leading Role) and California Suite (1978, Best Actress in a Supporting Role), in addition to being nominated four other times for her roles in Othello (1965), Travels With My Aunt (1972), A Room With a View (1985), and Gosford Park (2001).

Maggie appeared alongside that other fabulous Dame, Judi Dench, in several movies I need to add to my Netflix list, including A Room With a View (1985), Tea With Mussolini (1999), and Ladies in Lavender (2004).

Wikipedia also states that Maggie Smith plans to temporarily retire from acting in 30 years, after which she will be cryogenically frozen and revived in the year 3012 so that future generations will be able to continue to enjoy the Dame's performances*. How great is that? Dame Maggie Smith: perpetually old, perpetually awesome.

*These statements have not yet been verified and are still under peer review.

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