Time for another episode of Small Beginnings and time for another lady in the spotlight. For this week we chose another wonderful actress from the British Island, well known and loved and winner of two Academy Awards, a Tony Award, four Emmys, five BAFTAs and three Golden Globes. Ladies and Gentlemen, Dame Maggie Smith!
Dame Maggie Smith was born on December 28th in 1934 in Essex, England as Magarete Natalie Smith. Early on in her life, the family moved to Oxford to be safe from bombings during WWII, where Maggie grew up and started acting in theatre around the age of 16, despite her mother’s discouragement, saying her appearance would never make her an actress. Her career took off very quickly and every play she joined became a success.
More and more people and theaters started paying attention until she tried her talent on screen in 1956, won the British Film Academy Award for her work in Nowhere To Go (1958). She returned to stage work after that and celebrated many more successes. One of her stage colleagues Derek Jacobi compared Smith’s acting talent to the speed of lightning – either you can keep up or you lose.
In 1967 she got nominated for her first Academy Award and continued theater and film work while also being the mother of two children by that time, however managing her time differently to not neglect either her family or her career. Today Smith is most known for her eccentric characters, but also nailed other roles perfectly, such as a nymphomaniac singer in Oh, What a Lovely War (1969) or an extravagant aunt in Travels With My Aunt (1972).
Her time of success started crumbling in the early 70s by her failing marriage with Robert Stephens and several professional disappointments. Smith took more than a year to recover, but the relationship to Beverly Cross helped her up again. The family moved to Canada and then to New York, where they were neighbours with Katherine Hepburn and Stephen Sondheim. Smith states that it was like a whole new beginning for her, privately and professionally, because she got to work with a whole new team and she was offered bigger roles, such as Lady Macbeth or Cleopatra.
In 1990 she was knighted by Queen Elisabeth II. and made Companion of Honour in 2014.
Until today she continues to act in Hollywood as well as the stage, to the younger generation best known for her role in the Harry Potter films (2001-2011). She has acted in over 70 films and countless stage plays and lan Bennett and Peter Shaffer wrote role for her to play specifically. Despite her age and her overcoming of breast cancer from 2008 onwards, she loves acting and is appreciated my many.
We wish Dame Maddie Smith all the best for her family and health and appreciate her for her hard work and pursuit despite all odds!