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The Maggie Smith Bio

The Maggie Smith Review –

by Nate Lee

Best Film:

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Harry Potter

Having been with the Harry Potter series throughout, there is no question that Smith has contributed as much as anyone, even the three kids, to its success. The embodiment of McGonagall, Smith has come a long way as a teacher since her self-involved out-of-touch Brodie, which won her an Academy Award. Coincidentally, one of her other finest roles, that of Lady Hester in Zeffirelli's "Tea with Mussolini," also had fascist leanings.

Great Performances You May Not Have Seen:
The Secret Garden (Mrs. Medlock)
Keeping Mum (a mysterious housekeeper to Rowan Atkinson)
Ladies in Lavender (with sister Judi Dench, infatuated with the same man)
A Private Function (with Michael Palin, steals a town's only pig)
David Copperfield (Aunt Betsy, with a young, pre-Harry Daniel Radcliffe)
The Aristocratic and Classic Dame Maggie:
A Room with a View (Oscar-nominated and Golden Globe-winning performance as the uptight chaperone of Helena Bonham Carter)
Tea with Mussolini (Lady Hester)
Gosford Park (Oscar and Golden Globe-nominated performance as Constance, Countess of Trentham)
Othello (Oscar and Golden Globe-nominated performance as Desdemona, opposite Laurence Olivier)
Richard III (Duchess of York)
Becoming Jane (Lady Gresham, British nobility)
The Last September (Anglo-Irish aristocrat in 1920s Ireland)
Murder by Death (Dora Charleston, parody with David Niven of Nick and Nora Charles, the Thin Man detectives)
The Eccentric Dame Maggie:
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Oscar-winning and Golden Globe-nominated performance as the fascist girl's school teacher in the '30s)
Travels with my Aunt (Oscar and Golden Globe-nominated performance as Aunt Augusta)
Nanny McPhee Returns (eccentric employer of Maggie Gyllenhaal)
Washington Square (Henry James' Lavinia Pettiman, eccentric aunt and mentor of an awkward Jennifer Jason Leigh)
The Harry Potter series (Professor McGonagall)
California Suite (Oscar-winning and Golden Globe-nominated performance as a high-strung movie star)
Clash of the Titans (Thetis)
Death on the Nile (Miss Bowers, whose family was destroyed by the murdered woman)
Evil Under the Sun (Daphne Castle)
Sister Act (Mother Superior)
Hook (the older Wendy)
The Real Dame Maggie:
Harry Potter >

As an actress, Maggie Smith is known for not suffering fools kindly, and that includes directors. Though the professor is less aristocratic than most of Smith's roles, and perhaps even of Smith herself, she is a formidable presence whose kindness is ever present, but rules are rules.
Acting Style:
British aristocrat. Known for both stiff upper lip, stiff-backed overly proper matrons and daft over the top eccentrics, Smith combines the skills of a British-trained stage actress with a magnificent voice and a self-actualized sense of style to capture several generations of audiences.
Bits and Quirks:
Conveys much with her eyelids and sly smile, which often work to show a calmer, kinder interior than her upper-class accent may let on. Works a lanky frame into various off-balanced poses, or for her most famous role, Professor McGonagall, keeps the back iron straight. Has a quirky sideways tilt of the head that often is combined with the droopy eyebrows. Her voice is one of the most recognizable of any actress, especially when she draws it out in a superior disdain that can crush any ego.
Great Scenes:
Gosford Park

> Gossiping with her maid
> Laughing when the butler intentionally spills on Ryan Philippe
> Commenting on the movie star's singing while playing cards

The Secret Garden

> Fetching the girl at the train station and showing her her room
> Putting the electrical currents on the boy
> Trying to find the kids when the master returns and getting chewed out by him

The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie

> The "assassin" scene, when she realizes her favorite pupil has betrayed her
> Lecturing to her students on Mussolini
> The picnics with "her girls"

The Harry Potter Series

> Her first class with the first years
> The sorting hat scene in the first year
> Punishing the three and Malfoy for being out of bed
> The discussion with Dumbledore, at the very beginning when they leave Harry with the Dursleys
> Chastising Dolores Umbridge and then being threatened by her
> Dueling with Snape in the last episode
> Teaching the students to waltz

Tea With Mussolini

> Having tea with Mussolini
> Telling the Scot soldier at the end to back off
> Telling Cher she had to go
> The quick acid-tongued remarks at Doney's