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Also Known As: Dame Maggie Smith, Margaret Natalie Smith Died:
Born: December 28, 1934 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Essex, England, GB Profession: actor, singer, stage manager

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

One of the most revered actresses on both sides of the Atlantic, Maggie Smith created a gallery of indelible characters on stage and screen, which ran the gamut from repressed spinsters to comical eccentrics. Smith quickly became an actress of note with performances in several Shakespeare plays before making an auspicious feature debut in "Nowhere to Go" (1959), before stealing the show in "The VIPs" (1963) and gaining international acclaim for her Oscar-winning performance in "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" (1969). While making her name in dramatic roles, Smith proved equally adept at comedy, particularly with a standout turn as a sophisticated sleuth among an all-star cast in "Murder by Death" (1976). She earned another Academy Award for her brilliant portrayal of a crumbling actress in "California Suite" (1978) before transitioning to a repressed spinster in "A Room with a View" (1986). Though she appeared in a supporting capacity in broad Hollywood movies like "Hook" (1991) and "Sister Act" (1992), Smith found comfort on Broadway and London stages while continuing to earn acclaim for smaller films like "Tea with Mussolini" (1998) and Robert Altman's "Gosford Park" (2001). Smith reached her widest...

One of the most revered actresses on both sides of the Atlantic, Maggie Smith created a gallery of indelible characters on stage and screen, which ran the gamut from repressed spinsters to comical eccentrics. Smith quickly became an actress of note with performances in several Shakespeare plays before making an auspicious feature debut in "Nowhere to Go" (1959), before stealing the show in "The VIPs" (1963) and gaining international acclaim for her Oscar-winning performance in "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" (1969). While making her name in dramatic roles, Smith proved equally adept at comedy, particularly with a standout turn as a sophisticated sleuth among an all-star cast in "Murder by Death" (1976). She earned another Academy Award for her brilliant portrayal of a crumbling actress in "California Suite" (1978) before transitioning to a repressed spinster in "A Room with a View" (1986). Though she appeared in a supporting capacity in broad Hollywood movies like "Hook" (1991) and "Sister Act" (1992), Smith found comfort on Broadway and London stages while continuing to earn acclaim for smaller films like "Tea with Mussolini" (1998) and Robert Altman's "Gosford Park" (2001). Smith reached her widest audience with "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" (2001) and its numerous sequels, and earned critical acclaim as Dowager Countess of Grantham on the wildly popular series "Downton Abbey" (ITV/PBS, 2010- ), allowing her the opportunity to impress a whole new generation as she continued to maintain her reputation as one of the greatest actresses of all time.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
3.
 Gnomeo & Juliet (2011)
5.
7.
 Becoming Jane (2007)
9.
 Keeping Mum (2006)
10.
 Ladies in Lavender (2005) Janet Widdington
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Spent first five years in Ilford, England
1939:
Family moved to Oxford
:
Was an assistant stage manager and performer at the Oxford Playhouse
1952:
Stage debut in Oxford University Dramatic Society production of "Twelfth Night"
1956:
Broadway debut in the sketch revue "New Faces of '56"
1956:
Made uncredited appearance as a party guest in "Child in the House"
1957:
Made London stage debut in "Share My Lettuce"
1959:
Official feature film debut in "Nowhere to Go"
1959:
Was a member of the Old Vic company, where she first played opposite Laurence Olivier in "Rhinoceros"
1962:
Offered praiseworthy performances in "The Public Ear" and "The Private Eye"
1963:
First major film role, opposite Rod Taylor and Richard Burton in "The VIPs"
1963:
Joined National Theatre as a charter member; played Desdemona to Olivier's "Othello"
1965:
Earned first Academy Award nomination reprising her stage role of Desdemona in a film adaptation of "Othello"
:
Had title role in the National Theatre production of "Miss Julie"
1967:
Played featured role in "The Honey Pot"
1969:
Won first Oscar for the role of a fascistic Scottish schoolteacher at an all-girl's school in "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie"
1972:
Headlined a London production of Noel Coward's "Private Lives"
1972:
Earned Best Actress Academy Award nomination as Best Actress for "Travels with My Aunt"
1974:
Made rare TV guest appearance on "The Carol Burnett Show" (CBS)
1976:
Played Dora Charleston, a spoof of Myrna Loy's Nora Charles in the Neil Simon-scripted "Murder By Death"
:
Headlined an L.A. stage production of "The Guardsman"
1978:
Won second Oscar for her turn opposite Michael Caine playing an Oscar-nominated actress in "California Suite"; scripted by Neil Simon
1978:
Offered a scene-stealing turn in "Death on the Nile"; adapted from an Agatha Christie mystery
1979:
Returned to Broadway recreating her London stage role in Tom Stoppard's play "Night and Day"; earned a Tony nomination
1980:
Portrayed writer Virginia Woolf in "Virgina" at Stratford (recreated the role in London's West End in 1981)
1982:
Co-starred with Michael Palin in the comedy "The Missionary"
1982:
Acted in second film adapted from an Agatha Christie mystery "Evil Under the Sun"
1984:
Reteamed with Palin to co-star in the Alan Bennett-scripted comedy "A Private Function"
1986:
Co-starred as the meddling chaperone in "A Room with a View"; earned Best Supporting Actress Academy Award nomination
1987:
Made rare but memorable TV appearance in the "Bed Among the Lentils" segment of the "Talking Heads" series of one-person dramas scripted by Alan Bennett; premiered on British TV and aired in USA on PBS' "Masterpiece Theatre"
1988:
Created the role of Lettice Douffet in Peter Shaffer's play "Lettice and Lovage" in London; reprised role in NYC in 1990 and earned a Tony Award
1991:
Played an aged Wendy Darling in the Steven Spielberg directed, "Hook"
1992:
Co-starred with Whoopi Goldberg as the mother superior in the comedy "Sister Act"; reprised role in "Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit" (1993)
1993:
Starred in TV remake of Tennessee Williams' "Suddenly, Last Summer" (PBS); garnered an Emmy nomination
1993:
Played Lady Bracknell in a highly praised turn in London revival of "The Importance of Being Earnest"
1993:
Cast as Mrs. Metlock in the remake of "The Secret Garden"
1994:
Starred in London staging of Edward Albee's award-winning "Three Tall Women"
1995:
Played the Duchess of York in "Richard III" starring Ian McKellen and directed by Richard Loncraine
1996:
Reprised TV role in London stage production of "Bed Among the Lentils"
1997:
Earned praise for her turn as the meddlesome aunt in "Washington Square"
1997:
Starred in the London stage production of Edward Albee's "A Delicate Balance"
1998:
Reteamed with Michael Caine for the supernatural comedy "Curtain Call" (aired on Starz!)
1999:
Appeared alongside Judi Dench, Cher and Joan Plowright in Franco Zeffirelli's "Tea With Mussolini"
1999:
Played Aunt Betsey in BBC remake of "David Copperfield"; aired in USA on PBS in 2000; received Emmy nomination
1999:
Starred in Alan Bennett's play "The Lady in the Van"
2000:
Headlined the British film "The Last September" as a member of the British aristocracy in 1920s Ireland
2001:
Portrayed the contemptuous Countess of Trentham in Robert Altman's ensemble "Gosford Park"; earned a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination
2001:
Portrayed Prof. Minerva McGonagall in "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone"; adapted from the first novel in the best-sellling fantasy series by J.K. Rowling
2002:
Reprised role of Professor McGonagall in "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets"
2002:
Starred opposite Judi Dench in David Hare's stage play "The Breath of Life"; reprised role on Broadway in 2003
2002:
Starred in the tv-movie "My House in Umbria"; received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress
2004:
Again portrayed Professor McGonagall in "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" directed by Alfonso Cuarón
2005:
Reprised role of Prof. McGonagall in "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" directed by Mike Newell
2006:
Played Rowan Atkinson¿s housekeeper in the British comedy "Keeping Mum"
2007:
Reprised the role of Prof. McGonagall in "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix"
2007:
Appeared opposite Anne Hathaway in the period film "Becoming Jane"
2009:
Reprised the role of Prof. McGonagall in "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," the sixth book in the fantasy series directed by David Yates
2010:
Co-starred with Emma Thompson in the family comedy "Nanny McPhee Returns"
2010:
Earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie for "Capturing Mary" (BBC, 2007)
2010:
Earned critical praise for her role as the Dowager Countess of Grantham on the British period drama "Downton Abbey" (PBS)
2011:
Nominated for the 2011 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie
2011:
Reprised Prof. Minerva McGonagall for the last feature in the series "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2"
2012:
Co-starred in ensemble comedy drama "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel"
2012:
Played a retired opera singer opposite Tom Courtenay, Pauline Collins, and Billy Connolly in "Quartet," Dustin Hoffman's directorial debut
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Oxford High School for Girls: - 1947 - 1951
Oxford Playhouse School: - 1951 - 1953

Notes

Smith has suffered from Grave's disease for a number of years.

She was made Commander of the British Empire in 1969 and a Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1990.

Smith has received honorary doctorates from The University of Cambridge and the University of St. Andrews, Scotland

She was a recipient of the Taormina Gold Award in 1985.

Inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame in 1994.

Received the 1999 William Shakespeare Award for Classical Theatre presented by the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, DC.

"[Smith] looks like a pair of scissors ... a closed pair that cuts even when closed. She must be, I think, the narrowest creature ever to come through a stage door ... The range comes in part from her hands, which occasionally seem larger and more mobile than she does ... The velocity comes in part from her speech, which seems to have been recorded at 3-3/4 and played at 7-1/2 without the least loss of intelligibility." --Walter Kerr in a 1970 review.

Harold Clurman wrote of her performance in Tom Stoppard's "Night and Day": "Easy and always on target, she is above all endowed with a capacity to think funny."

"The etchings of style in a Maggie Smith performance are unmistakable. First observe the face, with its sharp, art-deco angles, which she tends to stretch into a long rectangle to chart psychic damage, the lines creased as if with a palette knife, the lips pressed taut, elongating the skin between her lips and her nose and lending it a moneyed air. She can alter the shape of her luminous nut-brown eyes to italicize a word or phrase. Her string-bean figure is Modigliani-like in some settings, meager and scarecrow-like in others. In comic roles, her wire-drawn body becomes a mannequin for wondrous costumes, especially hats. Her arms pain the air in broad waves of expressive color, and as she swivels her frame around, usually in counterpoint to her line readings, she does so many witty things with her rubbery wrists that they're almost always the first thing you focus on when she walks onstage or appears on-screen." --Steve Vineberg for Salon.com, June 7, 2000.

"When I started acting almost 50 years ago, it wasn't about fame. It was about acting. What is required of actors today is beyond credence. If you want to act these days, it seems to be vital that you tell the world everything about your private life and remove every single garment you possess while you are about it. There's absolutely no mystery any more." --Dame Maggie Smith in a rare press interview in The Daily Telegraph, November 10, 2001.

"The most marvellous thing about Maggie is that she can go from comedy to tragedy in one sentence. She's very like me in that she thinks things are disastrous and hilarious in equal measure. We are both very lugubrious, but we both like to have a laugh as well." --actor Alan Bates quoted in The Daily Telegraph, November 10, 2001.

Smith admits she autographs anything thrust in front of her, although she points out, "I used to write 'Glenda Jackson,' It saves time if that's who they think you are." --From Newsday, January 13, 2002.

"She's terribly private, but I would say she's the least aloof person I know. She has a wicked sense of humour. If you have dinner with her, the next day you literally ache from having laughed so much." --an unidentified friend of the actress' quoted in The Daily Telegraph, February 17, 2002.

"If you live long enough in England, they think you're amazing. What's that thing they say about English actors? `You're too old for the part, you're too young for the part or you're just WONderful because you've survived.' So that's what that's about. It's not about anything else." --Maggie Smith quoted in The Daily Telegraph, February 17, 2002.

"Yes, it's true. I'm always playing this sort of formidable woman, I suppose. It is funny, how you get sort of stuck with that. It's boring." --Smith quoted in Entertainment Weekly, March 15, 2002.

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
Robert Stephens. Actor. Married on June 29, 1967; marriage was troubled by her career success and his alcoholism and bouts of depression; separated in 1974; divorced in February 1975; father of Smith's two sons; died in 1995 at age 64.
husband:
Beverley Cross. Author. Married from June 23, 1975 until his death on March 20, 1998 at age 66; first became romantically involved in the early 1950s; became engaged; separated in the mid-60s when she fell in love with Robert Stephens; re-met in the early 1970s and rekindled relationship.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Nathaniel Smith. Pathologist. Worked at Oxford University.
mother:
Margaret Hutton Little. Scottish.
brother:
Ian Smith. Born on December 8, 1928; twin of Alistair.
brother:
Alistair Smith. Born on December 8, 1928; twin of Ian.
son:
Chris Larkin. Actor. Born on June 19, 1967; father, Robert Stephens.
son:
Toby Stephens. Actor. Born on April 21, 1969; father, Robert Stephens.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"Maggie Smith, A Bright Particular Star"

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