Sylvia Syms presents rarely seen footage from the BBC archives that explores the life and career of one of Britain's best-loved actresses, Maggie Smith.
Browse content similar to Maggie Smith. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
As one of Britain's best loved and most versatile actresses,
Dame Maggie Smith has been delighting audiences
for over 60 years.
She is the double Oscar-winning queen of the comically arched
The spiky, funny girl, who gave the acting world no choice
but to take her seriously.
The fact that she created some of her most popular
characters in her 70s is just another testament to her talents.
So how did this extraordinary career begin?
Well, let's start with Maggie telling interviewer Clive Goodwin
about the early days from a programme called Acting In The '60s.
The very first definite step was when I was still at school.
They had a frightfully good thing that when you'd finished general school certificates,
usually you had two weeks at the end of term, which was kind of dead
time, and I immediately went to the Oxford Playhouse,
where I got a job, which was for two weeks,
to be in The Happiest Days Of Your Life.
To play the Scots girl, you, know, Elizabeth Colhoun.
This was immediately trodden on, and I wasn't allowed to do it.
So then, I decided to go to drama school.
I had made up my mind to do that anyway before I left school.
They started a drama school in Oxford where I lived.
It was attached at that time to the Playhouse.
And I went there for two years. I wanted very much to go to RADA.
It was everybody's dream to go to RADA, and my parents, quite rightly,
didn't want me to go to London when I was 16, and live on my own.
And from drama school you went where?
When I was at the Playhouse, I used to work in university
productions, because they did an awful lot there,
and they did lots of cabarets and revues, and they were
all run by Ned Sherrin and Desmond O'Donovan, people like that.
And I did those endlessly.
If you were bright enough at Oxford,
you could almost do weekly rep around the colleges.
You could get enough productions to do a term, to keep you very busy.
-And you were playing light parts, comedy parts?
I was always, always in revue and cabaret. I don't know why.
I did do Twelfth Night.
-I suppose that was one of the first, the earliest things I did.
And then the revues I was in were taken up to Edinburgh,
and we did Fringe productions.
I think it was the first Fringe shows up there.
It was through one of those late-night revues that you
-got the mythical break.
Yes, it was in... One of them we did on the Fringe, and they brought
down to London to the Watergate, which doesn't exist any more.
The Watergate Theatre. I can't remember which one it was called.
I think it was Oxford Eight or one of those things.
Which was seen by the American director, who then took me
-to Broadway. It was called New Faces.
-And was it successful?
It was moderately successful, yes.
It was rather sad because everybody in it expected it to be a huge
success, as the one before had been, and obviously it wasn't.
And everybody who went into thought, "Oh, we're going to come out stars," because...
-Did you think that?
-I don't know what I think.
I was so overwhelmed at the thought of going.
In actual fact, I didn't enjoy it at all, but I was so excited by it.
I thought anything could happen.
I suppose I must have thought I would come back a great, huge star.
-And then you came back to London.
-I came back for a holiday, actually.
Then I did a television here, called Boy Meets Girl, which
Silvio Narizzano directed.
And also Michael Codron asked me to do Share My Lettuce with Kenneth Williams.
And I decided to stay.
Again, more light comedy. Was this what you wanted to do?
I didn't really want to do it. Yet it became... It became a kind of habit.
Everybody thought of me in that way.
They thought of me as always in revue or a revue artist.
And it became absolutely stuck.
I don't think I really thought about it very much.
I think I was so overwhelmed
and so carried away with myself.
-At working at all?
-At working at all, yes, that I was rather grateful for that.
Now we're going to have a look at a clip from one of your films,
The Pumpkin Eater.
You play the au pair girl at a rather unconventional household.
The mother is played by Anne Bancroft,
and you are discussing the merits of her husband, played by Peter Finch.
You're discussing his merits as a father.
Wives don't usually like me. I like them, that's the funny thing.
I seem to worry them somehow.
I don't know, they get so ratty, people's wives.
Funny thing is, I like them better than their husbands.
Do you think that's funny? Perhaps I'm not normal.
I'm sure I'm normal, really. Perhaps it's just un-abnormal.
I can't see how I can be, can you? I mean, I've been told I'm frigid.
I don't see how you can tell. Honestly, how can you tell?
I shouldn't think you are.
Anyway, you don't look it.
I think you're marvellous. I really do.
I think you're absolutely marvellous. You are so capable.
All you do, all the children and everything. The way you cope.
Of course, Jake is the most fabulous husband and father.
He has been the most fabulous husband...
-Can I get into...
The most fabulous husband.
-How many are his?
One is his.
-The others aren't his?
-No, they're not.
Still, he's a wonderful father to them all, isn't he?
Do you enjoy filming?
-Not very much, no.
-I don't know.
I think you have to be a screen actress.
I really don't think I am. You have to have a completely
By the time I get on the floor after two and a half hours
of make-up, I find it impossible.
And also the lack of contact, the fact there isn't an audience,
the fact it is all a question of how you look.
People are always, always worried, always around you all the time,
trying to make you look like this. Your costume isn't right.
I don't know, I found by the end of the day that one's morale was
so low that maybe the camera's
so close, that you feel you can't do anything because it will look ugly.
You get so concerned with the fact you are in the wrong light,
or if you do that it's unattractive on camera, and you mustn't do this.
You get so uninhibited, at least I do, that I tend not to do anything.
I always feel... I'm fine in a film if I'm acting a neurotic person or a small,
tight, shy person. That's not quite so difficult.
Maggie may not have liked film acting
but the film world liked her,
and two years after that interview, she won the Best Actress Oscar
for an unforgettable performance in The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie.
Later she would discuss her triumph with Michael Aspel
in the 1970 programme Personal Cinema.
The conversation here begins with a question about her Brodie
co-star and then husband, Robert Stephens.
Your husband is a distinguished actor
and a busy one too. Do you ever meet?
Yes, we meet quite a lot at the moment
because we're working together. So we do meet, yes.
You've worked together more than once.
-You were together in The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie.
-Yes, we were in that
and we have worked together a lot at the National.
That is where we're working now, so we do really see quite a lot of each other.
Do you enjoy it? It's obviously nice to see each other.
Yes, because when Robert was filming himself, I didn't see him at all.
What about filming?
You're not too keen on the rigours of filming, are you?
No, because I think rigours is exactly it.
I think it's...
I have great admiration for people who work only in the films,
because I think it's just a killing existence to work those hours.
Also it's very isolating because you only meet the people you're
working with in the unit. You can't have any other existence at all.
There must be advantages.
What about the range of characters and parts you can play in the cinema.
-That you can play in the cinema?
Well, that's true,
but there are an awful lot of things you can play in the theatre, and there
really aren't an awful lot of parts for women in the film industry at the moment.
I suppose the lack of teamwork and cohesion, continuity,
-must be one of the great drawbacks?
-Yes, that is true.
Again, it's difficult for me to judge
because Brodie is the longest film, the longest part I've
ever had in a film and therefore I did get to know people,
I didn't just drift in and out of the studio for two days here or
a week there.
So, it did have more continuity than anything else I've worked on.
You've got more awards than most people can fit on one mantelpiece.
What is your feeling about awards?
I don't really know. It seems to me...
-I suppose you're talking about Oscar awards.
-Well, and practically everything else
-I read you seem to have picked up.
are always... I mean, they're nice to have and they're very rewarding to have,
when you realise you've been awarded them
by people who are in your own profession.
Therefore, one can't treat them lightly.
They are very meaningful, as far as that is concerned.
When people ask you, "What will it mean to you now you've got this
"award," it's difficult to say what it means.
It just means you want to go on and hope you can live up to it, really.
Yes, that's the thing.
I suppose it stimulates in one way and the other thing is,
-"Oh, my goodness, I've got to live up to it."
You won the Oscar for Jean Brodie.
You weren't able to collect it yourself, were you?
-No, because I was opening here in a play.
Have you been in America when the awards are handed out?
-What sort of atmosphere is it?
-No, I haven't.
We were there in Los Angeles on tour with the National Theatre,
when the nominations came out.
That was hysterical enough, so I really,
I dread to think what happens on the actual occasion.
Even seeing the replay of the Academy Awards,
which we saw on television, one felt nervous then.
We knew the result, but it seems odd that kind of mounting...
I suppose that really is the one award that nobody knows
anything about anyway, until the last moment.
Maggie Smith, the interesting thing is, with all your acclaim,
you're not over jubilant.
You've been described as "Miss Downbeat"
that you look on life with "great suspicion",
"the brighter the prospects, the deeper the gloom."
What do you say about that?
I suppose it must be true. I don't know why.
Perhaps it's because, you know, when things go well
it is a bit alarming.
I sometimes think that I've had so much luck,
so much good fortune that...
it frightens me, somehow.
I always feel there's got to be...
Something, you know, must go wrong somewhere.
Maybe I'm just always waiting for it.
Well, it hasn't happened yet.
Several years ago, after yet another successful first night...
-That's not wood. It's plastic, unfortunately.
I think it was the rehearsal of Anouilh,
and somebody asked what would you do next,
and you said, "I think I'll go to the pictures. What's on?"
Is that your normal form of relaxation?
It was then, I must say.
Because that was a long run.
Believe me, when you're in a long run
you want to get out and see as much as you can and relax.
At the moment, and working the way I do at the moment,
I very rarely have that time.
One rehearses during the day...
You go on tour.
It's not all that easy.
What about filming one of these Restoration comedies that you revel in?
I don't think they would film.
Well, Taming Of The Shrew worked very well.
-That's not Restoration, but it...
-Yes, I can see that.
Maybe you could film a play like the one I'm in now,
which is a Farquar comedy which is much later on
and is much simpler.
But I really don't think anybody would want to see these people
with snuffboxes and fans waving about all over the place.
I think it'd be just boring.
And also the plots are so complicated
and the language is so convoluted,
nobody could be bothered, I don't think.
You took a year off completely,
-when your first child was born.
Was that hell? I mean being away from work?
To be honest, yes, it was.
It wasn't hell to begin with.
And then I got more and more moody and grumpy.
And I realised it was just silly to try and stay at home.
But, in actual fact, it was marvellous because
going back after being away from work for that length of time,
I felt in some way that
I'd recharged my batteries somehow.
The break was good.
You can work too much.
You spent six weeks recently
in Los Angeles with the National Theatre.
Do you think it helped you -
making that contact with American audiences -
to win the Oscar for Miss Jean Brodie?
I think it probably did have a lot to do with it, because...
the theatre itself got coverage
in the newspapers there.
And I think, on the whole, people really don't know who I am.
I just think it sort of jogged their memory in some way.
Well, we're going to see a clip
from Miss Jean Brodie -
a very interesting clip, which you specially requested -
where you and Celia Johnson,
as the highly disapproving headmistress,
confront each other about the letter that has been sent,
or hidden so that she will find it, by one of girls.
Do you know what this is?
It would appear to be a piece of blue paper with writing on it in pencil.
It is, in fact, a letter.
It was found by Miss McKenzie in a library book.
She glanced at it, but after the first sentence,
she dare not actually read it.
She brought it instantly to me.
Yes... Is it addressed to you?
No, Miss Brodie.
It is addressed to Mr Lowther, but it is signed by you.
-I shall begin.
-Oh, please do.
Of course, I realise it is a forgery.
It is the work of a child.
SHE CLEARS HER THROAT
"My dear delightful Gordon.
"Your letter has moved me deeply, as you may imagine,
"but, alas, I must ever decline to be Mrs Lowther.
"My reasons are twofold.
"I am dedicated to my girls,
"as is Madam Pavlova,
"and there was another in my life.
"He is Teddy Lloyd.
"Intimacy has never taken place with him, he is married to another.
"We are not lovers, but we know the truth.
"However, I was proud of giving myself to you
"when you came and took me in the bracken
"while the storm raged about us.
"If I am in a certain condition
"I shall place the infant in the care
"of a worthy shepherd and his wife.
"I may permit misconduct
"to occur again from time to time as an outlet,
"because I am in my prime.
"We can also have many a...breezy day in the fishing boat at sea.
"We must keep a sharp lookout for Miss Mackay, however,
"as she is rather narrow,
"which arises from an ignorance of culture and the Italian scene.
"I love to hear you singing Hey, Johnnie Cope,
"but were I to receive a proposal of marriage tomorrow
"from the Lord Lyon, King of Arms, I would decline it.
"Allow me, in conclusion, to congratulate you warmly
"on your sexual intercourse, as well as your singing.
"With fondest joy, Jean Brodie."
Is this what your girls, your set,
have learned under your auspices, Miss Brodie?
It is a literary collaboration.
Two separate hands are involved.
One of the authors slants her tail consonants in an unorthodox manner
and the other does not.
Also, the paper seems somewhat aged.
Is that all you have to say?
What else is there to say?
Two little girls at the age of budding sexual fantasy
have concocted a romance for themselves.
They've chosen me as a romantic symbol.
Is that so surprising?
You and Celia Johnson, and Gordon Jackson hovering nervously
in the background.
Lovely Kelvinside accents there.
Did they take long to perfect?
No, we had a very good dialogue coach.
A very good girl called Margaret Gordon
who was at the Gillespie school in Edinburgh,
which is, in actual fact, the school where
a teacher like Miss Brodie did exist.
Oh, I see.
Now, your own style invites bizarre descriptions.
For example, "a voice like an undisciplined slate pencil",
but you sang like a good 'un in Oh! What A Lovely War, didn't you?
Pre-recorded, I hasten to add.
What would you not turn your talents to?
I don't know.
Give me a start.
Do you mean would I romp around nude,
or would I be in one of those kind of films?
Well, for example, no. I don't think I would.
I think I'd have a go at anything if it were interesting...enough.
And if I liked the script.
One of the scripts Smith did like
was a film version of the Graham Greene novel
Travels With My Aunt.
Katharine Hepburn had been due to star as Aunt Augusta Bertram,
but when she fell out with the producers, Maggie got the part.
The role earned her another Oscar nomination,
which she discussed on Parkinson in 1973,
alongside fellow guest Sir John Betjeman.
What exactly does that mean to you,
when you hear that you've been nominated?
Are you pleased, or...?
Well, yes, I'm...I'm very, very pleased
and it's because I was very much last minute in the film.
-Yes, Katharine Hepburn was due to star.
And for reasons that I don't think are unclear to anybody
except for Miss Hepburn obviously,
and the powers that be in MGM - I don't really know what happened.
But, I am delighted because there were many struggles in the film.
The fact of the age, and the make-up and many, many things.
And also I'm very pleased for Bobby Fryer,
-who in actual fact produced Brodie...
-Jean Brodie, right.
..and who he really fought tooth and nail for me to play the part.
And this is also a film of his,
so I'm very glad for him.
Do you think you've got a chance?
I honestly don't think so, this time.
-I didn't before.
I just don't think so, this time. I really, really don't.
No. Will you be going to the ceremony?
-No, I can't. I'll be working here.
-Of course, you're working.
-For which I'm deeply relieved.
Because I have been there,
I was there when we were playing in Los Angeles,
and I had to present an award to, in actual fact, John Mills.
And it is the most terrifying experience ever.
I don't know. I think it's probably because it's the one award
in the world that people really do not know...
They just do not know.
And there is something so...
..naked and unkind.
The cameras go in on all the people who are likely to get it
and the hope in their faces...
and then when it goes, you know...
And they've all got those stitched on smiles.
Well, they obviously want it so desperately.
And, of course, there it does mean much more than it does to us here.
An Oscar is a tremendous, tremendous award to get, really.
But did it mean anything for you, though in real terms, Maggie,
when you won it for Jean Brodie? In terms of work?
Did all of a sudden people start ringing you up.
No. There is a kind of legend
which has happened since the Oscars -
they always say that you DON'T work very much after it.
I don't understand why.
I think it goes back to the fact
that if you won an Oscar in the old days, let us say,
your salary immediately jumped enormously.
And, of course, that cannot happen now, it's unrealistic.
So the money thing doesn't come into it.
But there is this odd thing
that you don't get offered work because of an Oscar.
-I don't know why.
-What do you do with the statuette?
Put it on a sideboard at home?
Mine is actually holding a door open.
No, it's very friendly, actually.
It's extremely useful for it.
-Is that gold?
-No, it's not gold.
It's extremely heavy.
And no doubt very useful if intruders, come in.
Can I ask you about playing comedy, erm...Maggie?
Because it delights you, obviously.
-To do comedy. You like doing comedy.
-Yes, I do.
Does one necessarily have to be a funny person to be a comedienne?
No, I think, in actual fact, an awful lot of people who are in comedy
-are very serious.
It's an old saying that comedy is a serious business, but it is, really.
Let's... Go on.
Just...in a moment. Can we show a scene, first of all?
Which shows Miss Smith in her role as a comedienne?
-I have your permission to do that, Sir John?
-I'd love to see it.
-All right, fine. It's coming up now.
And it's from the new film of Maggie Smith.
Good morning, Henry!
-Where is Wordsworth?
Do you know what that bastard did?
He mixed pot with my mother's ashes!
Poor Henry? Poor mother! I mean, poor...
-Well, poor Angelica, you mean!
Well, now, calm down, Henry. Calm down, Henry.
What is done, cannot be undone.
They're putting all the blame on poor Wordsworth.
Well, you may be in serious trouble too, Aunt Augusta.
And so may you, Henry.
A spot of unpleasantness, at least.
You know the press.
Yes. "Bank manager conceals pot in mother's ashes?"
That's the sort of slander.
I have... I have a small...
I have a small commission...
I have a small commission, which necessitates my going to Paris.
All things considered, I think it best if you
come along with me.
I booked two seats on the BA three o'clock flight.
But, well, I'm not accustomed to foreign travel.
You'll take to it quickly enough in MY company.
I think the first thing that should be explained, though, Maggie,
in case people think it's a different person sitting here,
is...you're playing a 70-year-old woman
Of an indeterminate age, she's described.
Where do you get that voice from, by the way? Where does that...?
I've no idea, actually.
It was, as I said, all in such a rush.
I think once I've got the make-up and those extraordinary costumes,
which were marvellous -
and done by Anthony Powell who did the sets for Private Lives -
once it all got together it just, sort of, came.
That's amazing. Once you're dressed in the part, the voice...
-Yes, it's a physical thing.
-The voice just grew out of it?
Just grew out of it.
The Academy Award eluded Maggie on that occasion,
but five years later she did win the Best Supporting Actress
starring opposite Michael Caine in California Suite.
The 1980s were a blur of awards -
Maggie won the best actress BAFTA three years in succession
for A Private Function, A Room With A View,
and The Lonely Passion Of Judith Herne.
Perhaps not surprisingly, after a run like that,
the 1990s saw her made a dame for Services To The Performing Arts.
And so it was as Dame Maggie Smith,
that she made this appearance on Barry Norman's Film '93,
looking back on her career
and discussing her role in The Secret Garden.
What you have been doing lately, it seems to me,
is alternating smaller independent movies like
The Lonely Passion Of Judith Herne
and now The Secret Garden which we'll come to in a minute,
with glossy Hollywood movies
like Hook and Sister Act and now Sister Act II.
Now, is this a game plan?
No. No, it's not by design, at all.
Quite honestly I just go where...
If there's work, I do it.
And if there isn't work, I don't do it. It's as simple as that.
And I have never worked by design or with any plan in mind, at all.
It's just these things come up
and I kind of go ahead and do them.
For instance, Hook.
The 93-year-old Wendy Darling.
Hook, I did, because they had a lot of trouble finding a Wendy.
And they went on and on and on
and really I blame Anthony Powell,
who's a dear, dear friend,
who was doing the clothes
and he kept saying that I could do it.
And, finally, Steven said, "Well, how old is Maggie Smith?"
And Anthony said without blinking, "96."
So, I sort of went ahead and did it.
It was hell, actually.
But you did it as an act of charity to help the poor struggling young
-No, no. Oh, no, no.
Not at all. I mean, I got the part and I was delighted to have it.
Otherwise, I mean, I would never work with someone like Steven Spielberg.
That in itself was interesting.
I mean, it was extraordinary.
He works at such speed always.
He wants to get on.
He's got film coming out of his fingers almost.
A strange, strange thing.
Why have you been playing very old ladies lately. I mean, 93 in Hook...
I think, because I am an old lady!
You are Maggie Smith and you are in your prime.
No, no. I think this is... I think it just happens.
I am always...
I'm always playing these sort of rather
sour, faded women.
And I'm always in corsets.
And I'm always in wigs
and I'm always in those buttoned boots.
It's sort of like a kind of...
It's typecasting, I suppose.
I can't remember when I last appeared in modern dress.
You know that it's often said that people become actors
because they have a certain shyness,
and are unsure of who they actually are. Would that be true of you?
I think it...
Yes, I think it's very, very true.
And the awful thing...
The really awful thing is that it doesn't get any better.
It's one of those weird things.
Because you never, never do find out who you are.
I was told that when you were doing The Lonely Passion Of Judith Herne,
which I imagine you must be very pleased with,
that on location in Dublin, you deliberately didn't stay
in the same hotel as everyone else
because you wanted to feel and taste the loneliness of living on your own.
-Like Olivier, when he said, "Have you tried acting?"
I just thought it made much more sense to be in a hotel
where you're on your own and you can get in the elevator...
Elevator? Lift. You can see I'm well travelled
and you go up to your room and that's it.
You don't actually go into the hotel.
see everybody at the bar, say
"Oh, hello, yes. Of course, yeah, I'll have..."
That way madness lies.
So, it's to do with weakness of character,
not trying to find one.
You've done a wide variety of roles.
I tell you, something you did, a very small part,
in a film which I think was greatly underrated -
-Oh! What A Lovely War. Dickie Attenborough.
I thought it was fascinating that when we first see you
you're terribly glamorous on the stage,
and you continue to be glamorous throughout the song
and then suddenly there's this quite harsh close-up.
Yeah, I'm very proud of that, because it was my idea.
-Oh, was it?
-Yeah. So, I was very, very pleased with that.
But that is a very frightening thing,
when you see them with an enormous amount of make-up
and you're looking completely startling and ludicrous, really.
Got a clip of that to show you, as well.
-Here you are singing.
I don't think I can even listen to this.
# If only other girls would do as I do
# I believe that we could manage it alone
# But I turn all suitors from me
# But the sailor and the Tommy
# I've an army and a navy of my own
# On Sunday I'd walk out with a soldier
# Monday I'm taken by a tar
# Tuesday I'm out with a baby boy scout
# On Wednesday a Hussar
# On Thursday I gang out wi' a Scottie
# On Friday the captain of the crew
# But on Saturday I'm willing
# If you'll only take the shilling
# To make a man of any one of you #
I enjoyed that. You obviously didn't.
-You sat with your fingers in your ears.
No, I've never been able to sing. Never ever.
You have a reputation, thoroughly deserved,
of stealing films from other people.
Michael Caine, when you got your second Oscar for California Suite,
he said you didn't just steal the film, you committed grand larceny.
And then when he heard that Michael Palin had cast you in The Missionary
his only advice to Palin was to watch out,
you'd "steal the film from under your feet".
-Is this deliberate, or does it just happen that way?
-Not at all.
It was Burton who started all that up.
Richard Burton saying that in The VIPs.
And that really was the wildest thing
because it was a scene that we shot
and I was told Margaret Rutherford is over there,
and so-and-so is over there, and Orson Wells is over there
and, of course, nobody is there, at all.
There was a kind of a bit of cardboard
with Richard sitting in front of it.
So one had to pretend all this was happening.
So under those circumstances it is quite difficult to do it by design.
I think it's just the parts are probably like that.
People always have sympathy for that kind of person.
The downtrodden aunt in the corsets and the boots that I'm always in.
In 1976, you went off to Stratford, Ontario for three years
and I think that was a bad time in your private life.
Your marriage to Robert Stephens was breaking.
Not good professionally.
It was said, probably not by you, but by somebody else,
and it may be the truth,
that you were running away to escape the demons and the pressures.
It wasn't a good time, obviously, when my marriage broke up.
That wasn't good.
I was also acting very, very badly.
I really was... Because of all kinds of pressures.
No reason for excuses, there aren't any.
And I was there, I was there for a long time.
But I was really, really glad
and really stimulated by being there.
It was great to be away from
the pressures of...
It just felt different doing all those plays
in the middle of a field in Ontario.
Somehow the pressures of the critics and things wasn't so strong.
You didn't feel...
I always feel...
nearly every time I do anything, that it's like an exam.
It always feels like that.
And that you get marks at the end.
That's how I think of reviews.
Now, of course, the film that is coming up is The Secret Garden,
which I must say I did enjoy immensely.
Again, what made you do that?
Was it simply that somebody offered you this script,
-with a very good role?
When I read the book, ages and ages ago,
the character that I was playing was not at all like me.
It was very different working on that film
because they treat children and animals quite well.
Which is nice to know.
So that was good. That was terrific.
So you didn't feel like a rag the entire time.
And Agnieszka - Heaven forfend that I say it's because she's a woman,
but it certainly had something to do with it -
would from time to time when we got to the end of a scene would say,
"Vy don't you go and take off these corsets and things,
"you will feel more comfortable."
That was wonderful.
Because, I can promise you I've spent weeks on end
in the wretched things on Merchant Ivory films.
Nobody would even...
They actually left me in corsets up a mountain once for days, I think!
and by then you're dead!
You look splendidly upholstered in your corsets in The Secret Garden.
Yes, I was quite upholstered in them.
I think you ought to have the opportunity to see at least a clip.
-I'd be interested.
-This is the bit where you, as the housekeeper,
comes to collect the little girl at the station.
Is that Mary Lennox?
Yes, Mary Lennox.
I've come to claim her.
I'm Mrs Medlock.
Housekeeper at Misselthwaite Manor.
The Lord Archibald Craven, her uncle and guardian.
What a queer, unresponsive little thing.
And, my word, a plain piece of goods.
Her mother was a beauty.
She certainly didn't hand much of it down, did she?
Oh, she might improve as she gets older. Children change.
She'll have to change quite a bit.
If you ask me, there's not much to improve her at Misselthwaite Manor.
You're a mistress of accents!
Dear little Kate - wonderful face, isn't it? Kate Maberly.
When you look back now over your career,
you must be fairly chuffed at the way things have turned out.
Nothing has changed. It's still as precarious as it ever was.
There's another wonderful thing
that I wanted to do with Lindsay Anderson,
and we tried to set it up.
It's a Chekov, and, of course, that's difficult,
and the producer had sent it to several companies -
God knows, it might be this one, for all I know! -
and he got a letter back which said "Dear Mr Chekov, thank you for..."
Now, that's terrifying, isn't it?
I have seen a Xerox of the letter!
Now, you must take satisfaction out of some of the things you have done.
Oh, yes! Oh, yes, I'm not saying I don't,
but I'm just saying it doesn't guarantee
you will ever do anything else, that's all.
So, if I say "What does the future hold?"
-You'll say you haven't the faintest idea?
-I haven't the faintest idea.
I really haven't the faintest idea.
But it better be something soon,
because I shall drive everybody mad if I don't work. I know that.
Of course more work did come,
along with more praise and awards.
Today Dame Maggie's profile is higher than ever.
Scene-stealing performances in Downton Abbey,
and the Harry Potter movies,
meaning this national treasure is recognised right across the world.
When most would be well into retirement,
she carries on, saying of acting, "I love it!
"I'm privileged to do it and I don't know where I would be without it."
Sylvia Smith narrates a look at the life of one of Britain's best and best-loved actresses, with classic archive footage of her appearances on the BBC demonstrating that when it comes to movie stardom, there really is nothing like a dame.