BWW Profile: Dame Maggie Smith Emmy-Nominated Star of Stage and Screen
In anticipation of the live 66th Annual Emmy Award broadcast on NBC on Monday, August 25th, BWW will be spotlighting the Emmy nominated TV performances of some of Broadway's biggest stars. If you want to follow along and interact with all of BroadwayWorld's Emmy coverage, check out #BWWEmmys on Twitter.
This morning we are taking a look at the illustrious career of Dame Maggie Smith. I mean, she's a Dame after all; Queen Elizabeth doesn't just hand those titles out to anyone. Her resume includes highlights from the stage, including "The Importance of Being Earnest," "Private Lives," and "Lettice and Lovage;" to on film in "Othello," "Clash of the Titans," "Sister Act," "Harry Potter," and "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel;" to her iconic role as Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess of Grantham on "Downton Abbey," for which she is nominated for an Emmy in the fourth-consecutive year.
Dame Maggie has been a pillar of the stage both in London and in "the Colonies;" her exceptional career began at the Oxford Playhouse in England, where she performed in 13 shows from 1952-1955. She then went on to have a decade and a half relationship performing with the National Theatre and the Old Vic. In these two decades, Maggie made a name for herself being able to seamlessly Bounce between newer and classic theatrical works with ease. After making her Broadway debut in a musical revue, "New Faces of 1956" in.... well, 1956, Smith returned to New York in "Private Lives," after touring the country in Noel Coward's classic. For the show, Smith received her first Tony nomination in 1975. She earned another in 1980 for "Night and Day," before finally winning in 1990 for "Lettice and Lovage." Though she famously starred opposite Sir Laurence multiple times, Smith has yet to take home an Olivier for her work in the West End, despite six nominations.
Just six years after beginning her stage career, Smith made her first big screen splash in 1958, earning a BAFTA nomination for "Nowhere to Go." She has over 50 film credits since, which have collectively earned her two Oscars, five BAFTA Awards, and three Golden Globes. Obviously, I cannot adequately represent her film career in one paragraph, so I will just hit the highlights that most American fans might be familiar with. Though it has been slightly marred by Olivier's use of blackface, Smith received her first Oscar nomination as Desdemona in 1965's "Othello." Four years later she took home the trophy for "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie." After two more nominations, she received another Academy Award for her work in 1978's "California Suite." From there she played Thetis in "Clash of the Titans," Charlotte in "A Room with a View," and Wendy Darling to Robin Williams' Peter Pan in "Hook." She of course played the stern Mother Superior in "Sister Act" and its sequel, before earning 20 nominations and eight awards for her role in "Gosford Park" in 2001. In the same year, she began her role as Professor Minerva McGonagall in the Harry Potter series. In 2012, she appeared in "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," and will reprise her role in next year's sequel. As a nice little piece of trivia, Dame Maggie has appeared in two unrelated films titled "Quartet." She earned a BAFTA nomination for the first in 1981, and a Golden Globe nom in 2012 for the second.
In addition to her stellar work in the theatre and in movies, Smith has also been a stalwart of both British and American television for nearly six decades. Most notably for American TV fans is her work in miniseries "David Copperfield," "My House in Umbria" (for which she won her first Emmy), and "Capturing Mary;" that was of course until the 2010 debut of "Downton Abbey." As the Dowager Countess, Smith has brought a bit of snarky to those otherwise stuffy Brits! As has the show, Maggie has received heaps of critical and audience praise for her role. This is her fourth-straight Emmy nomination, having won in 2011 and 2012.
It is impossible to sum up a career with the breadth and width of Dame Maggie's in five videos, so I let myself splurge and go with six. Obviously, there will be plenty of remarkable performances that I have missed, so please share them in the comments below, or on Twitter with the hashtag #BWWEmmys. The videos I have chosen are from her performance as Desdemona opposite Laurence Olivier in blackface in "Othello." The next video is from Smith's first Academy Award-winning role in "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie." That is followed by one of her many appearances on "The Carol Burnett Show," when Maggie attempted to teach Carol to speak with a British accent via song. The next video is from her Tony-winning performance in "Lettice and Lovage," the fifth clip is as Professor McGonagall from the "Harry Potter" series, and of course, I am ending with a mash-up of some of the Dowager Countess' best lines from "Downton Abbey."
Will you be cheering on Dame Maggie during next Monday's Emmy telecast? Check back with BWW TV on Friday when we will give you the chance to predict whether or not she will win her fourth TV trophy. Let me know your thoughts on Maggie's nomination and the Emmys in general in the comments below, or on Twitter @BWWMatt and #BWWEmmys.
The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards telecast will air live coast-to-coast on Monday, August 25th (8 PM ET/5 PM PT) on NBC from the NOKIA Theater L.A. LIVE in Los Angeles. And be sure to visit BWW TV for live coverage of the 2014 Primetime EMMY AWARDS.