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Main| Middleburg Film Festival will honor Terence Blanchard and open with "Marriage Story"»
Saturday
Sep 28 2019

Oscar History: Dame Maggie Smith

by Cláudio Alves

Younger audiences may know Dame Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagall and the sharp-tongued Countess of Grantham,but,beforeDownton AbbeyandHarry Potter,she was already a British national treasure,having won two Oscars by 1979,亚博主页with four additional nominations.This awards season,with the Dowager Countess promoted to the big screen,she might return to the Academy's good graces.

HerDownton Abbeyrole has already proven an awards magnet with three Emmys and a Golden Globe.Maybe its popularity will translate to movie awards?

Maggie Smith's breakthrough screen role in "The VIPs,"her third film.In the film,Smith manages to deliver witty barbs with her usual aplomb,while also mining the vulnerability of the character in a marvelous late film exchange with Michelle Dockery.It's left many fans teary-eyed,reminding us that Smith won't be here forever and we shouldn't take her for granted.

Maggie Smith's history with the Oscars goes back to the early years of her career,亚博主页right around the time she started doing films alongside her stage and television work.In 1963,she was the best thing aboutThe V.I.P.sand,while it was her costar Margaret Rutherford that got the Oscar,Smith was nominated for the Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer.The very next year she was a scene-stealer inThe Pumpkin Eaterand,finally,in 1965,her Desdemona inOthellowould be the role that won Maggie Smith her first Academy Award nomination.

Though I'm a longtime fan of the actress,this first nomination is not an auspicious one.The whole production is somewhat of a disaster,made for the proscenium of the Theatre and not calibrated for the intimacy of the camera.Still,Smith was one of four actors nominated and,five years later,she actually got a deserved Oscar nomination.That time,she even won.

The titular role ofThe Prime of Miss Jean Brodieis a meaty one and Smith sinks her teeth in.Dangerously delusional,magnetically glamourous and proficient at the art of lying to oneself,Miss Brodie is a force of nature and Maggie Smith is marvelous at inhabiting her many facets.According to Inside Oscar,her nomination was somewhat of a surprise and she wasn't even there to accept the award.

California Suite (1978)

Years later,she would be in attendance to receive her second Oscar,for her supporting turn inCalifornia Suitewhere she plays a neurotic Oscar nominee flying in from London to attend the Academy Awards.Though she's been accused of overacting,Smith transforms Neil Simon's anemic characterization into a hilarious,but painful,cocktail of actorly self-centeredness and matrimonial anguish.If you want to truly see Smith being out-of-control cartoonish,see 1972'sTravels with My Auntinstead,the absolute nadir of her Oscar nominated work.

The 80s would be a decade of great work in little-seen British productions that would be BAFTA nominated but had no such luck with the Academy.Only her performance as spinster Charlotte Bartlett in Merchant / Ivory'sA Room with a Viewwould make a blip on the Oscars' radar.亚博主页I think she should have won,but it's difficult to argue against Diane Wiest inHannah and Her Sisters,the actual winner.The following decade would see Smith work more and more in cinema and become the character actress we all know and love.

In 2001 playing a classic Gladys Cooper-style old rich bitch in Gosford Park,Maggie Smith would receive her sixth and (at the moment) final Oscar nomination for Gosford Park.Since then,she's been busy with the Harry Potter franchise and many TV productions,though far from Oscar.The Best Exotic Marigold Hotelmarked the beginning of a new phase of her career,with Maggie Smith using her newfound popularity to get herself into the awards conversation again.  Still,despite BAFTA,SAG and Golden Globe nominations,neither that delightful British comedy,its sequel,My Old Lady,orThe Lady in the Vanmanaged to secure her a seventh Oscar nomination.

MaybeDownton Abbeywill do the trick,maybe not.Either way,her (likely) last bow as Violet Crowley is a beautiful showcase for Dame Maggie Smith's talent and her star-power.She hasn't been this awards worthy on the big screen sinceGosford Park.I would be happy to see her again in the Oscar conversation.Will the Academy be similarly moved?(Were you?) As with most things,time will tell.

Maggie Smith's Oscar History by the numbers
Oscar wins: 2 (Best Actress 1969 forThe Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,Best Supporting Actress 1978 forCalifornia Suite)

Additional Oscar nominations: 4 (Best Supporting Actress 1965 forOthello,Best Actress 1972 forTravels with my Aunt,Best Supporting Actress 1986 forA Room with a View,Best Supporting Actress 2001 forGosford Park)

Biggest Oscar snubs: Quartet(Best Supporting Actress 1981),The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne(Best Actress 1987),The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel(Best Supporting Actress 2011)

Number of films that she's been in that have caught Oscar's eye in one way or another:18 (around 32% of her credited films)


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Reader Comments (2)

Also great in Sister Act!A twist on her world-weary wisecrackers

September 28,2019 | Unregistered CommenterParanoid Android

I was not going to watch the Downton movie,but I think this article made me change my mind.

And Smith really does deserve to join the club of 7 time Oscar nominees.Was not a fan of her first win (it was Fonda's year for me),but loved all of her subsequently nominated roles (yes,even Travels - she's hilarious in it).Her chances are pretty high considering that supporting actress field does not seem particularly crowded this year (Dern looks like the only lock,while Lopez,Puth,Bening,Robbie have their disadvantages).

September 28,2019 | Unregistered Commenterpawel

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