“Dame” in Great Britain is the female equivalent of “Sir” as in a person who has been knighted. So, if the great octogenarian actress Maggie Smith were male, he’d be Sir Maggie Smith. Anyway, that’s my rabbit hole for this blog. Dame Maggie Smith turned 62 in 1997, so that’s when she could have gotten a reverse mortgage. Doubtless, she doesn’t need one, and in the past 23 years, she’s continued a lifelong career as one of the great actresses of our era.
I was a big fan of Downton Abbey. As I’ve noted in many of my blogs, I spent more than 30 years as a union organizer and educator. So, why on earth was I rooting for Sir Robert Crawley and his family and household? One big reason was my favorite character, the acerbic and contentious matriarch of the family, Lady Violet Crawley, portrayed by Dame Maggie Smith. And although I’ve never read any of the Harry Potter books, I’ve seen all the movies. And my favorite character was Minerva McGonnigle, Professor of Transfiguration, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, played by Dame Maggie Smith.
Since she turned 62, she’s starred or co-starred in twenty-eight movies and several television shows. Many of them aren’t the typical Hollywood thing, but each of in the ones I’ve seen, she’s been a treat to watch. Two of my favorites are “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and its sequel, “The Second Best Marigold Hotel.” Both movies featured an all-star cast of older adult actors, including Dame Judi Dench (“M” in the recent Bond movies and et. many al.) and Bill Nighy (another wonderful older British actor and also one of my favorites). The movies are about a bunch of British retirees who move to India to live in this less than exotic Exotic Marigold Hotel. She also starred in “Gosford Park” and “Washington Square” two-period pieces that got excellent reviews. And while she made these “serious” films, she also played the Mother Superior in “Sister Act 2” (opposite Whoopi Goldberg) and voiced one of the characters in the animated feature “Gnomeo and Juliet” (a favorite of my eight-year-old granddaughter).
But that’s just Maggie Smith’s post-62 movie career. In addition to “Downton Abbey,” for which she won two Emmys and a Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actress, she’s done a lot of television. She won an additional Emmy for “My House In Umbria” in 2003. This completed a trifecta known as The Triple Crown of Acting (I had never heard of it until now). Way back in 1969, she won the Best Actress Oscar for “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.” She won a Tony award for Best Actress in a 1990 play “Lettice and Lovage,” a play that was written specifically for her. It ran in London, and when it was reprised on Broadway, she won her Tony. The Emmy completed the triple crown. As noted, she has subsequently won two more Emmys for her role as Downton Abbey’s Lady Violet.
She keeps rolling along in tv and film. This year, as the holiday season rolls around (it’s closer than we think), we can see her in “A Boy Called Christmas,” a fantasy about the childhood of a young man named Nichols, who grows up to be Santa Claus. It will be available on Netflix in the U.S. Also, Dame Smith will co-star in a comedy, “The Miracle Club,” set for release in 2022, when she will be 88 years of age.
I am not much of a theatergoer, even when I lived where there was a lot of theater. So, I don’t know much about her theater career. However, she began her acting career in the theater, and she’s never really left. She was already an established actor on the British stage before she started her career in movies. Last year, Dame Smith was the star of an unusual play, “A German Life.” The play was drawn from the life of Brunhilde Pomsel, who was Joseph Goebbel’s personal secretary (quick refresher: Goebbels was the Nazis’ chief propagandist). During the play, Smith was alone on stage, performing a 100-minute-long monologue. Her performance won her a sixth Best Actress Evening Standard Award (the equivalent to our Tony award). To belabor the point of this blog, Dame Maggie Smith received this award at age 85.
I’ve blogged over the past month or so about notable singers (Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen), director-producers (Clint Eastwood and Martin Scorcese), and now Dame Maggie Smith, Actress Extraordinaire. I thought I had learned enough studying Gerontology to avoid the obvious pitfall of being amazed that older adults can achieve so much well after the onset of middle age. However, I failed to internalize that people who have been exceptional in their earlier years don’t lose their genius when they age.
They may express it differently, as they go through the aging process, but as long as they are willing and able, they will produce. Dame Maggie Smith is my latest example.
– Edward from McMinnville, Oregon, a FAR customer who is finding purpose in this new stage of his life.
Edward writes for FAR and is also a customer. He is 73-year-old, born and raised in and around New York City. After college and a little graduate school, he took Horace Greeley’s advice and went west. Edward lived in several cities throughout California and currently resides in Oregon. He practiced law for a few years as part of a law collective doing what they called “people’s law,” but spent most of his career working as an internal organizer for the unions.
When Edward’s career ended with the unions, he was determined to become an advocate for older adults. He enrolled at Portland Community College studying Gerontology. He learned a lot about aging and how it applied to his own life experiences and my own aging process. Much of Edward’s writing is related to what he learned in his Gerontology studies.
* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of the Finance of America Reverse (FAR) LLC