Maggie Smith

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What to expect

No one does glamour, severity, girlish charm or tight-lipped witticism better than Dame Maggie Smith, one of Britain’s best-loved actors. This new biography shines the stage-lights on the life and career of a truly remarkable performer, one whose stage and screen career spans six decades.

From her days as a West End star of comedy and revue, Dame Maggie’s path would cross with those of the greatest actors, playwrights and directors of the era. Whether stealing scenes from Richard Burton (by his own admission), answering back to Laurence Olivier, or impressing Ingmar Bergman, her career can be seen as a ‘Who’s Who’ of British theatre in the twentieth century. This book also covers the little-known period in Canada, a prolific five-season run of leading roles that took place during the height of her success in Hollywood, soon after she won her first Oscar for her signature film The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

Recently Dame Maggie has been prominent on our screens as ever, with high-profile roles as Violet Crawley, the formidable Dowager Countess of Grantham, in the phenomenally successful television series Downton Abbey, and as Professor Minerva McGonagall in the Harry Potter film franchise: what she herself describes as ‘Miss Jean Brodie in a wizard’s hat’. Yet paradoxically she remains an enigmatic figure, rarely appearing in public and carefully guarding her considerable talent. Michael Coveney’s absorbing biography, written with the actress’s blessing and drawing on personal archives, as well as interviews with immediate family and close friends, is therefore as close as it gets to seeing the real Maggie Smith.

Read by Sian Thomas

(p) 2015 Orion Publishing Group

Critics Review

  • From early days in the theatre to Miss Jean Brodie and Downton‘s formidable Dowager, Maggie Smith has endeared herself to millions. This engaging and fascinating biography reveals the life and career of one of our finest actresses

    WOMAN & HOME
  • Dame Maggie Smith – now 81 – is a national treasure, her unforgettable asperity a delight in every role … [Coveney’s] knowledgeable, elegant biography examines the qualities of the woman in the spotlight … But he also gently probes Smith’s closely guarded privacy, with revealing anecdotes from friends, fellow thespians and Smith’s sons, the actors Chris Larkin and Toby Stephens

    DAILY MAIL
  • Michael Coveney isn’t afraid to elucidate on her reputation for being difficult, but there’s much more here, from a revelatory Hedda Gabler to The Lady In The Van. Coveney is the only writer who could get under Smith’s skin, capturing her steeliness and vulnerability

    INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY, Cinema Books of the Year
  • Michael Coveney’s affectionate [biography] provides the best account we are likely to get of this reserved grand dame, who surely stands alone in having her ‘witty’ elbows and wrists so often singled out for praise

    EVENING STANDARD, Books of the Year
  • A satisfying read … [P]leasantly gossipy and a very valuable addition to the history of British theatre

    IRISH INDEPENDENT
  • [A] solid and admiring portrait of a beloved actor’s craft and career

    INDEPENDENT

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