Born 28th December 1934 in Ilford (Essex), London, Margaret Natalie Smith is the daughter of Pathologist Nathaniel Smith and Margaret Hutton Little, and the younger sister of twins Ian and Alistair. The family moved to Cowley (Oxford) in 1939, and Smith's education from 1947-51 was at Oxford High School for Girls. She left school early in order to attend the Oxford playhouse School (1951-53) in order to accomplish her childhood dream of becoming an actress. Her studies at the Oxford Playhouse led to her first employment as an Assistant Stage Manager, where she was able to incorporate minor acting roles within her other duties.
Smith's first professional stage debut was the role of Viola in Twelfth Night (1952) and was immediately popular with critics, press and public.
"...with her precise, sometimes rapid-fire, articulation and her meticulous stagecraft, she is adept at both comedic and serious rolls...."
Within four years of her initial 'professional stage bow', Smith was acting on Broadway, performing comedy routines in Leonard Sillman's New Faces in 1956 - in that same year, Smith made her first, somewhat brief screen appearance in Child in the House; although when asked, Smith usually refers to Nowhere to Go (1959) as her 'real' screen debut.
In 1959, Smith joined the Old Vic, and in 1962 won the London Evening Standard Award for her work in the West End production The Private Ear / The Public Eye. The award proved to be one of many throughout Smith's career, and she has also received (to date) 6 BAFTAs with 2 special awards, 2 Oscars and 5 Oscar nominations, 6 Evening Standard awards, 3 Variety Club awards, 1 Tony, 1 Emmy nomination and 3 Golden Globes... and she is still acting and receiving awards in recognition of her work. In 1970 she was awarded the CBE, but perhaps her most notable achievement was in 1990 when Smith received a DBE - the equivalent of a Knighthood - for 'recognition of her accomplishments in theatre and film'.
Throughout Dame Maggie's career, possibly her most notable and famous role was as the title character in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969), a film based on the novel by Muriel Spark. Usually best suited to and preferring roles of a comical theme, it was quite unusual that Smith had appeared in such a serious film. However, with her seemingly limitless range, Smith scored triumphs on both stage and screen, and won an Academy Award for her
"... delicately textured portrayal of an eccentric teacher at an exclusive Scottish girl's school. Miss Jean exhorts her 'girrrrlls' to follow their hearts and never lose their youthful idealism. Unfortunately for her, she also stumps for her favourite political figures: Mussolini and Franco. In addition, she can't keep the innermost details of her private life a secret, and in fact boasts about her sex life to her students. Her prize pupil, Pamela Franklin, becomes so much a clone of Miss Jean that she ends up a threat to the teacher. Ultimately, Miss Jean loses her position, but not the hearts of her students."
A very private person, little is ever disclosed about Dame Maggie's private life. She has been married twice, her first marriage was to fellow actor Robert Stephens (1931-95) with whom she had her two sons, Chris and Toby - possibly better known as actors Chris Larkin and Toby Stephens. Her marriage to Stephens ended through a divorce in 1975, and she was married to Beverly Cross (19??-98) in the same year.
Dame Maggie's career has been along and successful one - but she has no desire to retire from her 'lifetime passion' of acting. To date, she has appeared in approximately 24 Television programs, 34 movies and over 78 stage performances. Her most recent and most publicised role is that of Prof. Minerva McGonagall, Head of Gryffindor house and Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts School, in "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone".
Dame Maggie Smith has starred in numerous stage and television productions, which I have chosen not to list in detail. If you feel that the stage/television 'ography' should be posted, please /msg me and I will update this node.
The Macmillan Dictionary of Women's Biography