At the Movies

Just can’t get Dame Maggie Smith off my mind. Watching  her brilliant work in Downton Abbey each Sunday night, I couldn’t resist featuring her again this week. Based on the Muriel Spark’s best selling novel, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie was always one of my favorite films. This is vintage Maggie Smith at her best. Obviously others thought so as well – she received her first Oscar for this role in the 1969 classic.

Smith totally makes this film. Without her, I really don’t think this would have garnered the attention it did. As Jean Brodie, the free-spirited teacher at an all girls Scottish boarding school in the 1930’s, Smith is a tour de force. “I am in the business of putting old heads on young shoulders, and all my pupils are the crème de la crème. Give me a girl at an impressionable age and she’ll be mine for life. I am dedicated to you in my prime.” Passionate in teaching and love, Miss Brodie’s dedication to her girls as well as her control over them, is unquestionable. Her clouded romantic view of the arts and how life should be does not translate well into real life, where she is an outspoken supporter fof   Hitler and Mussolini. Yet her charismatic flair and assured opinions guarantee her students’ adoration.

As she tries to mold her students in her image, you begin to see the damaging effects Brodie actually has had on her pupils. This psychological portrayal of an aging  teacher slowly losing her grip on everything she holds dear is a poignant and yet disturbing feature. Maggie Smith is brilliant and is supported by some terrific performances.

Take a look at a clip from this memorable classic.

32 thoughts on “At the Movies

  1. One of my favorites! Now this is a film of the first order.

    Maggie Smith is just wonderful in “Downtown Abbey” and I find that I have to watch it two or three more times to make sure that I hear all her side lines.
    Everyone I talk to is watching this Masterpiece Theater presentation. Such a relief from the hours of junk!

    • Jane – I think DA is the hit of the season – and it definitely warrants additional viewings even just to see details in interiors and constumes!

    • Courtney – I bought the DVD so I can rewatch whenever – yes, Scotland holds a special appeal :-)

  2. Oh dear, I am so out of it. Downtown Abbey? I’ll have to catch up. Meantime, I just watched Last Tango in Paris — have not seen it since the seventies. And I was shocked all over again, and intrigued, and awed. The film is gorgeous, the colors alone are magnificent. And while it is Brando’s film, you can flip it and think about it from the incredible Maria Schneider’s point of view, which, given the social mores in which our daughters have grown up, is fascinating.

    I’m ready for Miss Jean Brodie now….Love these movie posts. Thanks!

    • Dominique – You will adore Downtown Abbey – worth it for interiors and costumes alone! And Last Tango – I remember being shocked as well – that might be one I have to see again soon – but will require getting myself steeled for it! This film is of course is of the tamer variety!

  3. I got so engrossed in the clip I forgot it was even a clip, that I was actually blogging :) I’ve even seen the movie but it has been such a very long time I’d fogotten how wonderful it was, she was. I am almost ashamed to say I haven’t seen Downtown Abbey yet!!

    • Hi Jeanette – I thought this was a particularly good clip. And you must give DA a try – it’s fabulous!! I’ll bet you can catch up on hulu and then join the rest of us on Sunday nights!

  4. And yet another reminder (a fabulous one at that) that I need to be setting my dvr for Sunday night..I know this Downtown Abbey sounds right up my ally!

    • Jeanne – so funny you say that – I wondered what Elizabeth McGovern has been doing all these years!

  5. Thank you for the great movie recommendation!

    I’ve really been enjoying your blog! I wanted to let you know that I like your style and so I am awarding you the Stylish Blogger Award! Please stop by the Market to “pick up” your award (cut and paste!) and to learn the fun rules which come with it.

    Also, I’ve added you to my blog roll — I know my Splendid Readers will enjoy Quintessence as much as I do.

    • SM – oh thank you! I’m so flattered – and pleased you’ve been enjoying quintessence! I’ll stop by to “accept” my award.

  6. Maggie Smith is the greatest! She does not even require dialogue as she can just give a look to covey her emotions. This should be a lesson to all those actresses, both young and old: spend the money on acting classes instead of cosmetic surgery.

  7. Dear Quintessence (I don’t know what to call you?), I love Maggie and never tire of her in anything. I shall watch Downton Abbey again before the next series.

    You MUST check out this amazing drama – it doesn’t have Maggie in but was the best thing on British TV in the autumn.

    You can pre-order here:

    UK Reviews:

    I know you will love it! Have a great weekend xx

    • Christina – Thank you!! Can’t wait to check this out – always love getting new recommendations!

  8. I’m the worst at watching tv or movies…just seems I fill my time with other stuff. I need to add this to my que! I’m beginning to learn that sitting still feels great!

    • Hamptontoes – I understand how sometimes it’s hard to just stop, but this will be worth your while!

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