came along the role that she was so destined for, that of Miss Letitia
Prism in Anthony Asquiths ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’
(1952). Incredibly despite a whole string of very capable and distinguished
performances – she had still not won a single film honour. More
comic characters followed including Prudence Croquet in ‘An Alligator
Named Daisy’ (1955), and, quite properly part of those self-conscious
celebrations of British cinema, ‘The Magic Box’ (1951).
She was then Mrs. Fazackalee in Basil Deardens ‘The smallest show
on Earth’ (1957) with such notables as Virginia McKenna, Peter
Sellers and Leslie Phillips. For much of the 60’s she become synonymous
with Miss Jane Marple) although a particular favourite of mine is the
1963 film The Mouse on the Moon. She also was awarded an OBE for services
to stage and screen in 1861.
She evatually got some recognition from her peers winning the Oscar
and Golden Globe for her role as The Duchess of Brighton in ‘The
VIPs’ (1963) directed by Anthony Asquith. Also that year Agatha
Christie dedicated her 1963 novel "The Mirror Crack'd From Side
To Side" to Rutherford in admiration of her work.
Welles made an art house tribute by casting her as Mistress Quickly
in ‘Chimes at Midnight’ (1965). Two years later her OBE
was elevated to DBE making her a Dame of the British Empire. She finished
working a year later although she read a number of stories on the childrens
programme Jackanory (BBC1).
She was married to actor Stringer Davis from 1945 to her death –
she also appeared in several films with him.
of their children was writer Gordon Langley Hall, who underwent a sex-change
operation in 1968 and later wrote a biography of Dame Margaret Rutherford
under the name ‘Dawn Langley Hall’. Dame Margaret was a
cousin of the radical left-wing Labour politician Tony Benn. Towards
the end of her life she started to suffer from Alzheimer's disease,
Dame Margaret Rutherford died in 1972 at the ripe old age of 80.
'I hope I'm an individual. I suppose an eccentric is a super individual.
Perhaps an eccentric is just off centre - ex-centric. But that contradicts
a belief of mine that we've got to be centrifugal'
‘It was during this run that I had one of those nerve-racking
experiences that every actress dreads. Real antique chairs had been
hired for the production and one of them was tunnelled with woodworm;
while I was sitting on it during one scene it suddenly collapsed under
me like a pack of cards. Everyone in the audience could not help but
see what was happening. What to do? I did the natural thing. I simply
clung to George Howe, who was playing Chasuble, in helpless giggles.
I have always thought that an actor or actress who does not laugh on
stage when some comic disaster occurs has something missing in his humanity
and artistic make-up. Oddly enough I was to have the same traumatic
experience in America. I must be the only actress in history to be grounded
by woodworm both sides of the Atlantic.’
films to see:
Blithe Spirit (1954)
Chimes at Midnight(1966)