- Margaret Rutherford
Margaret Rutherford Born Margaret Taylor Rutherford
11 May 1892
Balham, London, England, UK
Died 22 May 1972(aged 80)
Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire, England, UK
Occupation Actress Years active 1925–67 Spouse Stringer Davis (1945–1972) (her death)
Dame Margaret Taylor Rutherford (known as Margaret Rutherford) DBE (11 May 1892 – 22 May 1972) was an English character actress, who first came to prominence following World War II in the film adaptations of Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit, and Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest. In 1963 she won the best supporting actress Oscar as The Duchess of Brighton in The VIPs.
Margaret Rutherford's father, William Rutherford Benn, suffered from mental illness. During his honeymoon he had a nervous breakdown and was confined to an asylum. He was eventually released on holiday and on 4 March 1883, he murdered his father, the Reverend Julius Benn, a Congregational church minister, by bludgeoning him to death with a chamberpot. Shortly afterwards, William tried to kill himself as well, by slashing his throat with a pocketknife. After the murder, William Benn was confined to the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum. Several years later he was released, reportedly cured of his mental affliction. He changed his surname to Rutherford, and returned to his wife, Ann (née Taylor).
Margaret Rutherford was born in 1893 in Balham, the only child of William Rutherford Benn and his second wife Florence, née Nicholson. Her father's brother Sir John Benn, 1st Baronet was a British politician, and her first cousin once removed is British politician Tony Benn. As an infant, Margaret Rutherford and her parents moved to India. She was returned to Britain when she was three to live with an aunt, a professional governess Bessie Nicholson, in Wimbledon, England, after her pregnant mother, Florence, committed suicide by hanging herself from a tree. Her father returned to England as well. His continued mental illness resulted in his being confined once more to Broadmoor in 1904.
Margaret Rutherford was educated at Wimbledon High School, and, from the age of about 13, at Raven's Croft School, a boarding school at Sutton Avenue, Seaford, where she is listed, aged 18, on the 1911 census.
Rutherford worked as a teacher of elocution and then went into acting later in life, making her stage debut at the Old Vic in 1925, aged 33. Her physical appearance was such that romantic heroines were out of the question, and she soon established her name in comedy, appearing in many of the most successful British plays and films. "I never intended to play for laughs. I am always surprised that the audience thinks me funny at all", Rutherford wrote in her autobiography. Rutherford made her first appearance in London's West End in 1933 but her talent was not recognised by the critics until her performance as Miss Prism in the play The Importance of Being Earnest at the Globe Theatre in 1939. In 1941 Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit opened on the London stage at the Piccadilly Theatre, with Coward himself directing. Rutherford played Madame Arcati, the bumbling medium, a role which Coward had earlier envisaged for her.
Rutherford had a distinguished theatrical career alongside her film successes. Totally against type, she played the sinister housekeeper Mrs Danvers in Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca at the Queen's Theatre in 1940. Her post-war theatre credits included Miss Prism in The Importance of Being Earnest again at the Haymarket Theatre in 1946 and Lady Bracknell when the same play transferred to New York in 1947. She played an officious headmistress in The Happiest Days of Your Life at the Apollo Theatre in 1948 and such classical roles as Madame Desmortes in Ring Round the Moon (Globe Theatre, 1950), Lady Wishfort in The Way of the World (Lyric Hammersmith, 1953 and Saville Theatre, 1956) and Mrs Candour in The School for Scandal (Haymarket Theatre, 1962). Her final stage performance came in 1966 when she played Mrs Malaprop in The Rivals at the Haymarket Theatre, alongside Sir Ralph Richardson. Unfortunately, her declining health meant she had reluctantly to give up the role after a few weeks.
Although she made her film debut in 1936, it would be Rutherford's turn as Madame Arcati in David Lean's film of Blithe Spirit (1945) that would actually establish her screen success. This would become one of her most memorable performances, with her bicycling about the Kent countryside, cape fluttering behind her. Interestingly, it would also establish the model for portraying that role forever thereafter. She was Nurse Carey in Miranda (1948) and Professor Hatton Jones in Passport to Pimlico (1949). She reprised her stage roles of the headmistress alongside Alastair Sim in The Happiest Days of Your Life (1950) and Miss Prism in Anthony Asquith's The Importance of Being Earnest (1952).
More comedies followed, including Trouble in Store (1953) with Norman Wisdom, The Runaway Bus (1954) with Frankie Howerd and An Alligator Named Daisy (1955) with Donald Sinden and Diana Dors. Rutherford then rejoined Norman Wisdom in Just My Luck and co-starred in The Smallest Show on Earth with Virginia McKenna, Peter Sellers and Leslie Phillips (both 1957). She also joined a host of distinguished comedy stars, including Ian Carmichael and Peter Sellers, in the Boulting Brothers' satire I'm All Right Jack (1959).
In the early 1960s she became synonymous with Miss Jane Marple in a series of four films loosely based on the novels of Agatha Christie. Rutherford, then aged 70, insisted on wearing her own clothes for the part and having her husband appear alongside her. In 1963 Christie dedicated her novel The Mirror Crack'd : "To Margaret Rutherford in admiration". Christie reportedly did not approve of the 1960s films as they portrayed Marple as a comedy character and were not faithful to the original plots.
In 1963 Rutherford was awarded an Academy Award and Golden Globe as Best Supporting Actress for her performance as the absent-minded, impoverished, pill-popping Duchess of Brighton, the only light relief, in Terence Rattigan's The V.I.P.s, a film featuring a star-studded cast led by Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. She appeared as Mistress Quickly in Orson Welles' film Chimes at Midnight (1965) and was directed by Charlie Chaplin in A Countess from Hong Kong (1967), starring Marlon Brando and Sophia Loren, which was one of her final films.
Rutherford was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1961 and was raised to Dame Commander (DBE) in 1967.
Rutherford married character actor Stringer Davis in 1945 and the couple appeared in many productions together. They were happily together until Rutherford's death in 1972. Davis adored Rutherford, with one friend noting: "For him she was not only a great talent but, above all, a beauty." Davis rarely left her side. He was private secretary and general dogsbody – lugging bags, teapots, hot water bottles, teddy bears and nursing Rutherford through periods of depression. These illnesses, often involving stays in mental hospitals and electric shock treatment, were kept hidden from the press during Rutherford's life. In the 1950s, Rutherford and Davis unofficially adopted the writer Gordon Langley Hall, then in his twenties. Hall later had gender reassignment surgery and became Dawn Langley Simmons, under which name she wrote a biography of Rutherford in 1983.
Rutherford suffered from Alzheimer's disease at the end of her life and was unable to work. Davis cared for his wife devotedly at their Buckinghamshire home but she died on 22 May 1972, aged 80. Many of Britain's top actors, including Sir John Gielgud, Robert Morley and Joyce Grenfell, paid tribute at a memorial service, where 90-year-old Sybil Thorndike praised her friend's enormous talent and recalled that Rutherford had "never said anything horrid about anyone".
Rutherford and Davis (who died in 1973) are interred alongside each other in the graveyard of St. James's Church, Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire.
Selected stage performances
- Blithe Spirit
- The Way of the World
- The Importance of Being Earnest, as Miss Prism and in New York (1947) as Lady Bracknell, directed by John Gielgud
- The School for Scandal
- The Solid Gold Cadillac
- The Rivals
Year Title Role Notes 1936 Talk of the Devil Housekeeper 1936 Dusty Ermine Evelyn Summers aka Miss Butterby, old gang moll 1936 Troubled Waters Bit role uncredited 1937 Missing, Believed Married Lady Parke 1937 Catch as Catch Can Maggie Carberry 1937 Big Fella Nanny uncredited 1937 Beauty and the Barge Mrs. Baldwin 1941 Spring Meeting Aunt Bijou 1941 Quiet Wedding Magistrate 1943 Yellow Canary Mrs. Towcester 1943 The Demi-Paradise Rowena Ventnor 1944 English Without Tears Lady Christabel Beauclerk 1945 Blithe Spirit Madame Arcati 1947 While the Sun Shines Dr. Winifred Frye 1947 Meet Me at Dawn Madame Vernore 1948 Miranda Nurse Carey 1949 Passport to Pimlico Professor Hatton-Jones 1950 The Happiest Days of Your Life Muriel Whitchurch 1950 Quel bandito sono io Mrs. Dotherington Also released as Her Favorite Husband 1951 The Magic Box Lady Pond 1952 Curtain Up Catherine Beckwith/Jeremy St. Claire 1952 Miss Robin Hood Miss Honey 1952 The Importance of Being Earnest Miss Letitia Prism 1952 Castle in the Air Miss Nicholson 1953 Innocents in Paris Gwladys Inglott 1953 Trouble in Store Miss Bacon 1954 The Runaway Bus Miss Cynthia Beeston 1954 Mad About Men Nurse Carey 1954 Aunt Clara Clara Hilton 1955 An Alligator Named Daisy Prudence Croquet 1957 The Smallest Show on Earth Mrs. Fazackalee 1957 Just My Luck Mrs. Dooley 1959 I'm All Right Jack Aunt Dolly 1961 On the Double Lady Vivian 1961 Murder, She Said Miss Jane Marple 1963 Murder at the Gallop Miss Jane Marple 1963 The Mouse on the Moon Grand Duchess Gloriana XIII 1963 The V.I.P.s The Duchess of Brighton
- Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
- Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture
1964 Murder Most Foul Miss Jane Marple 1964 Murder Ahoy! Miss Jane Marple 1965 Chimes at Midnight Mistress Quickly 1965 The Alphabet Murders Miss Jane Marple uncredited cameo 1967 A Countess from Hong Kong Miss Gaulswallow 1967 Arabella Princess Ilaria 1967 The Wacky World of Mother Goose Mother Goose voice
- ^ John Gielgud, ‘Rutherford, Dame Margaret Taylor(1892–1972)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press
- ^ Guardian "Philip French's screen legends" 26 July 2009
- ^ Sweet, Matthew (7 March 2004). "A life in films: Murder she hid". The Independent on Sunday (London). http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4159/is_20040307/ai_n12751110/pg_3. Retrieved 30 November 2007. [dead link]
- ^ Billington, Michael (2001). Stage and Screen Lives. Oxford University Press. p. 291. ISBN 9780198604075. ; Andy Merriman in Radio Times, 4–10 June 2011
- ^ Raven's Croft School
- ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography profile
- ^ Rutherford, Margaret; Robyns, Gwen (1972). Margaret Rutherford: An autobiography. London: W. H. Allen. ISBN 9780491003797.
- ^ "Obituary". Variety (Los Angeles): p. 71. 24 May 1972.
- Rutherford, Margaret, as told to Gwen Robyns. Margaret Rutherford: An Autobiography. W. H. Allen, London. 1972.
- Simmons, Dawn Langley. Margaret Rutherford. A Blithe Spirit. London, 1983.
- Merriman, Andy, Margaret Rutherford: Dreadnought with Good Manners. London, Aurum Press. 2009. ISBN 9781845134457
- Margaret Rutherford at the Internet Movie Database
- Margaret Rutherford at the Internet Broadway Database
- Oxford National Dictionary of Biography profile
- Performances in Theatre Archive, University of Bristol
- Margaret Rutherford at the British Film Institute's Screenonline
Awards for Margaret Rutherford Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress (1961–1980)
Rita Moreno (1961) · Patty Duke (1962) · Margaret Rutherford (1963) · Lila Kedrova (1964) · Shelley Winters (1965) · Sandy Dennis (1966) · Estelle Parsons (1967) · Ruth Gordon (1968) · Goldie Hawn (1969) · Helen Hayes (1970) · Cloris Leachman (1971) · Eileen Heckart (1972) · Tatum O'Neal (1973) · Ingrid Bergman (1974) · Lee Grant (1975) · Beatrice Straight (1976) · Vanessa Redgrave (1977) · Maggie Smith (1978) · Meryl Streep (1979) · Mary Steenburgen (1980)
Complete list · (1936–1940) · (1941–1960) · (1961–1980) · (1981–2000) · (2001–2020) Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture (1961–1980)
Rita Moreno (1961) · Angela Lansbury (1962) · Margaret Rutherford (1963) · Agnes Moorehead (1964) · Ruth Gordon (1965) · Jocelyne LaGarde (1966) · Carol Channing (1967) · Ruth Gordon (1968) · Goldie Hawn (1969) · Karen Black/Maureen Stapleton (1970) · Ann-Margret (1971) · Shelley Winters (1972) · Linda Blair (1973) · Karen Black (1974) · Brenda Vaccaro (1975) · Katharine Ross (1976) · Vanessa Redgrave (1977) · Dyan Cannon (1978) · Meryl Streep (1979) · Mary Steenburgen (1980)
Complete List · (1943–1960) · (1961–1980) · (1981–2000) · (2001–present) Miss Marple Creator Characters and places BooksThe Murder at the Vicarage (1930) • The Body in the Library (1942) • The Moving Finger (1942) • A Murder is Announced (1950) • They Do It with Mirrors (1952) • A Pocket Full of Rye (1953) • 4.50 from Paddington (1957) • The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side (1962) • A Caribbean Mystery (1964) • At Bertram's Hotel (1965) • Nemesis (1971) • Sleeping Murder (1976) Film adaptationsMargaret RutherfordThe Mirror Crack'd (1980)Other Television adaptationsMiss Marple (1984-92)Other See also
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
Look at other dictionaries:
Margaret Rutherford — Données clés Nom de naissance Margaret Rutherford Naissance 11 mai 1892 Londres (Angleterre) Nationalité … Wikipédia en Français
Margaret Rutherford — Nacimiento 11 de mayo de 1892 Balham (Londres) Fallecimiento 22 de mayo de 1972 Chalfont St Peter (Buckinghamshire) Pareja Stringer Davis … Wikipedia Español
Margaret Rutherford — [Margaret Rutherford] (1892–1972) an English comedy actor. She is best remembered for playing rather ↑eccentric older women, e.g. in the film versions of Blithe Spirit (1945) and ↑Importance of Being Earnest (1952). She also played the part … Useful english dictionary
Margaret Rutherford — Dame Margaret Rutherford, DBE (* 11. Mai 1892 in London; † 22. Mai 1972 in Chalfont St. Peter, Buckinghamshire) war eine britische Schauspielerin. Nachhaltige Berühmtheit erlangte sie in den frühen 1960er Jahren durch die Darstellung der… … Deutsch Wikipedia
Margaret Rutherford — ➡ Rutherford (II) * * * … Universalium
Margaret Rutherford Bryan Levyns — Nacimiento … Wikipedia Español
Margaret Rutherford (cricketer) — Sheila Margaret Rutherford (born 15 June, 1935 in Tynemouth, Northumberland) is a former English cricketer. She played 4 Test matches for the England women s cricket team in 1960/61. References Player profile: Margaret Rutherford from… … Wikipedia
Rutherford — ist der Familienname folgender Personen: Albert G. Rutherford (1879–1941), US amerikanischer Politiker Alexander Cameron Rutherford (1857–1941), kanadischer Politiker Ann Rutherford (* 1920), US amerikanische Schauspielerin Daniel Rutherford… … Deutsch Wikipedia
Margaret (name) — Margaret Margaret the Virgin is one of many saints named Margaret. Gender female Origin Word/Na … Wikipedia
Margaret (Vorname) — Margaret oder Margareth ist ein weiblicher Vorname. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Herkunft und Bedeutung 2 Bekannte Namensträger 2.1 Margaret 2.1.1 Zwischenname … Deutsch Wikipedia