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No one does glamour, severity, girlish charm or tight-lipped witticism better than Dame Maggie Smith. Michael Coveney's biography shines a light 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, p No one does glamour, severity, girlish charm or tight-lipped witticism better than Dame Maggie Smith. Michael Coveney's biography shines a light 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, answering back to Laurence Olivier, or playing opposite Judi Dench in Breath of Life, her career can be seen as a 'Who's Who' of British theatre. Her film and television career are just as starry. From the title character in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and the meddling chaperone in A Room With a View to the Harry Potter films in which she played Minerva McGonagall (as she put it 'Miss Jean Brodie in a wizard's hat') and the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel films in which she played the wise Muriel Donnelly, Smith has thrilled, engaged and made audiences laugh. As Violet Crawley, the formidable Dowager Countess of Downton Abbey she conquered millions more. Paradoxically she remains an enigmatic figure, rarely appearing in public. 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 a portrait of one of the greatest actors of our time.


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No one does glamour, severity, girlish charm or tight-lipped witticism better than Dame Maggie Smith. Michael Coveney's biography shines a light 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, p No one does glamour, severity, girlish charm or tight-lipped witticism better than Dame Maggie Smith. Michael Coveney's biography shines a light 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, answering back to Laurence Olivier, or playing opposite Judi Dench in Breath of Life, her career can be seen as a 'Who's Who' of British theatre. Her film and television career are just as starry. From the title character in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and the meddling chaperone in A Room With a View to the Harry Potter films in which she played Minerva McGonagall (as she put it 'Miss Jean Brodie in a wizard's hat') and the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel films in which she played the wise Muriel Donnelly, Smith has thrilled, engaged and made audiences laugh. As Violet Crawley, the formidable Dowager Countess of Downton Abbey she conquered millions more. Paradoxically she remains an enigmatic figure, rarely appearing in public. 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 a portrait of one of the greatest actors of our time.

30 review for Maggie Smith: A Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bettie

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b068td6z Description: 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 work of a truly remarkable performer, whose career spans six decades. From her days as a star of West End comedy and revue, Dame Maggie's path would cross with those of the greatest actors, playwrights and directors of the era. Whether stealing scenes http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b068td6z Description: 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 work of a truly remarkable performer, whose career spans six decades. From her days as a star of West End 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. We also hear about her success in Hollywood - inaugurated by her first Oscar for her signature film, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie - as well as her subsequent departure to Canada for a prolific four-season run of leading theatre roles. Recently, Dame Maggie has been as prominent on our screens as ever, with high-profile roles as Violet Crawley, the formidable Dowager Countess of Grantham in the phenomenally successful Downton Abbey, and in the Harry Potter films as Professor Minerva McGonagall - a role she describes as 'Miss Jean Brodie in a wizard's hat'. Yet paradoxically, Dame Maggie remains an enigmatic figure, rarely appearing in public and carefully guarding her considerable talent. Michael Coveney's absorbing biography, drawing on personal archives, interviews and encounters with the actress, as well as conversations with immediate family and dear friends, is therefore as close as it gets to seeing the real Maggie Smith. Maggie gets the acting bug 2/5: Maggie Smith hits Broadway and Edinburgh and makes her first films 3/5: Marriage and first acting award 4/5: The film career blossoms 5/5: Flying solo in her personal life Maggie works harder than ever.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Dawn

    If readers want more of a performance or theatrical review, this biography of Maggie Smith's is very thorough in covering Maggie's work. In fact, the book is mostly about Maggie's acting career: Details and more details about the play or movie or other professional work, including other actors and their comments, and delving into particular scenes and how they are acted. I found it to be quite dull - the author expresses that Maggie has a personality, but it isn't brought to life here, though th If readers want more of a performance or theatrical review, this biography of Maggie Smith's is very thorough in covering Maggie's work. In fact, the book is mostly about Maggie's acting career: Details and more details about the play or movie or other professional work, including other actors and their comments, and delving into particular scenes and how they are acted. I found it to be quite dull - the author expresses that Maggie has a personality, but it isn't brought to life here, though there were glimpses (Maggie's early relationship with her mother and a general picture of her childhood is presented in a more personal, sympathetic way, and I loved learning what books Maggie read and enjoyed as a child, and the fact that she sat in the bathtub with her blue jeans on). The book felt more like a technical study of Maggie's professional world and works, and less like a personal portrait of Maggie as a whole person - it lacked warmth and personality.

  3. 4 out of 5

    N.N. Light

    I'm a huge Maggie Smith fan and heard how wonderful this biography was to read. Newsflash: this is so boring, I would rather wallpaper our whole house before reading it again. Dry, boring and not very insightful. Skip it. My Review: 2 stars I'm a huge Maggie Smith fan and heard how wonderful this biography was to read. Newsflash: this is so boring, I would rather wallpaper our whole house before reading it again. Dry, boring and not very insightful. Skip it. My Review: 2 stars

  4. 5 out of 5

    Laurie

    I love Maggie Smith, but unfortunately this book was beyond dull. It read like a very long resume with almost no details about her personal life. This may be because she is a very private person who is loathe to discuss herself, but I can't help feeling that her life's accomplishments, set in a different author's hands, would have been much more entertaining to read. Skip this book and go watch some of her excellent performances on stage or screen instead. Her brilliance speaks for itself. :) I love Maggie Smith, but unfortunately this book was beyond dull. It read like a very long resume with almost no details about her personal life. This may be because she is a very private person who is loathe to discuss herself, but I can't help feeling that her life's accomplishments, set in a different author's hands, would have been much more entertaining to read. Skip this book and go watch some of her excellent performances on stage or screen instead. Her brilliance speaks for itself. :)

  5. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the Week: 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 work of a truly remarkable performer, whose career spans six decades. From her days as a star of West End 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 Bur From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the Week: 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 work of a truly remarkable performer, whose career spans six decades. From her days as a star of West End 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. We also hear about her success in Hollywood - inaugurated by her first Oscar for her signature film, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie - as well as her subsequent departure to Canada for a prolific four-season run of leading theatre roles. Recently, Dame Maggie has been as prominent on our screens as ever, with high-profile roles as Violet Crawley, the formidable Dowager Countess of Grantham in the phenomenally successful Downton Abbey, and in the Harry Potter films as Professor Minerva McGonagall - a role she describes as 'Miss Jean Brodie in a wizard's hat'. Yet paradoxically, Dame Maggie remains an enigmatic figure, rarely appearing in public and carefully guarding her considerable talent. Michael Coveney's absorbing biography, drawing on personal archives, interviews and encounters with the actress, as well as conversations with immediate family and dear friends, is therefore as close as it gets to seeing the real Maggie Smith. Produced by Clive Brill A Brill production for BBC Radio 4. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b068td6z

  6. 5 out of 5

    Barry Hammond

    For someone who's been on the world stage since the late 1950's, we know surprisingly little about the marvelous actress, Maggie Smith, most recently of Downton Abbey and The Lady In The Van fame. It was only recently I discovered that the actor, Toby Stephens, who plays in the TV series, Black Sails, is her son by actor Robert Stephens (they divorced in 1975 after an eight-year marriage). This lack of information is fairly deliberate on her part. She rarely does television or print interviews o For someone who's been on the world stage since the late 1950's, we know surprisingly little about the marvelous actress, Maggie Smith, most recently of Downton Abbey and The Lady In The Van fame. It was only recently I discovered that the actor, Toby Stephens, who plays in the TV series, Black Sails, is her son by actor Robert Stephens (they divorced in 1975 after an eight-year marriage). This lack of information is fairly deliberate on her part. She rarely does television or print interviews or the kind of shows that talk about her personal life, preferring to concentrate on her work. Theatre critic and historian, Michael Coveney, has finally rectified this gap with his superb biography, detailing her career in full and enough of her life from interviews with family, friends, and co-workers to satisfy her many fans. It's an engaging story from her early days in Oxford University Drama School and West End revues to The National Theatre and her Desdemona opposite Olivier's Othello, films like The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie, Death On The Nile, California Suite, the Harry Potter series, Stratford in Canada, and all the many other theatre, television, and film productions of a long and distinguished career. She's top of a very short list of actresses who have ranged through such a wide spectrum of both comedy and drama and shows no signs of slowing down. If you have an interest in theatre or film, this is a must-read. - BH.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    I've finished it. I found myself alternating between being confused, occasionally fascinated, bored, and at times just determined to keep going because of the subject. Maggie Smith is an actress I have enjoyed watching in any production I have seen her in, and in that regard it was fascinating to be introduced to her huge body of work both one stage and in film. I am a late in her career admirer because I never saw her in earlier productions nor had the opportunity to see her in action on stage. B I've finished it. I found myself alternating between being confused, occasionally fascinated, bored, and at times just determined to keep going because of the subject. Maggie Smith is an actress I have enjoyed watching in any production I have seen her in, and in that regard it was fascinating to be introduced to her huge body of work both one stage and in film. I am a late in her career admirer because I never saw her in earlier productions nor had the opportunity to see her in action on stage. But the occasional glimpse of something that sparked enthusiasm in me was hidden in amongst a tangle of production names and dates and characters names and actors names and often I was lost trying to figure out what on earth the author was actually referring to. I admit my in depth knowledge of the British theatrical scene is obviously even more limited than I thought, but I was lost in the tangle. I say this in no disrespect to the subject of the biography. An amazing actress and obviously a very private person. Perhaps that is the problem, she does not want her life written about in any detail. Anyway I have finished it. And I still love Maggie Smith

  8. 4 out of 5

    Annaliese Budimir

    I love Maggie Smith as so I was very excited to start reading her biography. However, I agree with the other reviews on here - it was hard going, pretty dull and just a list of all the plays and films she was in. There was no insight of Maggie Smith in there at at all - her dry whit and sense of humour was no where to be found! Very disappointing and would not recommend.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Samantha

    If you are looking for insight into the inimitable Maggie's personal life, you have come to the wrong place. However, as an overview of the professional life and remarkable achievements of an equally remarkable lady, this book will fill all the chinks in your personal Maggie Smith encyclopedia. If you are looking for insight into the inimitable Maggie's personal life, you have come to the wrong place. However, as an overview of the professional life and remarkable achievements of an equally remarkable lady, this book will fill all the chinks in your personal Maggie Smith encyclopedia.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    It’s rather ironic and a bit sad that I would dislike any biography of Maggie Smith, because I admire her acting so much. In my opinion, her ability to portray nuances of a character with slightest of eye or body movements or intone humor and irony in the simplest of lines is unsurpassed by any actor living or dead. The breadth of her work is impressive. She seems like a proper—but fun—British lady with sensibilities from a grander era of theater. And yet, her biography bored me. How can this be It’s rather ironic and a bit sad that I would dislike any biography of Maggie Smith, because I admire her acting so much. In my opinion, her ability to portray nuances of a character with slightest of eye or body movements or intone humor and irony in the simplest of lines is unsurpassed by any actor living or dead. The breadth of her work is impressive. She seems like a proper—but fun—British lady with sensibilities from a grander era of theater. And yet, her biography bored me. How can this be? Michael Coveney is a theatrical critic, and presents the entire roster of Ms. Smith’s roles and productions in chronological order. In doing so, he examines each in such great detail that he gives away the entire plot and best moments of each project, leaving nothing for the reader to discover later. This approach works well for old theatrical roles that Smith will never recreate. However, should the reader want to view Smith’s movies or TV productions after reading about them, the author has ruined all of the surprises. More information than what is needed for a reader to decide whether or not to see the film is too much. Other reviewers have pointed out that there isn’t much about Smith’s personal life in the book. What bothers me even more is the unsupported speculation about her personal life as reflected in her acting history. The author writes off Smith’s first marriage to actor Robert Stephens, despite the couple having two children together. He infers that it was doomed from the beginning and was practically arranged by Smith’s second husband, producer Beverley Cross, to kill time before Cross’s divorce. The caption on one photo says that Maggie is keeping an eye on Robert’s drinking, but in the photo I see two actors relaxing backstage after a show. She’s smoking a cigarette and looking amused, and he’s drinking a small glass of wine, hardly the drink of a theatre boozehound. If the book were better edited, I might have liked it more. The prose is not well worded, nor does it tell a very interesting story. It seems more like a laundry list of activities pursued during a lifetime than a story with a unifying theme and satisfying plot line. Since no other biography has been written, it seems that Maggie Smith is not forthcoming about the story of her life. That’s all the more reason to keep what is said about her short and simple.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    What. was this. If you want to know the plots (including spoilers) and casting of every play and film in which Maggie Smith performed plus a little bit of gossip for each one, then this is for you. It felt like TV Guide Special Edition: Maggie Smith (With a Lettice and Lovage teaser in every chapter!) There were some insightful portions that illuminated the path that Dame Maggie Smith made to become who she is (I wasn't aware of her earlier sensual/sexual roles!), but not a lot of thoughtful analy What. was this. If you want to know the plots (including spoilers) and casting of every play and film in which Maggie Smith performed plus a little bit of gossip for each one, then this is for you. It felt like TV Guide Special Edition: Maggie Smith (With a Lettice and Lovage teaser in every chapter!) There were some insightful portions that illuminated the path that Dame Maggie Smith made to become who she is (I wasn't aware of her earlier sensual/sexual roles!), but not a lot of thoughtful analysis or psychological understanding. It was an unfortunately boring rendition of a fascinating woman. *Also—who knew: Sir Laurence Olivier was irritating and oft called "Larry."

  12. 4 out of 5

    Roxanne

    I picked up this book becasue I love Maggie Smtih. She has been on the stage and screen for for 60 years and with no plastic surgery. She has played opposite all the famous British stars. I have not seen in many things. But i lived her in the Best Exoctic Marigold Hotel. She plays kind of a sarcastic grump eith a big heart. It is a long book so I only mentioned a few things.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Bookworm

    Skip it unless you like an analysis of acting. I was not planning to read this book (I guess it was more of a: "someday book") but I had heard some really funny audiobook excerpts. Then I spotted it for cheap on Book Outlet and thought, hey, why not?   The book purports to be a biography of Dame Maggie Smith. The Dowager Countess, Professor McGonagall, etc. I probably really noticed her via 'Harry Potter' but realized I had seen her in a bunch of other movies and what not too. She's known to be re Skip it unless you like an analysis of acting. I was not planning to read this book (I guess it was more of a: "someday book") but I had heard some really funny audiobook excerpts. Then I spotted it for cheap on Book Outlet and thought, hey, why not?   The book purports to be a biography of Dame Maggie Smith. The Dowager Countess, Professor McGonagall, etc. I probably really noticed her via 'Harry Potter' but realized I had seen her in a bunch of other movies and what not too. She's known to be reclusive, not do a lot of publicity, etc. But she was HILARIOUS on a recent set of YouTube clips I found so it seemed like it might make a good book.   Not really. There's a basic biography of her childhood and younger years, but once she begins working, it's not very interesting at all. The author is apparently a drama critic (I've heard of him but am not familiar with his work) and it shows. There's a lot of analysis of her work on stage, onscreen, etc. but like many other reviewers I never felt I really got to know or learn all that much more about Smith. Apparently author Coveney had access to interview her family, friends, colleagues, etc. but it's not clear how much he spoke to Smith himself. A lot of it feels cribbed from various sources like Wikipedia, published interviews, etc.   And even then the analysis can be quite disappointing. I kept hoping it would get better (maybe I'll like it when I see more about her work in the theater, maybe I'll like it better when they get to Harry Potter, Downton Abbey, etc.) but by the end it's really tedious. It also occasionally felt like Coveney had to put down some of Smith's colleagues and contemporaries (including Judi Dench, Joan Plowright, Vanessa Redgrave, etc.) a bit to highlight Smith.   There were also a couple of points that I had to side-eye. I'm not sure if it's due to the audience (this definitely felt like it was written for a British one) or what. But Coveney recounts an anecdote of Smith's time on 'Othello' with Laurence Olivier. A postcard with Muhammad Ali was sent to Olivier (who was in blackface for the role) as a comparison and the author used Ali's previous name (Cassius Clay) in the text without any reference to Ali name. I'm not sure if it's because he was not known as Ali then (it's not clear exactly when the postcard was sent) but I found it really odd that he makes no reference to the fact that "Cassius Clay" was no longer Ali's name.   Coveney also makes a bizarre remark about how Olivier's blackface was the last time a "liberal theatre-going audience would accept the impersonation of a demonic black character played by a white actor." (Pg 81 in the hardcover) I'm not sure if Othello could really called "demonic" and while he's not referring to blackface specifically he recounts other actors such as Donald Sinden, who would play Othello in 1979 with blackface. So Olivier's would not be the last actor to do so. It could be that it's because I don't have much knowledge of British theater but this gave me pause as to what exactly the author meant. He does acknowledge that now the role is played by black actors only on the same page.   So overall I can't say this was an interesting or worthwhile read. Even if you're interested in her acting the text is plodding and not all that interesting. Definitely recommend as a library borrow/buy bargain if you're still really interested, but I wouldn't rush out to read it at all.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Pat Kamuf

    This book was a very detailed read. If you are interested in the British theater this book is for you. You see how Maggie Smith's life intertwines with the history of the British theater. This book was a very detailed read. If you are interested in the British theater this book is for you. You see how Maggie Smith's life intertwines with the history of the British theater.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jean

    Apparently Smith authorized the biography but gave Coveney very few interviews but did allow him access to family, friends and colleagues. Smith appears to be very reclusive. There is not much information on Smith’s private life; the book is all about her professional life. Smith was born in 1934 to a working class family. Her mother told her she would never become an actress “with a face like that” She was in plays in high school and in her late teens started to work in the repertory English the Apparently Smith authorized the biography but gave Coveney very few interviews but did allow him access to family, friends and colleagues. Smith appears to be very reclusive. There is not much information on Smith’s private life; the book is all about her professional life. Smith was born in 1934 to a working class family. Her mother told her she would never become an actress “with a face like that” She was in plays in high school and in her late teens started to work in the repertory English theater. The author compares and discusses what he calls the three greatest English actresses of the generation: Vanessa Redgrave, Maggie Smith and Judi Dench. Coveney discuss their different styles and the plays, movies etc., they have played together in. The last part of the book covers her roles in the Harry Potter films and “Downton Abbey.” I rarely read biographies of actors so I have little to compare this too. But I felt Coveney just gave boilerplate descriptions of her various roles and failed to dig into her private life. I do realize Smith is reclusive and very private but I feel a good biographer overcomes that problem and digs deep into the subject’s life. I felt the author should have done a better job with this biography. I read this as an audiobook downloaded from Audible. Sian Thomas did an excellent job narrating the story.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Book Club of One

    I received a free copy of this book through Goodreads First Reads in exchange for a review. For those who have been following Maggie Smith since the early days of her career, this books will help you reminisce. For those readers interested in Maggie Smith following catching her in Harry Potter, Downton Abbey, or the Marigold Hotel series might have a much harder time. This book does cover Maggie Smith's life from the beginning through to her receiving the title of Companion of Honor on October 17 I received a free copy of this book through Goodreads First Reads in exchange for a review. For those who have been following Maggie Smith since the early days of her career, this books will help you reminisce. For those readers interested in Maggie Smith following catching her in Harry Potter, Downton Abbey, or the Marigold Hotel series might have a much harder time. This book does cover Maggie Smith's life from the beginning through to her receiving the title of Companion of Honor on October 17,2014. However, details seem sparse. Many of the chapters name plays and a great deal of the book seems to be just naming names. It doesn't help the author any that Maggie Smith is an intensely private person, not often giving interviews or carrying on correspondence. While this book was written with her blessing, it would benefit greatly by having more of her voice. When quotes of her witticisms or cutting lines were provided I often laughed out loud, but overall this book lacked the depth I look for in a biography.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn

    This biography, written by a theater critic, assumes an extensive background knowledge of plays, movies and English actors. The narrative is a detailed account of every play, movie and television show Maggie Smith has appeared in--the plot summary, cast of characters and the actors who portrayed every part, and the critical reaction, including the author's own, to Maggie's performance. There is very little about Maggie Smith, the person, in these pages, and I could have learned just as much abou This biography, written by a theater critic, assumes an extensive background knowledge of plays, movies and English actors. The narrative is a detailed account of every play, movie and television show Maggie Smith has appeared in--the plot summary, cast of characters and the actors who portrayed every part, and the critical reaction, including the author's own, to Maggie's performance. There is very little about Maggie Smith, the person, in these pages, and I could have learned just as much about her by reading her Wikipedia page and in a lot less time. There is also a lot of unnecessary information padding the pages--asides about fellow actors, directors and producers that don't shed any light on Maggie Smith. I had hopes to learn more about a talented actress that I admire greatly, but I only learned bits and pieces about her background, her work ethic, her family, and her quest for privacy. Perhaps it was the privacy issue that stymied the author. But the portrait presented here is very incomplete.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Biblio Files (takingadayoff)

    Theater critic Michael Coveney has written a biography of Maggie Smith's career -- every play and movie she's been in, in chronological order. If there isn't as much of Maggie Smith's personal life and her own thoughts on the roles and the people she worked with, it's only because Smith is notoriously private and there aren't a lot of TV interviews and gossip to draw on. That's not to say the book is a dry list of her work --- there are plenty of people who were willing to talk about working wit Theater critic Michael Coveney has written a biography of Maggie Smith's career -- every play and movie she's been in, in chronological order. If there isn't as much of Maggie Smith's personal life and her own thoughts on the roles and the people she worked with, it's only because Smith is notoriously private and there aren't a lot of TV interviews and gossip to draw on. That's not to say the book is a dry list of her work --- there are plenty of people who were willing to talk about working with Maggie Smith and there are the contemporary reviews and articles that Coveney has used. And Smith herself is well known for her snarky wit, so her barbs and dry observations are peppered throughout. As in any book about such a long stage and film career, there are lots of stories and anecdotes that are quite entertaining. But overall, I'd have to say this is a book for true Maggie Smith fans only, not a casual fan.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kati

    I was disappointed with this book. I was hoping to read the story of her life. I understand she is quite a private person, so perhaps getting that story is pretty hard, but this book was more of a detailed/expanded resume more than anything with a lot of listing of names of people who were in various productions with her. I would have rather had more stories about things that took place while she was working on these various projects. I read the first couple of chapters, as well as the chapter a I was disappointed with this book. I was hoping to read the story of her life. I understand she is quite a private person, so perhaps getting that story is pretty hard, but this book was more of a detailed/expanded resume more than anything with a lot of listing of names of people who were in various productions with her. I would have rather had more stories about things that took place while she was working on these various projects. I read the first couple of chapters, as well as the chapter about Harry Potter and Downton Abbey (even that chapter wasn't all that interesting) and skimmed through the rest of the book. Downton Abbey fans who are looking to learn more about the woman behind the Dowager Countess will probably be disappointed, unless they are really into theater and name dropping.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kylan

    Did I read this book, yes. Did I read every word...no. Why? Because the author writes long-winded sentences that are so complicated that it is often quite difficult to read them. Which is unfortunate as I do like Maggie Smith quite a lot. She is not directly interviewed in this biography, though the author does quite a good amount on research which adds a star to the rating. Despite that, a lot of the chapters retell the plots of the plays and movies that Ms. Smith starred in. There are tidbits Did I read this book, yes. Did I read every word...no. Why? Because the author writes long-winded sentences that are so complicated that it is often quite difficult to read them. Which is unfortunate as I do like Maggie Smith quite a lot. She is not directly interviewed in this biography, though the author does quite a good amount on research which adds a star to the rating. Despite that, a lot of the chapters retell the plots of the plays and movies that Ms. Smith starred in. There are tidbits into her performances and some quirks from those she acted with, but I found a lack of gravitas with the whole thing.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    The collected deeds and anecdotes of a kick-ass actress, with a respectful tone that doesn't aim for headlines but also doesn't leave out less flattering stuff when they're relevant. Dame Maggie herself remains a bit distant, but since it seems to be her wish, I respect it. As a non-British reader I'd have loved to have some sort of a Who's Who name list of British celebrities and theatre legends that keep being mentioned but are unfamiliar to me. The collected deeds and anecdotes of a kick-ass actress, with a respectful tone that doesn't aim for headlines but also doesn't leave out less flattering stuff when they're relevant. Dame Maggie herself remains a bit distant, but since it seems to be her wish, I respect it. As a non-British reader I'd have loved to have some sort of a Who's Who name list of British celebrities and theatre legends that keep being mentioned but are unfamiliar to me.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Priscilla

    Words, words, words. My suspicion is that Mr. Coveney did not have enough for a real biography (it's pretty clear that Dame Maggie did not cooperate), so he filled this book with plot outlines and his personal reviews of every single play and movie he could get his hands on (and she's done a lot!) Tedious in the extreme. Words, words, words. My suspicion is that Mr. Coveney did not have enough for a real biography (it's pretty clear that Dame Maggie did not cooperate), so he filled this book with plot outlines and his personal reviews of every single play and movie he could get his hands on (and she's done a lot!) Tedious in the extreme.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Karen Gallant

    An interesting read but a bit dry and 'just the facts ma'am!' which was disappointing given her wonderful character. However it was a biography and she is renowned for her desire for privacy and so would have been hard for a biographer to get too 'touchy feely'. I would love to read her auto-biography should she ever write one! An interesting read but a bit dry and 'just the facts ma'am!' which was disappointing given her wonderful character. However it was a biography and she is renowned for her desire for privacy and so would have been hard for a biographer to get too 'touchy feely'. I would love to read her auto-biography should she ever write one!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Karen B.

    Very dry reading; couldn't finish but did enjoy the pictures. Very dry reading; couldn't finish but did enjoy the pictures.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rachael (foreverxbookish)

    This book was so boring. It felt like reading the Wikipedia page of Maggie Smith's whole career while clicking on every single hyperlink going. The author writes as though you should know everything about her acting career before reading this, which renders this entire book irrelevant. There were so many names thrown in there to make it seem well-informed but it was honestly just a sea of people I skipped over, especially when it went on a tangent talking about another actor's career for no reas This book was so boring. It felt like reading the Wikipedia page of Maggie Smith's whole career while clicking on every single hyperlink going. The author writes as though you should know everything about her acting career before reading this, which renders this entire book irrelevant. There were so many names thrown in there to make it seem well-informed but it was honestly just a sea of people I skipped over, especially when it went on a tangent talking about another actor's career for no reason. And on the off chance you didn't know what she'd acted in, whole performances at a time were described. I got an entire running commentary on what happened in each Harry Potter movie and Downton Abbey, complete with spoilers. I love Harry Potter but I have no desire to relive the plot of the films in a biography about one of its actors... I'd rather know what the experience was like, and how people found working with her. But this happened at the end of the book, so I don't know why I was still hoping the one chapter I actually knew something about would be any better than all the others. The worst part of this book: the writing. It was dull as a doorknob. The book had zero personality, making it seem like Maggie Smith is also that boring which is completely untrue. Ugh. This was just a complete waste of time.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Steph

    I love Maggie Smith in everything I've seen her in, & I wanted to give this book a 3, but it was just "OK". So, based on Goodread's definitions, I had to give it a 2. This book lacks any excitement & reads like a Wikipedia page or an IMDB profile. I realize this is a biography & not a memoir, but I expected more than a running list of her professional works. The best thing about this audiobook is the narrator, Sian Thomas. She did a great job reading the book, & her accents are wonderful! However I love Maggie Smith in everything I've seen her in, & I wanted to give this book a 3, but it was just "OK". So, based on Goodread's definitions, I had to give it a 2. This book lacks any excitement & reads like a Wikipedia page or an IMDB profile. I realize this is a biography & not a memoir, but I expected more than a running list of her professional works. The best thing about this audiobook is the narrator, Sian Thomas. She did a great job reading the book, & her accents are wonderful! However, I question the narrator choice given that Coveney is male & wrote some portions in the first person. Read it if you're an uber fan, want to get a list of her off screen stage works, or don't want to skim through Dame Smith's Wiki or IMDB pages. Skip it if you're familiar with IMDB or a Harry Potter fan & think you're going to get insider details about the movies. HP is touched on very briefly towards the end, & the only comment she makes on the films is "My favorite is the one where I turn into a cat."

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kay Kanbayashi

    I love Maggie Smith and respect her as an actor who is dedicated to her craft. But alas, this book reads like a really long theatre/film review with only a few snippets of anecdotes from Maggie herself and other actors/directors/friends of stories rehashed of the past. At times, I also felt I was reading a thesis of sorts - so those who study theater and cinema history may find this book useful and insightful - for myself, at times it felt like it was a lot of name dropping, the narration thread I love Maggie Smith and respect her as an actor who is dedicated to her craft. But alas, this book reads like a really long theatre/film review with only a few snippets of anecdotes from Maggie herself and other actors/directors/friends of stories rehashed of the past. At times, I also felt I was reading a thesis of sorts - so those who study theater and cinema history may find this book useful and insightful - for myself, at times it felt like it was a lot of name dropping, the narration thread weaving in and out tiring as I know very little of british theater history. The only part where I perked up was reading the chapters that referenced the Stratford theatre and her work in Canada as I finally landed on some material that I am familiar with. Just wishing I had gone to see her perform when she last appeared there.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jo

    How does a biographer write an interesting book about a recluse? He doesn't seem to have interviewed either of her two sons or many of her friends. Maggie Smith does little to no publicity for her films and seems to only have done two TV interviews, one with Michael Parkinson and one with Graham Norton. This tome is overlong and could have done without all the lengthy film and play descriptions. The out of context quotes he uses make Dame Maggie seem condescending, mean and sarcastic even though How does a biographer write an interesting book about a recluse? He doesn't seem to have interviewed either of her two sons or many of her friends. Maggie Smith does little to no publicity for her films and seems to only have done two TV interviews, one with Michael Parkinson and one with Graham Norton. This tome is overlong and could have done without all the lengthy film and play descriptions. The out of context quotes he uses make Dame Maggie seem condescending, mean and sarcastic even though he spends copious amounts of time writing about how hilariously funny she is. A very dry read that sheds little light on the much acclaimed actor who is Maggie Smith. Maybe that's the way she likes it.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    A well done biography of an important person in the British acting profession. I have enjoyed Maggie Smith's work when I have beheld it, but have not sought it out. Coveney comments that for Ms Smith the stage was the realm over which she could exercise control, while reality often did not behave so rationally. That may be why I find it so hard to give credence to the commentary of entertainers whose only grounding is in a realm separate from that which we mortals call 'the norm.' In the last co A well done biography of an important person in the British acting profession. I have enjoyed Maggie Smith's work when I have beheld it, but have not sought it out. Coveney comments that for Ms Smith the stage was the realm over which she could exercise control, while reality often did not behave so rationally. That may be why I find it so hard to give credence to the commentary of entertainers whose only grounding is in a realm separate from that which we mortals call 'the norm.' In the last couple chapters we are bathed in Smith's influence on the Harry Potter movies and Downton Abbey, which may be a bit overblown, but it does speak well for Smith's stamina. I can easily see that a rabid Smith fan might rate this with four or five stars.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ginni

    I’m surprised that I read this so quickly. It wasn’t a particularly sparkling read, but because Maggie Smith’s acting career covers the main time I’ve been a theatre goer, there was usually a reference point I could identify with. Maggie Smith is obviously a very private and rather reclusive person, so there wasn’t much personal detail, or glamorous show biz life style. What was fascinating was that the author knows theatre and film inside out, so the descriptions of all the productions she has I’m surprised that I read this so quickly. It wasn’t a particularly sparkling read, but because Maggie Smith’s acting career covers the main time I’ve been a theatre goer, there was usually a reference point I could identify with. Maggie Smith is obviously a very private and rather reclusive person, so there wasn’t much personal detail, or glamorous show biz life style. What was fascinating was that the author knows theatre and film inside out, so the descriptions of all the productions she has been in, and roles she has covered, were perceptive and fascinating, as he observes and dissects the craft of a superlative actor. I won’t re-read this, so it’s charity shop bound, but I did enjoy it.

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