WINNER OF BEST MEMOIR AT THE WOMAN & HOME READERS' CHOICE AWARDS 2016 AND A 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, one 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. This book also covers 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 television series Downton Abbey, and as Professor Minerva McGonagall in the Harry Potter film franchise: what she herself describes as 'Miss Jean Brodie in a wizard's hat'. Yet paradoxically she 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.
Michael Coveney is one of the country's most respected writers on theatre. Formerly staff critic for the Financial Times, the Observer and the Daily Mail, he has since 2006 been associated with the leading West End website WhatsOnStage.com. He has unprecedented access to Dame Maggie Smith's personal archives and curated the recent BFI season of her film and television work. His previous books include The Citz, The Aisle is Full of Noises, The Andrew Lloyd Webber Story, The World According to Mike Leigh, Knight Errant: Memoirs of a Vagabond Actor (with Robert Stephens) and Ken Campbell: The Great Caper. He lives in Hampstead, north London.