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Maggie Smith at the BBC (The Merchant of Venice / The Millionairess / Bed Among the Lentils / Suddenly, Last Summer) (2008)

Maggie Smith , Peter Barkworth , Cedric Messina , Richard Eyre  |  NR |  DVD
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Maggie Smith, Peter Barkworth, James Villiers, Charles Gray, Priscilla Morgan
  • Directors: Cedric Messina, Richard Eyre, William Slater
  • Writers: George Bernard Shaw, Tennessee Williams, William Shakespeare
  • Producers: Cedric Messina, Gerald Savory
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English (Mono), English (Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: BBC Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: May 20, 2008
  • Run Time: 362 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0013K2ZGI
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #27,957 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Maggie Smith at the BBC (The Merchant of Venice / The Millionairess / Bed Among the Lentils / Suddenly, Last Summer)" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Maggie Smith at the BBC (DVD)

This three-disc set celebrates four of Dame Maggie Smith's leading roles for the BBC. The collection begins with two 1972 Plays of the Month, The Merchant of Venice and The Millionairess. In Shakespeare's morality tale, Smith's sharp-tongued socialite Portia disguises herself as a doctor to negotiate with money lender Shylock (Frank Finlay), in the process uttering the immortal line, "The quality of mercy is not strained." In the Bernard Shaw comedy, she plays self-centered heiress Epifania who tries to live like a pauper to please a selfless Egyptian physician (Dr. Who's Tom Baker). The latter production, presented in a more cinematic style, offers a fine showcase for Smith's flavorful line readings. In Alan Bennett's quietly devastating Bed Among the Lentils, one of his Talking Heads monologues, Smith portrays Susan, a deeply disillusioned vicar's wife, and in Sir Richard Eyre's intimate 1993 adaptation of Tennessee Williams's Suddenly, Last Summer, she takes on Mrs. Venable, a grief-stricken mother (a role assumed by Katharine Hepburn in the 1959 film). Rob Lowe, Richard E. Grant, and especially Natasha Richardson, as Venable's niece Catherine, contribute strong work to this Great Performances production.

For some fans, the supplements may surpass the features. They include a breezy 1973 chat with Norman Parkinson and Acting in the '60s, a candid 1967 conversation with Richard Goodwin and narration by Kenneth Tynan, who refers to the actress as "the most versatile girl on the English stage." Actor Kenneth Williams participates in both. Smith also appears in a radio version of The Country Wife, while A Portrait: Maggie Smith, an exclusive profile, offers commentary from Bennett, Eyre, and A Room with a View co-star Simon Callow. The viewing notes include an essay on her career and details about each production. This BBC set presents a worthy tribute to a tremendous talent. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Maggie Smith - Do I need to Say More! February 22, 2008
Maggie Smith is one of Britan's national treasures. Every time I am in London, the first thing I do is see if she is performing. I have seen some very incredible performances by this brilliant actress.

This DVD sets contains four of her television performances from 1972 to 1993. I have only seen two of the specials but am anxious to see the other two.

Merchant of Venice (1972) is a Shakespeare comedy. (I never understand this because it has some of the most intense moments of a Shakespeare play.) This is about love and devotion. Maggie Smith plays Portia, whose suitors must get by three boxes to find love and must save her true love's mentor from certain death. (I have not seen this production.)

The Millionairess (1972) is from the social commentarian George Bernard Shaw and this is also available in the George Bernard on BBC box set. (This also

Bed Among the Lentils (1988) was shown in America on Masterpiece Theatre and the first of Alan Bennett's Talking Heads. Each of these specials is a one person monologue. In Bed Among the Lentils, Maggie plays Susan, a pastor's wife whose life is unfullfilling. This is about an hour long and Maggie just mesmerizes you from the get go. And this is very hard as the character is very bored with her life and Maggie makes you feel for her. She won Royal Television Society Best Actress Award and was nominate for a BAFTA (the Emmy nominating commitee was again fast asleep.)

Suddenly Last Summer is a direct filming of the Tennessee Williams play. It was shown at in America on PBS's Great Performances. This is quite different from the movie as it has only one set and no flashbacks and therefore Sebestian Venerable is only referred to in this. Maggie plays Mrs.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Finally- a BBC collection of rare Smith performances February 29, 2008
I have seen all of these performances except for The Merchant of Venice. The Talking Heads (Bed Among the Lentils) monologues performance is both subtle and illuminating- a real landmark performance. The Millionairess is a thrilling bit of acting. And the remake of Suddenly Last Summer is quite an interesting counterpart to the famous Hepburn/Taylor film of the late 1950s. What I'd love to see is another set including TV films "Memento Mori" and others from her work on UK television. But this is a good start. Thank you BCC for releasing this in the USA! More please!
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Smith is Smith - a legend. June 29, 2008
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To many people, Maggie Smith is a legend as a consummate actress. I am one of these people. Accordingly, I admit to possible bias. Nevertheless.....
Her work in these separate stories, is first rate. Importantly, it shows her at her best in many disparate roles. Because of this, it is possible that one - or other - of the roles might be found less to the viewer's taste than another. In my opinion, this doesn't make Smith's acting any the less brilliant and convincing.
A very good buy for, both, acting aficionados and Maggie Smith devotees.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Theatre on DVD December 23, 2009
Verified Purchase
I ordered this primarily for the TV movie version of "Suddenly Last Summer" with Natasha Richardson. It is a hauntingly beautiful, painful adaptation of the play by Tennessee Williams. Everyone in it is so very good, and right in their parts. But the entire DVD is a look at some of Maggie Smith's fine work as an actress, mostly culled from actual theatrical plays. It is wonderful to find these put together on a DVD for us.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must-Have for Any Maggie Smith Fan. July 21, 2009
Verified Purchase
I bought this set because this is the only DVD recording of "Talking Heads: Bed Among The Lentils" which is the most wonderful, touching monologue which was especially written by Alan Bennett for Maggie Smith. See it and love it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Maggie Smith Before she lived at Downton Abbey February 29, 2012
By Bill
Verified Purchase
What an incredible collection of Maggie Smith's memorable performances for the BBC: The Merchant of Venice, The Millionairess, Bed Among the Lentils, and Suddenly Last Summer. This collection will be an heirloom. Maggie Smith is a great British theatre treasure and this collection proves her taste and talent. So pleased it was available.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dame Maggie Smith April 18, 2013
Verified Purchase
I enjoy everything Maggie Smith does. She is an amazing actress. I hope I can get more of her amazing films.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Maggie Smith at the BBC December 4, 2012
Verified Purchase
I purchased this mainly for "Bed Among the Lentils" and was so happy to have this for my collection. The whole set is great but Maggie in the "Talking Heads" - "Bed Among the Lentils" is the star of this collection in my estimation.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
fabulous collection - she makes each role her own - a must-have for Maggie Smith fans!
Published 2 months ago by California
4.0 out of 5 stars Purchased for Bed Among the Lentils
I saw Dame Maggie's monologue "Bed Among the Lentils" on a poor VHS recording about 20 years ago, and have been looking for a better resolution ever since. Read more
Published 10 months ago by drew groves
5.0 out of 5 stars Tennesse Williams play: Suddenly Last Summer
Maggie Smith's BEST PERFORMANCE I have ever seen..
even if I love every movie at this DVD from BBC . Thank you
Published 15 months ago by Teresa Hoagland
5.0 out of 5 stars Maggie Smith at her best!
What can one say about the great Maggie Smith that hasn't already been said? This DVD is truly wonderful and a must for Maggie Smith fans!
Published 18 months ago by Scott R. Shearer
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful
When I saw this, I had to buy it because I had some of it on old vhs tapes and wanted this.
Published 18 months ago by William L. Fall
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard-to-find performances
I'd been looking for 20 years for Bed Among the Lentils and found it in this collection. I'm not aware of its availability anywhere else. Outstanding.
Published 20 months ago by M. Susan Miller
5.0 out of 5 stars M.S. better than most american actresses
This woman is an amazing actress, i sure wish she were in america. She is one of the very best actress i've ever seen or heard. May she live long and make many more movies. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Dolly
3.0 out of 5 stars I love Maggie Smith
This series was far too old for me and the subject matter is of really no interest. Entertaining though but would not buy more.
Published 22 months ago by Old Timer
2.0 out of 5 stars Did not live up to my expectations
I ordered the dvd because I really liked Maggie Smith in Harry Potter, but really did not enjoy any of the
movies on this dvd. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Lael M. Bousha
5.0 out of 5 stars SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER
I enjoyed this of the four very much; I was very young when I watched the original with Elizabeth Taylor. I did not understand the adult content, before the time of movie ratings. Read more
Published on January 24, 2012 by C. J. Middaugh
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Topic From this Discussion
Disc content?
According to the information posted at Warner Home Video, the contents are:

1) The Merchant of Venice ('72, Play of the Month) The Venice of Titian and the Belmont of Botticelli are the visual inspiration behind this lavish production of the Shakespeare play. Maggie Smith as Portia. Also Frank... Read More
Feb 15, 2008 by Craig Rhyne |  See all 2 posts
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