Maggie Smith at the BBC
DVD | Box Set
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Maggie Smith at the BBC (DVD)
This BBC collection brings together an ensemble of legendary performances by the incomparable Maggie Smith in timeless works by Shakespeare, Shaw, Williams and Alan Bennett! Few words can fully describe the dazzling range of Dame Maggie Smith. Youll immediately appreciate the personality and breath of her talent even in her smaller roles after viewing a single performance from her illustrious 50-year career. The Maggie Smith Collection brings to DVD four productions from the BBC archives, all showcasing the rich and varied talent of this multi-award winning actress. Her illustrious co-stars include Frank Finlay in Shakespeares The Merchant of Venice, Tom Baker in Shaws The Millionairess, Natasha Richardson in Tennessee Williams Suddenly, Last Summer. With bonus content including a radio play and an illuminating interview on her early career, this is one collection that any film or theater enthusiast cannot afford to miss.]]>
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
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TV transfers look pretty good on this 3-disc collection and I recommend it to fans of Dame Maggie Smith without hesitation.