Dame Margaret

1054_1Dame Margaret Rutherford was once asked what does success mean?  “It is certainly not furs or fancy cars, which I have neither.  To me it is gathering hearts and lifting them up.” As a black and white film fan, I marvel at how this woman worked hard to overcome such a dark childhood.  Unlike today, Margaret’s acting career was based solely on her talent, never on her looks. She was a late bloomer and her life on stage or in the movies did not begin until she was in her forties. She was born Nov 5, 1892 to William Benn and Florence Rutherford. Margaret received the surname of her mother to protect her from the shame of her father. Her dad William Benn murdered his dad, the Reverend Julius Benn with a chamber pot and was confined in a facility for the insane. When Margaret was only three, her mother hung herself. Without both parents, Margaret was raised by her mother’s sister, aunt Bessie. Margaret was quiet as a student at Wimbledon High School. In 1925 she took acting lessons at the famous Old Vic School. 41uRLp2PTfLHer rough voice and her energetic appearance made her a theatre star in the late 1930s. Her first film role was at the age of 44 as Miss Prism in Oscar Wilde’s classic “The Importance of Being Earnest”. Her signature role was to portray her authentic self and be the eccentric old woman. Her performances were energetic and well received. She portrayed Miss Marple in four popular movies. Agatha Christie, the inventor of “Miss Marple”, was disappointed by the films, because Rutherford’s frumpy bold portrayal was far removed from the thin and elegant woman that Agatha invented. In 1945 Margaret married a fellow supporting actor Mr. Stringer Davis. By Margaret’s request, Stringer was included in a few productions. He portrayed the librarian in a Marple film and he was the doorman in the star studded film “The VIPS”. Her devoted husband Stringer supported his wife and kept her wits up as she battled periods of dark depression. She confessed the fear of somehow, someday losing her grip and going insane like her father. Onscreen she was naturally witty, but offscreen she had her demons. Rutherford played in many films and she masked her pain well. She was adored by fans around the globe.   Margaret-Rutherford-as-Miss-Marple-and-Stringer-Davis-as-Mr-Stringer-in-MURDER-AT-THE-GALLOP-dame-margaret-rutherford-19733328-400-300She dazzled as the bankrupt Duchess of Brighton in the movie “The V.I.P.s”  for which she won an Oscar in 1964 for best supporting actress. She chose not to attend the gala to accept her one and only Oscar. A bit too late for Margaret to appreciate the gesture, in 1961 she was appointed Officer of the British Empire (OBE) and 1967 for her successful theatre work she became Dame of the British Empire (DBE) applicable to knighthood.  Her cousin said “It’s a funny thing about titles, one cannot really lean on a title, they must learn to live on their own talents, like Margaret did.” Shortly before her death, she published her autobiography titled Margaret Rutherford.  Stringer and Margaret took a struggling 6286532271_5fcc1c4b06_byoung writer Gordon Langley into their home and hearts in the 1960’s. Gordon was the first odd fellow to become a woman.  After surgery, Gordon became Dawn Langley Simmons who eventually inherited all of the couples combined wealth.  The British politician Tony Benn (1925-2014) was Rutherford’s cousin. Her mind slowly succumbed to Alzheimer’s and she died in 1972, at the age of 80 from pneumonia. She was buried on St. James Church Yard, in Buckinghamshire. In 1973 her husband James Buckley Stringer Davis was buried next to her.

 

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