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...a sweatshop of moxie

Saturday, April 16, 2005

In praise of Geraldine McEwan

Quick, what is the first real television series you remember?

For me, a child who wasn't allowed more than an hour per day of telly, it was Mapp & Lucia, which I believe was shown on Channel 4. Sketchy childhood memory, since it was only recently that I bought the DVD set of the series, therefore not having seen it for exactly 20 years.

Though I now realise it was very camp, I was more in love with the staging and quality of production since, to me, they highlight one of the two finest classical and comedic actresss of our times: Prunella Scales, who needs no introduction thanks to Fawlty Towers, and my favourite actress, Geraldine McEwan.

As I remember her best

Just as with Susie Gharib, it is personally astonishing to me that more people are not aware of Geraldine McEwan.

If you ask the average man or woman on the street to name you the Top 10 Best British actresses living today, they will start off by naming Judi Dench -- which is fine, since she is without doubt the finest living actress today with the possible exception of two, Gena Rowlands and Fernanda Montenegro.

But then they will hem-and-haw for the next 9, even in the UK.

Almost no one will answer, "Geraldine McEwan", past veteran of stage and screen, of the large and small varieties. And I bet you dollars to donuts most people reading this blog piece haven't a clue who she is either.


Well today is your lucky day! Or rather tomorrow, Sunday night is your lucky day, if you live in the US.

On the usual Mystery Theatre slot on your local PBS station (usually at 9 PM EDT), they will showcase the first episode of the new Miss Marples series:

Murder at the Vicarage

Yes, it does come to pass that when a venerable British actress reaches a certain age, she too will try her hand as Miss Marple, as Margaret Rutherford, Angela Landsbury and Joan Hickson all found out.

And because she's treading on hallowed ground as Agatha Christie's beloved "insider looking out" village detective, some of the UK reviews have tended to harp on her much commented-on voice mannerisms, rather than appreciating the range it takes to go from frustrated lonely spinster in Mulberry, a dementedly prudish mother of a Sapphist child in Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, to the vicious Mother Superior in The Magdalene Sisters.

It's not easy being popular when you're so hateful on screen, I suppose.

Especially when you are such a lovely lady in real life, who sweetly sent not one but two signed photographs of yourself to a 10-year old little girl once, who was happy to spend her only hour of TV admiring your talents.


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