Star Archive

Margaret Rutherford (1892 - 1972)

If Alastair Sim was the King of British character actors, then the undoubted Queen was Margaret Rutherford. With her impeccable comic timing and a face like a startled bloodhound she was a natural; the sort of player that only comes along once in a generation.

Like Alastair Sim, she was a late-comer to professional acting and chose to teach elocution. She was in her thirties before she made her professional debut and slogged away in rep. for the best part of a decade. In the mid-thirties she started to get West End roles and made her film debut in Vorhaus' quota-quickie Dusty Ermine. As a lady jewel thief, she steals the show; particularly when she does an unexpected bit of stunt work clambering about a fast moving car.

A few more low-budget movies followed until she really hit it big in theatre, first in Spring Meeting and then in Blithe Spirit. When she came back to the movies she had better roles in better films, but it took the film version of Blithe Spirit to make her a true star. Her definitive Madame Arcati was unforgettable, a weird combination of heartiness and spirituality.

After this there was no stopping her. Good films and bad films followed but she always made them worthwhile. The fifties opened with a version of another of her stage triumphs: The Happiest Days of Your Life. She spends the film battling with Alastair Sim: two school heads sharing one building. The match is a delight from start to finish and was a big hit.

The sixties brought the role she is probably most famous for: that of Agatha Christie's Jane Marple (in Murder She Said, ... at the Gallop, . . . Ahoy, ... Most Foul). By any sensible criteria she is hopelessly mis-cast – but who cares? She's wonderful even if the material isn't. This series also gave her husband Stringer Davis his most prominent role in films (as her side-kick Mr Stringer). They'd married in 1945 and he had small parts in most of her films since then.

The sixties also brought her a best supporting actress Oscar for The VIPs. In a film packed with stars she out-classed them all. She followed that with her best dramatic performance as Mistress Quickly in The Chimes at Midnight and got a Damehood in the same year.

Ill-health meant she didn't film much after that. She died in 1972 and her husband passed away the following year.

Still from The Happiest Days of Your LifePressbook for Curtain Up


1936 Dusty Ermine
1936 Talk of the Devil
1937 Beauty and the Barge
1937 Big Fella
1937 Catch as Catch Can
1937 Missing Believed Married
1940 Quiet Wedding
1941 Spring Meeting
1943 The Yellow Canary
1943 The Demi-Paradise
1944 English Without Tears
1945 Blithe Spirit
1946 While the Sun Shines
1947 Meet Me at Dawn
1948 Miranda
1949 Passport to Pimlico
1950 The Happiest Days of Your Life
1950 My Favourite Husband
1951 The Magic Box
1952 Curtain Up
1952 The Importance of Being Earnest
1952 Castle in the Air
1952 Miss Robin Hood
1953 Innocents in Paris
1953 Trouble in Store
1954 The Runaway Bus
1954 Aunt Clara
1954 Mad About Men
1955 An Alligator named Daisy
1957 The Smallest Show On Earth
1957 Just My Luck
1959 I'm All Right, Jack
1961 On the Double
1962 Murder She Said
1963 Mouse on the Moon
1963 The VIPs
1963 Murder at the Gallop
1964 Murder Ahoy
1965 Murder Most Foul
1965 The Alphabet Murders
1966 The Chimes at Midnight
1966 A Countess From Hong Kong
1968 Arabella

 Margaret Rutherford at Amazon UK

 Margaret Rutherford at Amazon US