Breathes there a theatergoer or film fan on Earth who has not, at one time or another, fallen in love with the sublimely brilliant British comedic actress Dame Maggie Smith? The daughter of an Oxford University pathologist, Smith received her earliest acting training at the Oxford Playhouse School. In 1952, she made her professional stage bow as Viola in Twelfth Night. Four years later she was on Broadway, performing comedy routines in Leonard Sillman's New Faces of 1956; that same year, she made her first, extremely brief screen appearance in Child in the House (she usually refers to 1959's Nowhere to Go as her screen debut).
In 1959, Smith joined the Old Vic, and in 1962 won the first of several performing honors, the London Evening Standard Award, for her work in the West End production The Private Ear/The Public Eye. Her subsequent theatrical prizes include the 1963 and 1972 Variety Club awards for Mary Mary and Private Lives, respectively, and the 1990 Tony Award for her performance in the Broadway play Lettice and Lovage. In addition, Smith has won Oscars for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969) and California Suite (1978), and British Film Academy awards for A Private Function (1985), A Room With a View (1986), and The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne (1987).