Happy Birthday, Dame Maggie Smith!

Dec 28, 2016

Posted by: Emma Pocock

Actor Birthdays, Birthdays, News, Smith

Today (28th December) we wish a very happy birthday to our marvellous Professor McGonagall, Dame Maggie Smith.

Her wondrous acting career spans over six decades, and has seen Smith grace the stage, television and big screen! Known to us as McGonagall, she’s known to many others as Violet Crawley (Downton Abbey). She is one of six actresses who have won an Academy Award in both Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories.

A charming woman with a brilliant sense of humour and wit, Smith never fails to make us smile, laugh, and – on occasion – cry with her knack for giving her wonderful enthusiasm and personality to each of her roles.

Last year, an interview was conducted in honour of her birthday (which you can find here), and The Telegraph just recently re-released another interview with the acclaimed actress. In this interview, Robert Fox, producer of The Lady in the Van summarised Maggie Smith’s talent and acclaim perfectly:

‘Maggie is a genius. It’s a very overused word, but there is nobody as accomplished as she is.

‘I think her talent is innate, but it’s honed over years and years in the theatre – 60 years. You can’t just do it, you have to learn how to do it.’

In an interview with LA Times earlier this year, Smith remembered the earliest days of her career, where she fought (successfully) to not be typecast:

In Oxford, I used to do university revues,” Smith explained in her unmistakable voice over the phone from her house in London earlier this week. “Sometimes we would do we things at the Edinburgh Festival — we were the first things on the fringe, in fact — and then we took it to London in a little, tiny theater. I suppose the [‘New Faces’] producer Leonard Sillman saw me. That’s how it happened.”

“I spent my entire time crying. We were paid so little. I didn’t know anyone then. I had been booked in a hotel I couldn’t afford! It was $60 a week.”

It took her forever “to get people to believe I could do something other than revues. I was sort of pigeonholed for a very long time.”

Now well out of that pigeon hole, Smith’s career has given us memorable characters we can all appreciate (even if she’ll never watch herself as any of them – she’s never watched Downton Abbey!), and her talent and heart never fail to astound us.

In honour of her birthday, here’s five of our favourite McGonagall moments:

1) We loved how perfectly Smith portrayed McGonagall’s fond astonishment at the trio’s penchant for trouble:

 ‘Why is it, when something happens, it is always you three?’

2) [To Molly Weasley]:

‘I’ve always wanted to use that spell!’

3) Fred and George took this one as a challenge:

“The house of Godric Gryffindor has commanded the respect of the wizarding world for nearly ten centuries. I will not have you, in one night, besmirching that name by behaving like a babbling, bumbling band of baboons!’

4) Her wit never misses a beat. After Harry and Ron arrive late to a Transfiguration class, Ron couldn’t help but be impressed by McGonagall’s transformation from her feline form, even if it meant she heard him say ‘Can you imagine the look on old McGonagall’s face if we were late? ‘:

Ron: That was bloody brilliant!
Professor McGonagall: Well, thank you for that assessment, Mr Weasley. Perhaps it would be more useful if I were to transfigure Mr Potter and yourself into a pocket watch? That way, one of you might be on time.
Harry: We got lost.
Professor McGonagall: Then perhaps a map? I trust you don’t need one to find your seats.

5) This moment in Order of the Phoenix made us tear up a little:

‘Have a biscuit, Potter.’ ‘Have – what?’ ‘Have a biscuit,’ she repeated impatiently, indicating a tartan tin lying on top of the piles of papers on her desk. ‘And sit down.’

Check out Pottermore’s feature on why Minerva McGonagall would make the best work mentor for more amazing moments featuring our favourite Hogwarts Professor.

Join us in wishing Dame Maggie Smith a wonderful 82nd birthday, and share your favourite memories of her in the comments!

The Leaky Cauldron is not associated with J.K. Rowling, Warner Bros., or any of the individuals or companies associated with producing and publishing Harry Potter books and films.