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on 24 September 2009
I picked up a copy of this book yesterday and didn't put it down until I'd read it.

Andrew Merriman has delved deeply into this most admired of British comedy actresses revealing her strengths and weaknesses. We find out all about her troubled childhood and an act of murder within her immediate family which no doubt contributed to her manic depression later in life.

The fact that her warmth on screen, theatre, television and radio lit up British people for over 30 years is a testament to her professionalism.

Mr Merriman has sought out many of her colleagues, friends, neighbours and associates to compile this fact-filled biography. It cannot have been an easy task as it's been over 37 years since her passing, but she still remains a big part of British cinema history and many of her films are still shown on television all over the world.
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on 8 October 2009
A really fascinating book about one of the unsung heroines of British theatre and cinema, a true eccentric but also capable of a surprising versatility - much more than just Miss Marple, for which she is unjustly remembered - but demonstrating, as the book describes, a range (Madame Arcati to Mistress Quickly) that is very impressive. What is really a revelation, however, and what makes the book such a compelling read, is the detail about her family life, and how she survived a family background of madness, murder and suicide and was able to have a creative life and a successful career. It is beautifully written, well researched, and most importantly, makes the great lady come alive, in both her eccentricity and her vulnerability. A very enjoyable read, and its on my list of Christmas presents for any of my friends with an interest in British theatre and cinema of this period.
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on 11 December 2011
I first saw Margaret Rutherford act in the film of Blithe Spirit when I was a very young child. I was so captivated by her performance as Madame Arcati, that I fell in love with her immediately. I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Merriman's book and discovered things about her life that I did not know, although the more salacious press had covered one or two items over the years. Such a shame for a lady who so valued her privacy. I saw her onstage on several occasions, and I remember her performances in Time Remembered, A Likely Tale and The Way of the World as if they were only last year. In the latter she was an hilarious Lady Wishfort, "the "old peeled wall". But if I am ever feeling low, I turn to The Happiest Days of Your Life, where she and Alistair Sim are a comic partnership made in heaven - two true eccentrics at the peak of their powers. It was very interesting to learn that their ways of working were so different.

Dame Margaret was a wonderfully idiosyncratic actress, and how wonderful it is that her talent lives on in the films that she made.

Thank you Mr. Merriman for a great read.
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on 23 January 2012
As a child I used to enjoy watching Margaret Rutherford in the old Miss Marple films and was interested to find out more about her life. This book is well written and keeps a nice pace throughout. Margaret's tragic early life and the way she covered this up was an interesting start to say the least! The book maps her career on stage and screen with the author interviewing many people who knew Margaret personally. These interviews were woven nicely throughout the book providing insights into Margaret's personal and professional life. Margaret comes across as a kind, thoughtful, naive and eccentric lady so I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to discover more about her interesting life.
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on 14 November 2013
Dame Margaret Rutherford was, and is, a national treasure. She's up there with Dame Thora Hird and Beryl Reid. This book is a wonderful insight into the life of this magnificent actress. It tells of the tragedy she lived with all her life, which she tried desperately to hide from the public, as well as her battles with manic depression. It also tells of her adoration for her husband Stringer Davis, who returned her love tenfold. She was a wonderful, charming, generous woman and this book is a fine testament to her, though it does sadden one when one reads of the troubles she had in private life. Well recommended!!
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on 30 April 2014
I only know of Margaret Rutherford's work through her films (and that is only the films shown on TV so only a small part of her output) but I love watching her and thought this book would give me more information about her as an actress and as a woman and, as far as it goes, the book does succeed.
Her background and troubled family history are very interesting as are the descriptions of her life outside her roles - her regular swims in the Hampstead Ponds in all weathers, for example - but a large part of the book is, obviously, devoted to her acting, film and radio roles and the detailed descriptions of film and play plots do feel a little like padding, although I suppose they're useful in understanding her interpretation. She obviously felt most at home in the theatre and it is sad that those performances are all gone - seen only by the lucky few who were there.
I finished the book knowing her a little better but feeling that there was more - at the start of her career she is described as thin (indeed, she needed to wear a "fat suit" for one role) so, when did she become the portly figure we all now recognise? Overall, though the impression I came away with is that what you see in the films is, pretty much, her.
On a structural point, I was surprised when, in the book (I read it on a Kindle) her death came at 77% - I wondered what was going to fill the remaining pages. It's a list of performance and then an index that takes up 20% of the book!
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on 4 January 2012
im a real fan of books about people, biographies and autobiographies, so this was for me a must.

as she was a little before my time i knew very little about her, apart from her appearances in films.

ever cautious i just downloaded the sample and boy was i hooked! what an interesting woman and a fascinating read, loved it.
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on 12 September 2015
Margaret Rutherford was one of those wonderful British comedic characters – Alistair Sim, Terry-Thomas and George Cole among others - the likes of which we’ll never see again. A true eccentric, sadly her career performances covered over a nightmarish family history that would result in her own bleak periods and depression.

Andy Merriman, in his well researched biography, covers both the professional and personal life of this much beloved actress, commencing with her childhood and the struggles to launch her acting career. With preference for stage rather than film work, it was a combination of both – in Noel Coward’s “Blythe Spirit”, as the eccentric psychic Madame Arcati – that was to secure her reputation and open up the pathway for over twenty years of inimitable, scene stealing roles, though Alistair Sim was one actor who could equally match her (just witness “The Happiest Days Of Your Life”). Then, in her twilight years, came her distinctive interpretation of Agartha Christie’s detective Miss Marples in four much enjoyed films and an Oscar winning performance in The VIPs.

With much detail given to her acclaimed stage, film and radio work, the book also details her loving marriage to fellow thespian Stringer Davis, acting triumphs and awards, critical reviews and personal whims like outdoor swimming in all weathers and bacon and eggs at midnight. In all, a perfect tribute to a one-of-a-kind British eccentric.
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on 18 July 2011
I just love MARGARET RUTHERFORD and was most pleased when when I found out a new bio was coming out reguarding this wonderful actress but I found this book A Hard read
but well worth getting and found out a lot about Margaret Rutherford
I can't recomend this book enough as it's an enchanting bridge to a time and place that produced this English original that many of us wanted to call a friend. So fix a hot cup of strong tea, buy this book, and transport yourself into the realm where diction matters with the one and only MARGARET RUTHERFORD.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 6 January 2012
Long after her death, Margaret Rutherford's legacy lives on. She continues to be remembered for her portrayal of Miss Marple; for some her interpretation of the character is definitive.

This book details her stage and film appearances in the context of events in her personal life. I found the story of her early years compelling; I had no idea of the tragedies suffered and her links with the Benn family. Absolutely fascinating. Until I read this book, I was unaware that she suffered from severe depression. The agonies she endured in having this treated whilst continuing to give stage performances is beyond imagination. And all credit to her for carrying on.

I would have given five stars; in some parts there was too much detail about the plot of stage plays and films which more stringent editing would have resolved. That aside, this book has made me want to look again at some of her films. I'm pleased that this lady was so well liked and respected by all who met her. She was a character, larger than life in many ways, but one who also needed almost constant care herself. An enjoyable and informed read.
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