Margaret Rutherford

Active - 1936 - 1977  |   Born - May 11, 1892 in Balham, London, England  |   Died - May 22, 1972   |   Genres - Comedy, Drama

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Biography by Rovi

Rutherford was a bulky, eccentric comedic supporting player of British films and plays. Following a number of years spent as a speech and piano teacher, she trained at the Old Vic and debuted onstage in 1925, when she was in her 30s; it was 1933 before she appeared in London. Rutherford began appearing in films in 1936 and went on to have a sporadically busy screen career through the late '60s, meanwhile continuing her illustrious stage career. She is best remembered as Miss Marple, the little old lady detective of Agatha Christie novels, in four films made in the '60s. For her work in The V.I.P.s (1963) she won a "Best Supporting Actress" Oscar. In 1967 Rutherford became a Dame of the British Empire. She was married to actor Stringer Davis, with whom she appeared in several films; one of their children was writer Gordon Langley Hall, who underwent a sex-change operation in 1968 and later wrote a biography of Rutherford under the name "Dawn Langley Hall." She wrote an autobiography, Margaret Rutherford (1972).

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Factsheet

  • Her father, William, was mentally unstable and murdered his father Julius Benn in 1883; William later changed the family name from Benn to Rutherford.
  • Her family moved to India shortly after her birth, but after her mother died, she was sent to London to be raised by an aunt. 
  • Worked as a speech and piano teacher before training at the Old Vic and debuting on the London stage in 1933.
  • Made her film debut in 1936 in Dusty Ermine, making movies until the late 1960s, while continuing her stage career.
  • Best known for playing Agatha Christie sleuth Miss Marple in four films made in the '60s as well as for her comic roles in Blithe Spirit (1945) and The Importance of Being Earnest (1952).
  • Became a Dame of the British Empire in 1967.