Birthdate: Wednesday, May 11th, 1892
Location: Balham, London, UK
Died: Sunday, May 22nd, 1972
Location: Chalfont St Peter, UK
Cause of death: Alzheimer's Disease
Best known for: Without doubt Margaret's lasting legacy is her depiction of Agatha Christie's elderly sleuth Miss Marple in a handful of films in the early 1960s, but by that point she'd already had an impressive career in British film, principally in comedy. It's little known that Margaret actually won an Oscar and a Golden Globe in 1964, for Best Supporting Actress, for the previous year's The VIPs, although she was not present at the awards; her trophy was collected on her behalf by Peter Ustinov. She was awarded an OBE in 1961, and then a DBE (becoming Dame Margaret Rutherford) in 1967.
|Margaret in Dusty Ermine (1936), aged 44|
Well, her career began on the stage in 1925, when she was already 33, and she made her West End debut in 1933. In 1936, when she was already 44, she made her credited screen debut playing Evelyn Summers (aka Miss Butterby) in the 1936 thriller Dusty Ermine (aka Hideout in the Alps in the US).
Margaret had great success both on the stage and in film for many years to come after this debut, but it was her appearances in two Noel Coward films which really made an impact. She played spiritualist medium Madame Arcati in the 1945 adaptation of Blithe Spirit, and Lady Bracknell ("a handbag?!") in a TV adaptation of The Importance of Being Earnest the following year. In 1952 she swapped roles for Miss Prism in a film version of The Importance of Being Earnest.
|Poirot meets Marple in 1966's|
The Alphabet Murders
As the 1960s wore on Margaret's health began to decline, and her appearances became fewer and further between. In February 1966 she had a stint on children's storytime series Jackanory reading various Beatrix Potter tales, and the following year played the bedridden hypochondriac Miss Gaulswallow in Charlie Chaplin's A Countess from Hong Kong.
|Margaret, aged 75, in Chaplin's A|
Countess from Hong Kong
|With Virna Lisi in Arabella|
Margaret's final credit was providing the voice of Mother Goose in the animated family film The Wacky World of Mother Goose, released at Christmas 1969. It's a lovely touch that the animators drew Mother Goose to look exactly like Margaret too.
|As Mother Goose in 1969|
Margaret was also contracted to appear in the musical Song of Norway (1970) and the TV film The Great Inimitable Mr Dickens (1970), but her failing memory prevented her from remembering her lines well enough to film.
|The latest photo of Margaret,|
at the launch of Dawn
Langley Simmons' book
Man Into Woman on March 3rd,
1971. Margaret was 78.
Those memory lapses were caused by Alzheimer's Disease, which cruelly robbed Margaret of her faculties in her final years. She was looked after by her loving husband Stringer Davis (who appeared alongside her in many of her films) until she passed away on May 22nd, 1972, aged 80.
A memorial service was held on July 21st at the Actors' Church in St Paul's, Covent Garden, and she was interred at St James's, Gerrards Cross in Buckinghamshire; her headstone is inscribed with the words "A blithe spirit". Stringer died peacefully in his sleep in August 1973, aged 74, and was interred alongside his wife.
Trivia: Margaret was troubled by bouts of depression in later life, and underwent electroshock therapy in mental health institutions to try and combat it.
In the 1950s, Margaret and Stringer adopted the writer Gordon Langley Hall, who was in his 20s. In 1968 Hall had gender reassignment and became Dawn Pepita Langley Hall, under which name she wrote an autobiography of her adopted mother in 1983. In January 1969 she married a young black motor mechanic in South Carolina, USA - the first legal interracial marriage in history. Dawn's story is a fascinating one in itself - read more here. She died in 2000 suffering from Parkinson's Disease.
|The world's first interracial marriage, between Dawn Langley|
Hall and Jean-Paul Simmons, in 1969.
The marriage lasted 13 years.