Thursday 8 June 2017

A Wonderful Evening with Madeline Smith

Last night I had the great pleasure of attending a special event hosted by the Walthamstow Women's Institute, better known as the Stow Roses. I joined a lovely bunch of regulars and members of the public as the gorgeous Madeline Smith took part in an intimate and highly entertaining "Evening With".

Last year I interviewed Madeline for my blog and it was such a joy. She is an enthusiastic and passionate interviewee and she's a really warm, open and friendly person to meet. When I arrived Jo from the WI very kindly introduced me to Madeline and we chatted about our blog interview and the Carry Ons, with Maddie remembering how much fun she had working with Hattie, Joan and Barbara. She also reminded me that Peter Rogers had wanted her to return for more Carry Ons however when the time came she was sadly unavailable. Maddie was extremely welcoming as we headed to the bar together and then posed for some very fun photos. 

The evening itself was a wonderful mix of Maddie telling her story in her own words interspersed with some classic clips from her wide and varied acting career. We saw wonderful moments from some of Maddie's Hammer Horror films, working alongside the likes of Peter Cushing and Ingrid Pitt. As well as the memorable clip from Carry On Matron, we were also treated to scenes from Doctor At Large with Barry Evans, The Howerd Confessions with Frankie Howerd, and Maddie's work with the late Sir Roger Moore - in The Persuaders and of course, as Miss Caruso in the Bond film Live and Let Die. It was also fascinating to see some of the adverts Maddie made in the 1970s, including a series of cigar commercials with Frankie Howerd! 

Maddie told her life story with a refreshing amount of honesty and self-deprecation. She touched on her rather severe convent education before moving on to bring those glorious years in the late 1960s and early 1970s to life, a time when it seemed like anything was possible. She charted her career from early beginnings working in the famous Biba store in Kensington to becoming to a model with the Lucie Clayton School before being spotted and invited to appear in films. Hammer Horror soon followed before Maddie found herself increasingly working in comedy. 

Maddie worked with many of the greats, including Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett, Frankie Howerd, Arthur Lowe and Eric Morecambe. She spoke fondly of her time working with these geniuses but also honestly of what it was really like to be with them as they prepared for performance. Madeline also talked of one of her favourite acting jobs, working on stage for a year with Sir Alec Guinness. Maddie played Felicity Rumpers in Alan Bennett's Habeas Corpus in a cast which featured Patricia Hayes, Joan Sanderson, Andrew Sachs and John Bird. Maddie recalled how Guinness was exacting in performance which could make him difficult but also how he held the audience in rapture each night.

What was interesting was Madeline's take on the roles she took on in the 1970s. Times have definitely changed and Maddie says she was well aware she was being cast for her appearance over her skill as an actress. She remembered how she wanted to be stretched as an actress but increasingly felt type cast and stuck in certain types of roles. Maddie said escaping this was easier in the theatre while television and film remained obsessed with looks and figure. Despite all this, Madeline wanted to make it clear that she had lots of fun in those days and remains grateful for her career and the wonderful people she worked with.

I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Madeline and hearing her unique take on the world of British film, television and theatre at a time when Britain was undergoing a major cultural revolution. I have a lot of respect for Maddie - following her disastrous convent education she took herself back to school and successfully gained an undergraduate degree in English at Goldsmiths College. That takes guts and she should be incredibly proud of her achievements both on screen and off.

I had a great time at the Walthamstow WI and met some lovely people. I'd like to thank Jo and the rest of the Stow Roses for organising such a terrific evening and for making me feel so welcome. And a big thank you to Maddie for being such a fascinating and lovely lady.

If you'd like to read more about Maddie, my interview with her can be found here

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