Magnificent Dame Maggie Smith received her first Best Actress nomination and first Oscar for playing Miss Jean Brodie, a dedicated teacher in Ronald Neame's movie, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. 1969 is one of the most wide open races ever. I think that all of the ladies had some chance of winning that night and strangely, Maggie Smith did not have the most. She became triumphant after all, and went on to receive another Oscar (a supporting one) and yet she did not have as many great movies as she deserved to have.
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is a good movie. It's a very traditional, conservative, decent piece of work that might be a bit slow and boring sometimes, but it's enjoyable. Although the story is very interesting (it is based on a very acclaimed novel), the direction is so simple that the story becomes simple along with it. It features some strong supporting performances especially the ones by Celia Johnson and Pamela Franklin. I'm not saying that they deserved nominations though. They serve the movie quite well and that's about it.
Thank God for Dame Maggie! OK, I know, I know, I know. Along with the wonderful Jane Fonda, she's definitely the greatest living actress (NOT Meryl Streep, sorry), who has such a unique presence and talent, which can turn even the most simple material into an exciting, sizzling performance, which leaves you speechless. Maggie is always very over-the-top in her performances (probably The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne, which is a MUST SEE if you want to find out who gave the best performance of 1987) and yet it's never distracting since she makes it so enjoyable and loveable and she fantastically feels how much is enough.
Maggie (who seems to be modest from what I saw of her) is the best at playing characters with huge egos. It can be an Oscar loser in California Suite, a snobbish, unhappy wife in Private Function and a radical, egoistic teacher in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Her performances walk a fine line between enjoyable and deep. Jean Brodie is certainly not loveable, but she is indeed very enjoyable. She has an inner beauty that Maggie so amazingly showed and by this she created another unforgettable performance.
Even the looks of Maggie in this movie shows Miss Brodie brilliantly. She always stands up straight, looking up, firmly, with much dignity. Miss Brodie's views are rather interesting: she's not a liberal teacher in a conseravtive school. She is a radical teacher in a conservative school. She has her confusing, overly romantic political views, she admires dictators and conquerors just as much as her beloved artists.
Miss Brodie likes to think about herself as a very emotional and passionate woman, but Maggie shows it thrillingly how repressed she is and how much she's afraid of relationships. She expresses love through poetry and art, and that's what gives her (almost sexual) pleasure. She's extremely self-centered, but she also cares deeply about her girls who mean her real life. She considers them her children (almost) and wants to make them heroines, poets, painters, actresses: in short, things she could never be.
Maggie so firmly underlines the credo of this woman: "I'm a teacher. First, always, last." Above all, Jean is a teacher, a leader to the girls and she's a real leading role that demands an actress of Maggie's calibre. Others would have failed with her mannerisms and over-the-top nature, but Maggie doesn't let us down for a moment. She gives a truly deep, dramatic performance, while also being enjoyable. She almost reaches perfection with Jean. My only complaint can be that sometimes the screentime is working against her.
So, I can safely say that Maggie gives one of her best performances as Miss Jean Brodie, a woman who has to face with the fact that her cherished prime is over. Dame Maggie created an exciting, beautiful character on the screen and you just cannot take your eyes off her. She's just beautiful as she is. Excellent.
The Final Conclusion is soon to come, though I REALLY have to think it over. I'm not sure about anything, so I will take my time.
What do you think?