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    March Preorders / Primed for Smith

    Posted by Mike Finnegan on

    Preorders open today (at 4 PM EST/1PM PST) for five new Twilight Time Blu-ray releases arriving March 15: three long-awaited Academy Award® winners, Anastasia, Exodus and Lilies of the Field, plus the spectacular epic Alexander the Great and the gripping real-life murder thriller 10 Rillington Place. Great stars, spellbinding stories and distinctive special features await your careful high-definition inspection.

    Sunday brings an end to the six-season run of creator/writer/executive producer Julian Fellowes’ period series-cum-global phenomenon Downton Abbey. That also means a farewell to one of the most beloved and formidable characters ever embraced by audiences: the mordant matriarch Lady Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham, played to perfection by Maggie Smith. The veteran actress, now on view in cinemas playing a dotty, foul-smelling homeless woman in the film version of Alan Bennett’s memoir and stage play The Lady in the Van, will never be far from movie fans’ hearts and minds because she’s appeared in over 50 theatrical features and has all the powers of witchcraft that Harry Potter’s witch instructor Minerva McGonagall can summon. Seen to good advantage in supporting roles throughout the 1960s in such movies as The VIPs, The Pumpkin Eater, Young Cassidy, Othello, The Honey Pot and Hot Millions, the starmaking breakthrough that put her at the head of the class hit stateside theatres 47 years ago today, the aptly named The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969). Previously a popular novel by Muriel Spark and a London and Broadway stage success when adapted by Jay Presson Allen (and starring Vanessa Redgrave in the UK and Zoe Caldwell on the Main Stem), the material seemed nonetheless tailor-made for and freshly reinvigorated by Smith when brought to the screen by director Ronald Neame. Playing a fiercely independent and politically wrongheaded schoolteacher an at Edinburgh school for girls in the 1930s, Best Actress Academy Award® winner Smith delivers what Vincent Canby of The New York Times called “the kind of performance that not only has meaning within the context of the movie, but also can be consciously enjoyed as the work of an individual, fully developed intelligence exercising its talents for the sheer joy of it.” If the experience of watching Smith in Twilight Time’s hi-def Blu-ray of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie elicits that joy, one might become, like Brodie’s girls are to their teacher, hers for life.