Geraldine McEwan (1932 - 2015) was one of England's most talented and versatile actresses. Her extensive theatre career was marked along the way with memorable performances that took risks and broke new ground, such as award-winning productions of The Rivals, The Way of the World, and The Chairs.
She starred along side Laurence Olivier in numerous stage plays, including Love for Love, The Entertainer, The Dance of Death, and A Flea in Her Ear. Geraldine originated the female role in Joe Orton's Loot.
Her numerous television credits include the highly acclaimed Barchester Chronicles with Alan Rickman, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, the charming Mulberry, Marple, and the immensely popular Mapp and Lucia with devotees around the world.
Her film work includes The Dance of Death with Laurence Olivier, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves with Alan Rickman, Henry V and Love's Labour's Lost, both with Kenneth Branagh, Vanity Fair, and The Magdalene Sisters. Directed by Peter Mullan, the film won the Venice Film Festival Golden Lion award, a Toronto Film Festival award and received two 2003 BAFTA nominations. In February 2004, it received awards as Best British Film and Best British Director at the London Film Critics Awards Ceremony.
In 2004, Geraldine was chosen as the new Agatha Christie sleuth, Jane Marple and filmed twelve 2 hour mysteries for ITV/PBS/Chorion before retiring from the role in 2007.
Geraldine McEwan was born in Old Windsor, England and made her theatre debut at the age of 14 at the Theatre Royal in Windsor. By the age of 18 she was starring in London's West End in several long-running popular productions. During the 1950's she acted with the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon and joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1961.
She had leading roles as Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing with Christopher Plummer, Ophelia in Hamlet, The Princess of France in Love's Labour's Lost, Marina in Pericles and played opposite Dorothy Tutin in Twelfth Night which also toured Moscow and Leningrad.
Miss McEwan originated the female lead role in Joe Orton's Loot, captivated Broadway with productions of The School for Scandal, The Private Ear and the Public Eye, and most recently, The Chairs, earning her a Tony nomination for best actress.
As a member of the Royal National Theatre, acting along side Albert Finney, and Laurence Olivier, Geraldine dominated the 1960's and 70's with memorable roles including Look After Lulu, The Dance of Death, Love for Love, A Flea in Her Ear, Chez Nous, Home and Beauty, The Browning Version & Harlequinade, On Approval, Oh Coward!, and The White Devil.
In 1976 she had the distinction of being nominated for an Olivier Award in two separate categories. During one season, she could be seen starring weekly in three separate productions for the National.
In 1983 she won the Evening Standard Best Actress Award for The Rivals and in 1985 her role as Lucia in Mapp and Lucia, (based on the popular books of E.F. Benson) resulted in what can only be described as a cult following with several websites dedicated to the TV series and works of E.F. Benson.
Miss McEwan closed out the 80's flicking French phrases at warp speed with Emma Thompson in Branagh's monumental film Henry V. The brief scene of Alice (McEwan) teaching The Princess of France (Thompson) a few English phrases should be shown to every drama class as an example of creative, comic acting. It was beautifully crafted. In 1983 she helped establish the Theatre of Comedy and was a founder member along side Richard Briers, Judi Dench, Tom Conti, Nigel Hawthorne, Maureen Lipman, John Mortimer and others.
During the 1990's her career went full throttle! In 1991 she won the BAFTA Best Actress Award for her intense and powerful performance as the Mother in Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. In 1995 she won the Evening Standard Best Actress Award for what has become the defining performance of Lady Wishfort in The Way of the World.
In 1998, her stunning and physically demanding performance in The Chairs, directed by Simon McBurney played to a packed Duke of York's Theatre every night. The play then transferred from the West End to Broadway, thrilling American audiences and critics. McEwan was nominated for a Tony Award in the Best Actress Category.
In 1999, Geraldine McEwan was a brilliant and fabulously shocking Judith Bliss in a controversial revival of Noel Coward's Hay Fever.
Also in 1999, Geraldine delighted Red Dwarf audiences as Cassandra, a shimmering techno-vision. Ken Branagh's 2000 film, Love's Labour's Lost included a tap-dancing, Gershwin-singing McEwan as Holofernia.
In 2003, she accepted the role of Mrs. Gotobed in Carrie's War. Filmed in Wales, the production has earned 8 Bafta Cymru nominations.
As Sister Bridget in Peter Mullan's brilliant film, The Magdalene Sisters (2003), Geraldine gave a remarkable performance as the chilling and complicated head nun of a Magdalene Laundry. Directed by Peter Mullan, the film won the prestigious Venice Film Festival Golden Lion award, a Toronto Film Festival award and received two 2003 BAFTA nominations. In February 2004, it received awards as Best British Film and Best British Director at the London Film Critics Awards Ceremony.
Later in 2003, McEwan accepted a small role in Mira Nair's Vanity Fair and created a memorable, scene-stealing Lady Southdown.
In 2004, Geraldine was chosen as the new Jane Marple This enormously successful Agatha Christie series of 12 films was shown worldwide.
Geraldine McEwan: 1932-2015
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Geraldine McEwan ~ A Career in Theatre, Film & Television
with Joe Orton & Kenneth Williams
Throughout this expansive and demanding career Geraldine had a long, successful marriage to Hugh Cruttwell (d.2002), former principal of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. They had two children, Greg and Claudia, both writers, and seven grandchildren.
"....Finally and without question, the actress of the year 1969 was Geraldine McEwan. Putting aside, if possible, her beauty and her riveting theatricality, consider simply the versatility of this extraordinary actress's rendering of different women in the toils of sex. After her needle-sharp golddigger in "Home and Beauty" came the brutalized lavatory attendant in "Rites", two dazzling miniatures. Next, her poised Millamant, agleam with wonder at her own wit and a mock wonder at the vanity of men. Lastly, half-naked in "The White Devil", her face now vicious with the mixed satiety and appetite, the mixed leer and snigger, the mixed coquetry and indecency of the consummate whore. He who saw this Geraldine had deemed her sure a thing divine.
John Barber, The Daily Telegraph ~ December 29, 1969