Geraldine McEwan in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Over the years, Spark has seen many actresses bring Jean Brodie to life on screen and in the theatre, but she has no doubts as to who was the best. "Geraldine McEwan," she says without hesitation." But there's a different aspect in every one. When Anna Massey took over from Vanessa Redgrave, those two were very good for the West End stage, and Zoe Caldwell in New York was quite good."
At the staid Marcia Blaine School for Girls, in Edinburgh, Scotland, Miss Jean Brodie--teacher extraordinaire--is unmistakably, and outspokenly, in her prime. She is passionate in the application of her unorthodox teaching methods, in her attraction to the married art master, Teddy Lloyd, in her affair with the bachelor music master, Gordon Lowther, and--most importantly--in her dedication to her girls. Read more..
SHE may be 85, but Dame Muriel Spark has not lost her fire. In an interview to be broadcast on Christmas Day, she holds forth on the current state of Zimbabwe, runs a critical eye over the actors who have played her most famous creation, and says she still feels guilty when she takes a day off.
Dame Muriel, one of the grande dames of English literature and the creator of the Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, also said she plans an appearance at the world's biggest literature festival in Edinburgh next year.
Although it is yet to be officially confirmed, The Herald understands that Dame Muriel, who has never appeared at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, is intending to attend the 21st anniversary festival in August.
The author, now based in Italy, has not been to Edinburgh, where she was born and educated, and where she set her most famous novel, for three years.
However, in a two-part interview to be broadcast by the BBC on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, Dame Muriel confirms she will be returning to the city in August 2004.
An appearance at the book festival would tie in with the release of her new novel, the Finishing School, in March next year. "I haven't been to Edinburgh for the last three years, but I'm going to come again in August to do various things," she says in the interview.
"One doesn't know if I might have been better (to grow up) somewhere else, but that's how it was.
"But I do know I have the (Scottish) work ethic, I do feel very guilty still at the age of 85 if I haven't done a day's work it's ridiculous, but there it is.
"My personality is certainly Scottish, whether I like it or not. I had no other influence. I am Scottish by formation."
In the interview, in which Dame Muriel speaks with Clare English, the Arts Show presenter, she runs the rule over the actors who have played her most famous literary character on stage, television, and screen.
She concludes that Geraldine McEwan, who starred in a 1978 television series based on the 1961 novel, was the closest to her ideal Jean Brodie.
Maggie Smith who won an Oscar for Best Actress in 1970 for the role, failed to merit a mention.
"There's a different aspect in every one," Dame Muriel said.
"Anna Massie and Vanessa Redgrave were really very good, and Zoe Caldwell in New York, they were all brilliant in their ways. But Geraldine McEwan really got the essence of it, probably because she had more time and space in it. She has more scope to express herself."
The Herald, December 23, 2003
About The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
At the staid Marcia Blaine School for Girls, in Edinburgh, Scotland, Miss Jean Brodie--teacher extraordinaire--is unmistakably, and outspokenly, in her prime. She is passionate in the application of her unorthodox teaching methods, in her attraction to the married art master, Teddy Lloyd, in her affair with the bachelor music master, Gordon Lowther, and--most importantly--in her dedication to her girls.
And her girls--the students she selects to be her creme de la creme--are devoted to Miss Brodie. Each member of the "Brodie set"--Eunice, Jenny, Mary, Monica, Rose, and Sandy--is "famous for something", and Miss Brodie strives to bring out the best in each, and to instill in each an independence, passion, and ambition surpassing her own. "Safety does not come first," Miss Brodie advises her girls. "Goodness, Truth and Beauty come first. Follow me." And they do. But one of her girls will betray her.
Miss Brodie has opponents: the "thrilling" senior science teacher, Miss Lockhart; Miss Gaunt, sister of a strict Calvinist minister; other members of the Marcia Blaine faculty; and the persevering headmistress, Miss Mackay. Miss Mackay, orthodox and traditionalist in her educational principles, is determined to rid her school of Miss Brodie, but is repeatedly stymied. The time is the 1930s. And Miss Brodie, apparently unaware that many might find unacceptable her outspoken admiration for Mussolini and Hitler, revels in, exploits, and shares her prime, only to become a victim of her own irrepressible exuberance. In this "perfect book" (Chicago Tribune), Muriel Spark probes with consummate, compressed artistry the halcyon years of a remarkable woman, whose intelligence, wit, imagination, charm, and elegance--however misguided at times, however fatal--match those of her creator.
(c)Copyright,The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Bookreporter.com, The Book Report Network, New York, New York.
In 1978, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie aired as a mini-series and became an immediate favorite with viewers around the world. Muriel Spark, author of the book declared McEwan her personal favorite of all the actresses who have played the part in film and theatre. Geraldine lists it as one of her favorite roles. The series won several awards.Best Actress- TV Times , Most Outstanding Female Personality, Pye Color Television Award, Broadcasting Guild Television Award