The Sharp Remarks Of Maggie Smith

Here’s what getting me through the winter cold: the acid line readings of Maggie Smith, as Lady Grantham, Dowager Countess, in PBS’ century-ago serial “Downton Abbey.” There’s only one more episode in Season One; the second season will be broadcast in Britain late in the year and in the U.S. next winter. Dame Maggie’s imperious stare, to say nothing of her quips, are incomparable. It is as if the series’ creator, Julian Fellowes, took all the lines he was unable to get into the country-house movie “Gosford Park” (where Maggie played another hard-to-please aristocrat) and re-packaged them. Here’s a fairly complete listing of the Dowager’s “Downton” remarks. My favorite exchange from this past Sunday’s broadcast occurred between the Dowager and her elderly rival, Mrs. Crawley:

Lady Grantham: “You are quite wonderful the way you see room for improvement wherever you look. I never knew such reforming zeal.”
Mrs. Crawley: “I take that as a compliment.”
Lady Grantham: “I must’ve said it wrong.”

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