Rutherford worked as a teacher of elocution and then went into acting later in life, making her stage debut at the Old Vic in 1925, aged 33. Her physical appearance was such that romantic heroines were out of the question, and she soon established her name in comedy, appearing in many of the most successful British plays and films. "I never intended to play for laughs. I am always surprised that the audience thinks me funny at all", Rutherford wrote in her autobiography. Rutherford made her first appearance in London's West End in 1933 but her talent was not recognised by the critics until her performance as Miss Prism in the play The Importance of Being Earnest at the Globe Theatre in 1939. In 1941 Noël Coward's Blithe Spirit opened on the London stage at the Piccadilly Theatre, with Coward himself directing. Rutherford played Madame Arcati, the bumbling medium, a role which Coward had earlier envisaged for her.
Rutherford had a distinguished theatrical career alongside her film successes. Totally against type, she played the sinister housekeeper Mrs Danvers in Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca at the Queen's Theatre in 1940. Her post-war theatre credits included Miss Prism in The Importance of Being Earnest again at the Haymarket Theatre in 1946 and Lady Bracknell when the same play transferred to New York in 1947. She played an officious headmistress in The Happiest Days of Your Life at the Apollo Theatre in 1948 and such classical roles as Madame Desmortes in Ring Round the Moon (Globe Theatre, 1950), Lady Wishfort in The Way of the World (Lyric Hammersmith, 1953 and Saville Theatre, 1956) and Mrs Candour in The School for Scandal (Haymarket Theatre, 1962). Her final stage performance came in 1966 when she played Mrs Malaprop in The Rivals at the Haymarket Theatre, alongside Sir Ralph Richardson. Unfortunately, her declining health meant she had reluctantly to give up the role after a few weeks.
Read more about this topic: Margaret Rutherford
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