Claire Shefchik, a native of Minnesota, received an MFA in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Her writing on arts and entertainment has appeared on USAToday.com, Spinner, The Faster Times, and many blogs. She can be found on Facebook and on Twitter @clairels.
Dame Judi Dench: A Biographyby Claire Shefchik
Who Is Judi Dench?
Judi Dench appeared onscreen for just eight minutes in the 1998 film Shakespeare in Love, but it was enough to earn her an Academy Award. Dench has an incredible ability to command viewers’ attention in a way few actresses can match. And though her acclaimed performances as Queen Elizabeth I in
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ABOUT THE BOOK
Who Is Judi Dench?
Judi Dench appeared onscreen for just eight minutes in the 1998 film Shakespeare in Love, but it was enough to earn her an Academy Award. Dench has an incredible ability to command viewers’ attention in a way few actresses can match. And though her acclaimed performances as Queen Elizabeth I in Shakespeare in Love and Queen Victoria in 1997’s Mrs. Brown has endowed her with a rightful reputation for portraying royalty, the fact is, Dench is a far more versatile and surprising performer than she is credited for.
Dench began her acting career at the Old Vic and the Royal Shakespeare Company, playing all of the major ingenue roles, including Ophelia and Juliet, where one critic praised her “extraordinary agility of body and mind.” Her popularity in theatre launched her into British television sitcoms in the ‘80s, including A Fine Romance, in which she co-starred with her late husband, actor Michael Williams. In the ‘90s, she starred alongside Geoffrey Palmer in the nostalgic series As Time Goes By, which also became a particular hit with American audiences.
Her contributions to entertainment and the arts were enough for Queen Elizabeth II to name her a Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1988.
It is surprising, despite her long acting resume, that she didn’t achieve national and international fame until the 1990s, when she was already in her sixties. A series of film roles, including a recurring character as British Secret Service head “M” in the James Bond films, cemented her as a fan favorite and made her many directors’ go-to choice to play formidable, aristocratic women.
These roles would go on to include the 2002 adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s comedy of manners The Importance of Being Earnest, portraying meddling aunt Lady Bracknell. In 2005, there was Mrs. Henderson Presents’ Laura Henderson, the wealthy widow whose tableaux of nude girls at the Windmill Theatre remained open during the Blitz, and Lady Catherine de Bourgh, trying to keep Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy apart in the big-screen adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.
Richard Eyre, who directed Dench as the aging writer Iris Murdoch in the 2001 biopic Iris is taken with her ability to “turn a whole line on a syllable," according to BBC News. Actor Ian McKellen has praised her “blazing sincerity and honesty.” In a Hollywood all too often obsessed with youth, Dench stands as proof that not only is an actress’s career not over once she reaches middle age, it may only be beginning.
In 1999, at the age of 65, Dench returned to Broadway for the first time in forty years. She earned a Tony after Eyre directed her in Amy’s View. When Dench appeared as Lilli La Fleur in Rob Marshall’s 2009 film adaptation of Maury Yeston’s Broadway hit Nine, casual fans were surprised by her musical acumen, though it proved to be only another talent on her versatile repertoire.
As far back as 1968, she played Sally Bowles in the original West End production of Cabaret, and TalkTalk biographer Dominic Wills describes her as a “hugely emotive singer,” having “devastated” audiences with her version of “Send in the Clowns” from Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music.
In the ‘90s, Dench took her place alongside former co-stars Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) and Helen Mirren (Gosford Park, The Queen), both of whom, like Dench, got their starts at the Old Vic and Royal Shakespeare Company, as a class of British actresses who, though of an older generation, still continue to appear in exciting, relevant, and critically-acclaimed roles.
Dench married co-star, actor Michael Williams in 1971. She continued to work after he died of cancer in 2001. They shared one of the most celebrated marriages in British show business, and their daughter, Finty Williams, has earned acclaim as an actress.
EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK
Judith Olivia Dench grew up in a large Victorian house in York, England. Her dream was never to be an actress; acting chose her. In fact, it was in her blood.
Dench was born December 9, 1934 to Reginald and Olave Dench. Reginald was a doctor, but not just any doctor--he was in-house physician to the York Theatre Royal, and Olave was the wardrobe mistress. Young Judi would visit backstage, growing up around touring performers. Dench has described her childhood as “like Swallows and Amazons,” she and her brothers making their own fun using roller skates and tin-can phones. She learned to sing along at the piano as her mother played. There was no T
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I love Judi Dench. No reflection on Judi but this book was very disappointing. Only 75 pages. Each chapter was a repeat of the previous. The book must have been the product of a school assignment. Nott worth the money. Better luck next time.
I love Judi Dench, but this "so called" book was more like a book "report". Very disappointing and not worth the monies spent. If you want to read a "book" in about 15 minutes . . . . this is the book for you.