Madeline Smith: Selected Filmography/Interview Retrospective

Madeline Smith was born in Hartfield, Sussex. Her father owned an antiques shop and painting restoration business in Richmond, suffered a nervous breakdown early on in her childhood. She and her mother moved to Kew. Madeline went to Broomfield Primary School and then Queen’s School on Kew Green. When I was around 15 years old I discovered a youth theatre in Ealing called the Questor. At the time I was at a convent school – the same one Dusty Springfield had been at – and the nun who was responsible for us forbade me from attending the theatre group so that was that. She was very cruel and put me off pursuing acting for quite some time.

 Several weeks later Madeline was modelling for catalogues and looking like – in her words – a cadaver. She polished things up at the Lucy Clayton Modelling School before moving to Paris in 1968, meeting Georgie Fame, the iconic photographers of the era and several bands along the way.

 “It was a different era. It all sounds very implausible now but back then the most unlikely opportunities seemed to arise and it suited me. I wanted an adventure. I went out every day determined to experience life to the full,”

 It all sounds racy to say the least but just when you think you are building a picture of what was then called a Dolly Bird, Madeline  delivers a fact that turns all your perception on its head. Her first boyfriend – like her – was a young Catholic, who is now a Monk at Downside. I think this is precisely what keep her young – a disarming ability to constantly surprise.”

 So just when her career as was on the highest possible trajectory in the Glamoursphere, Madeline decided to upset everyone’s assumptions and study English Literature at Goldsmith – but only after tutoring herself through the English A Level she was too rebellious to sit at Convent School. Of course.

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One of your early jobs was working for the legendary fashion store Biba, is that right?
Madeline Smith: Yes I took a temporary job there in 1967, first of all as an assistant in one of Barbara Hulanicki’s shops. Barbara spotted me and I appeared as a model in her very first catalogue. That was how I got into modelling. London in the Sixties was a marvellous place to be – if you wanted to go out and do something you just did. I was cheeky and just asked to do things, more modelling and catalogue work followed and I loved it all.

Tell me more about your first professional acting role?
Madeline Smith: In the 1960s in London you could get spotted in the street and offered modelling work or small parts in films. The very first film I appeared in was called Escalation (1968) and it starred among others the actress Claudia Auger. It was fun to do, just a few days, but most of the films I made back then were very slight, fun but nothing to them. Eventually my agent at the time asked if I was serious about acting or wanted to continue as a model. I decided that although I loved modelling, I wanted to concentrate on acting and hopefully get meatier parts.

What’s your earliest memory of Hammer?
Madeline Smith: Taste the Blood of Dracula – wonderful – we made it in 1969. For that one I did audition, and was beyond joy to get the part. I had secretly yearned to be in one of these horror films, but because I was so innocent, gormless and untried in every sense I had no idea what a bordello scene was, or why I was in that extraordinary little outfit… but I knew how to pull gormless faces. Shortly after, I was given the part in The Vampire Lovers.

The Vampire Lovers (1970) was a much more adult direction for Hammer…
Madeline Smith: I have to remind you of my previous remark about being completely gormless and innocent – we’ve only moved on about three months. I got a very worried phone call from the producer who said he was concerned about my lack of bosom. He said ‘we like you a lot, but we don’t think you are voluptuous enough’. I reassured him, and then I scuttled off to Hornby and Clarke dairy round the corner and I bought every yoghurt I could find and stuffed myself like you might fatten cattle, and it worked!

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Hammer’s boxoffice grosses had been declining in a competitive market. Fading out their sexual subtleties, the company’s regime infused their product with nudity and more pronounced lesbian trysts. THE VAMPIRE LOVERS (1970), debuting as the first Gothic horror film to garner an R-rating, obligated its actresses to slip out of the trademark diaphanous nightgowns and cleavagehugging corsets. Only three years out of convent school, Smith was cast as the virginal “Emma”, who’s chastity appeals to lesbian vampire Carmilla (Ingrid Pitt).

 “I auditioned for THE VAMPIRE LOVERS, and I got the part during Christmas of 1969,” Smith explained. “But I got a terribly embarrassing phone call from the producer. He said, ‘We do want you, but we are not sure that you are voluptuous enough.’ So I was determined that, by the end of the Christmas holiday, I would be voluptuous enough. I ate myself silly! I put on a lot of weight, but was still frightfully thin. But at least I had a bosom. That was the important thing because, as you know, the whole plot was the vampire biting the bosom and all that. The producer, Michael Style, was delighted. I had absolutely no bosom until that day.

 “The one thing that was difficult for me was the lesbian aspect of it. I really couldn’t be less lesbian than I am. I mean, I am totally disinterested in females. In that way, I really felt it was distasteful. I hated doing that, loathed doing it. Ingrid did too.

 “THE VAMPIRE LOVERS was very steamy and I can remember Michael Style running around saying, “The audience is going to fall asleep if you don’t inject something into it.’At that time, I was still very innocent and I didn’t know what to inject into it.

 I recounted my conversation with Derek Whitehurst, the film’s assistant director, who told me that some of the crew members were a bit embarrassed by the nude scenes. “Oh, no, I think they enjoyed them!” laughed Smith. “I mean, there were these two lovely girls in bed. Why shouldn’t they enjoy it? I think possibly Derek was a bit embarrassed. He’s a good friend of mine, he lives just around the corner from me. He’s the dearest, sweetest man you’d ever want to meet and he may have been embarrassed. I don’t think the rest of the crew were.”

 Although Smith wasn’t exactly “over the moon” in regard to the nudity, she plunged into the role: “I was very naive and innocent, I really was. The character I played was very innocent, so I didn’t have to do much acting. But I had a lot of fun on the film. Director) Roy Ward Baker was very patient and understanding-and working with Peter Cushing, he was a most lovely man.” Smith shared many of her scenes with a youthful Jon Finch who, only one year later, was cast as MACBETH in Roman Polanski’s controversial spin on Shakespeare. Finch’s acting skills had been honed on the stage, whereas Smith admits, “I didn’t really have any training. I did modeling, then I did films. Hammer was always on the lookout for young women. Since then, I’ve gained a lot of training through experience.”

Looking back at films like The Vampire Lovers, do you feel you were exploited?
Madeline Smith: I was a very willing exploitee – I didn’t mind at all. My main point of existence is to make people laugh and I was able to use those bosoms later for comedy, I was the foil in a lot of comedy shows and sketches and I have absolutely no regret about being ‘sexploited’. Others I know take against it. I didn’t mind looking womanly, that’s not ever been concern of mine – but it is for others, and good for them.

What are your memories of making the film of Up Pompeii (1971)?
Madeline Smith: It was another delightful experience. Bob Kellett was the director of that film and he was such a lovely man to work for. Bill Fraser was one of the stars of the film and he was an absolute joy – I had been a fan of Bill’s for a long time and used to watch him in Bootsie and Snudge on television. Bill brought us champagne for the first day of filming and it certainly all went very well after that!

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You worked with Frankie Howerd a great deal I believe. What was he like to work with?
Madeline Smith: I got on very well with Frankie and worked with him often, quite a bit of it on television. I was part of the furniture, didn’t offer opinions or try to steal scenes because he was the star. He was such a talented man and there were never any problems. He was very kind to the women on set and those who worked with him. I don’t know why they no longer show his work on television today – he did so many things for both the BBC and ITV and it’s such a shame he’s not shown, apart from the odd documentary.

I must ask about the filming of Carry On Matron (1972). What was that like and what were Barbara Windsor and Hattie Jacques like to work with?
Madeline Smith: When I got the part in Matron I was about to give up acting. I had a place to train to become a nurse at St Bartholomew’s Hospital. However my father was very proud of the bits of acting work I had been getting and when he found out about Carry On Matron, he insisted I did it. It was a joy to make the Carry On, I was only there for half a day and gone before lunchtime which was a shame. The atmosphere on set was delightful and that was mainly down to the genius of director Gerald Thomas. He was such a nice man, genial with a sunny personality and loved making films and everyone he was with. Hattie and Barbara were really kind and easy to work with and the lovely Joan Sims was there too doing reaction shots to what the three of us were filming. Jacki Piper was also on set although I didn’t do anything with her there. She is an adorable person, really lovely and a great friend. Even though I didn’t train to be a nurse I did eventually go to University to study English when I was about 30 – I really loved that experience.

Would you like to have appeared in more of the Carry Ons?
Madeline Smith: Peter Rogers wanted me to come back for more of the films and I would have loved to, Matron was such a good experience. However by the time the next Carry On was going into production I was contracted to do a theatre tour with Patrick Macnee as the star. The tour was awful, the play was bad and the reviews meant nobody came to see us. Dinah Sheridan was also in the play and we were both so miserable. I really regret doing that tour now as it stopped me taking on other lovely jobs like more Carry Ons. Once the tour was finished offers like that had stopped coming in, at least for a while.

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Of course they are talking about making another Carry On at the moment…
Madeline Smith: Yes every so often they come up with the idea to make another but I knew some of the people in the last of the original Carry Ons – Emmannuelle and Columbus – and they weren’t fun to make or to watch because the innocence had gone. I have watched some of the comedy series they have remade recently on the BBC and I wish they had left things alone. They all had very talented actors in them but I wish they could do new things with the talent that is around today.

You also appeared in the film Theatre of Blood (1973). What are your memories of that production?
Madeline Smith: I remember that the part I was originally offered was much bigger than what I played but I really just wanted to be in the film to be with that cast! There were so many revered actors in that film that it was just great to be there with him all around me. It turned out to be a good film and I think it’s now a bit of a classic. It was made on a tiny budget, all out on location in the freezing cold with no studio work. It was quite uncomfortable but just great to be with all those wonderful people.

You were in the Bond film Live and Let Die (1973)? Isn’t that the one when Roger Moore undoes your zip with his magnetic watch?
Madeline Smith: I loved that scene and I love him. I made the Bond in January 1973. I think that was the first scene that Roger shot in his new go at Bond.

I’d already had a part in The Persuaders with him and Tony Curtis – and I’ve been told since that he suggested me for the part in the Bond.
Madeline Smith: I don’t even remember auditioning. And suddenly there I am shooting it with that divine being. He’d cut his hair off and lost a lot of weight by the time he was Bond. I think he looked smashing.

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What was that like to film and what was Roger Moore like to work with?
Madeline Smith: Roger was absolutely adorable. He had slimmed down a bit since then, had shorter hair for the part of Bond was just as professional and lovely to be with. I may be wrong but I think Roger actually suggested me for the part in Live and Let Die. I was only there for three days I think but it was great. They had created Bond’s very 1970s flat in a corner of one of the big studios at Pinewood and it felt like a real flat – the attention to detail was superb. It was great to work with the lovely Bernard Lee (M) and Lois Maxwell (Miss Moneypenny) too – she was such a nice lady and there was no fuss with any of them. I knew Michael Caine for a while around that time and the set of the flat always reminded me of his flat at the time.

Did you enjoy working at Pinewood Studios?
Madeline Smith: Oh yes! I worked at the beautiful Pinewood many times – it was a very comfortable place to work and you were always very well looked after there. The dining room at Pinewood is beautiful too. Very happy times.

Cast as “The Angel,” Smith once again appeared seraphic in Hammer’s Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974). Though her visibility stretched through much of the film’s running time, Smith’s role was performed sans dialogue. Peter Cushing, in his swan song as Baron Frankenstein, cooks up a scheme to mate Smith’s character with the monster (played by STAR WARS’ David Prowse). “I really enjoyed working with Peter Cushing again,” Smith wistfully smiles. “But I noticed such a difference in Peter this second time around. It was made shortly after the death of his wife, and he’d become so gaunt and pale-looking. But he was still a wonderful man, and so great to work with. Of course, we had a great director-Terence Fisher-on that film, too. I think it was his last film. And he was one of the kindest, most easy-going directors I’ve ever worked with. He would always ask you what you wanted, how you felt about something, and that’s rare in a director. It was the same with Peter Cushing. No matter what you wanted, he was willing to listen.”

 

During the ’80s, Smith frequently surfaced on British television. Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? (1980) and The Steam Video Company (1984). She was a member of the regular cast of the BBC2 series The End of the Pier Show (1974) and In The Looking Glass (1978) alongside satirists John Wells and John Fortune and composer Carl Davis. One of her last film credits, The Passionate Pilgrim (1984), turned out to be the final screen appearance of Eric Morecambe.

 Matter of fact, Smith “had a screaming part” in another film credited as a Vincent Price vehicle, Bloodbath at the House of Death (1984); but, once again, she wasn’t introduced to its star: “Kenny Everett and Pamela Stephenson were also in it. I just had a small role in the precredits sequence. I just have a long, endless scream that goes on for what seems like ten minutes. I’m being chased by a madman.”

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“In 1974 I met the actor David Buck while making the TV show Crown Court. He was 15 years older than me and very bright, but not an easy man. We had our daughter, Emily, in 1984.  Having given birth to a daughter, she gradually wound down her acting career. She married another actor, David Buck, but within ten years was widowed when he died of cancer, leaving her with a daughter, Emily, who was still too young for school. It was a bleak time and she remembers wanting to hide away. But Madeline possesses a brand of resilience and optimism which is hard to break. She forged ahead with her writing and acting.

If you could choose between film, television and the stage, which medium would you prefer to work in?
Madeline Smith: This might surprise you but I prefer television. It’s quick to do, you don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn so you’re not tired all the time and I like being in a studio, particularly with a live audience. I did a lot of satire and children’s television later my career and I think those were my favourites.

What do you think are the main differences with the acting profession now compared to when you were in the business in the 1970s?
Madeline Smith: I think actors are expected to go a lot further with certain things now – particularly in terms of love scenes and nudity – it always seems to push things further than they need to go and if it was my time now I don’t think I’d be completely comfortable with it. Having said that, there is a lot of great stuff being produced these days and I’d certainly say the quality of the drama we see on television now is definitely much better.

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CREDITS/REFERENCES/SOURCES/BIBLIOGRAPHY
news.bbc.co.uk
carryonfan.blogspot
Samhain#39
Femme Fatales Magazine (October 1996 – Volume 5 No. 4)

SELECTED FILMOGRAPHY
The Mini-Affair (1967) – Samantha
The Killing of Sister George (1968) – Nun (uncredited)
Some Like It Sexy (1969) – Miss Beaufort-Smith
Pussycat, Pussycat, I Love You (1970) – Gwendolyn (uncredited)
Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970) – Dolly
The Vampire Lovers (1970) – Emma Morton
Tam-Lin (1970) – Sue
Up Pompeii (1971) – Erotica
The Magnificent Seven Deadly Sins (1971) – Guest Appearance (segment “Sloth”)
Carry On Matron (1972) – Mrs. Pullitt
Up the Front (1972) – Fanny
The Amazing Mr Blunden (1972) – Bella
The Love Ban (1973) – Miss Partridge
Theatre of Blood (1973) – Rosemary
Live and Let Die (1973) – Miss Caruzo
Take Me High (1973) – Vicki
Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974) – Sarah
Percy’s Progress (1974) – Miss UK
Galileo (1975) – Young Court Lady
Fern, the Red Deer (1976) – Mrs. Gordon
The Bawdy Adventures of Tom Jones (1975) – Sophia
Why Didn’t They Ask Evans ? (1980) – Moira Nicholson
The Passionate Pilgrim (1984) – Damsel

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