Oh, the Stories We Can Tell
Guest ElderBlogger: Joy Des Jardins

Guest ElderBlogger: Jill Fallon

[EDITOR'S NOTE: While I am away for a few days, five fantastic elders agreed to guest blog here at Time Goes By. Jill Fallon writes at several blogs for which you can find links at my favorite among them, Legacy Matters, where she often posts stories about strange and quirky ways we humans deal with the ultimate mystery of life – death. Today she writes of her favorite elder role model in a piece she has titled, A Dame Commander Please welcome Jill with plenty of kudos and comments.]

Growing older has never really bothered me, perhaps because I was lucky in having wonderful role models of older women. Every May there is an alumnae parade at Smith College and the largest, loudest cheers go up for the oldest women in their 80s or 90s who march proudly under the banner of their graduating class. I’d be all right, I thought, if I could be one of them.

But it was seeing Margaret Rutherford for the first time that absolutely convinced me how delightful it could be to be like her. I was gobsmacked and totally enchanted when I first saw her play Miss Marple in the four “murder” films based on the Agatha Christie novels:

Murder She Said, Murder at the Gallop, Murder Most Foul, and Murder Ahoy - every one of which deserves prominent placement on the TGB ElderMovie List. [EDITOR’S NOTE: As will be done as soon as I return from Minnesota.]

She was endearing, stout as an armchair and as comfortable too, a bicycle-riding, tea-making, pie-baking sleuth with an admiring male pal, cheerful in cape and hat, perfectly dressed no matter what the occasion, sensible to human frailties, fearless, smart as a whip and as funny as all get out. Who knew that being an old lady could be so much fun?

A force of nature, she could do things with her mouth, her tongue in cheek, that have never been equaled and will make you forswear even the idea of plastic surgery if it would rob you of the expressiveness of a ravishing, totally lovable old face like hers.

Born in a London suburb in 1892, nine years after her father murdered her grandfather with a chamber pot, Margaret Rutherford was an only child. Her mother died when she was 3 and she was brought up by a pair of guardian aunts.

Maybe the experience of living with a mentally ill father who was readmitted to Broadmoor, a British hospital for the criminally insane, when she was only 12, disposed her to a life in the theater. She wasn’t pretty, but she was funny and I think a late bloomer. She was 33 when she made her stage debut at the Old Vic in 1925 and 53 when she married a fellow actor Stringer Davis.

She really came into her own in her late 60s and 70s when she began to play Miss Marple. She worked with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, winning an Academy Award best supporting actress in The V.I.P.s. In her 70s, the Queen named her first an officer of the British Empire, later a Dame Commander.

And what a Dame Commander she was, laying bare evil and overcoming it with goodness, everything made right. And she did it by becoming and being her magnificent self all the time. Take one scene from Murder Ahoy:

MISS MARPLE: Are you implying that I am unhinged?


MISS MARPLE: Then what are you implying, pray?

DETECTIVE INSPECTOR CRADDOCK: Well, just that you are temporarily not yourself.

MISS MARPLE: Chief Inspector, I am always myself!

In one interview, she said,

"I hope I'm an individual. I suppose an eccentric is a super individual. Perhaps an eccentric is just off centre - ex-centric. But that contradicts a belief of mine that we've got to be centrifugal."

Centrifugal she was, radiating out from a deep core of self, to delight and gift the world.

Since I believe that the point of aging is to become more ourselves, our best selves, and to give our best selves away, I would make Margaret Rutherford a patron saint of aging. She’s mine anyway.


Wow. Thank you for sharing this!

This is an excellent piece and a great tribute to aging and Margaret Rutherford.

Your post at ThirdAge is superb, but the site won't accept my comment, so hope RB won't mind if I take the liberty of posting it here:

Have enjoyed your "Legacy Matters" since I first found it long before I had a blog. This is an excellent piece you've written here. Nice to read you over at "Time Goes By."

When we make an appearance on this earth, we don't instantly become procreators, so why would we think that just as soon as we cease to have that ability we should immediately drop off the face of the earth? If the years preceding procreation are learning years from those older, then perhaps that is what we're to be doing when we're older -- life in full cycle. Doesn't mean when we're older we don't continue to learn as well.

There seems to be a "life span" for everything, be it all kinds of life on our planet or even the man-made creations -- a gradual evolving beginning and an evolving toward the end.

The opinion of TigerRose in reference to the body carvers and artifical appearance seekers that "The only ones they are hurting are themselves, so let them do what they want with their looks." is certainly their right and their choice. However, I don't think the argument individuals actions "only hurt themselves" is ever true, but an egocentric or uninformed view sometimes expressed. We're all connected and our actions or inactions do affect others in one way or another.

Their actions serve to perpetuate the view that there's something wrong with how we look when we age, encourage ridicule from younger people over older people's impossible seeking of eternal youth, etc. I see such actions as contributing to the attitudes in our culture culminating in youth-worshiping which permeates societal attitudes in business employment practices, governmental attitudes, media protrayals, etc. So, yeah, if they want to cut themselves up, spend their time, money, and engergies on such artifical values, by all means, they've earned the right, but don't think it may not have implications for others in this culture.

There were a lot of wonderful women back then who stood up and in different ways were example of elders to admire. In movies, at least, we seem to have lost that but it's not too late to change things. Yours was a good reminder

I remember Margaret Rutherford in many movies, and she was always so great in all of them. But she really was wonderful as Miss Marple. Nice post on a lovely lady Jill.

Thanks for that. I like reading about the personal backgrounds of show business people whose work I enjoyed in my youth. While Margaret Rutherford's portrayal of Miss Marple may not have been the closest to Dame Agatha's literary character, she was certainly the most fun.

I was so busy posting than shoveling snow 3X already today, that I forgot that I was the featured guest blogger today.

Such wonderful comments. Thank you all.

Especially Joared with whom I agree, we are all connected and even in the smallest ways affect each other.

I too have thoroughly enjoyed the Margaret Rutherford movies I've seen. I get the impression that she was often like her character on various films she did, including Miss Marple (who I also admire as a character).

Dame Margaret was wonderful. Good choice for role model!

I liked reading this particular blog entry, especially the bit about the Smith College parade.

I am in my mid 40's and absolutely love Margaret Rutherford. I remember watching her in my 20's in the Movie "Murder, She Said" and I was hooked. She makes the thought of aging so much more intiquing, if we can be like her that is. I only wish she had made more Miss Marple movies. I keep hoping they'll find some "lost" movies, haha!

Thank you for making me feel better about aging. :-)

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