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Posterized: Dame Judi Dench 

by Nathaniel R

Judi Dench in her newest Red Joan (2019) and in her very first Four in the Morning (1965)

With Red Joan just opened in limited release wherein Judi Dench is accused of being the KGB's longest serving British spy and flashes back to the drama of her college years, let us all flash back to Judi's early years... well, all of her years rather. We gave Dame Judi Dench an unsatisfying episode of Posterized six years ago but it's time for the real deal...

Dame Judi Dench started her professional career on the stage as Ophelia in a production of Hamlet at the Royal Court Theatre in 1957. She was 23 years old. Two years later she landed her first television gig (title character) in a show called Hilda Lessways (1959). Then came her first feature Four in the Morning (1965), another leading role. She's never stopped working since racking up over 120+ credits on screens big and small, with roles from gargantuan to cameos, all while never quitting the stage. She still jumps between all three actors mediums on the regular at 84 years of age. I first remember seeing her in A Room With a View, released in 1986, as "Eleanor Lavish, a novelist". 

the dream Dame team, Dench & Smith in the stone cold classic A ROOM WITH A VIEW

Observe my foresight, I never venture forth without my mackintosh squares.

Despite the length of her career, Judi Dench didn't become a "movie star" in the traditional sense until her 40th year in showbiz in her sixtysomething years (imagine that -- late bloomer!) when the juicy starring role of Mrs Brown netted her both a Golden Globe and her seventh (!) BAFTA.

How many of her movies have you seen and when did you first fall for her?

We've included only the largest or most crucial movies  (dropping out most of her cameos) and let her first & last appearances in James Bond films stand in for her many appearances or this list of 33 films would be much much longer! 

Act One - Rising British Wonder
FOUR IN THE MORNING (1965) - BAFTA "Most Promising Newcomer"
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM (1968) she played Titania queen of the fairies

DEAD CERT (1974)
SAIGON -YEAR OF THE CAT (1983) -BAFTA Nominee Actress
WETHERBY (1985) -BAFTA Nominee Supporting Actress

A ROOM WITH A VIEW (1985/1986) - BAFTA Winner Supporting Actress. This was her first of five feature films with her bestie Dame Maggie Smith. 
84 CHARING CROSS ROAD (1987) -BAFTA Nominee Supporting Actress
A HANDFUL OF DUST (1988) - BAFTA Winner Supporting Actress

Act Two - International Ascendance: Leading Lady, A-Lister
GOLDENEYE (1995) - her first of 
MRS BROWN (1997) -BAFTA & Globe Winner Best Actress, Oscar & SAG Nominee
SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE (1998) -BAFTA & Oscar & NSFC Winner Best Supporting Actress, Globe & SAG Nominee

THE LAST OF THE BLONDE BOMBSHELLS (2000) - Globe Winner Best Actress TV Movie, Emmy & SAG Nominee
CHOCOLAT (2000) - SAG Winner Best Supporting Actress, Oscar & Globe & BAFTA Nominee

IRIS (2001) - BAFTA Winner Best Actress, Globe & Oscar & SAG Nominee
THE SHIPPING NEWS (2001) - BAFTA & SAG Nominee Best Supporting Actress

MRS HENDERSON PRESENTS (2005) -Oscar & Globe & BAFTA & SAG Nominee Best Actress
NOTES ON A SCANDAL (2006) -Oscar & Globes & BAFTA & SAG Nominee Best Actress

Act Three - Beloved Elderly Icon. Leading Roles + Plentiful "...and Judi Dench" Bits
NINE (2009)
MY WEEK WITH MARILYN (2011) -BAFTA Nominee Best Supporting Actress
JANE EYRE (2011)

J EDGAR (2011)
SKYFALL (2012) -BAFTA Nominee Best Supporting Actress

PHILOMENA (2014) -Oscar & Globe & BAFTA & SAG Nominee Best Actress
VICTORIA & ABDUL (2017) -Globe & SAG Nominee Best Actress

ALL IS TRUE (2018)
RED JOAN (2019)


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Reader Comments (26)

I've seen a respectable 24.

That third row - A ROOM WITH A VIEW, 84 CHARING CROSS RD, A HANDFUL OF DUST - is heavenly, and takes me back to 1987-88 and my first years of serious moviegoing as a 15-year-old falling in love with art-house films.

I'm seeing GLORIA BELL in 90 minutes and I feel as excited as a Marvel fan awaiting the first screening of AVENGERS: ENDGAME!

April 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSteve G

14 so far.

April 20, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

Harvey is responsible for all but one nomination of hers, Notes on a Scandal. Albeit her role in that movie is the best of her nominated work.

April 20, 2019 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

Although thinking again, Iris is a baity biography and Philomena is a strong showcase lead performance for a beloved performer with merely a supporting statue. So Harvey is responsible, but those two would probably have nabbed nomonations from any decent studio.

April 20, 2019 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

I've seen 13 so far. (Also seen her on stage and on TV in multiple shows, such as A Fine Romance and As Time Goes By!)

I adore her Oscar win for Shakespeare in Love. To me, it's a textbook example of what the supporting Oscar should be given to: a true supporting performance, turns up every now and then, is crucial to the story, and is memorable without seeking to run off with the movie.

I also really wish she had got an Oscar nomination for Skyfall. A terrific performance - one of the best of any actor in any Bond film. A borderline lead to me, as M is in the film throughout and even has plenty of scenes with Bond. But for either category, great work.

She really is a national treasure. I honestly feel that if she and David Attenborough could job-share as Prime Minister (so that they each have time for their acting/broadcasting pursuits), the UK would be in a much better state than it is now!

April 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

I've seen 12. A Room With a View is definitely a classic.

I think she's so amazing in "Notes on a Scandal". That is in competition for her best performance.

April 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

I have seen 22 so not bad,has anyone else bloomed so late in their career,I mean all her Nominations came in her 60's,wonder if this will happen to Colman.

April 20, 2019 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

Nat you forgot Pride and Prejudice.She has some great juicy scenes with Keira.

She was in a Vin Diesel movie too,

April 20, 2019 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

Her performance in Notes on a Scandal is superb. Depending on the day, I oscillate between her and Meryl in Prada for the gold that year.

I also loved her in Philomena, and no one seemed too keen on her performance here. Such a nuanced, delicate, and melancholic performance - she's one of the best!

April 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAaron

13 movies +
Quantum of Solace
Casino Royal
Pride & Prejudice
The Chronicles of Riddick
Die Another Day
The World Is Not Enough

Best performance: Notes on a Scandal
Best film: Hamlet and Casino Royal

April 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterManuel

18 - but I feel like I’ve seen more of her!

Notes on a Scandal remains her best work - and the best performance that year (bite me Streep and Mirren fans).

She’s got some excellent upcoming projects too - I love her but I do wish she shared some parts around - but I can’t blame her for getting them while the going is good!

April 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMorgan

I've seen 27 plus others you haven't included such as Jack & Sarah (with Richard E. Grant), The Angelic Conversation or Branagh's Henry V and Hamlet.

Basically, I'll watch anything if she's in it. It's the voice for me. It gives me chills everytime.

April 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I've seen 25. Dame Judi comes full circle by playing "Old Deuteronomy" in "Cats". In 1981, she was cast as "Grizabella" in the first London production of "Cats" on stage, but had to withdraw due to injury. Elaine Paige, fresh from "Evita", stepped in and became the first one to sing "Memory" on stage. One has to wonder if the song would have had the same success if Dame Judi had introduced it to the world. Her singing voice is really not her greatest asset. Love her very much.

April 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterFrank JP

Notes on A Scandal should be more a cult classic!!!

April 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterDAVID

I’ve seen barely 20, somewhat surprisingly. It’s curious how many 5-10 year gaps between films she had in the late ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, and early ‘90s. Was that a conscious choice, I wonder? Was she just choosing stage work over film roles? Hmm...

April 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

Mareko -- well i left out some minor roles but there are a few conspicuous gaps. I do think she took a few years off when her husband died.

April 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Only 12. I am so disappointed that Red Joan is bad. It sounded like a promising concept, and one that would get her away from "cute old lady" roles she could play in her sleep.

April 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

What are your favorite performances of hers, Nat?

April 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBhuray

She sounds like Jean Simmons.

April 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterCora

I’ve only seen 16 of these. I’d seen her before, but she really didn’t solidify as “Judi Dench” until Goldeneye, the first Bond movie.

My favourites of these performances are “Shakespeare in Love” and “My Week with Marilyn”. In “Marilyn”, she doesn’t play Dame Sybil Thorndike as a sweet old dear, but someone who marched on the picket lines for an Actor’s Union, and insists on equality and respect in the rehearsal room.

April 20, 2019 | Unregistered Commenteradri

One of my favorite actresses.
She's the Marie Dressler of our times.

April 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterGwen

Re Judi Dench’s singing voice:
I’ve listened to several of the different actresses singing Cabaret, and I think Judi Dench is my favourite. She packs so much into a song.

I can hear all the words (great vocal clarity), you get the meaning of the song, she sets a distinctive style that heightens the play and makes it specific, and she tells you a lot about the character she plays.

So I think she would be great in “Cats” which is improved when the characters are distinct from each other, and she’d freshen up a song that might have become overly familiar.

April 20, 2019 | Unregistered Commenteradri

Have seen 15. Agree with the Marie Dressler comparison, jumped to mind for me too. And /3rtful’s second comment.

April 21, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterShanai

24 of the ones you list, I have also seen Pride & Prejudice, Hamlet, Henry V, and all Bond films.
I think her performances in "A Fine Romance" and "As Time Goes By" are some of her best work.
And she has said that TV sitcoms are the hardest medium that an actor can encounter.
It was either "Room With a View" or "Love in a Cold Climate" (TV) where I saw her first.

My favourite quote about Judi Dench was from Michael Gambon, who said that it was extraordinary to be on stage with her. She could come on stage and in 2 minutes have the audience on her side, she's that magnetic.
I hope she has more roles and posters in her future.

April 21, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

Only 8.
the 2 James Bonds.
Murder on the Orient Express
Exotic Marygold Hotel
A Room with a View

She's very good. I liked her best in "Philomena"

April 23, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

21 from this list - plus more not on this list.
She's one of the best. Notes on a Scandal is her best work for sure, but she absolutely OWNED Skyfall. I adore her in the tv show Cranford, it's such a joy to watch her having fun in a role like that.
I always love watching her on the Graham Norton show, she has such a wicked sense of humour. She's a treasure.

April 24, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJWB

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