Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Luncheon with Judi Dench

By chance, I just saw Judi Dench on the telly the other day. She was appearing on the Regis and Kelly Show--not a show I watch because I need to be at my desk by nine o'clock to assuage the smog of guilt that I should be already working--because she's got a new movie coming out that looks mighty interesting. It's called Ladies in Lavender, has Maggie Smith starring as well so how can it possibly go wrong, and is set in Cornwall, England, a place most Americans won't know is the only part of England that is actually Celtic. Isn't it ironic Camilla is the Duchess of Cornwall and hasn't a Celtic bone in her body?--of course, neither has Charles. Cornish people are not descended from the Anglo Saxons, are in fact part of the Celtic race, just like the Irish, Welsh, Scottish, Bretons and Austrians. In fact the last person to speak fluent Cornish died about forty years ago, though I believe its being revived.

As Ms. Dench charmed her hosts, I thought, 'Thank God for mature British female actors and British and Irish films.' They're so much more superior to what Hollywood serves us and I'm pleased the Brits value their mature woman actors and don't put them on ice after a certain age until a film like On Golden Pond, comes along.

Watching her brought back a memory of the Sunday afternoon I'd spend in the early nineties at her beautiful rambling home in Kent. It was one of those houses most Americans conjure in their minds when they think of a large English home--old, with a tudor facade and sagging roofline turned black against a cerulean sky, and acres of English garden, some parts mown and others left to grow wild. I didn't know her and had been invited by my friend Richard, an actor who'd starred with Judi, her deceased Irish husband and Susan Penhaligan in a comedy show that had ran for years and just ended. (All of them were gathered that day for a traditional English Sunday lunch, in this case roast lamb and all the trimmings.) She is one of the most delightful woman I've ever met, made me feel absolutely at home, engaged me in intelligent conversation, and I was amazed that her humor could be bawdy and wicked. I left starstruck and am not ashamed to admit it, though it wasn't anything to do with her fame, rather it was to do with her wit and humanity...and the fact that a quiet dignity and class oozed from her every pore.

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