Dame Eileen Atkins has had a career spanning over 60 years, so today we’re going to take a look at some of the best known films and TV shows she’s appeared in. And on that note, there are a lot of shows I had to skip because there are no images of her online, so please do not inundate this post with cranky demands about how dare I overlook one role or another. Sometimes them’s the breaks!
An Age of Kings (1960)
One of Dame Eileen’s earliest roles. She played Joan of Arc.
Major Barbara (1966)
An adaptation of the George Bernard Shaw play of the same name. There was also a 1941 film treatment of the play, as well.
The Three Sisters (1970)
Wikipedia notes that there was a 1970 film version of Chekhov’s play, directed by Laurence Olivier, but this one is a BBC “Play of the Month” small-screen version staring Dame Eileen as Olga.
The Duchess of Malfi (1972)
This is one of those 16th-century films that pops up where I have to wonder how we haven’t covered it yet. The entire film appears to be on YouTube, albeit in a dozen or so 9 and 10 minute segments. This is also the era of the Beeb’s attention to historical accuracy in their productions, and therefore I’m more inclined now to watch it in all those 10-minute segments.
The Lady’s Not for Burning (1974)
She Fell Among Thieves (1980)
Every description of this flick that I can find online is vague enough to make it impossible for me to figure out what the plot is about, but Dame Eileen looks FABULOUS in it, as the villainess Vanity Fair. It also stars Malcom McDowell.
Oliver Twist (1982)
One of the half a dozen or more adaptations of Dickens’ classic orphan story, with Tim Curry playing Bill Sykes. Dame Eileen plays Mrs. Mann.
The Dresser (1983)
I came very close to not including this film because of the lack of any photographs of Eileen Atkins in it. It just so happened that I was looking for something else entirely when I stumbled across this photo, so there you go.
Titus Andronicus (1985)
Dame Eileen plays the captive Gothic queen, Tamora, in this adaptation of Shakespeare’s play. It is clearly very 1980s.
Pretty sure this is one of Kendra’s favorite films of all time, and I can’t disagree. We both quote it pretty relentlessly. Dame Eileen plays Judith Starkadder, the mentally unstable matriarch of the sprawling, backwater English family that owns Cold Comfort Farm.
David Copperfield (2000)
Dame Eileen is Jane Murdstone in yet another “it’s been three years so we need to make a new adaptation of a Dickens book” film.
Directed by Robert Altman, script written by Julian Fellows, and a delight to watch an all-star ensemble cast. Dame Eileen plays the head cook at the Edwardian mansion. Two other dames appear alongside her, Maggie Smith and Helen Mirren.
A TV film that explores the relationship between King George VI (known to his family as “Bertie”) and his wife, Queen Elizabeth. Dame Eileen plays Mary, the Queen Mother, and de facto matriarch of the House of Windsor. Wikipedia has informed me that the show was commissioned as part of the celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee. I remember watching this around the time it came out and being really impressed by Dame Eileen’s portrayal of the Queen Mum.
I’ve never really been inclined to watch this film, even though it got great reviews for the costuming (and acting, but y’know, we’re a costuming blog so I have my priorities). Dame Eileen plays Maddy, a character that I’m not entirely sure serves what purpose in the film, because everyone is so focused on the performances of Jude Law and Nicole Kidman.
I’m not sure if it really surprised anyone, but it surprised the three of us: We really liked this film. Dame Eileen plays Miss Matilda Crawley, the aunt of Becky Sharp’s love interest, Captain Crawley.
Ask the Dust (2006)
Dame Eileen plays Mrs. Hargraves in this film set in Depression-era Los Angeles.
Marple: Towards Zero (2008)
I really need to get around to watching the Marple series. So many great actors have cameos in it (this episode also features Julian Sands and Tom Baker), and I adore Geraldine MacEwan. And here’s yet another cameo of a great British actress … Dame Eileen plays Lady Tressilian, whose home is at the center of two murders.
One of those comfort flicks. Dame Eileen won a BAFTA for her role as Miss Deborah Jenkyns.
Dame Eileen as Eleanor of Aquitaine. Need I say more? Oh, just that I really want her circlet.
Poirot: Murder on the Orient Express (2010)
Dame Eileen is Princess Dragomiroff in this star-powered feature-length TV film.
Dame Eileen plays Lady Holland.
The Scapegoat (2012)
The film is about a doppelgänger who finds himself in the middle of the other lookalike’s screwed up life, trying to make sense of all of it.
Magic in the Moonlight (2014)
Based on the description, I wanted to watch this film until I found out it’s a Woody Allen film. Nope. Can’t do it. If anyone else has watched it, let me know if it’s good, but I won’t suffer through another Allen film if I have any choice in the matter.
Dame Eileen plays yet another Queen Mum, this time Queen Elizabeth, the mother of Elizabeth II.
What’s your favorite historical costume role by Eileen Atkins? Share it with us in the comments.