Zoë Wanamaker is one of those ubiquitous British actresses that appear in so many historical films, but who doesn’t have quite the name recognition in the States like her contemporaries Helen Mirren and Emma Thompson. She’s known for powerhouse roles and comically abstract characters alike, with the kind of presence in a film that immediately commands attention no matter what she’s doing. American Millennials will, of course, recognize her as Madam Hooch from the Harry Potter franchise, as well as Cassandra, the last human from the Doctor Who reboot, but as you can see from the list below, she has quite the historical flick repertoire that is well worth checking out.
A Perfect Darling (1974)
Zoë Wanamaker plays Pearl Mary Teresa Richards, who writes under the pen name John Oliver Hobbes, in this biopic about Lady Randolph Churchill.
A Christmas Carol (1977)
Zoë Wanamaker plays Scrooge’s old flame, Belle.
Inside the Third Reich (1982)
Here she is as Annemarie Kempf, secretary to Albert Speer.
Richard III (1983)
I have yet to see this adaptation, but I really really want to now that I know that it has Annette Crosbie in it, and the costumes look decent.
A dramatization of Barbara Hutton’s life. Zoë Wanamaker plays a supporting role as Jean Kennerly.
Once in a Lifetime (1988)
All-star cast, but very little written up about the show other than “satire of the Golden Age of Hollywood.” The costumes look good.
This re-imagining of the Shakespearean tragedy takes place in the late-1800s. Zoë Wanamaker plays Emilia.
The Blackheath Poisonings (1992)
The costumes in this are by Jenny Beavan. I’ll be hunting this one down for a full review, for sure.
Performance: The Widowing of Mrs. Holroyd (1995)
Hmmm … early Colin Firth frock flick, you say? I may have to add this to the queue.
Yeah, I’m using a watermarked stock image because all the available images of Zoë Wanamaker in this film suck and her costumes are fabulous and deserve better.
Swept from the Sea (1997)
I can’t bring myself to watch this depressing tragic romance, despite the favorable reviews it received. If someone out there wants to do the honors, hit us up.
A Dance to the Music of Time (1997)
Another one of the sprawling, epic British TV series, telling stories about Londoners from the 1920s to the 1960s.
David Copperfield (1999)
I am almost willing to set aside my distaste for Dickens just to screencap this movie, because the costumes look amazing, and nearly every image of it online is crap quality.
So, this is one of those historicalized fantasy flicks that we always run into, where the costumes are clearly based on some part of history, but the rest of the story is completely not based in reality.
Classic and imminently watchable. Zoë Wanamaker plays Letitia Blacklock in “A Murder is Announced.”
A Waste of Shame: The Mystery of Shakespeare and his Sonnets (2005)
Annoyingly, there are no images of Zoe Wanamaker as the Countess of Pembroke online. And I have to purchase the DVD in order to watch it, so have this miniature of the Countess by Nicholas Hilliard instead:
The Old Curiosity Shop (2007)
Another Dickens adaptation. And again, the costumes look great, but … ugh. Dickens.
My Week with Marilyn (2011)
Zoë Wanamaker plays Paula Strasberg, Marilyn Monroe’s drama coach.
Wodehouse in Exile (2013)
Zoë Wanamaker plays Ethel Wodehouse, wife of author P.G. Wodehouse of Wooster and Jeeves fame, as he faces a charge of treason during WWII.
Poirot never doesn’t deliver with amazing costume content. Zoë Wanamaker plays Ariadne Oliver in six episodes between 2005 and 2013.
This is the reminder I needed to finish watching this excellent series.
Zoë Wanamaker plays Joan Littlewood, theatre director, in this biopic about Dame Barbara Windsor.
Zoe Wanamaker as Queen Antedia. That’s a lot of look for first century A.D. Britain.
What’s your favorite Zoë Wanamaker historical role? Share it with us in the comments!