John Stokes
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The odd woman
Margaret Rutherford

There has been little attempt to place Margaret Rutherford (1892–1972) historically, other than in a trajectory or tradition of roles typically defined as ‘eccentrics’. Even Rutherford herself referred dismissively to ‘my usual dotty old lady stuff’. This chapter, however, engages with the paradox that ‘eccentricity’, which normally refers to unconventional views or behaviour, has its own set of theatrical characteristics and is, in fact, central to the English comic inheritance. A comparative analysis is made of some of the ‘classic’ female roles that Rutherford took on, alongside an exploration of some of the famous parts she initiated, in light of the work of other contemporaneous actresses who may be said to have carried on the eccentric tradition in their own distinctive ways.

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Stage women, 1900–50

Female theatre workers and professional practice


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