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Margaret Rutherford first came to prominence following World War II in the film adaptations of Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit, and Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest.
Born in South London, she made her stage debut in 1925 at the Old Vic. However, her appearance was such that romantic heroines were almost out of the question, and she soon established her name in comedy, appearing in many of the most successful British films of the mid-20th century. In most of these films, she had originally played the role on stage. She married actor Stringer Davis in 1945 and they often appeared together in films.
In 1961, she first played the film role with which she was most often associated in later life, that of Miss Marple in a series of films based on the novels of Agatha Christie. Rutherford took great umbrage when she learned that Christie had expressed concerns about her (Rutherford's) girth as Miss Marple is usually portrayed and played as a trim, tallish spinster.
Rutherford won a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for The VIPs (1963), as the absent-minded Duchess of Brighton, opposite Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, but she did not appear in person at the telecast to receive the award.
Rutherford was awarded an OBE in 1961 and in 1967 she was created a Dame of the British Empire (DBE).
Rutherford was a cousin of the radical left-wing Labour politician Tony Benn. She suffered from Alzheimer's disease at the end of her life, and died 11 days after her 80th birthday, of complications from a hip injury. She is buried along with her husband in the graveyard of St. James Church, Gerrards Cross.