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c. 1971

Hanging out with Maggie Smith in Malibu, 1971

Long before Lady Crawley or Professor McGonagall, Maggie Smith had already won her first Oscar.

You either know her as the personification of the Edwardian English aristocracy, or as a Scottish witch. But in a career spanning an extraordinary seven decades, before Lady Violet Crawley or Professor McGonagall were even twinkles in their writers’ eyes, Dame Maggie Smith had already won her first Academy Award.

This set of shots show Smith with her then husband, Robert Stephens, aged 36, in and around a house they rented in Malibu. They married in 1967 — Smith, then 33, was Stephens’ third of four wives. The couple had two sons, but just four years later, they were to divorce. Stephens is not as well known a name now as Smith, but he was an actor of no little significance.

He starred in 1969’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, as did Smith. Up to that point he had been regarded as the natural successor to Laurence Olivier — but the following year, Stephens would suffer a breakdown. It was exasperated by his drinking, and a downward turn in his career, which got worse.

His and Smith’s marriage did not survive, and nor did Stephen’s reputation. He was not able to reestablish his place at the forefront of English acting until the 1990s but died in 1995, aged just 64.

Smith’s career suffered no nosedive. In 1970 she had already been awarded the British CBE honour, was upgraded to a Dame in 1990, and bumped up to the even higher Companion of Honour in 2014 — an honor she shares with British actresses Sybil Thorndike and Judi Dench.

John Olsen / LIFE Collection / Getty Images
John Olsen / LIFE Collection / Getty Images
Michael Rougier / LIFE Collection / Getty Images
John Olsen / LIFE Collection / Getty Images
John Olsen / LIFE Collection / Getty Images
Michael Rougier / LIFE Collection / Getty Images
Michael Rougier / LIFE Collection / Getty Images
Michael Rougier / LIFE Collection / Getty Images
Michael Rougier / LIFE Collection / Getty Images
John Olsen / LIFE Collection / Getty Images

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