Actor Madeline Smith made her name as one of the early Bond Girls in the film Live and Let Die. She consolidated her remarkable impact on the nation’s consciousness with iconic performances alongside Frankie Howerd and the Two Ronnies.
But there was always more to Madeline than met the eye. Here she tells RiverTribe Editor, Linda Duberley, how curiosity keeps her young.
The first observation you make when you meet Madeline Smith is her intense curiosity in everything and everyone around her. That is followed closely by a near perfect posture – that during an hour-long photoshoot did not waiver once.
There is an almost overwhelming urge to start calculating her age. Live and Let Die, the 007 movie that launched her career was released in 1973. Yet, soon after that initial impulse you stop doing the mental arithmetic. Why bother? All you really need to know is during our interview, the question of age ranked as the most irrelevant in a conversation that ripped along at in dynamic fashion.
In an era when we all live longer, the question we often ask ourselves is how to live better at the same time. Madeline has the answer.
“I love comedy. I love to make people laugh. It is what makes me get up in the morning. I have had my share of troubles but I have always been able to pull myself together. I love where I live and I love the history of Richmond. I think being curious keeps me young.”
Madeline Smith, whose character, Miss Carusoe, played opposite Roger Moore’s James Bond, was the ultimate glamour girl – her electric blue evening gown falling to the floor when Bond slid down her zipper with his magnetic watch. What is remarkable is that she has lost none of her capacity to captivate men and women alike. If you could bottle it – I would be buying it.
The RiverTribe team met Madeline after she showed an interest in 17, the former 18th century Coffee House that is under-going a complete renovation by Roscar Developments. She loves history and often investigates heritage buildings in and around the part of Twickenham where she lives.
After a fairly erratic up-bringing, her father – who ran an antiques business in Richmond, suffered a nervous breakdown early on in her childhood. She and her mother moved to Kew. Madeline went to Broomfield Primary School and then Queen’s School on Kew Green but it wasn’t long before the teenager hopped onto the No 27 bus, rolled into Kensington and then rocked up at Biba. Where else. It was the Sixties.
“I was always with a group of girls. We got spotted all over the place because we looked like 1967– all woeful eyes and mini-skirts. There I was failing to spot shop-lifters – it was too dark to see anything at all – when the Assistant Manageress came up and said she didn’t think I was cut out for this. She suggested I give in my notice and leave at my leisure.”
Several weeks later Madeline was modelling for catalogues and looking like – in her words – a cadaver. She polished things up at the Lucy Clayton Modelling School before moving to Paris in 1968, meeting Georgie Fame, the iconic photographers of the era and several bands along the way.
“It was a different era. It all sounds very implausible now but back then the most unlikely opportunities seemed to arise and it suited me. I wanted an adventure. I went out every day determined to experience life to the full,”
It all sounds racy to say the least but just when you think you are building a picture of what was then called a Dolly Bird, Madeline delivers a fact that turns all your perception on its head. Her first boyfriend – like her – was a young Catholic, who is now a Monk at Downside. I think this is precisely what keep her young – a disarming ability to constantly surprise.”
So just when her career as was on the highest possible trajectory in the Glamoursphere, Madeline decided to upset everyone’s assumptions and study English Literature at Goldsmith – but only after tutoring herself through the English A Level she was too rebellious to sit at Convent School. Of course.
Her acting credits include starring opposite Alec Guinness in Alan Bennett’s Habeas Corpus and again Frankie Howerd in the Volpone adaption of the Fly and the Fox. Like any self-respecting actor she did her stint in Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap.
She married another actor, David Buck, but within ten years was widowed when he died of cancer, leaving her with a daughter, Emily, who was still too young for school. It was a bleak time and she remembers wanting to hide away. But Madeline possesses a brand of resilience and optimism which is hard to break. She forged ahead with her writing and acting.
True to form Madeline is now touring the UK, presenting concerts of James Bond film themes. At the time of going to Press, she had only just returned from performing at the Opera House in Buxton, Derbyshire before an audience of 750. Several more dates are in the diary of events which she will share with another Bond heroine, Caroline Munroe. We are all hoping she can persuade organizers to head for Richmond.
In this day and age when we all look want to look and feel better for longer, we sometimes forget the reward for a simple love of life.
Madeline hasn’t and that is why she continues to thrive. Live and Let Die was her film but Never Say Die is her motto.