It is not very often that a husband can buy his wife a favorite Christmas present but I did it a few years ago. It can be done. It was not perfume, jewelry or new clothes but a DVD box set. My wife is a big fan of the BBC films that are called “period movies.” Many of these are those that are seen on PBS on Masterpiece Theatre. These British movies take place in the 18th and 19th Century when life was simpler and the surroundings were the lush green countryside of the UK. Many of them are works of famous authors like Jane Austin or Charles Dickens. In fact Dickens’s Martin Chuzzlewit and Austin’s Sense and Sensibility are two of my wife’s favorite.
She was really upset when I told her that an actress who was in those two films and several of her other beloved BBC productions, Elizabeth Spriggs, had taken her Final Taxi. She was 78.
Spriggs appeared in close to 100 films and TV shows but most people will remember her as the first person to play the ‘Fat Lady’ in the painting that protects the entry way in Gryffindor House in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”
I have been getting a kick out of watching her play alongside “House’s” Hugh Laurie in a early BBC TV comedy series “Jeeves and Wooster” playing Aunt Agatha.The British born Sprigg studied at the Royal School of Music as a child. She then taught theater and speech at Coventry Technical College after graduating. In 1962, she joined the Royal Shakespeare Company and stayed for 14 years. She won several awards for her on stage performances.
Briggs’ face started showing up on TV mini-series in the 70’s but was seen weekly on a Brit-com called “Shine on Harvey Moon”. She played the role of Nan from 1882 to 1985. She also appeared 1987’s Paradise Towers episode of “Doctor Who. ”
It was Emma Thompson’s 1995 adaptation of “Sense and Sensibility” that Spriggs would command a role that first won her worldwide recognition. Mrs Jennings, Sir John Middleton’s mother-in-law, was a colorful character that would warrant her a BAFTA Film Award nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role.
Other noted roles are that of the gin drinking nurse, Mrs. Gamp, in BBC’s “Martin Chuzzlewi”t and Mrs Cadwallader in another BBC adaptation of “Middlemarch”. My wife’s other favorite’s with Elizabeth Spriggs include “Victoria & Albert” and “Wives and Daughters.”
Her last role was with Michael Canine in a film to be release in 2008 called ” Is There Anybody There?”