by Douglas A. McIntyre

Judi Dench is onstage this holiday season playing Mistress Quickly in "The Merry Wives of Windsor." The production is at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford. As one reviewer said: "Miss Dench surpasses herself as Mistress Quickly — with song, dance and blank verse delivered in the blink of an eye with the energy and enthusiasm of one half her age."

Her other gift this holiday season is as "M," the head of British Intelligence in "Casino Royale," the latest and perhaps most successful James Bond movie. The role was played for most of the Bond series by a man. Only recently was it acceptable for Bond’s boss to be a 70-year-old woman.

In her role, she has affection for 007, but it never gets in the way of her judgment. Men of action must be held in check from time-to-time. The wicked gleam in her eye betrays both her authority and chemistry with Mr. Bond that is not altogether platonic.

Although she is one of the great classical stage actresses of her generation, Dame Judi seems to mind not at all moving between film roles as diverse as "Pride & Prejudice" and "Hamlet" on the one hand and chaotic Bond films like "Die Another Day" and "Golden Eye" on the other. With actors rotating through the 007 role, she is now the anchor of the cast.

Venessa Redgrave once said that other actors and actresses have always admired Dame Judi’s natural manner. And so it goes with the most talented stage presences.

The great British actors who could straddle stage and screen, Olivier and Gielgud, are gone now. Dench has ably taken up the traditions of Shakespearean classicists who are equality comfortable in the movies, and bring a sense of dignity and gravitas to their roles, a woman carrying on a great tradition.

Douglas A. McIntyre is editor of the financial commentary site 24/7 Wall St.

Start the conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.