Dame Margaret Rutherford DBE (11 May 1892 – 22 May 1972) was an English character actress, who 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. She is best-known for her 1960s performances as Miss Marple in several films based loosely on Agatha Christie's novels.
Born in the Balham, London, Margaret Taylor Rutherford was the only child of William Rutherford Benn and his wife Florence, née Nicholson. Her father's brother Sir John Benn, 1st Baronet was a British politician, and her first cousin once removed is British politician Tony Benn.
Rutherford's father suffered from mental illness, having suffered a nervous breakdown on his honeymoon, and was confined to an asylum. He was eventually released on holiday and on 4 March 1883, he murdered his father, Reverend Julius Benn, a Congregational church minister, by bludgeoning him to death with a chamberpot; shortly afterward, William tried to kill himself as well, by slashing his throat with a pocketknife. After the murder, William Benn was confined to the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum. Several years later he was released, reportedly cured of his mental affliction, changed his surname to Rutherford, and returned to his wife.
As an infant Rutherford and her parents moved to India but she was returned to Britain when she was three to live with an aunt, professional governess Bessie Nicholson, in Wimbledon, England, after her mother committed suicide by hanging herself from a tree. Her father returned to England as well. His continued mental illness resulted in his being confined once more to Broadmoor in 1904; he died in 1921.
Rutherford was educated at Ravens Croft School, Sutton Avenue, Seaford, where she can be seen aged 18 on the 1911 census, the independent Wimbledon High School and at RADA.
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