The Lady in the Van tells the true story of Alan Bennett's strained friendship with Miss Mary Shepherd, an eccentric homeless woman whom Bennett befriended in the 1970s before allowing her temporarily to park her Bedford van in the driveway of his Camden home. She stayed there for 15 years. As the story develops Bennett learns that Miss Shepherd is really Margaret Fairchild (died 1989), a former gifted pupil of the pianist Alfred Cortot. She had played Chopin in a promenade concert, tried to become a nun, was committed to an institution by her brother, escaped, had an accident when her van was hit by a motorcyclist for which she believed herself to blame, and thereafter lived in fear of arrest.
During one montage showing the passage of several years, Miss Shepherd decorates her van with Union Jacks and pictures of Queen Elizabeth II. This means it is 1977 (the year of the Queen's silver jubilee). See more »
There are a couple of historical mistakes which the filmmakers perhaps missed, and which show the hazard of filming in today's environment. In one of the early street scenes, circa 1974, Miss Shepherd is seen walking away from a crossroads. The traffic signals shown there are a modern design, not introduced until 1997. In another scene where she is seen with Alan Bennett near the gates of the convent, the block of flats in the background have modern double-glazing. In the 1970s, this would either have been single-glazed with wood frames or light aluminium. See more »
The smell is sweet, with urine only a minor component, the prevalent odor suggesting the inside of someone's ear. Dank clothes are there, too, wet wool and onions, which she eats raw. Plus, what for me has always been the essence of poverty, damp newspaper. Miss Shepherd's multi-flavored aroma is masked by a liberal application of various talcum powders, with Yardley's Lavender always a favorite. And currently it is this genteel fragrance that dominates the second subject, ...
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During the first part of the credits, a young Margaret can be seen playing the piano at her concert in King's Hall. See more »
13 November 2015 Film of Choice at The Plaza Dorchester This Afternoon
The Lady in the Van. Dame Maggie Smith delivers an outstanding
performance as the irascible old lady who moved into Alan Bennet's driveway. Complete with all her belongings, she and her van moved in for a couple of months and stayed for 15 years. This mostly true story is not a comedy, in fact, much the reverse, however, the brilliance that is Dame Maggie Smith brought a huge range of emotions to the screen. Having seen her interviewed recently I think she has brought a large percentage of her own personality to this character and there are many moments of mirth provided by the dry humour and sheer bloody mindedness of the lady in the van. A very astute woman who lived in fear, but also a strong minded woman who faced day to day head on and completely lived by her own unique rules. Quite a thought provoking film, brought to us by the very talented Alan Bennett and starring one of our best actresses. We were also treated to a very accomplished performance by Alex Jennings who played Alan Bennett. This deserves awards aplenty!!!!!
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