Erica is a writer, editor, wife, and mom. She has always found employment with an English degree and she excels at nurturing children and animals but struggles to keep houseplants alive. Erica currently writes at

More from this author »

Five Awesome Old Ladies in Film

I can’t wait to have white hair.  Then, I will wear brightly patterned muu muu’s and house dresses and drink vodka martinis at inappropriate times of the day.  My lack of verbal filter will be viewed as old-lady-honest-wisdom and not as shocking-Truth-Fairy-serum.  All this is to say, Jessica Tandy was my favorite actor when I was EIGHT YEARS OLD.

Cocoon, Batteries Not Included, Driving Miss Daisy, and Fried Green Tomatoes are the movies I loved with her when I was growing up, though I don’t mean to skip over The Birds, Nobody’s Fool, and many other films spanning back to the 1930’s.  I loved her briskness, her pull yourself up by your bootstraps kind of characters, sheathed in a small frame with white hair and direct eyes.

Jessica’s been gone for awhile, and I realized during the recent Downton Abbey obsession that Maggie Smith is my new elder heroine.

I always like her acting (Sister Act, The Secret Garden, Hook, and Harry Potter, to name a few), but her turn as the Dowager Countess of Grantham leaves me in stitches every time she enters the room and throws down a witty, ball-breaking remark.  I will never match up to her, if only because I’m not a Dame* and don’t have an English accent or a plumed hat.

I must find a plumed hat.

You might expect Betty White to come next, but she’s not on my list.  I really liked Bea Arthur.  Let’s face it, she’s the one who kept the Golden Girls’ household together and running.  She’s so much woman that she almost seems to cross to the other side.

As a Betty White alternate, I pick Cloris Leachman.  She’s the one who goes for the gusto in places you might not expect her to be.  She’s great in kids movies but if you catch her on late-night shows and roasts, she’s a Dirty Bird in the best way possible.

Photo: Nina Prommer/Globe

While on Chelsea Lately, Cloris said of she and Betty White:  “We sluts are good friends.”

Judi Dench.  DAME Judi Dench*.  It takes a strong woman to be Queen Elizabeth I in one role and then boss around 007 in the next.

This is a gratuitous picture of Dame Dench playing M.  After all these old ladies in film (who I love and want to be, don’t get me wrong), we need a little Daniel Craig.


* The British title, Dame, is the female equivalent to Knighthood.  Dame Judi Dench once said that a Dame must behave well, and behaving is “very, very boring.”  Another awesome old lady in film, Helen Mirren, claimed that her “street cred is gone” now that she’s received the title.


Props for reading more…

Children’s Books by Famous Authors of Adult Books

My Train Trip in Pictures

Style: How to Wear Red Lipstick








Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Comment

Comments (5)

  1. Melissa Choate 10/03/2012 at 12:49 am

    I like Cloris Leachman too. She was the grandmother in “Malcolm in the Middle.” (Bea Arthur made a guest appearance on that show too.) I actually agree with your whole list.

    I think I’m going to make an awesome old lady. 🙂

  2. jani lebaron 10/02/2012 at 10:42 am

    I love Maggie Smith! I saw her on Broadway in 1968 in the play, “The Prime of Miss Brodie”. It had just opened; she was superb and she went on to star in the movie version the following year. She just gets better! Have you seen “Ladies in Lavender”? It’s with Maggie Smith and Judi Dench as sisters. It’s so good!

    • Erica Fehrman 10/02/2012 at 11:10 am

      Will definitely check that out, thanks for the recommendation!

    • Amy Allen Johnson 10/04/2012 at 1:35 am

      My first Maggie Smith memory is in “A Room with a View” where she plays Miss Charlotte Bartlett, the chaperone to a young, head-strong girl, Lucy Honeychurch (Helena Bonham-Carter). Dame Smith is kind-of a pushover in this but Still my fav.

      • Erica Fehrman 10/04/2012 at 8:55 am

        I finally watched “A Room with A View” this summer–so good! Wish we weren’t so spread out or we could have a Maggie Smith movie night!