Three things with Miriam Margolyes: ‘Marlene Dietrich signed my autograph book and kissed me’ | Australian lifestyle

Miriam margolyes certainly has one of the sexiest speaking voices in the film industry. It’s an accent so quintessentially British that the actor has admitted trying to hide it on occasion to sound less distinguished. But despite that distinctive Oxford timbre – and her near-lifetime residency in the UK – Margolyes has been an Australian citizen for almost 10 years.

“I became a citizen because my partner has been Australian for 54 years and I wanted to come and go without a visa,” she says. “Similar to what my mother did when she married my father, she didn’t love him, she wanted to be a doctor’s wife. Well, I wanted to be someone who can come and go. But now I love Australia and I want it to get better. That’s why I make critical programs.”

Her latest is Miriam Margolye’s Unmasked, a three-part ABC series that aims to understand what ‘fair go’ really means in Australia today. The documentary, which premieres Tuesday July 19 on ABC, will see Margolyes show how fair Australia really is, from polo matches to Bogan burnouts. It’s a gentle nudge that she says we need to “see things in a slightly different way.”

“Australians have a very inflated self-image,” she says. “They think that Australia is the best country in the world, that everything is perfect and that it’s the lucky country.”

While this gig might see her step into the TV presenter role, Margolyes built her career as an actress. Depending on your age, you might recognize her from her role in Martin Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence or as Professor Sprout from the Harry Potter films – although those are just two of many roles.

Before Margolyes became a star, she had her own movie idols. As a child, she would queue up outside venues to ask actors like Marlene Dietrich to sign their autograph books. Here Margolyes tells us why she stuck with this sentimental book, as well as the history of some other prized possessions.

What I would salvage from my house in a fire

One of the most treasured things I have in my home is an oil painting portrait of my father. It’s in my study, in a proud spot behind my desk, and I love it. When I snap this picture, I feel like I’m in touch with everything that came before. And it’s very light, so it’s not hard for me to grab. I could just lift it off the wall and slide out. It was painted by Anne Christie, who I’ve known for a long time.

I asked Anne to draw this because I thought I should have a picture of my father. Daddy didn’t really like the picture. He said, “Oh, it makes me look so small.” But he did was small! He was a little man. It is precisely.

An oil painting of Miriam Margolye’s father, by Anne Christie

I also collected autographs in a book when I was a little girl, so I had to pack that too. I don’t look at it often, but it’s irreplaceable and I have the signatures of the likes of Laurence Olivier and Marlene Dietrich.

I got Dietrich’s autograph when she came to England to do her show at the Golders Green Hippodrome, which I think is a TV studio now but was a pretty good venue back then. I queued outside with all the others and she came out looking incredibly glamorous and sat on the roof of a car that had come to pick her up to talk to everyone for about an hour. She was absolutely mesmerizing and compelling, and she signed my autograph book and kissed me. It was exciting.

My most useful object

My walking stick. I recently developed something called spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spine. And it means I’m going very badly and with difficulty.

I actually have two sticks. If I didn’t have them, I couldn’t really walk. And I like being able to walk. They’re only from the NHS – very ugly but very important.

The item I regret most about losing

I think it would be my little pocket diary where I jotted down all my appointments and anything I lost recently. I’m still in shock that I lost it but there’s nothing I can do.

I’m going to get another one but this was really a blow to me because I write everything in it. It’s a diary, not a diary – I don’t have time for that. I live life, don’t write about it.

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