Nothing Like Four Dames

DATELINE:  Great Actresses Reminisce.

Grand DamesGrandstanding with the Grand Dames

If you like good conversation with witty old ladies over tea and champagne, you may find Tea with the Dames quite your cuppa hot stuff if you enjoy BBC America.

The film is all too short but packed with anecdotes, and you are left with a sense you know these complex, often difficult actresses.

Dame Joan is now legally blind and unable to work, but the women go back sixty years in friendship. The other three are still quite active on screen.

They are literally four Dames:  English titles for accomplishments of women, an equivalent of knighthood. Dame Joan Plowright, Dame Judi Dench, Dame Maggie Smith, and Dame Eileen Atkins, are familiar to anyone who likes good acting. Now you can enjoy their bawdy and chippy chitchat.

The group is gathered at the home of Joan Plowright, which she shared with her husband Laurence Olivier. This is not some static sit-down interview: the women wander around the house, couple off on occasion, and the entire matter is interspersed with rare clips of their early performances.

They do tend to pile on Laurence Olivier, the god their generation of actors with funny stories. At one point when they are winding down, Dame Maggie notes to the director, “Did they tell you how old we are?”

What a thing of beauty and joy to behold for those who have a sense of history and grandeur. For these old ladies represent an age gone by. They were classically trained and paid their dues.

Toward the end we see clips of them receiving so many accolades and awards, including the honor of being made a Dame by Prince Charles or Queen Elizabeth.

Unusual and delightful.