Dodie Smith (May 3, 1896 – November 24, 1990), born Dorothy Gladys Smith, was a British novelist and playwright. Best known for The Hundred and One Dalmatians, her young adult novel I Capture the Castle is also a beloved classic work. Smith came to her love of theatre early, with many of her family members either enthusiasts or amateurs in that realm. She chose to study at the Academy of Dramatic Art.
Success in the theater
Her first major play, Autumn Crocus, was published under the ambiguous name C.L. Anthony in 1931. She need not have hidden behind her nom de plume, as the piece was quite successful. When the true identity was exposed, newspapers called her the “shop girl playwright” as she had been working to support herself at a furniture store.
Smith wrote a string of successful plays that made it to the London stage in the 1930s and 1940s, including the aforementioned Autumn Crocus, as well as Call It A Day (the longest running of all her work), Dear Octopus, and Lovers and Friends.
I Capture the Castle
In 1939 Smith married Alec Beesley, who was a longtime friend and her manager. The two moved to the U.S. in the 1940s due to his stance as a conscientious objector in Britain. Her homesickness for England inspired her to write I Capture the Castle, her first novel, which was published in 1948. It immediately gained and still enjoys a devoted following.
The 101 Dalmatians
Smith and her husband returned to England in 1953, and in 1956 The Hundred and One Dalmatians was published. It’s arguably her most famous work due to the animated Disney film of 1961 (released as The One Hundred and One Dalmatians, later shortened to The 101 Dalmatians), and the live action version of 1996, titled The 101 Dalmatians, starring Glenn Close as the villainess Cruella DeVil.
Smith’s later life found her rekindling her theatrical pursuits as well as writing a series of memoirs, starting with the phrase “Look Back.” She died on November 24, 1990, approaching her mid-90s.
- I Capture the Castle (1948)
- The Hundred and One Dalmatians (1956)
- The New Moon with the Old (1963)
- The Town in Bloom (1965)
- The Starlight Barking (1967)
- It Ends in Revelations (1967)
- Look Back with Love: a Manchester Childhood (1974)
- Look Back with Mixed Feelings (1978)
- Look Back with Astonishment (1979)
- Look Back with Gratitude (1985)
- Dear Dodie by Valerie Grove
- Dodie Smith on Wikipedia
- Reader discussion of Dodie Smith’s books on Goodreads
- Dodie Smith page on Amazon
Film adaptations of Dodie Smith’s works
- Animated film version of The 101 Dalmatians (1961)
- Live action film version of The 101 Dalmatians (1996)
- I Capture the Castle (2003)
Visit and research
- Archive of personal papers – Boston University, Howard Gotlieb
Archival Research Center, MA
- Dodie Smith’s Home – Dorset Square, London, U.K.
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