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.
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.
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.
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. She died on November 24, 1990.
- 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)
Biography about Dodie Smith
- 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.
Dodie Smith Quotes
“Contemplation seems to be about the only luxury that costs nothing.” (I Capture the Castle, 1948)
“It’s odd how different a house feels when one is alone in it. It makes it easier to think rather private thoughts…” (I Capture the Castle, 1948)
“The family, that dear octopus from whose tentacles we never quite escape, nor in our innermost hearts never quite wish to.”
“I only want to write. And there’s no college for that except life.” (I Capture the Castle, 1948)
“Perhaps watching someone you love suffer can teach you even more than suffering yourself can.” (I Capture the Castle, 1948)
“My imagination longs to dash ahead and plan developments; but I have noticed that when things happen in one’s imaginings, they never happen in one’s life, so I am curbing myself.” (I Capture the Castle, 1948)
“Even a broken heart doesn’t warrant a waste of good paper.” (I Captured the Castle, 1948)
“Time takes the ugliness and horror out of death and turns it into beauty.”
“I am surprised to see how much I have written; with stories even a page can take me hours, but the truth seems to flow out as fast as I can get it down.”
“Noble deeds and hot baths are the best cures for depression.” (I Capture the Castle, 1948)
“I have found that sitting in a place where you have never sat before can be inspiring. I wrote my very best poem while sitting on the hen-house.” (I Captured the Castle, 1948)
“It is rather exciting to write by moonlight.” (I Capture the Castle, 1948)
“Perhaps if I make myself write I shall find out what is wrong with me.” (I Capture the Castle, 1948)
“Certain unique books seem to be without forerunners or successors as far as their authors are concerned. Even though they may profoundly influence the work of other writers, for their creator they’re complete, not leading anywhere.” (I Capture the Castle, 1948)
“Truthfulness so often goes with ruthlessness.” (I Capture the Castle, 1948)
“When I read a book, I put in all the imagination I can, so that it is almost like writing the book as well as reading it — or rather, it is like living it. It makes reading so much more exciting, but I don’t suppose many people try to do it.” (I Capture the Castle, 1948)
“Just to be in love seemed the most blissful luxury I had ever known. The thought came to me that perhaps it is the loving that counts, not the being loved in return — that perhaps true loving can never know anything but happiness. For a moment I felt that I had discovered a great truth.” (I Capture the Castle, 1948)
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