Friday, May 30, 2008

Film Flashback: The House of Eliott

My DS Judy emailed me a few days ago and told me she was watching "The House of Eliott" from Netflix. Wow, I thought. I had forgotten about that gem of British programming beamed to us Americans via the fabulous PBS. I remembered that the 1920s costumes were gorgeous and that the series was about fashion. When the series was aired on PBS during the early 1990s (I think), Judy and I were really keen on fashion. Judy is an artist, and was always a wonderful drawer. Not a bureau drawer but I suppose I should say, she drew wonderfully. She drew figures and fashionable clothes, and I would try too but not as well. We both had an affinity for the 1920s era and so "The House of Eliott" really drew us in (there's that word again) as viewers.

(photo from bbc)

I decided to look up some information about the show, and discovered that Jean Marsh co-created it. Marsh also co-created "Upstairs, Downstairs" and played a short-lived character on Doctor Who. She was actually married to a Doctor (Jon Pertwee) for five years. Other cast notables were Louise Lombard, who played the younger Eliott sister and was only 21 when she started the show! In 2004, she starred, or at least became a part of the cast of CSI:Crime Scene Investigation - which I don't watch. The older Eliott sister was portrayed by Stella Gonet, who went on to appear in many British mysteries on television (nice!) such as Midsomer Murders, Inspector Lynley Mysteries, Murder in Suburbia, and Julian Fellowes Investigates. I've never seen Julian Fellowes Investigates but I'm thinking I need to look it up and find out how I can get my grubby little hands on episodes.

Anyway, if you love watching fair English (or Scottish in the case of Gonet) roses in beautiful period 1920s dresses and jewelry, you will love "The House of Eliott". Fashion during the Roaring Twenties - British accents - gripping drama - history. It's got it all. Now if there had been a stooped elderly lady in tweed coming in for a wardrobe makeover, who solved crimes during fittings, that would have been truly perfect.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Brideshead Revisited -- Revisited?

A new adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's beautiful novel Brideshead Revisited is set to be released in theaters near you, maybe? Hopefully? We'll see. You know I can just rhapsodize for days about my love for the original Brideshead Revisited - the miniseries shown on Masterpiece Theater in the early 1980s starring a young and relatively unknown Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews, who I think was brilliant in the role of Sebastian Flyte. The whole cast was brilliant from Sebastion and Charles' Oxford buddies to the Flyte family to dear old Sir John Gielgud. The cinematography, the locations, the costumes, just about everything was spot on, of the period, and just breathtaking. My love affair with Britain started right around this time, and I have this beautiful story told so visually well to thank for it.

my beloved, well-worn copy featuring Aloysius and a dashing young Jeremy Irons

So I do hope that the new Brideshead Revisited movie does some justice to the novel and to its small screen predecessor. The new cast boasts Emma Thompson going head to head with Claire Bloom's characterization of Sebastion's mother. Now an interesting bit of trivia that is posted on IMDB is that while David Yates (he who directed Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) was set to direct Brideshead, a more well-known group of actors were set to play the three characters seen above in the photo. Paul Bettany was set to play Charles, his real-life love Jennifer Connelly was set to play Sebastian's sister Julia, and Jude Law was supposed to take on the tragic role of Sebastian. AWESOME casting or what? Although I think it might be wiser to attach relatively unknown actors to the parts (like in the original), I could see Bettany, Connelly, and Law (especially Law) as those characters. Alas it was all for not. Whether those casting rumors were true or not, Yates did not end up directing Brideshead and the trio of actors did not take up those roles.

I think the miniseries also spoiled those of us who watched it in that it took the time to really flesh out the characters and the events. The movie's screenwriters had a lot of work to whittle the lovely material down to a mere 100 minutes, as is again stated in IMDB. According to that website, the film is completed and set to release in the Netherlands (?) in September of this year. There was also a rumor that they filmed scenes at Castle Howard again for the movie. Oh I do hope so!

Doctor Who Producer "Regenerates"

Russell T. Davies will pass on the Executive Producer mantle to Doctor Who writer Steven Moffat next year. Davies nurtured the second phase of the long-running science fiction show as well as created its spin-off Torchwood.

Executive Producer "regenerates" into... (photo from wikipedia)

(photo from creative screenwriting)

Incidentally Moffat wrote some episodes for Murder Most Horrid with Vicar of Dibley's Dawn French. And he is the mastermind creator and writer for the BBC series Coupling, which (surprising to me) was inspired by his wife Sue Vertue, who worked on Mr. Bean, and his relationship before getting married. Getting back to Doctor Who, Moffat who wrote the really powerful episodes "The Empty Child"/"The Doctor Dances", which I thought were some of the best of the ENTIRE series, should don his producer's hat come sometime in 2009 for episodes to be broadcast in 2010.

The New Miss Marple

Although I think Margaret Rutherford was spunky and Angela Lansbury vigorous as two incarnations of Miss Marple, the overwhelming consensus is that Joan Hickson played the role true to the character as written by Agatha Christie.

I love Joan Hickson and when I think of Miss Marple, I immediately think of her. To me she is the quintessential portrait of how Miss Marple should look, behave, and speak. Watching Joan Hickson on television, just looking into those large pale blue eyes, harmless but oh so shrewd at the same time, was pure restrained joy. I grew up watching Joan portray one of my favorite British detectives of all time, and I adored every minute of it. The production values I thought were marvelous, the villages, the climate, the buildings, and the actors. Peter Davison in "A Pocketful of Rye", could you believe it? And could you believe that she was 86 years old or thereabouts when she retired from the role? She was spectacular.

Joan Hickson, as Miss Marple (photo from wikipedia)

Then along came Geraldine McEwan in a snazzy or jazzy new version of Miss Marple, complete with bold technicolor costumes, makeup, and haircolor as well as alittle bit of raciness absent from Hickson's era. They also changed things up alittle bit as to the storylines, and I wasn't sure how to assimilate all of that. It was just so different. But I had to respect that they wanted to do something different because, let's face it, they couldn't compete with perfection. They were creating a Miss Marple for the next generation, and I grew to like it. I heard that McEwan's productions were very well received and I can see why. They also invited another Doctor to participate in an episode - Tom Baker no less. I was sad to see that he didn't get as much air time as Peter Davison did in his episode, but alittle bit of Baker is better than none at all.

Geraldine McEwan as Miss Marple (photo from daily mail)

Now McEwan has retired and a new actress is stepping into those sensible shoes. Julia McKenzie is the 7th screen Miss Marple, and she is rearing to go with the first episode announced to be "A Pocketful of Rye". I think it is set to film this year, and perhaps it has already been filmed. On IMDB, the cast list looks mighty nice with Fawlty Towers' Prunella Scales, Are You Being Served's Wendy Richard, and Helen Baxendale of An Unsuitable Job for a Woman and Friends fame. I can't wait to see this new incarnation of both the character and the setting, the actress and the production values. If anyone knows when this is coming out on PBS or otherwise, please comment!

first look at Julia McKenzie as the new Miss Marple (photo from wikipedia)