Monday, August 18, 2008

Film Flashback: To Serve Them All My Days

This title of a miniseries televised on PBS, based on R. F. Delderfield's novel, evokes nostalgic memories more than the production itself, whose content flies through my head whirling with vague images of schoolboys and young men in uniform. I don't remember a whole lot of detail about this miniseries except that I loved it, and that the subject matter dealt with young men. Since I first viewed To Serve Them All My Days on Masterpiece Theatre, when it first aired in the early 1980s...1982 to be precise, my interest wasn't stimulated by burgeoning hormones. I was only 9 years old at the time. Instead I was enraptured by the scenery first and foremost, the costumes, and the British accents. I was similarly ethralled by The Flame Trees of Thika, which I had seen on Masterpiece Theatre just months prior.

Now that I'm all grown up and then some, I'd like to revisit that visual jewel of a television series which captured my youthful attention and helped cement my ongoing love affair with British culture. Now that I have re-familiarized myself with the plot, I realize that the emotional pull of this series [I never read the book] had much to do with my heartfelt approval of it, in the same vein as John Knowles' A Separate Peace which I did read a few years later. The issues of class in English society during the 1920s and 30s as well as the emotional fallout of military service and conscription are brought to bear. These issues transcend generations, culture, and geography and can be quite complicated or quite simple, depending on one's philosophical views or personal experiences.

But what I really want to delve into a little further right now is the large cast of this production. When I glance over the cast list, a few names pop out and I recognize them immediately. I had known for many many years that Matthew Waterhouse who played Briarley also portrayed the Portrieve [oh no I jest - a little Doctor Who humor here] or rather Adric, the Fifth Doctor's companion. I also know that the late Frank Middlemass who played Headmaster Algy Herries also brought the character of Rocky Hardcastle to life in As Time Goes By.

Now here's something I didn't know but am absolutely tickled to have found out. Belinda Lang, otherwise known as Belinda Hawk, played Beth Marwood Powlett-Jones in To Serve Them All My Days. She also played Alleyn's wife Agatha Troy in the Inspector Alleyn Mysteries. What I failed to ascertain before now is that in real life Ms. Lang is married to none other than Hugh Fraser, who portrayed Captain Hastings so winningly to David Suchet's Hercules Poirot. I was also clueless that Tim Wylton, who played Griff, was the same actor who played both Lol Farris in As Time Goes By and Stanley Dawkins in My Hero. These two characters are so dissimilar in appearance and practically everything else that I still can't believe that they were portrayed by the same man - now that's good acting.

Continuing on with the cast list, a young Nicholas Lyndhurst of Only Fools and Horses and Goodnight Sweetheart fame played Dobson. And finally the main character David Powlett-Jones was portrayed by John Duttine, whose face is the only one I can remember from the series but only hazily. He is married to Mel Martin and has also appeared in Midsomer Murders, Eastenders, and Dalziel and Pascoe.

Hmmm, I do think that To Serve Them All My Days needs to be placed in my movie queue straight away. Will do.

[Starting from the top, photo of To Serve Them All My Days poster is from Spout, photo of Frank Middlemass is from Muppet Wiki, photo of Belinda Lang is from Haig Lang Productions, photo of Tim Wylton is from The Importance of Being Earnest, and photo of John Duttine is from Heartbeat Autographs]

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