Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)

Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)
Oh, to be in England...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The King's Speech promotional tour

Colin Firth is starting his promotional tour for his new film, The King's Speech, the story of King George VI, father of Queen Elizabeth II, his dramatic ascension to the throne and the Australian speech therapist who helped the struggling monarch find his voice.  I can't resist joining in the excitement with this post.

Director Tom Hooper, whose heritage is both Australian and English was particularly drawn to this unlikely story, largely unknown, about the friendship which developed between King George VI and his Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue.  The screenplay writer David Seidler, was a young stammerer himself during WWII and derived great inspiration from the King's struggles with his speech.  After writing the screenplay for the film Tucker, (for Francis Ford Coppola in 1988), he turned to this story.  However, after approaching the Queen Mother (widow of King George VI) for permission to tell the story, she asked that he wait until after her death, as the events were still too painful for her to relive.  Little did he realize that she was to live until the age of 101!  He was aware that some diaries and documents belonging to Lionel Logue existed, but by the time he finally got to write the story (after the death of Elizabeth the Queen Mother in 2002), it was only a few weeks before the film shoot began when the documents were finally found in the London attic of Logue's descendant.

Apparently, the script was reworked at the last minute to include much of the authentic information from the diaries and medical records.  There was also a three week rehearsal involving Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and the director and writers where each line was worked on and some jokes even added by the actors. Apparently when Lionel Logue asks the King if he knows any jokes, and the King replies "Timing isn't my strong suit", that line was written by Colin Firth!

The film is largely about the friendship which develops between the two men and swings back and forth between drama and comedy (something the Brits do so brilliantly) and is already generating Oscar buzz.  So you all know where I will be on December 10th when this is released in North America.  I don't care if I have to drive to Toronto, I'll be seeing it on opening night!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Christmas shopping ideas for Period Drama fans

Little DorritBleak House (Special Edition)I have a few gaps in my DVD collection so Little Dorrit and Bleak House are on my Christmas list this year.  What is on yours?  The only way your loved ones will know what you want is to give them some hints, and Amazon will make a wish list for you to help with shopping.

Jane Austen Action Figure
Jane Austen Action Figure
To adorn the desk of a reader, there may not be a better stocking stuffer than the Jane Austen Action Figure.  Very cute and a real statement for the cubicle or desk of a Janeite.  It even comes with a mini Pride and Prejudice and a writing desk with a removable quill pen.  If you want a full collection, there is also the Charles Dickens Action Figure which may or may not actually recite A Christmas Carol on command (just kidding) but does come with "removable hat and quill pen!".  What more can a literary fan ask for?  However, for my money the funniest (or more tragic, depending on your viewpoint) is the Marie Antoinette Action Figure with launching head?  OK, that one is not on my Christmas list.  Actually these reminded me of the hilarious Bronte Sisters Power Dolls which still don't actually exist.  Someone should really manufacture these.. I would gladly pay for their "boomerang book throwing action"!

Jane Austen Little Thinker
Jane Austen Little Thinker Doll

For a bit cuddlier Jane Austen Doll, there is the Jane Austen Little Thinker.  Personally I like the action figure better, but there are some who would definitely prefer a plush version and this one comer with white gloves, lacy cap and Regency dress.  All for just $18.99!  What a hoot.

Pride And Prejudice Trivia Board Game
Pride and Prejudice Trivia Board Game
This one is for the hard core Janite, but The Pride and Prejudice Trivia Board Game looks like a lot of fun.  There are a few of us out there who have read the book and seen the adaptations more than once (!) and who would probably enjoy this over a glass of wine during the holidays.
P&P quiz night anyone?

The Cranford Companion Wow! The Cranford Companion, a beautiful hardcover book, includes behind the scenes stories about the production, the adaptation of the script and the scouting of the English countryside for filming locations. Also included are a map of Cranford, information about the characters and interviews with actors who portray them. Gorgeous photos from the series and the set will keep you coming back to pore over this book for years to come.  A must for any Cranford fan.

Books, obviously, are a real weakness of mine and I have discovered a new genre, "Fan Fiction", which offers Jane Austen fans some sequels or alternate scenarios for her beloved novels.  I say that I just discovered this genre, but the truth is that I read a few some years ago, but recent offerings are a great improvement.  After all, there are only six Jane Austen novels, so this is a great way to keep that wonderful feeling from ending.  Some popular ones which will be on my reading list for the new year include:

A Darcy Christmas
A Darcy Christmas, consisting of three short stories each written by a different author.   Mostly there are great reviews for this, some lukewarm, but I am looking forward to reading this one during the holidays.  I especially like the sound of the adaptation of Dickens' A Christmas Carol to the Pride and Prejudice characters.  There is also a portrayal of the Darcy family over many years of Christmas celebrations, and a story about a little "addition" to the Darcy family over one of their first holidays together.  Sounds great!

The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy
This one doesn't come out until next year, but Mary Lydon Simonsen's newest Austen Fan Fiction book sounds wonderful. 
Here is the blurb from Amazon for The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy:
"Convinced that the lovely Elizabeth Bennet is her brother's soul mate, Georgiana Darcy enlists her clever and not at all snobbish cousin Anne de Bourgh in ensuring that pride and prejudice aren't able to keep these two hearts apart. All is going according to plan until Lydia Bennet brings scandal on the family by eloping with George Wickham, and Darcy is called away from Elizabeth's side before he has a chance to propose. It will take all Georgiana and Anne's considerable matchmaking talents to ensure that Elizabeth and Darcy are reunited in time to claim their happily ever after."

My question is how long it will take to turn some of these Jane Austen "Sequels" or more acurately, "Fan Fiction" into film adaptations.  Or at the very least, how long until we get a Georgette Heyer novel adapted for film.  Any thoughts?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Westminster Abbey in Film

Westminster Abbey at night
Westminster Abbey (recently announced as the church for the wedding of HRH Price William of Wales and Miss Catherine Middleton) has been used for Royal Weddings since King Henry I married Princess Matilda of Scotland in 1100.  Since then however, there have only been thirteen other royal weddings at the Abbey, including:

HM The Queen & Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten RN
On the 20 of November 1947, Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II), elder daughter of King George VI, was married to Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten RN (later Duke of Edinburgh).

King George VI & Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon
On 26 April 1923, The Duke of York (later King George VI), second son of King George V, was married to Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (later to become The Queen Mother).

Princess Margaret & Antony Armstrong-Jones
On 6 May 1960, Princess Margaret, second daughter of King George VI, was married to Antony Armstrong-Jones (later Earl of Snowdon).

Prince Andrew & Sarah Ferguson
On 23 July 1986, Prince Andrew, second son of Queen Elizabeth II, was married to Miss Sarah Ferguson.

Princess Anne & Captain Mark Phillips
On 14 November 1973, Princess Anne, only daughter of Queen Elizabeth II, was married to Captain Mark Phillips.

Nov 20 1947 wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten RN

Nov 14 1973 wedding of Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips
Although Westminster Abbey does allow filming at the Abbey, it is mostly for documentaries and historical programming.  Most dramatic films are forced to use another church as a stand in for Westminster.

The Da Vinci Code (Widescreen Two-Disc Special Edition)Many people who watched The DaVinci Code are not aware that they had to use Lincoln Cathedral  for the interior shots of the Abbey, although the exterior shots did use Westminster of course.  Winchester Cathedral in Hampshire was also used in this film and is the site of the funeral and burial of Jane Austen in 1817, for you Jane Austen fans.
Stone of Destiny

Another recent film, Stone of Destiny, a cute little flick based on fact, is about four young Scottish students in the 1950's who decide to steal the Stone of Scone from under the Coronation Chair at Westminster Abbey and repatriate it to Scotland.  (In 1296 the Stone had been captured by Edward I as spoils of war and taken to Westminster Abbey, where it was fitted into a wooden chair, known as King Edward's Chair, on which most subsequent English sovereigns have been crowned.)  The filmmakers had to use Paisley Abbey in Scotland for both interior and some exterior shots of Westminster Abbey. Of note: the Stone of Scone was returned to Scotland in 1996, where it is now kept.  However at future coronations the Stone will be returned briefy to St Edward's Chair for the moment of coronation.

The Young VictoriaEven The Young Victoria which had Sarah Ferguson involved as a Producer and had Princess Beatrice in a cameo role as a Lady in Waiting, couldn't use Westminster for interior shots.  Instead, Lincoln Cathedral was used to film the coronation of Queen Victoria.

I think many of us are looking forward to seeing the wedding of William and Kate on April 29, 2011 and I for one, will be glued to my TV set, just as I was 30 years ago for Charles and Diana's.  Good luck to them both!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Love Actually...Not Period Drama but I love it...

It is that time of year, when about a month before Christmas, I want to pop in my Love Actually DVD.  This has as many great British actors as you can cram into one film, and there was so much great stuff, that the extras contain almost another entire film (and some of the best bits).

For those of us who adore Period Drama, some of our favorite actors are at their best here...

Emma Thompson, as a housewife who thinks her marriage and family life is stable until she finds that necklace (I always yell at the screen when Alan Rickman's character cheats).

No Emma, don't open the present....

Boo, hiss.....(throw shoe)

Then we have Colin Firth as a stuttering sweetie, who is dumped by his girlfriend for his goofy brother (what was she thinking!).  He goes to France, only to fall for his Portuguese cleaning lady (hot, sexy, cleaning lady).


And we have Hugh Grant as the unlikely new Prime Minister (and Emma Thompson's brother) who falls for his slightly foul mouthed assistant.  Hugh's dance routine to the song "Jump" is hilarious and worth watching just for that!

Swivel those hips Hugh!

Take a bow...

The one part which is now a bit hard to watch is Liam Neeson as a widower, struggling with adapting to single fatherhood.  As he is now a widower with two young boys, after his wife Natasha Richardson died after a ski accident, this cuts a bit close to the bone, but as it was always the most poignant part of the film, it will only be more so now.  The extras do however have a really funny bit with Liam and online porn sites, which will have you rolling on the floor.

The total agony of being in love?

A rather unusual part of this film, deals with the love between two adult males, in a platonic way (I believe), with Bill Nighy as an aging rock star and Gregor Fisher as his "chubby employee" ("Ten minutes with Elton John and you're as gay as a maypole!").  Bill Nighy is a legend in British comedy.

I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes....Christmas is all around us...

Kiera Knightley in the unrequited love sequence is absolutely radiant, and made me Google "banoffee pie" to find out what the heck that is (aparently it is banana and toffee...hmmmmm).  Andrew Lincoln as her admirer and best friend of her new husband is both adorable and heart breaking.

Banoffee Pie...a bit suspect?


I could go on, but instead, I think I'll just go and pop this DVD in to get me pumped for the holidays.  Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers!  I have a craving for a banana split now...



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