Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)

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

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Return to Cranford for Christmas

The Ladies of Cranford return for Christmas!
Return to Cranford, or The Cranford Christmas Special is worth a view this December to get you in the Period Drama Christmas spirit!  If you adored the ladies of Cranford, you will especially love this continuation of the story which was done for the Christmas season of 2009 in Britain, but aired in North America the following January.

Joining the lovely ladies above are a few new characters and new storylines.

Return to Cranfod with Mr. Buxton (Jonathan Pryce)
Recently widowed, Mr Buxton has returned to his native Cranford with his son William and niece Erminia after a two-year absence. He can be blunt and volatile, often speaking and acting before thinking, but he is loyal, generous and down to earth. Though personally happy to live a quiet, unassuming life in the country, he has great ambitions for William, whom he is determined to see "marry up" and enter into politics.

Return to Cranford with William Buxton (Tom Hiddleston)
Mr Buxton's only child, William is bright and capable but, having dropped out of Cambridge when his mother fell terminally ill, he now struggles to find direction for himself without her gentle guidance. What is certain is that he has no interest in his father's political ambitions for him. He's far more excited by the technological and scientific advances of the modern age and engineering, in particular. But standing up to his formidable father and forging his own way will prove to be the greatest test to his character.

Return to Cranford with Peggy Bell (Jodie Whittaker)
The younger child of Mrs Bell and the deceased Curate of Cranford, she lives in an isolated cottage outside of town with her family. Though she's bullied by older brother, Edward, and ignored by her mother, she seems to have accepted her lot in life with good grace because she has a gentle and loving nature. But her solitary life has made her live too much in her own head, making her appear dreamy in public. Miss Matty feels for Peggy and actively encourages a friendship between Peggy and Erminia and William. Though different in many ways, Peggy enjoys this friendship and her true, surprisingly strong, character blossoms as a result.

Return to Cranford with Lady Glenmire (Celia Imrie)

A character from the original novel, Cranford, Lady Glenmire is the sister-in-law and social superior of Mrs Jamieson, though by far the more down-to-earth of the two. A genteel Scotswoman on the surface, she is intelligent, lively and very sociable – the exact opposite, therefore, of Mrs Jamieson. The Amazons are disappointed at first to find Lady Glenmire is far from grand but, once they get to know her, they secretly prefer her company to that of their old friend, Mrs Jamieson. And they are not the only ones who enjoy her company – Captain Brown finds her charming, sensible and energetic.

Return to Cranford with Erminia Whyte (Michelle Dockery)
The orphaned daughter of Mr Buxton's younger sister and now his ward (and William’s cousin), Erminia has lived abroad and has recently finished an expensive education in Brussels. She is pretty, musical and full of life. At first Erminia befriends Peggy Bell out of a sense of kindness and duty, but she quickly sees the true value of Peggy's character and they become firm friends.

Return to Cranford with Lord Septimus Ludlow (Rory Kinnear)
Lady Ludlow's seventh and last-remaining child, Septimus is much talked about in the novel My Lady Ludlow but never actually appears, so he is a newly-created character. He arrives in Cranford from Italy after many years absence, bringing his bored and louche companion, Giacomo, with him. Lord Septimus is beautifully dressed, prone to enthusiasms and schemes, but is easily distracted, particularly when these schemes involve hard work. He is also sentimental and nostalgic.

Return to Cranford with Signor Brunoni (Tim Curry)
A character from the original novel, Cranford, Signor Brunoni is an "Italian magician" advertised as Grand Magician of Arabia and Wizard to the King of Delhi. When tragic events in Cranford lead to his show being cancelled, Peter Jenkyns determines to invite him to return for a special Christmas performance. Colourful and quick-witted, Brunoni immediately sees through Miss Pole's attempts to discover the secrets of his show and finds ways to disconcert even the ever-certain Miss Pole.


Thanks to the BBC for the wonderful character descriptions. There are some great plot lines in this one, from the train wreck to the magician Signor Brunoni coming to town.  I particularly enjoyed Francesca Annis as Lady Ludlow in this series, as well as Tim Curry as Signor Brunoni and Imelda Staunton as the hilarious Miss Pole.  This series is not meant to light the world on fire but it will entertain you delightfully and it brings Elizabeth Gaskell's wonderful characters to life right before your eyes. This is the BBC at it's best.

Feel free to play the game of "I have seen that actor in..." below in the comment section. All of these actors have been in other period dramas and British productions so see if you can name a few without going to IMDb. Oooooh, now that's a challenge!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Justine Waddell- Actor of the Week

Justine Waddell
Justine Waddell has been in enough period dramas to be considered an old pro at the ripe old age of 35. Let's see if any of you have seen them all. I certainly haven't, but I am impressed with the ones I have seen.

Justine Waddell in Tess of the D'Urbervilles 1998
As Tess Durbeyfield in Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Waddell showed she really has some acting chops. This may be the best version of Tess yet! She'll break your heart.

Justine Waddell as Julia Bertram in Mansfield Park 1999
I think I first saw Justine Waddell as the younger sister, Julia Bertram in Mansfield Park 1999. It's a minor role but she handled it very well. I love this version of Mansfield Park although I know the Jane Austen purists think it is a travesty. I know great liberties were taken, but it is a lovely film and until we have a really great version of Mansfield Park, this is the best we've got!

Justine Waddell as Estella in Great Expectations 1999
I admit that I haven't seen this version of Great Expectations, but it sounds like I should. Visually stunning is used on IMDb more than once to describe this version. Opposite Ioan Gruffudd and Charlotte Rampling, Waddell makes a stunning Estella, so I look forward to seeing this version of Dickens' classic soon.

Justine Waddell in The Woman in White
I saw The Woman in White so long ago that I can't remember it. Must watch it again. If it has Justine Waddell and Simon Callow in it, it has to be good. Squeee! I just found out it also has Andrew Lincoln (the hottie in Love Actually who was mooning after Kiera Knightley). Oh, now I really do have to see it again. I don't remember him at all, but that was before Love Actually!

Justine Waddell as Molly Gibson in Wives and Daughters
Well, Molly Gibson in Wives and Daughters has been done so well by Justine Waddell that I pity the next actress who inherits the part, likely 10 years down the road. I can't imagine a better Molly.

Justine Waddell in The Mystery of Natalie Wood
Apparently she did a fabulous job with her portrayal of Natalie Wood in The Mystery of Natalie Wood. Both her likeness to the iconic actress and her talent have been lavishly praised by critics. I really must see this one too. It may have a bit of a revival now that her name is unfortunately in the news again.

Justine Waddell and Anthony Howell as Molly and Roger

I think that I will always think of Justine Waddell as Molly Gibson however. A great role for a wonderful actress. Hopefully she has many more years of acting and many more Period Dramas to come.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Elizabeth Gaskell Poll- Which adaptation is your fave?


North & South

Wives and Daughters
Which Elizabeth Gaskell adaptation is your fave?
North and South
Wives and Daughters free polls 

Next question is: Which other Mrs. Gaskell novels, novellas or short stories would you like to see the BBC tackle next? I'll start the ball rolling with Mary Barton. It hasn't been done by the Beeb as an adaptation since 1964 so I think it is long overdue.

Please leave your suggestions in the comments below, or just tell us which of the above is the adaptation you have watched the most, or could least afford to be without? This is a tough poll as all 3 are absolutely brilliant!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Wives and Daughters 1999

Justine Waddell, Keeley Hawes and Francesca Annis in Wives and Daughters
I can't believe I haven't blogged about Wives and Daughters yet. This is one of the best British period dramas ever, bar none! Written by the talented Mrs. Gaskell and adapted by the almost equally talented Andrew Davies, this production nears perfection.

This is the story of Molly Gibson (Justine Waddell), the daughter of a country doctor who gets an unpleasant surprise in the guise of a silly and manipulative step-mother (Francesca Annis). Thankfully she also gets a pretty step-sister (Keeley Hawes) who grows quite fond of Molly although the motives for her actions are not always as pure and her feelings not as easy to read as her new sister's.

Bill Paterson as Dr. Gibson with his beloved Molly (Justine Waddell)
The loving father daughter relationship between Dr. Gibson and Molly is wonderfully played by Bill Paterson and Justine Waddell. The viewer really feels for Molly when her role as the most important female in his life is usurped by such a ninny as Hyacinth Clare Kirkpatrick (Francesca Annis).

Michael Gambon as Squire Hamley

Squire Hamley: I'm not saying she was very silly, but one of us was silly and it wasn't me.
Anthony Howell is easy on the eyes as Roger Hamley

Mr. Gibson: Women are queer, unreasoning creatures and just as likely as not to love a man who's been throwing his affection away.
Roger Hamley: Thank you sir, I see you mean to give me encouragement.
Mr. Gibson: My encouragement is neither here nor there, if she can stomach ya, I dare say I can.

Keeley Hawes as flighty Cynthia and Iain Glen as the hateful Mr. Preston

Cynthia Kirkpatrick: I didn't sell myself. I liked you then, but oh, do I hate you now!


As I was watching this, my husband (I have taken to calling him The Squire) was popping in and out of the room as is his wont, when he started recognizing actors. "Hey, that's the dad from Miss Potter. There's the mom from Miss Potter! There's Isobel Crawley from Downton Abbey! Lady Catherine de Bourgh! Mr. Collins! Mary Bennet! Michael Gambon! Chloe from MI5! Sgt. Milner from Foyle's War! Mrs. Jennings from Sense and Sensibility! The Welsh guy from Coupling!"

It was kind of hilarious as he kept recognizing actor after actor. And this was only hours after he had just ID'd the dopey Lol Ferris from As Time Goes By as Mr. Gardiner from Pride and Prejudice 1995, which I had failed to see in previous viewings. He's getting good! Which just shows how many of my period dramas he has sat through. Or popped in and out during, always demanding a plot update when he reenters the room. Well, perhaps he is paying attention after all!

Molly Gibson in the rain
In short, I can conclude by saying this has to be in the top 5 period dramas of all time so if you've never watched this one, please do so soon, and if you have seen it, you may want to cuddle up and watch it again if you need a Molly and Roger fix. Molly is so adorable and that man can make a microscope look sexy! Well, that and the cravat of course...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sophie Thompson- Actor of the Week

Sophie Thompson onstage in Clybourne Park

Sophie Thompson is one of my absolute favourite actresses. Her smile and her eyes are so expressive and she seems to truly inhabit every role she is in. She comes from a very talented family, as Emma Thompson is her sister and Phyllida Law is her mother. But she is a force onscreen in her own right.

Sophie Thompson as Lydia in Four Weddings and a Funeral

Bernard: How's it going, Lyds?
Lydia: Bloody awful.
Bernard: Oh dear, what's the problem?
Lydia: I was promised sex. Everybody said it. You'll be a bridesmaid, you'll get sex, you'll be fighting 'em off. But not so much as a tongue in sight.
Bernard: Well, I mean, if you fancy anything, I could always...
Lydia: Oh, don't be ridiculous, Bernard. I'm not that desperate.

Sophie Thompson as Miss Bates in Emma with her mother Phyllida Law as Mrs. Bates
Miss Bates: It left us speechless, quite speechless I tell you, and we have not stopped talking of it since.

Sophie Thompson as Mary Musgrove in Persuasion

Mary Musgrove: Are you coming in, Henrietta, or is my cottage insufficiently grand for you?

Sophie Thompson (second from left) as Dorothy in Gosford Park

Dorothy: I believe in love. Not just getting it, but giving it. I think that if you're able to love someone, even if they don't know it, even if they can't love you back, then it's worth it. 

Sophie Thompson as Mafalda Hopkirk in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

She even got a small part in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 as Mafalda Hopkirk. And she also plays Hermione Granger pretending to be Mafalda Hopkirk...oh, it's complicated!

Emma and Sophie Thompson as teenagers

In the old family photo above, you can see that although there is a family resemblance, their eyes are totally different. Sophie has the wide open eyes that gave Lydia from Four Weddings and a Funeral her wonderful look.

Sophie Thompson and Richard Lumsden at the Olivier Awards 2011 (Sophie was nominated)
Sophie lives with her husband Richard Lumsden in London with their sons Ernie and Walter. She met Richard on the set of Sense and Sensibility. He played the coxcomb Robert Ferrars, brother to Hugh Grant's character Edward Ferrars. Her sister Emma married Greg Wise, who played Willoughby in S&S.  Up until recently, she lived on the same street as her mother and her sister. She moved all of a mile away!

I am now going to pop in my recently arrived DVD and see her in The Young Visiters (written by a 9 year old, hence the spelling). Also starring Jim Broadbent and Hugh Laurie, I can't wait to see if she is frumpy or glam. She can do it all!

Duchesses and Princesses- Georgiana, Grace, Diana and Kate

Georgiana Cavendish, The Duchess of Devonshire
I was pondering a few aristocratic ladies of the past two centuries recently and came up with an interesting theory. And that is that a smart commoner can make a much better Princess or Duchess than an ill prepared aristocratic beauty.  For instance, take Georgiana Spencer Cavendish, The Duchess of Devonshire who was portrayed by Kiera Knightley in The Duchess 2008. Although she was a teen member of the aristocracy, and expected from an early age to marry another aristocrat, she was wholly unprepared for her life as the wife of The 5th Duke of Devonshire. Sad, wasted life of a very promising young woman.  Her enormous intelligence and charm didn't save her from a fairly unhappy life.

Grace Kelly, The Princess of Monaco

Grace Kelly on the other hand was rather a self-made woman. She went to New York City at 18 to study acting and got her first film role at age 22 in Fourteen Hours. She had worked on her elocution and used a tape recorder to perfect her speech while at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She consciously molded herself into a graceful, poised actress. She coped well with the attention she received for her roles in Rear Window, Mogambo, To Catch a Thief, and when she won an Oscar for The Country Girl.  In short, she was made to be in the public eye. And she made a very successful princess. Yes, her life was not long, but she handled her role well and was beloved by the world.

Diana, the Princess of Wales

Then we have the tragic story of Lady Diana Spencer. Unbelievably, she is actually the great great great great niece of Georgiana Spencer Cavendish above. Same story, 200 years later. Wow! Again, we have a teenager, born into the aristocracy yet totally unprepared for the responsibility of being the wife of a rather cold older Prince. Well, we know how this ended up don't we? She didn't have to stay married like Georgiana did as it was the 20th century but happiness certainly eluded her, except that which she found through her children and the odd lover.  That does sound like her great (x 4) aunt Georgiana, doesn't it?

Catherine, The Duchess of Cambridge
So you see where I am going with this? Here we have another young lady from well heeled but common stock. She gets her butt into St. Andrew's University which just happens to be where Prince William will be attending. She befriends him and they date during their university years. She basically grooms herself to be a princess, or a minor royal at least if it didn't work out with William. She will do fine because she has consciously pursued this path. She is a grown-up and has her eyes wide open. And guess what? We the public love to see what she is wearing, what she is doing and what she has to say, just like we did with her predecessors. 200 years hasn't changed that much in a Duchess' life!

Thanks to the TIFF exhibit "Grace Kelly- From Movie Star to Princess" which my sister and I saw this past weekend during our girl's weekend in Toronto and which inspired this post. If you are in Toronto between now and January 22, 2012 I highly recommend it. Lots of Princess Grace's clothes including a replica of her wedding dress. Mmmmm....

P.S. If you are like me and can't get enough of the new Duchess Catherine, I can recommend a blog called "What Kate Wore" which dishes on her clothes and style in a respectful, almost reverent way. We all just love looking at photos of her don't we? It is going to get insane when she has kids. But at least she will be prepared!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Duchess 2008 with Kiera Knightley

The Duchess 2008
The Duchess is one film I am glad to own. Having read the book about the remarkable Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire I really enjoyed the silver screen version of her life. The costumes and locations alone would make this worth watching, but the tragic story of the vivacious teenager married off to a cold fish 10 years older is enthralling. It was marketed as a similar story to Princess Diana, who was her great-great-great-great niece and I must say, the Spencer family have some pretty amazing women. Georgiana was also the great-great-great-great-grandmother of Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York via her illegitimate love child, Eliza Courtney. What a story, huh? You can't write this stuff!

Kiera Knightley and Ralph Fiennes as the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire

I like both Kiera Knightley and Ralph Fiennes but I wouldn't call myself a fan of either one. However, they both do an amazing job here as the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. If there was ever an illustration of the saying "money can't buy happiness" this story would be it! I think the servants looked happier than this pair.

Domenic Cooper as Charles Grey (The future Earl Grey as in Earl Grey tea!)

The chemistry between Kiera Knightley and Domenic Cooper as politician Charles Grey is electric. So is the chemistry between Kiera Knightley and Hayley Atwell as Bess Foster for that matter! This is certainly a different tale than Pride and Prejudice, which was the other film Kiera Knightley did at Chatsworth in Derbyshire England. Real life doesn't have the happy ending that novels do however.

The famous fox outfit based on historical records from the Charles Fox Whig campaign

The costumes are breathtaking. Georgiana was the Princess Di or Kate Middleton of her day. All eyes were on her for style and she may reasonably be called the first "celebrity", followed by media wherever she went. There is a great scene where the "paparazzi" of the day are furiously sketching her outfit before she disappeared into a social event.
Charlotte Rampling as Georgaina's mother Lady Spencer
Charlotte Rampling is luminous as Lady Spencer, Georgiana's slightly scary mother. Not warm and fuzzy but very believable.

Hayley Atwell as Elizabeth Foster or Bess, the third person in the marriage
Hayley Atwell gives a wonderful performance as Lady Elizabeth Foster, the third person in the marriage. Starting out as Georgiana's friend, she ends up right in the middle of the marriage! Highly unusual, even for the times methinks.

The Duchess and Charlotte, the Duke's illegitimate daughter on the grounds of Chatsworth
Georgiana, The Duchess of Devonshire: There are limits to the sacrifices one makes for one's children.
Bess Foster: No, there aren't. No limits whatsoever.

"When she arrives, all eyes are upon her. When absent, she is the subject of universal conversation. And what we see her wearing tonight, I look forward to seeing the rest of you wearing tomorrow!" 

Georgiana Cavendish, The Duchess of Devonshire
If there is a fault to be found with this film, it would be that it romanticizes the Duchess and her faults. Her gambling is glossed over, whereas in real life it dominated her entire life. Her friends would avoid her so as not to be asked for money to pay her debts. And yet, of course, we want the romanticized version on screen, don't we? But she was an amazing woman...more amazing than can ever be shown in 110 minutes.

Having just re-watched this last night, I can wholeheartedly recommend this for an evening's entertainment. Especially if you don't mind a good cry at the end.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Jeremy Northam- Actor of the Week

Ah, Jeremy Northam. This guy can do period drama. Or period comedy. Or anything in a cravat! No, seriously, he has been in some of my favourite films. I mean first we have Emma:

Jeremy Northam as Mr. Knightley in Emma 1996

"Try not to kill my dogs."

And then we have him playing the only real life character in Gosford Park, composer/singer/actor Ivor Novello:

Jeremy Northam in Gosford Park

Morris Weissman: How do you manage to put up with these people?
Ivor Novello: Well, you forget, I make my living impersonating them.

Then we have him in Henry James' The Golden Bowl with Kate Beckinsale Anjelica Huston and Uma Thurmon:

Has anyone seen this one? I didn't know this one even existed.  I will have to track it one down and let you know what I think. It looks interesting, even though I am not a great fan of Henry James in general.

As he is maturing, he is getting some interesting meaty roles like Sir Thomas More in The Tudors:

Jeremy Northam as Sir Thomas More in The Tudors
Sir Thomas More: If the lion knows its own strength, no man could control it...

And I loved him opposite Peter O'Toole in Dean Spanley. An adaptation of an Edwardian era novella about a father/son relationship and a reincarnated dog. I kid you not. It is adorable!

Jeremy Northam and Peter O'Toole in Dean Spanley

"It's often occurred to me that pulling a dog away from a lamppost is akin to seizing a scholar at the British Museum by the scruff of his neck and dragging him away from his studies."

And in support of Movember, we have Jeremy Northam playing THE Ideal Husband. I may have my hubby watch this one again...

Julianne Moore and Jeremy Northam in An Ideal Husband
Sir Robert Chiltern: If you are suggesting, Sir Edward, that my position in society owes anything to my wife, you are utterly mistaken. It owes everything to my wife.

And he is uber sexy opposite Jennifer Ehle in Possession:

Jennifer Ehle and Jeremy Northam in Possession
Randolph Ash: They say that women change: 'tis so: but you are ever-constant in your changefulness, like that still thread of falling river, one from source to last embrace in the still pool ever-renewed and ever-moving on from first to last a myriad water-drops.

Be still my beating heart! And last but not least, my fave quote from the film Emma, although it is not to be found in Jane Austen's book, I think she would approve!

Jeremy Northam and Gwyneth Paltrow in Emma
Mr. Knightley: Marry me. Marry me, my wonderful, darling friend.

So...which of Jeremy's films is your fave? There were so many great films, I didn't even get them all into this post! Keep them coming Jeremy!



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