Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)

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

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

West Wycombe Park, Buckinghamshire, England- Filming Location

West Wycombe Park, Buckinghamshire, England
The Importance of Being Earnest 2002 uses the lovely National Trust Property West Wycombe Park almost as another character in the story. As the country seat of Jack Worthing (Colin Firth) this drop dead gorgeous property is showcased both inside and out. Someday, I will get there and see it in person. (By the way, please visit Lacey Green Walks to see more gorgeous photos of the estate).

Colin Firth and Rupert Everett at a door of West Wycombe Park
The weathered yellow of the exterior of the house is very distinctive. You may recognize it in other productions (see below) because of it's colour.

Frances O'Connor and Reese Witherspoon on the stairs of West Wycombe
Thankfully as the story progresses, we get to see lots of amazing views of the interior as well as the exterior of West Wycombe.

Rupert Everett, Judi Dench and Reese Witherspoon in front of the ornate fireplace of West Wycombe
The yellow of the exterior is brought into some of the interior rooms to wonderful effect.

Some more views of the grounds which I have shamelessly borrowed from the Lacey Green Walks website.

The Music Temple, situated on one of the islands on the SWAN-SHAPED LAKE at West Wycombe
You can see why this estate is popular for weddings as well as for filming locations.  It is open to the public from early April until the middle of August from Sunday to Thursday (April is grounds only). The weekends are reserved for weddings or private functions and the Dashwood family live in the house, as they have done since the 18th century.

The distinctive double colonnade of the south side of West Wycombe
Dashwood...I know. Do you think that Jane Austen used this home as inspiration for the Dashwood estate Norland Park in Sense and Sensibility? The property was given to the National Trust in 1943 by the Sir John Dashwood, 10th Baronet (an action apparently strongly resented by his heir). The family retained ownership of the contents of the house and they still reside in the house.

Other films or miniseries using West Wycombe for a filming location:

W.E. 2011
The Duchess 2008
What a Girl Wants 2003
Cranford 2007
An Ideal Husband 1999
I Capture the Castle 2003
Daniel Deronda 2002
Another Country 1984
Carrington 1995
Austenland 2012

Funny that Colin Firth and Rupert Everett were in both Another Country and The Importance of Being Earnest. Everything comes full circle I suppose!

And is anyone else excited about seeing JJ Feild, Keri Russell, Jennifer Coolidge and Bret McKenzie in Austenland later this year?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Downton Abbey Season 2: Episode Four

Matthew returns from the front
Well, we knew the war would come to Downton eventually. After being sent "over the top" Matthew and William don't make it out unscathed. They both do make it back to Downton eventually, although it takes some doing by Violet to get William back from the hospital in Leeds.

Daisy does the right thing!
Some of the finest acting in this episode was from the actress playing Daisy. She is understandably reluctant to let William know her true feelings, yet she does the right thing and brings everyone to tears at the end.

Bates and Anna in church
They are really leaving us hanging about Anna and Bates. Are we waiting for the divorce to be finalized? Well that leaves the door open for Vera to stick her evil snoot in again doesn't it? Hmmmmm. Very silly of Bates to pay her off before he was actually divorced and remarried. Lovely scene with them praying for Matthew and William.

"Is this an instrument of communication or torture?"
The best lines (and the comic relief) came from the Dowager Countess again. Bless Maggie Smith for her talent. She seems to relish every line she is given! Best lines from this episode:
  • "I am no Jacobin revolutionary. Nor do I seek to overthrow the civilized world. We just need one bed for a young man from this village."
  • "It always happens when you give these little people power. It goes to their heads like strong drink."
  • "Is this an instrument of communication or torture?"
  • "Sometimes we must let the blow fall by degrees."
  • "I hope it's not vulgar in me to suggest that you find some way to overcome your scruples."
  • "I have a cold." Sniff!

Nurse Mary and Matthew- tender moment
Interesting to see the drama playing out between Matthew, Lavinia and Mary when his "medical condition" is revealed. A lot of code words bandied about! And poor Mary had to go and admit her sins to slimy Sir Richard Carlisle (the predecessor of Rupert Murdoch, and just as icky). Her future takes another swerve!

Mrs. Hughs takes food swiped from Downton to Ethel and her baby

Other quotes from this episode:
  • "I'd rather have the right man than the right wedding." Love Anna and Bates!
  • "I feel I've led him up the garden path with all that nonsense. I'm ashamed, I'm so ashamed." Poor Daisy.
  • "I'm not standing by while she brings misery and ruin on my lady," O'Brien huffs. "You started it all," Thomas responds.
  • Thomas wants to shake William's hand before he dies. "Is that sentiment or superstition in case he haunts you?" says O'Brien
  • "Have you got a handkerchief? I never seem to have one in moments of crisis." Poor Lavinia!
  • Vera Bates calls Anna a "floozy". Harrumph!
  •  "My husband works for them. We're not on good terms." Vera, really! Not on good terms?
  • "I don't think asking permission is his strongest suit." Oh dear Mary, Sir Richard really is a slimy one.
  • "It seems such a long time since I turned you down and now look at me - an impotent cripple stinking of sick. What a reversal. You have to admit it's quite funny." Not really, Matthew.
  • " I'll die if I can't be with him."

Daisy at the wedding
 Bless you Daisy. I think she really did love William after all.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Brendan Coyle- Actor of the Week

Brendan Coyle
An obvious choice for actor of the week (thanks for the suggestion sis!) is Brendan Coyle, as we have been enjoying him so much recently as Mr. Bates in Downton Abbey. And yet, he has done so much more period drama than just Downton Abbey.

Brendan Coyle as Nicholas Higgins and Richard Armitage as Mr. Thornton in North and South
If you haven't yet seen North and South, then you have a real treat in store for you. Brendan Coyle plays a working man in the North of England, a "hand" in a cotton mill and Richard Armitage plays the sexy Mr. Thornton, a mill owner. There is romance, politics, romance, strife and...romance? OK, Mrs. Gaskell does kill off a few too many of her characters, but otherwise this is the perfect book/miniseries combo.

Claudie Blakely and Brendan Coyle as Emma and Robert Timmins in Lark Rise to Candleford
In Lark Rise to Candleford, Brendan Coyle plays the intelligent but sometimes opinionated and difficult stonemason Robert Timmins. Again, he brings this working class man to life with a tempestuous but loving relationship with his wife Emma, played by the always brilliant Claudie Blakely.

Brendan Coyle as Mr. Bates in Downton Abbey
Brendan Coyle seems quite bewildered by the sex symbol status he has achieved with his Mr. Bates, the valet to the Earl of Grantham. We got attached to his character in the first series as he struggled with his injury from the Boer War and his new position at Downton. Now we are cheering on his romance with Anna. Go Bates!

Brendan Coyle as Manuel Mendoza from The Glass Virgin 1995

Mmmmm...this is one miniseries I have got to get my hands on. Based on a Catherine Cookson book, The Glass Virgin is a 1995 miniseries (1995 again-what a great year for period drama!), IMDb gives this description:

"Set in 1870s England, the story tells of Annabella Lagrange and the terrible secret her wealthy parents have kept from her. When she finally learns the truth, she runs away and eventually finds solace in the company of her family's former groom, a young Irishman with the very Spanish name of Manuel Mendoza. Together they travel the Northumbria countryside from job to job in his horse and caravan, Annabella trapped in limbo between her upper class upbringing which has rejected her, and the working class who are sometimes suspicious of her, only Manuel understanding her situation."

Apparently there are a whole slew of Catherine Cookson's novels which were dramatized in the last 20 years by the BBC. Sounds like another order from Amazon for me!!!!

Lately Brendan has been working on a Victorian thriller called The Raven, "a fictionalized account of the last days of Edgar Allan Poe's life, in which the poet pursues a serial killer whose murders mirror those in the writer's stories."    He is also working on a new TV series called Starlings, about a typical working class family in Derbyshire.

Brendan Coyle. Small baby or big hands?
And to leave you with, here is a photo which may give you baby lust (if not Brendan Coyle lust). The infant he is holding is, I believe, the offspring of one of his colleagues on Starlings. And by the way ladies, he is straight and he is single!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Julian Fellowes- Downton Abbey vs Gosford Park

Julian Fellowes with his Oscar for Gosford Park
Having just blogged about Robert Altman's Gosford Park  in June of this year it seems a bit soon to be revisiting it, and yet a sick day at home had me pulling it out of my DVD collection again. It is a testament to the brilliance of the film that you can watch it that often!

Gosford Park cast 2002

I can't think of a better film to watch this winter as we North Americans are savouring the second season of Downton Abbey. Both Gosford Park and Downton Abbey were written by Julian Fellowes, an actor/writer who, by being a bit of a toff himself, is quite well placed to write about the English Country Houses he has been visiting for decades.

Maggie Smith is the most obvious similarity between these two productions. She gets all the best lines in each show and apparently the characters were based on a great aunt of Julian Fellowes. (by the way, anyone else notice the similarity between the names? Countess of Trentham/Grantham?)

Constance, Countess of Trentham
Constance, Countess of Trentham: Difficult colour... green.

Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham
Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham: Oh, dear, such a glare. I feel as if I were on stage at the Gaiety.

There are other similarities as well.  The imperious housekeeper who knows all and anticipates everything.

Mrs. Wilson of Gosford Park
Mrs. Wilson: What gift do you think a good servant has that separates them from the others? Its the gift of anticipation. And I'm a good servant; I'm better than good, I'm the best; I'm the perfect servant. I know when they'll be hungry, and the food is ready. I know when they'll be tired, and the bed is turned down. I know it before they know it themselves.

Mrs. Hughs of Downton Abbey
Thomas: There *is* such a thing as free speech.
Mrs. Hughes: Not when *I'm* in charge! Don't push your luck, Thomas. Now, tea's over. Back to work! 

Although, the Butler with a secret past is perhaps more comparable.

Jennings the Butler of Gosford Park
Morris Weissman: Thank you, Mr. Jennings.
Mr. Jennings: It's just Jennings, sir.
Morris Weissman: Then thank you, just Jennings.

Carson the Butler of Downton Abbey
Bates: Even Mr. Carson wasn’t born standing at attention.
Thomas: I hope not, for his mother’s sake.

Jennings had a criminal record as a conscientious objector from the Great War and is derided by the constable. Carson only had a vaudeville past to haunt him, but seemed to be just as ashamed of it.


Sir William McCordle has a little fling with Elsie, among others

Robert Earl of Grantham would never diddle with the maids...would he?
Now the Lords of the manor are quite different as Sir William McCordle is new money (factory ownership) and Lord Grantham is from an old English family, short on cash until he married American heiress Cora. And our dear Lord Grantham would never diddle the maids like Sir William...or would he? We don't yet know where Julian Fellowes is taking this apparently devoted husband do we?

Maids caught in flagrante with their "betters", war heroes and shirkers and conscientious objectors, backbiting sisters both from upstairs and downstairs, and nasty footmen tend to be themes in both story lines. And the cook always seems to be grumpy at first but then ends up with a heart of gold.

Do you think Dorothy the maid (Sophie Thompson) would have gotten together with Mr. Jennings if there had been more time to develop their story lines? And do you think Elsie became a film star after she took off in the car with Ivor Novello and Mr. Weissman? The maid wishing to get out of service does seem to be another theme with Julian Fellowes. Ah, the man writes about what he knows and that is why we love to watch his films and miniseries.

Titanic 2012 airing on ITV and ABC on April 12
Speaking of which, publicity for Julian Fellowes latest venture, TV miniseries Titanic has been suspended in the wake of the Italian cruise ship wreck Costa Concordia. This will air on ABC in North America starting April 12, 2012. Who knew the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic would involve a real ship sinking along with the inevitable film versions? Eerie, really.

My blog post about Julian Fellowes and his novels
My Blog post about Gosford Park

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Downton Abbey Season 2: Episode Three

Lady Cora- New dress, new hairstyle!
Well, we certainly had some fireworks between Lady Cora and Isobel this week over their shared management of Downton. I sort of felt sorry for poor Isobel, didn't you? She looked like she expected Cora to back down, but instead her bluff was called. Mind you, she'll probably do much more good in France than she would at Downton, where Lady Cora and the girls seem quite capable of keeping it all under control. But surely Downton will be a little too quiet without Isobel. Bring her back Mr. Fellowes...please?

Lady Violet, The Dowager Countess, looking very smart indeed!
And didn't Lady Violet have some of the best lines again this week. I'm having fun trying to keep up with her!

Lady Violet:  I'm a woman, Mary, I can be as contrary as I choose!

Lady Violet:  It's like living in a second-rate hotel where the guests keep arriving and no one seems to leave.  

Lady Violet: God knows who the next heir will be. Probably a chimney sweep from Solihull!

I just about snorted my tea through my nose on that last one. Dame Maggie Smith looks like she is having the time of her life. She went right from Professor McGonagall to this role without skipping a beat. What more can an actress ask for?

O'Brien and Mrs. Hughs vying for sour look of the night. Mrs. Hughs wins!
I did rather enjoy seeing Mrs. Hughs catch Ethel in flagrante with moustachio man!

Mrs. Hughs: I may not be a woman of the world but I don't live in a sack.

Apparently Ethel lives in a sack if she didn't think this one through. This was not the best way to get out of service Ethel! You just have to learn how to type, you little twit!

O'Brien and Thomas aka "Poacher turned Gamekeeper"
And how about the look on O'Brien's face when she and her ladyship discovered Mrs. Bird's little secret? Classic! But other than this wonderful bit of meddling, O'Brien really seems to be going soft. Has the arrival and departure of "The Looney" as Thomas calls poor shell-shocked Mr. Lang made her reevaluate her evil ways? I hope not!

I do have to admit that I was tearing up at the end. "If you were the only girl in the world and I were the only boy …" By god, I love this show.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Romola Garai- Actor of the Week

Romola Garai
Romola Garai is a wonderful young English actress who has done many many period dramas in her short 29 years. She is right up there with Kate Winslet for the "Corset Queen of England" title!  For many of us, Daniel Deronda was our first exposure to her amazing talents.

Romola Garai as Gwendolen Harleth in Daniel Deronda
I think I may have to read Daniel Deronda now as I have just rewatched it and I am intrigued by Romola's character Gwendolen Harleth. Apparently F.R. Leavis (yes, THE literary critic referenced in Bridget Jones) thought that George Eliot's novel Daniel Deronda should have been named Gwendolen Harleth as the majority of the novel and all the interesting parts were about Gwendolen. the way, the dresses on Gwendolen/Romola alone make this wonderful miniseries worth watching. That and cutie Hugh Dancy! Hugh Bonneville as a baddie is pretty entertaining too.

Romola Garai in I Capture the Castle
I haven't yet seen I Capture the Castle (although just found out someone has posted it here on YouTube with the description of  "A love story set in 1930s England that follows 17-year-old Cassandra Mortmain, and the fortunes of her eccentric family, struggling to survive in a decaying English castle." I think I know what I will be watching tonight! Sounds amazing.

Romola Garai as Amelia Sedley with Rhys Ifans as Dobbin in Vanity Fair
In Vanity Fair, Romola plays the good-natured, lovable but fairly simple Amelia Sedley.  Romola does a good job playing the sweet Amelia who refuses to see any of her friend Becky's or her husband's shortcomings although they have many! The film rather whitewashed the sharper aspects of William Makepeace Thackeray's novel, but it is very pretty to watch and Mira Nair gave it a lovely Indian feel in all the right places. I should watch this one again sometime soon I think as I haven't seen it since 2004!

Romola Garai as Barbara Spooner in Amazing Grace

In Amazing Grace, Romola plays the strong supportive wife of main character William Wilberforce (Ioan Gruffud) in his mission to abolish slavery in the British Empire. Romola does her usual awesome job and makes you really think Wilberforce couldn't have done it without her!

Romola Garai as Briony Tallis in Atonement
As the grown up Briony Tallis in Atonement, she gets the sadness of the character and the regret just right. This is a love it or hate it film. Having just said that, I didn't love it or hate it...I was just meh!

Romola Garai as Emma with Jonny Lee Miller as Mr. Knightley
Well, Romola is my golden girl for her amazing protrayal of Emma. My sister and I will never agree on this one as Gwyneth Paltrow is her fave Emma (along with that entire version) but I have been totally converted to the 2009 version with Romola and Jonny. The chemistry between the two leads and the gorgeous locations, dresses, interiors, music...I could go on and on and on. I love this miniseries and Romola Garai is one of the main reasons. Her facial expressions make me laugh out loud and break my heart. Sigh!!!

Romola Garai as Victorian prostitute Sugar in The Crimson Petal and the White
As a Victorian prostitute, Romola is transfixing in this gritty portrayal of the seedy underbelly of London in the 1870s. Not family fare by any means, but if your taste runs to the more realistic and, again I have to say, gritty, this one is fabulous. There is nudity (which considering the plot is quite necessary). In this one, you can practically smell the stench on the street. I hope it wins some awards...BAFTA?

Romola Garai in The Hour
Romola scored one of three Golden Globe nominations for her role as television producer Bel Rowley in the 1950s era drama series The Hour. I haven't been able to get my hands on this one (also starring Ben Whishaw, Anna Chancelor, Domenic West and Juliette Stevenson) I am eager to see it. Romola must have done something pretty good to catch the eye of the Hollywood Foreign Press.

So really, I can't wait to see what Romola Garai does in her 30s as she has already made her mark. You go girl!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Secrets of the Manor House

Jennie Jerome, standing (mother of Sir Winston Churchill) with her mother, sisters and families
Most PBS stations are airing Secrets of the Manor House this Sunday at 8:00 pm, just before Downton Abbey. Although not really revealing many secrets, it's a fascinating program giving viewers some historical background to the aristocratic lifestyle portrayed in shows like DOWNTON ABBEY and THE BUCCANEERS.

Night view of a Manor House
"A fascinating glimpse of life behind the velvet curtains, SECRETS OF THE MANOR HOUSE goes inside the great homes of Edwardian England, recently brought to life on PBS’ MASTERPIECE. One hundred years ago the British manor house was in its heyday, sheltering families of enormous wealth and privilege within its stately walls. But what was really going on behind closed doors, where these wealthy families and their poor servants coexisted?"

Real life Butler Geoffrey Dymond at Manderston House in Scotland
Butler Geoffrey Dymond still serves Lord  Palmer, 4th Baron of Reading at Manderston House on the Scottish borders, south of Edinburgh. Poor Lord Palmer has been keeping the place running recently by letting THE EDWARDIAN COUNTRY HOUSE (MANOR HOUSE) film their reality show there in 2003. Lord Palmer also famously offered wine and sandwiches to anyone who would polish his silver balustrade!

The staircase at Manderston: Wine and sandwiches anyone?
But this is not the story of current day Manor Houses, which are rented out for weddings and shooting parties in order to pay the extraordinary upkeep. This show is about the heyday of the Manor House, where a Lord only had to find a rich American heiress in order to finance his lifestyle. Sound familiar?

Servants at Petworth House-The cook looks well fed!

This is the story of footmen and scullery maids overseen by the butler and the housekeeper, who serve milord and milady. As my great-great-grandmother worked as a kitchen maid in a great house in the north of England in the 1850s, I have much sympathy for the below stairs staff (Daisy is one of my favourite Downton characters-I hope she falls for William soon) but I also enjoy seeing how the other 1% lived and loved!

The kitchen at Dunham Massey House

So if you are ready for a nice lead-in to Downton Abbey this Sunday night, tune in to Secrets of the Manor House at 8 o'clock and get in that Edwardian mood.  Mmmmm....can you smell the fresh air now?

Dunham Massey House
NB Check local listings, which in PBS speak means that some PBS stations are carrying this just before Downton and some are not. Same with the wonderful series Sherlock which is being rerun on some stations right after Downton at 10 pm. However, residents of the USA can access the online video of the program at as of Monday January 23rd. It will apparently be on DVD and on iTunes as well.



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