Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)

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

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Secret Life of Mrs. Beeton 2006

I was finally able to sit down and watch The Secret Life of Mrs. Beeton recently. The ever adorable JJ Feild is certainly one very good reason for you all to seek this one out. My word, is that man attractive!

I tell you, any time this man is in period dress (preferably a cravat!) is a reason to give your full attention to the screen ladies. However, the Squire was perfectly happy to watch this with me, possibly because Mrs. Beeton was played by the very attractive Anna Madeley.

Anna Madeley is one of those actresses who pops up in many things, and I don't always recognize her. See if you can pick her out of this Sunday's first episode of Mr. Selfridge. She plays the brilliantly named Miss Ravillious! She was also Celia Ryder in the latest Brideshead Revisited as well as Lucy Steele in the 2008 version of Sense and Sensibility. See what I mean? She is a chameleon!

I wish I could tell you that this film has a happy ending, but I can't. They both worked their tails off to produce the book Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management, among other publications. Mrs. Beeton died at age 28 from illness and Sam Beeton only lasted another 12 years before succumbing to tuberculosis. However, there is a wonderful love story before the sad ending, as well as a cracking good tale of one heck of a woman who helped many other Victorian women struggling to manage their houses, children, husbands and livestock, among other topics!

So, here's to Isabella Beeton. May I have half of her energy as I try to tackle my spring cleaning! Happy Easter, Happy Passover and cheers to Mrs. Beeton!

P.S. You will also spot Anna Chancellor and Jim Carter in this one as Isabella's mother and step-father.
P.P.S. One of my regular readers LRK or Lark as I have been calling her brought my attention to a new drama about the American Revolution called Turn in which we may be able to see JJ Feild in 18th century dress. Yipee!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont 2005

Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont is a charming story about an older widow who wants to experience life in the supposedly grand Claremont Hotel in London England. She is slightly disappointed by the shabbiness of the hotel and very disappointed by the neglect of her family, particularly her only grandson who lives in London but doesn't visit or even return her calls. She ends up befriending a young man (Ludo played by the gorgeous Rupert Friend) of about the same age as the neglectful grandson Desmond, after falling outside his flat and a lovely story unfolds.

Dame Joan Plowright, third and final wife of Sir Laurence Olivier and gem of the British cinema and stage is perfect as Mrs. Palfrey. Apparently she and Rupert Friend hit it off immediately, Rupert having been coached by his then girlfriend Keira Knightley as they were filming Pride & Prejudice at the time.


The story is from a 1971 novel by Elizabeth Taylor (the English novelist not the American actress) and was inspired by the novelist herself meeting a young man under similar unfortunate circumstances. It was truly genius to turn an incident in her life involving a skinned knee and a rescue by a lovely young man into a rich and touching story, perfect for adaptation to film.

Zoe Tapper who plays Gwendolyn, the love interest of Ludo (Rupert Friend) was so familiar looking but I couldn't place her. Well, turns out I had just seen her in Mr. Selfridge, the ITV series about the beginnings of the famous department store in London, which is airing in Britain now and will be on PBS starting March 31st 2013. She is a great actress in both Mrs. Palfrey and Mr. Selfridge (that sounds weird doesn't it?).

This film really makes me want to see Brief Encounter as well which is referenced in the film. I love how watching one film sometimes brings you to another, which you never would have found otherwise.

The writer and director, Dan Ireland is a fellow Canadian and apparently is quite adept at making a wonderful film on a shoestring budget. He has another film from 1996 called The Whole Wide World starring Renee Zellweger and Vincent D'Onofrio about a romance between a Texas schoolteacher in the 1930s and the pulp fiction writer Robert Howard (Conan the Barbarian). Apparently it has one of the hottest on screen kisses ever! Can anyone else verify this? Should we all run out and see this one too?

The Averard Hotel used for both exterior and interiors of The Claremont is no longer a working hotel as it was when this was filmed. However, Beaulieu Palace House is open to visitors daily and is just south of London. It has a Motor Museum on the grounds too for anyone wanting to check out their Bond Car Exhibit this year.

In any case, this film is adorable and if you get the chance to see it you will not regret it. It is not a barn burner but it will stay with you long afterwards, in the best possible way.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Impressionism, Fashion & Modernity (& Film!)

Claude Monet (French, 1840–1926)
Women in the Garden, 1866
Oil on canvas; 100 3/8 x 80 11/16 in. (255 x 205 cm)
Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Well, if you have been wondering why I haven't posted in a while, I have been in NYC on a business trip. I managed to get to a wonderful exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the museum set into the east side of Central Park) and wanted to share it with you.

Day Dress
American, 1862–64
White cotton piqué with black soutache
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Chauncey Stillman, 1960

I was in heaven, as I adore both Victorian dresses and impressionist art and it was such a wonderful change from the optometry lectures I have been attending. The combination of paintings, dresses, early photographs, fashion plates and various accessories such as fans, shoes and corsets was brilliant. Kudos to whoever thought up this dreamy exhibit.

Albert Bartholomé (French, 1848–1928)
In the Conservatory (Madame Bartholomé), ca. 1881
Oil on canvas; 91 3/4 x 56 1/8 in. (233 x 142.5 cm)
Musée d'Orsay, Paris, Gift of the Société des Amis du Musée d'Orsay, 1990

For some paintings they found similar dresses to exhibit nearby, but in the case of the painting above, they had the actual dress! And was it ever gorgeous!!! (see below, but way better to be able to steam up the glass case in person, not that my nose was pressed that close of course)

Summer Day Dress Worn by Madame Bartholomé in the Painting In the Conservatory
French, 1880
White cotton printed with purple dots and stripes
Musée d'Orsay, Paris, Gift of the Galerie Charles and André Bailly, 1991

So if you would like to see this exhibit yourself, it is at The Met until May 27, 2013 and then moves to the Art Institute of Chicago from June 26- September 22 2013. The exhibition was organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Musée d'Orsay, Paris.

James Tissot (French, 1836–1902)
The Shop Girl, from the series Women of Paris, 1883–85
Oil on canvas; 57 1/2 x 40 in. (146.1 x 101.6 cm)
Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Gift from Corporations' Subscription Fund, 1968

If you would like some film recommendations, I was reminded of a few great films and miniseries today.

The Paradise is the new BBC series inspired by the 1883 Emile Zola novel The Ladies' Paradise. We have no word yet on when we will see this in North America, but some of my British readers are loving it! The BBC changed the setting from Paris to London but The Shop Girl above could easily be a character in the story anyway!

We however will soon see the ITV series Mr. Selfridge on PBS starting Sunday March 31. Although set a bit later in 1909, it gives a great feel of period shopping in London. And who wouldn't love to go shopping in London in 1909?

Claude Monet (French, 1840–1926)
Camille, 1866
Oil on canvas; 90 15/16 x 59 1/2 in. (231 x 151 cm)
Kunsthalle Bremen, Der Kunstverein in Bremen

And if you would like to see a fabulous story about some of the Impressionist painters (hey even Emile Zola the novelist is a character) The Impressionists is a wonderful miniseries. If you need any more coaxing, Richard Armitage plays Claude Monet and Amanda Root plays Alice Hoschedé, his second wife. When I get home tomorrow, I am digging out my DVD to see and hear my dear Richard as Monet again. And to see those gorgeous dresses of course!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Women and Film- The Chick Flick and Girl Power

I love "Chick Flicks"! There. I said it. Really, this is what my entire blog is about, but it has taken me 3 years to really come out and say it. I don't like violence in film. I don't like unhappy endings. I like comedy. Not slapstick or crude comedy but really witty and fun comedy, interspersed with a bit of really great plot and dialogue. Oooooooh yes, dialogue. Words, words and more words. Why are we afraid to ask for what we want to see? Why isn't there an entire film company run by women and dedicated to making the kind of films we like to see?

Let's stand up and demand good films that we want to see. Good quality entertainment for women is really important. It makes us feel better. It helps us cope with the difficulties we face every single day. Pride and Prejudice 1995 helped me deal with a mild case of postpartum depression after the birth of my second child. It was really important to me. I am crying as I write this. And yes, a good cry every once in a while is really great. Necessary even.

I am not going to say much more except that we really need to let the makers of film and TV know what we want to see, and that we have the money to pay for it. And for the few wonderful men who read my blog and have exquisite taste in film, join us too! The world will be a better and happier place with more of these films in it.

There, rant over. Now if you would like to hear someone talk who has much more knowledge of the film industry than I do, here is the Youtube video of Lindsay Doran, the Producer of Sense and Sensibility 1995 and someone who has been making films for us for decades, this is a link for her TEDx talk on Saving the World vs Kissing the Girl.

And Happy International Women's Day my friends. Feel free to post your fave "chick flicks" in the comments below and tell us all which films lift your spirits or give you a really great cry when you need it.

Hugs to all!!!!

Here are links to my IMDb lists:

Chick Flicks I can't do without (modern) by the Jane Austen Film Club

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Parade's End

I watched the BBC production Parade's End which aired on HBO last week. I really liked it, although some viewers thought it was disjointed and hard to understand. Described by The Globe and Mail as "Downton Abbey on acid- or at least very drunk", this adaptation of the Parade's End tetralogy of novels by Ford Madox Ford takes place during the same time period as Downton Abbey and deals with the upper classes, but there the comparison ends.

Lead character Christopher Tietjens (Benedict Cumberbatch from Sherlock and War Horse) is a buttoned up Englishman worthy of an intensive psychological study as is his more than slightly frighteningly manipulative  wife Sylvia (played marvelously by Rebecca Hall from Vicky Christina Barcelona). I will only say that if you enjoy a thought provoking and many layered story, gorgeously filmed then this is likely for you. But I'll warn you that by the time Tietjens is in the trenches in France, I was feeling his angst. It rather put me in a funk, and yet I am so glad I watched it.

Well, I will leave it at that. I am not sure whether I will read the books now or not. I probably will, but the middle of a grey Canadian winter may not be the best time to tackle this heavy tetralogy of English literature. I think I may just stay on my mission to read every Georgette Heyer novel still in print. That will take me a while! And it will keep my spirits up until I see the first bulbs bloom outside my front door.

If you want a little more detail, the link to my previous post on Parade's End is here.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Mr. Selfridge and Call the Midwife Season 2 starting March 31 on PBS

It will be another month before we in North America get to see the new ITV/Andrew Davies series Mr. Selfridge, about the flamboyant American retailer Harry Selfridge who founded his namesake department stores in the UK in 1909. It stars Jeremy Piven playing the lead and Frances O'Connor as his wife Rose Selfridge. I was able to preview the first two episodes and I can absolutely recommend this for great Sunday night viewing. However, I think PBS missed the opportunity to retain it's Sunday night audience by delaying the airing of Mr. Selfridge until the end of March!

Doesn't Jeremy Piven look thrilled to be surrounded by those gorgeous women?

In the UK, the BBC rushed their very similar offering The Paradise (loosely based on Emile Zola's department store novel The Ladies' Paradise) to the small screen in the fall of 2012 whereas Mr. Selfridge didn't start on ITV until January 2013. 

It seems that the BBC didn't want to be burned again like when Upstairs Downstairs was pipped at the post by the superior Downton Abbey from ITV. This time the viewers and critics are torn, so there seems to be no clear winner yet in the UK. There is no word yet on when we in North America will see The Paradise.

I will admit that I am besotted with Call the Midwife, so I have also previewed the first episode of Season 2 for you (what a sacrifice I make for my online friends!). I loved it, as usual. This show is so charming and it really is "Girl Power" circa 1957. You go girls!

If you haven't seen Season 1 of Call the Midwife, many PBS stations are replaying it (Sun March 10 and 17 8-11pm) so you can catch up. Unfortunately not my local station out of Buffalo, but perhaps you will be luckier. Remember...Check Local Listings!

My review of Call the Midwife Season 1 is here. And my sister's review of the Christmas episode of Call the Midwife is here! Have fun with your Sunday nights in April my friends!



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