Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)

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

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Secrets of The Tower of London

Did you know that The Tower of London is almost 1,000 years old and was built by William the Conquerer as a result of the Norman Invasion of 1066? It was built for use as a palace and as a signal of the strength of the French ruling elite of that time. I certainly didn't know it was that old, and my great-grandfather was born in the Tower Hamlets, a few blocks from the actual tower.

Tonight most PBS stations are airing Secrets of The Tower of London tonight, Oct 27 at 8pm (my local station is airing it on Nov 17 at 8 pm) and it is well worth watching, no matter how much you know about "The Tower".

The history of the Tower of London as a prison for the upper classes is much better known although there are a ton of secrets within it's walls, not surprising considering it's age.

Tourism is the purpose of the Tower these days and although it no longer houses the Royal Menagerie, it does still hold the Crown Jewels and the displays of Royal armour.

So if you want to know more about its famous prisoners such as Anne Boleyn and Sir Thomas More as well as the Beefeaters and the ravens, tune in tonight. Of course, they can't cover every story associated with The Tower of London, but you will definitely be fascinated and the wonderful HD photography makes you feel as if you are right there in the heart of London. Great to get a peek behind the scenes with the people who work and live there. Yes, many workers actually live on the grounds!

The ravens were in the news this week as apparently two of them were killed by a fox just before they were put into their cage for the night. Who knew there were foxes in the East End of London? And there is a superstition that if the ravens all fly away, the monarchy will fall and Britain with it. Which is why the resident ravens have their wings clipped and why they have a few extra around "just in cases" (sorry, I occasionally fall into Love Actually speak). Sad that two of the ravens had an early demise, but I guess the foxes have to live.

In any case enjoy the program. It is wonderfully done and I can't wait for Secrets of Selfridges and Secrets of Scotland Yard. "Check local listings"!


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Frances O'Connor- Actor of the Week

Frances O'Connor is my actor of the week and I truly can't believe that I have not featured her before. She has done a few films that I watch again and again, and she continues to surprise us with new offerings. So here goes...

I first saw Frances O'Connor in Mansfield Park 1999 and continue to be blown away by her performance every time I watch this. I have not even come close to getting tired of watching Mansfield Park. And she gets to kiss both Jonny Lee Miller and Alessandro Nivola, the lucky girl. Wonderful acting, great chemistry and the best take so far on MP. Yes, it needs to be redone in a longer miniseries format with a Fanny Price more like she is written in the book, but I will still always love the Patricia Rozema version and Frances O'Connor is a big part of the reason!

As the spunky and sexy Gwendolyn Fairfax from The Importance of Being Ernest, she again rocks the strong female lead. I mean, who else could stand up to Judi Dench (playing her mother) and make Colin Firth do exactly as she wished, including getting a tattoo on his posterior? Incidentally, she outshone Reese Witherspoon by a mile in this one.

If you haven't seen the Women's Suffrage film Iron Jawed Angels, you really have to seek this one out. It is so little known and yet such a great film. Once again we have Frances O'Connor playing a real firecracker of a lady, Lucy Burns, and playing her extremely well. This film should be required viewing for...everyone! You will never miss out on voting for anything after you see this one. Loved it!

And of course we have the lovely Rose Selfridge in the recent Andrew Davies miniseries, Mr. Selfridge. Frances O'Connor is a bit more sedate as Mrs. Selfridge, although she still has quite a backbone! Just a little softer around the edges than some of her roles. We can't wait to see her again in season 2. I just hope they don't kill her off. In real life, she died in 1918. Please keep her in the series Mr. Davies!

There are a few other of her period dramas, notably Madam Bovary, which I haven't seen but would like to. Any other recommendations of fave Frances O'Connor films?


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Austenland! Finally!

I FINALLY got to see Austenland, the much anticipated and much delayed film about an Austen fan who blows all of her savings on a vacation to a Jane Austen theme park in England. Based on the book of the same name by Shannon Hale, directed by Jerucha Hess (Napolean Dynamite)  and produced by Stephanie Meyer (Twilight) this one was filmed at least 2 years ago.

So you can understand my trepidation in viewing Austenland, especially considering the mixed reviews it was getting. So it is with great relief that I can tell you that rest assured, if you are reading my blog, you will like this film. It is all a matter of matching the consumer to the product in this case. If you are a random person off of the street (especially a male used to action films) you will be unlikely to appreciate this tongue-in-cheek romp of a movie.

However, if you have ever wondered, even fleetingly, what it would be like to step into the pages of a Jane Austen novel, then you are likely thinking that if this place were real, you would be booking a ticket. OK the thought has possibly crossed my mind before!

I won't give any spoilers, but Keri Russell does a great job as the main character Jane and the two love interests, JJ Feild and Bret McKenzie were already two of my favourite actors even before Austenland. Jennifer Coolidge of course steals every scene she is in. The whole cast seemed to be having a blast filming Austenland, which only adds to the viewers' enjoyment.

The supporting cast is marvelous too with Jane Seymour as the snooty proprietress of the theme park. Rupert Vansittart (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Pride and Prejudice 1995) and James Callis (Tom from Bridget Jones) were wonderful additions and nods to some of the films we know and love so well.

So in conclusion, it's not high art but it is a hoot and well worth seeing. Enjoy!


P.S. There is a tour company in England called P&P Tours which will take you to a lot of the filming locations of your fave Period Dramas including Downton Abbey and P&P 95. The link is here:

P.P.S. My previous blog post about my desire for a real Austenland is here along with a link to Regency House Party

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Bridget Jones is Back! Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding

Yes, Bridget is back in the new Helen Fielding book Bridget Jones: Mad about The Boy! But unfortunately, Mark Darcy is not. After her fairy tale ending, (if you recall the heart achingly lovely ending of the last book with the Velveteen Rabbit analogy) and two children later, Bridget is a widow.

I would have guessed she would be divorced by this time, but Helen Fielding has made Mark Darcy a martyr. Apparently, he was killed by a landmine while negotiating the release of aid workers in the Sudan.

So this is how Helen Fielding decided to get Bridget back on the dating scene. Mark has to go so that Bridget can continue to be Bridget. You know, along the lines of Matthew Crawley having his car accident so that Lady Mary can continue to be her prickly self. The story line must go on!

Apparently Bridget is now 51 with two young children and her new boyfriend is just turning 30. She is also struggling with social media and dating in the 21st century. Daniel Cleaver apparently makes a brief appearance in this book, (for old time's sake) and Bridge is just as bumbling as usual only now she is agonizing over twitter and Botox.

The reviews have not exactly been stellar but I have a copy of Mad About the Boy in front of me anyway, which I purchased this morning and will probably have finished by tomorrow. As much as I would have preferred a little peek into the married life of Mr and Mrs Mark Darcy, I will take anything Helen Fielding decides to give me. And I hope fervently that it makes it's way onto the screen in an improved version even without Colin Firth as the ever perfect Mark Darcy. The second film did not do justice to the second book but we can hope can't we? Here are some quips from the book jacket of Mad About the Boy:

  • What do you do when your girlfriend's sixtieth birthday party is the same day as your boyfriend's thirtieth?
  • Is it normal to be too vain to put on your reading glasses when checking your boy toy for head lice?
  • Does the Dalai Lama actually tweet or is it his assistant?
  • Is it normal to get fewer followers the more you tweet?
  • If you put lid plumper on your hands, do you get plump hands?
And if you would like to read a transcript of Helen Fielding herself interviewing Bridget Jones for the Daily Mail, it is pretty hilarious! Here is the link:

She's back! Older, none the wiser and with some very odd dating advice for the newly single: Helen Fielding interviews Bridget Jones


P.S. I just finished the book. I really liked it. If you liked the second BJ book then you will probably like this one. A similar satisfying ending. By the way, I think Helen Fielding's writing is very autobiographical. She has a boy and a girl just like Bridget and although the father of her children is not dead, he now lives back in the USA (a writer for The Simpsons or some such) so I think the death of her father may have inspired some of the sentimental bits in the book. So this is probably a peek into the life of Helen Fielding. The neighbour Rebecca is likely inspired by Helena Bonham Carter who is thanked at the end of the book. I will bet she will snag the part in the next film!!!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Paradise on PBS Masterpiece

Well my dear readers, The Paradise is finally here on PBS Masterpiece starting tonight at 9 pm. This BBC offering is an adaptation of Émile Zola's novel Au Bonheur des Dames (The Ladies' Paradise) but moving the early department store to the North of England instead of Paris.

Tonight we follow Denise Lovett (played by Joanna Vanderham) as she moves from her small town in the North of England to get a job with her uncle in his draper's shop. He is unable to hire her as he is getting squeezed out by "The Paradise", located across the street and one of the first high end department stores in England.

Denise of course gets a job there instead and promptly falls in love with the gorgeous boss, John Moray (played scrumptiously by Emun Elliott). So you see where this is going of course! A bit of back stabbing amongst the shop girls, a love triangle involving the boss and...well...I don't want to give it all away!

Speaking of scrumptious, my preference in male characters is Dudley (played by Matthew McNulty), Mr. Moray's right hand man and friend from childhood. He is gorgeous and that lovely Northern accent reminds me of a certain other Victorian Northerner, Mr. Thornton! My online friends will know what I mean!

Although based on a wonderful novel by Émile Zola, don't expect high art from this series. This is more Downton Abbey than it is Pride and Prejudice. However it looks like a lot of fun. And my friends in the UK seemed to like this one better than the similar ITV offering Mr. Selfridge. I think NOT having Jeremy Piven in this makes me like it better already. I am not a JP fan!

If you enjoy Victorian dresses as much as I do, you will appreciate this one for the fashion alone, but it seems there is much more to it than pretty costumes. The Beeb has already commissioned a second series which is a good sign, but then ITV is doing more Mr. Selfridge as well. Perhaps the battle of the Victorian/Edwardian department store series will be determined conclusively when we get to see the second seasons!

So tighten your corsets my friends and enjoy the ride. It will likely be a bumpy, melodramatic but satisfying romp. And come back and comment with your impressions after you watch the first episode.


P.S. Apologies for not including the caveat "Check local listings". My local station WNED is at it again, not airing something that PBS has sent me promotional material on! Grrrr!!! If you are in the USA, the first episode is available online for a limited time, so catch it while you can.



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