Blogathons, Classic TV, Drama, Romance, War

The Duchess Of Duke Street (1976-1977)

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This is my own entry for my Small Screen blogathon being held on the 20th of this month.  If you would like to join the blogathon there is still time to do so. Find more details and sign up here.

I am writing about the series The Duchess Of Duke Street

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Louisa hard at work in the kitchen. Screenshot by me.

This British series is based upon the life of a real Edwardian woman called Rosa Lewis(1867-1952). Rosa was a renowned cook and she also owned the Cavendish Hotel in London (which is still open today). Rosa was famous throughout British society for her cooking, and also for the rumour that she and Prince Edward (later King Edward V11)were having an affair. It’s not difficult to see why her story inspired this series to be made. 

John Hawkesworth (the man who helped Jean Marsh and Eileen Atkins turn Upstairs, Downstairs into the great success it became)produced The Duchess of Duke Street. Series that John were involved with were noted for their period detail, and a great many of them became huge successes.  

One of my favourite series that John was involved with is the Granada TV series The Adventures, Return and Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, which starred Jeremy Brett (in my opinion the best Sherlock Holmes ever captured on screen).

The Duchess Of Duke Street is another of John’s high quality series. I don’t simply love this one for its story and setting, I love this one because it depicts a woman trying out and succeeding in business at a time when women just didn’t do such things. Louisa Trotter is the main character of the series, and she becomes a successful cook and businesswoman. She doesn’t take no for an answer and she never gives up even when things are tough for her. 

Louisa works with men, she is in charge of men and she gains the respect and admiration of men. I find Louisa quite an inspirational character really, she is not content to stay a wife or a servant. Louisa wants more out of life, she wants to be seen as an equal to the men she works with and she achieves that. 

The series is set in London between 1900 and 1925. We follow the life of Louisa Trotter(Gemma Jones), a young cockney woman who wants to be a cook more than anything else. Working very hard she learns the art of making food. Her food is acknowledged as being superb and is very well liked by all who taste it.

As the years go on, Louisa becomes one of the best cooks in London and becomes the owner of the Bentinck Hotel. The Bentinck is more like an apartment building than a hotel, those who stay there love it and many consider it their home away from home. Louisa has a relationship with the Prince of Wales(later to become King Edward VII), throughout the series Louisa looks back on her relationship with him very fondly.

The real love of Lousia’s life though is the handsome and outgoing aristocrat Charlie Tyrrell(Christopher Cazenove). Their relationship is extremely complex, and it is their relationship that helped make this series become a real favourite of mine. Louisa and Charlie’s story really is the heart and soul of the series.

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Charlie. Screenshot by me.

Louisa and Charlie become the best of friends and later on become lovers. They both want their relationship to become something more, but they just never seem to be able to find the right moment to change the nature of the relationship.

They have a daughter together who they call Lottie(Lalla Ward). She is raised by tenants of Charlie’s on his country estate. Charlie helps Louisa run the Bentinck and also keeps a suite of rooms there. 

Louisa and Charlie are not the only focus of the series though. Louisa’s loyal staff at the hotel include the dutiful doorman Starr(John Cater),a former soldier who speaks his mind and whose best friend is his dog Fred. Merriman(John Welsh)the elderly head waiter who wouldn’t thank you for suggesting he retire. Bubbly Welsh maid Mary(Victoria Plunckett). The assistant cook, Mrs. Cochrane (Mary Healey), and the former soldier turned gambler, Major Smith-Barton(Richard Vernon). Louisa and her staff become like family and they share the good and bad times together.

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Mr. Merriman. Screenshot by me.
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Mr. Starr. Screenshot by me.
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Mary. Screenshot by me.
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The Major. Screenshot by me.

Besides the relationship between Charlie and Louisa, my favourite relationship in the series is the one between Louisa and the Major. He becomes a father figure to her and a very good friend. His confession to her at the end of the series regarding his feelings for her is one of my all time favourite scenes from the series.

 

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Louisa salutes Charlie as he leaves for the trenches. Screenshot by me.

The second half of the series focuses on the brutal and upsetting events of World War One and its aftermath. Louisa turns the hotel into a place for only British soldiers to be able stay. Charlie has to go off to fight in the war. Tragedy, pain and sorrow sadly lie in wait for our characters.

 

I also love how Gemma portrays Louisa’s unwillingness to show any sort of vulnerability, even when she’s alone with Charlie, she very seldom lets her guard down. It is like she always has to appear strong and tough. I think that she feels that way because she is afraid that to appear vulnerable would make her appear weak.

At times it has to be said that Gemma’s shrieking when things don’t go the way Louisa wants them to, does very easily grate on the viewer, but it is all a part of this character and I really like how Gemma shows us that Louisa has flaws and is not perfect. I also like that Louisa’s determination to never be vulnerable is also her weakness, because she makes life more difficult for herself due to her always hiding her inner self. Louisa is a very interesting character indeed. One of Gemma Jones’s best performances I’d say. Since this series aired, Gemma has gone on to become one of our most beloved actresses. 

Christopher Cazenove is so lovable as the fun loving and decent Charlie. I like how we see him transition from playboy, to the more mature Lord Charles, and finally to damaged soldier. Christopher is a great favourite of mine and I never understood why he never became a much bigger star. He was always a welcome presence on screen and this is one of best performances as far as I’m concerned. 

This series is a real character piece and it is filled with great characters, great performances and many memorable storylines. This series is one that really gets you caught up the characters lives and you feel for them. I love it because of that, but I also love it for its depiction of Edwardian life.

I also find the food preparation sequences fascinating. There were some dishes that Louisa prepared that I had never heard of before and they look delicious. I also love how much effort she put into making her meals. It’s also fascinating to me to see how much of an event evening meals were back then, they were almost ritualistic (different cutlery for different dishes, what can be served at what time)and I love the fancy table decorations and food presentations.

Watching series like this really lets you see just what has changed in life. I for one have never seen a dinner table like some of the ones we see in this. I’ve never seen food displayed in such beautiful ways either (even when going out to eat at restaurants) it goes to show that we may have progressed in some ways, but I think we’ve gone back a step or two in terms of food and food presentation. 

If you have seen this series what did you think of it?

Check back on Tuesday for news of the next blogathon I’m hosting. I know, I’m totally addicted to blogathons. 🙂

 

 

 

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Blogathons, Classic TV

Announcing The Small Screen Blogathon 20th February, 2018

I’d like to invite you all to join my latest blogathon. We all love films on these blogs. However, for this particular blogathon I’d love for us to celebrate the treasures found over on the small screen.

For this blogathon you can write about miniseries, long running series, soaps, classic TV, modern TV and TV films. You can write about your favourite episodes from a particular series, or write about the series as a whole. You can write about series from any country, genre, and era. You can write about more than one series if you wish to do so.

I will allow two duplicates per title, but as there are so many series out there I’m really hoping people don’t all go for obvious titles like The Twilight Zone or Friends. If the series you would like to discuss as a whole has been taken, you can still write about your favourite episode, or episodes from that particular series. 

I’m holding this one as a one day event. It will run on the 20th of February. Please leave me the links to your posts on that day or before. I will then link everyone’s posts together on the 20th. 

Take one of the banners below and pop it on your site somewhere.  Check the participation list below to see who is writing about what. Have fun! I can’t wait to read your entries.  

 

  Participation List

Maddylovesherclassicfilms – The Duchess Of Duke Street

The Humpo ShowThe Office (US version)

MovieMovieBlogBlogCoupling

SparksfromacombustiblemindPoirot & Miss Marple

Bonnywood ManorPushing Daisies

The Midnite Drive-InMr. Monk and the Red Headed Stranger (episode of Monk)

ThoughtsallsortsOnly Human

Whimsically ClassicI Love Lucy & The Brady Bunch

Vinnieh Victoria

Mike’sTakeOnTheMoviesA Cry In The Wilderness & Deliver Us From Evil (two George Kennedy TV films)

Caftan WomanThe Snoop Sisters 

Wolfman’sCultFilmClubThe Invaders

dbmoviesblogThe Handmaid’s Tale

RealweegiemidgetreviewsDynasty – the making of a guilty pleasure (2005, TV film) & The Cartier Affair (1984)

Moon In Gemini – The Constant (episode of the TV series Lost)

In The Good Old Days Of Classic HollywoodThe Victim (1972, TV film)

The Wonderful World Of CinemaLes Filles de Caleb 

Cinema EssentialsAll Creatures Great and Small

 

Small screen blogathon 1

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Classic TV, Horror

Maddy’s 5 Scariest Twilight Zone Episodes

Continuing on with my Halloween theme, here are five episodes of this classic TV series that I consider to be very scary indeed. If you’ve seen the series you will know that it was a blend of Science Fiction and Horror, and was very famous for its twist and shock endings. I love the Science Fiction episodes, but I really love the creepy episodes the best.

I also think that these five episodes would have each made a good horror film.

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1- The Grave (Season 3, episode 7 )

This episode is set in a rundown town in the old west. This is a superb, creepy ghost story and it looks at how our superstitions can lead us to fear. Pinto Sykes is a notorious killer. When Pinto is shot dead by gunman Conny Miller (Lee Marvin), he puts a curse on Conny and says that if he ever sets foot on his grave, then he will die there. Conny at first pays no heed to these words.

When a group of Conny’s friends (including Lee Van Cleef) dare him for a bet to go there, things turn seriously creepy and weird. Great acting throughout, a really creepy story, and a terrifically spooky ending all combine to make this one scary episode indeed. I love the atmosphere created with most of the story taking place at night, and in a stormy,windswept location. I think it’s also one of the best episodes of the entire series. Lee Marvin is terrific. Special mention must go to the excellent Elen Willard as Pinto’s seriously otherworldly sister, Ione.

 

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2- The Hitch-Hiker (Season 1, episode 16)

This is one of the best remembered of the series many episodes. This is also the first episode that I ever saw, and it is one that made a lasting impression on me due to its creepy story. It is this episode which also made me a fan of the series.

Nan (Inger Stevens)is driving and keeps seeing a mysterious hitchhiker at various stages of her journey. She begins to get more and more frightened as he keeps appearing. A revelation later in the episode will scare her even more. The way this one is shot means we become as scared as she is, as we take this unsettling journey with her. Creepy stuff indeed.

 

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3- The Howling Man (Season 2, episode 5)

This episode looks at the cost of the human instinct of going and doing the exact opposite of what we are told or advised to do. David Ellington (H.M. Wynant) is on a hiking tour, he gets lost and arrives at a secluded monastery. He seeks shelter there on a dark and stormy night. The monks there agree to give him shelter.

He is warned by Brother Jerome (David Carradine) to have no contact with the man in a locked room who howls and yells. Curiosity gets the better of Ellington however, and he is soon disregarding the warnings he has received in order to speak to the stranger, and then he lets him out of the cell…

When you learn the identity of the howling man I think that the episode become seriously scary. When you also come to understand the cost of Ellington’s actions the episode becomes very powerful. You also respect the monks who made it their mission to keep that man locked away. The episode is all about the dangers of curiosity and not heeding warnings. Very spooky indeed, and it has a creepy atmosphere and setting.

 

4- Deaths-head Revisited (Season 3, episode 9)

The Holocaust is a seriously disturbing subject. Realising that the monsters who brought about this atrocity were not actually monsters at all, but were only just men and women makes it even more disturbing. This episode tackles these horrors head on, and it is one of the most disturbing dramas I’ve ever seen.

Former SS officer, Captain Lutz (Oscar Beregi) returns to the Dachau Concentration Camp, which he was once in charge of. At first he seems overjoyed to be revisiting this site from his past, and he seems proud to remember the horror he oversaw there. Then all that changes. Why the change? He sees the ghost of former inmate, Alfred Becker(Joseph Schildkraut), a man who Lutz knows for certain died in the camp. Lutz is soon put on trial by all the former inmates of the camp for his crimes against humanity.

There are many disturbing images in this episode, and Lutz’s attitude towards his crimes is truly sickening to watch. The justice he gets from those he killed and tortured fits his crimes, but it is also very disturbing.

After all, what could be more disturbing to realise that someone you thought was a monster was actually human after all? Lutz learns there is no greater horror than ones own conscience making you see and feel the truth of what you have done.

 

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5- The Thirty-Fathom Grave (Season 4, episode 2)

The crew of a navy ship become seriously freaked out when they hear tapping coming  from inside the hull of a sunken submarine. Eerie apparitions are seen by some crew members and hysteria soon abounds aboard ship. This episode has a realistic look about it thanks to using real ships and not being studio bound. Simon Oakland is superb in this as the captain of the navy ship.

This is one of the best episodes from the much maligned season 4. Many fans complain about this season for its longer episodes, which saw the 30 minute format they grew used to changed to an hour instead. This season has many fine episodes including: Miniature, Printer’s Devil, On Thursday We Leave For Home, The Parallel and The New Exhibit.  

I’m in the minority of fans who like this season and think season 5 is actually the weakest. I think 5 is weak because many episodes feel like they are similar to earlier episodes, and there are sadly many rubbish episodes and only a handful of good ones.

Here are some honorable mentions to other episodes in the series which are also scary: Twenty Two (surely the inspiration for the Final Destination films?),Nightmare At 20,000 Feet, The Dummy, It’s A Good Life, Night Call and Living Doll.

What are your views on the five episodes I’ve discussed? Which episodes from this series do you find the scariest?

 

Classic TV, Page To Screen, Romance

Jane Eyre Discussion Part 2: My Favourite Screen Adaptation

With the novel Jane Eyre being so beloved, it is not hard to see why so many screen adaptations for this one exist. There have been many big and small screen adaptations made over the years. I like many of them, and despise a good many more of them.

My biggest complaint by far about this story on screen, is that most of the adaptations cut far too much of the novel out. The development of Jane and Rochester’s romance is often rushed, and there is way too much cut out from the rest of the story. Much of the beautiful original language of the novel is also missing, making the dialogue more akin to modern language.

I think that the worst adaptations are the 1934 and 2011 film versions. I think the best of the big screen versions is the 1943 film starring Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine, even though this version is rushed too, it captures the atmosphere of the novel. It is also a very good film unlike the other two I mentioned. 

I also have a real soft spot for the much underrated 1970 TV film, starring George C. Scott and Susannah York; this version still cuts much out, but Scott is the actor who is pretty much like the Rochester of the novel in terms of looks and mood.

My favourite screen adaptation however will always be the 1983 miniseries. This version stars Timothy Dalton and Zelah Clarke.  This one has held a special place in my heart since I borrowed the video boxset from my local Library. This was made by the BBC and directed by Julian Amyes. It was adapted for the screen by Alexander Baron. Why do I love this adaptation so much? How much time do you have? 

I think the performances by Timothy Dalton and Zelah Clarke are absolutely superb. They both make you care for their characters of Rochester and Jane. Zelah captures Jane’s quiet and gentle nature, and also her inner self desperately yearning to break free. In the later part of the series when she flees Thornfield Hall, Zelah makes Jane so vulnerable and devastated that you just want to wrap her up in your arms.

Timothy captures the enigmatic nature, despair, tenderness and frustration of Rochester perfectly. I also think the height difference between Timothy and Zelah works for the series because they just look so adorable together.

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The series is also pretty much word for word like the book. It even contains the vast majority of the original language that other adaptations change. It also features the gypsy fortune teller sequence. It also focuses heavily on Jane’s childhood, and upon her time later with Rivers and his sisters, something which other adaptations barely focus upon. The series lets the actors act, and lets them bring these characters to life. The series isn’t rushed in any way.

This is also the only adaptation where I as a viewer feel what Jane and Rochester are going through. The proposal sequence is a good example of this, Zelah makes your heart break when she delivers the famous speech about Jane having heart. The way she and Timothy look at each other in this is incredible. I can’t find the words to describe what those looks convey, they just have such strong chemistry and make you believe the emotional bond between the characters. You believe that they really are falling in love before you.

This adaptation also focuses on the fact that Jane and Rochester each serve as a rescuer for the other. Jane saves Rochester from depression and horror, and he saves her from cruelty and a life of blending into the background, instead of standing out in the crowd. Zelah and Timothy convey all that perfectly, particularly in the scene where Rochester tells Jane he has found the pure and innocent being he wishes to be with in life.

This series features strong performances from the entire cast, and it really is the adaptation which is the closest to the book. There are many adaptations out there, but it is to this one that I return again, and again and again.

The series itself is also a good example of the sort of series that we in Britain used to excel at producing. Series that took their time and were not rushed. Series that allow the actors to convey all we need (no need for fancy editing, or for intrusive music in every scene).

My favourite scenes are the following. The “so, you’ve come out at last” scene where Jane becomes ill and faints. The proposal scene. The scene on the stairs where Rochester says he thinks Jane looks depressed. Young Jane standing up to Mrs. Reed. All the scenes with Grace Poole. Jane saving Rochester from the fire, and their conversation afterwards. Jane asking for permission to go and visit her aunt. Rochester looking at Jane’s paintings. The aftermath of Mason getting attacked by Bertha. The gypsy fortune scene. All the scenes where Jane is staying with the Rivers siblings. The “is this my mustard seed?” scene. Rochester greeting Jane in the grounds when she returns from her aunts house. Rochester begging Jane to stay with him. The final scenes.

If there is a downside to the series I would say it lies in the casting of Zelah. Whilst she is superb as Jane, she looks much older than Jane’s eighteen years. This seems to always be a problem in all of the adaptations. Timothy is also more handsome than the Rochester of the novel (who to my mind resembles how George C. Scott looked in the 1970 film)but Timothy really is the best actor to have been able to so perfectly capture the personality and torment of the man he plays.

Beautiful costumes and music all add something to the series. My favourites from amongst the supporting cast are Mary Tamm as the beautiful and self centred Blanche. Robert James as the cold and cruel Mr. Brocklehurst. Jean Harvey as the loveable and loyal Mrs. Fairfax.

I’d love to hear from you what you think of this series? What are your favourite screen adaptations of this story? Leave your comments below.

 

 

 

Classic TV, Science Fiction

The Twilight Zone(1959-1964): Come And Take A Trip With Me

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I love this series! Scary, sad, fascinating, shocking and most of all imaginative. Growing up I had heard and read a lot about this series, but had only ever seen a handful of episodes. That all changed a couple of years ago, when I treated myself to the complete series on Blu-ray(the episodes are beautifully cleaned up). It is now one of my favourite series.

I think this is the most human series I have watched. What I mean by that is it so perfectly captures what it means to be human, our weaknesses, strengths etc.

The series shows the best and worst of humanity. Wouldn’t we all love to offer advice/support to our younger selves? By watching Walking Distance we feel like we have.

By watching No Time Like The Past, we can see that good intentions may not be possible or even advisable. Sometimes our desire for self preservation gets the better of us, watch The Shelter for a prime example of this.

Created by Rod Serling, the series first came into being with a script written by Serling, called The Time Element. This unofficial pilot episode was aired on the Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, in November 1958. Martin Balsam(who would also feature in the official series)and William Bendix were the stars. This story of a man who claims to be able to time travel back to Pearl Harbor just before the infamous attack, sets the tone for the series we all know today.

The official series aired a year later and would continue until 1964. The series is primarily classed as Science Fiction, featuring many stories of time travel, alien invaders and alien worlds. I like many of those episodes, but my personal favourites are the creepy ones; episodes such as The Grave, Thirty- Fathom Grave, The Hitch-Hiker(the first episode I ever saw),Deaths-head Revisited and The Howling Man, these all scare and make me think in equal measure, and they are all personal favourites.

The powerful performances and different weekly settings ensured the series was popular, but its real claim to fame was the twist ending to each episode. These endings are the series trademark, we are left often reassessing the previous 25 minutes we have watched once the twists are revealed. I love that no matter how many times I watch an episode the twist still retains the shock factor, even when I know full well what’s coming next.

It is a credit to Serling and his superb writing staff that the series is still as powerful today as it was when it first aired. I also like how you never know where you’ll end up next; one episode could be set on an alien world, another set in the old west, and another in the present(50’s and 60’s). Serling’s series also tackled the big issues of his day, particularly racism, fear of nuclear war and fear of people/places unknown to another set of people; the morality tales still stand up well today.

I can also think of no other series where the creator became such an integral part of their own series(not even Alfred Hitchcock on his anthology series.) Serling provides voice over narration for all episodes and filmed intros and outros to the episodes. The face of Serling is as much a part of the series as the music and twists. In the Blu-ray boxset, Serling’s intros/outros are included in all the episodes.

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I consider the first three seasons to be the best. I’m in the minority of fans who actually like season 4(locks self in sealed vault to escape onslaught of season 4 hate.) While I will agree with the main critics that the hour long format here was a mistake; I strongly disagree that the episodes found here are the weakest.

Some of my favourites from this season are The Thirty-Fathom Grave, On Thursday We Leave For Home, Miniature(one of the most moving of all Twilight Zone episodes, featuring a young Robert Duvall),The New Exhibit, Jess-Belle and Printer’s Devil.

I actually think season 5 is the worst, many of the episodes are terrible(what went wrong with the writing here?)There are a few gems to be found though: In Praise of Pip, Nightmare at 20,000 feet(perhaps the best known of all the episodes),An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge, Living Doll, Night Call and Stopover in a Quiet Town.

Throughout the series there are fan favourites including: Time Enough At Last, The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street(although I think this would have worked better as a paranoia story, without the alien involvement that we later discover), Nightmare at 20,000 feet, Walking Distance, A Stop At Willoughby and The Odyssey of Flight 33.

There are somewhat lesser appreciated gems too, including: The Last Flight, Nick of Time, People Are Alike All Over, One For The Angels, Printer’s Devil, The Hunt, The Passersby, I Shot An Arrow Into The Air(surely the origins of Serling’s film The Planet of the Apes?),Judgement Night, The Silence, Passage For Trumpet and Mirror Image.

I love how many big film stars feature in this series. I envy classic era audiences who got to tune in weekly not knowing who would appear next. A handful of stars made more than one appearance: Jack Klugman(superb in several deeply moving episodes), Burgess Meredith, William Shatner, Martin Balsam etc. I think the quality of the work is evident given the amount of film stars who agreed to guest star in these episodes.

The series also features one of the most instantly recognisable themes in TV history. Chances are if you’ve never seen an episode, you’ll have heard that intro tune at some point in your life.

I suppose there is also the big question as to just what exactly The Twilight Zone is or means? I take it that it is a phrase that perfectly sums up a the weird and unexplainable events in life. I have often found myself saying “I can’t believe this, it’s like I’m in The Twilight Zone”, when faced with bizarre or horrible situations.

My ten favourite episodes are the following: The Passersby, Walking Distance, The Last Flight, The Grave, Printer’s Devil, The Odyssey of Flight 33, The Changing of the Guard, In Praise of Pip, The Howling Man and One For The Angels.

Similar series which I like include: One Step Beyond and Thriller.

Please share your thoughts on the series. What are your favourite episodes? Never seen an episode? What are you waiting for? The Zone awaits you, just make sure you get a return ticket though, because you wouldn’t want to get stuck there, now would you?