On the surface, transforming a popular television program into a film seems easy. The beloved characters and well known narrative are already in place, it is just a matter choosing how to expand the world beyond what already existed on the small screen.
But like many things, it is often easier said than done.
The DowntonAbbey film premiered last night. Set a year and a half after the television show ended, everything is tranquil. But tranquility, as it always does on Downton Abbey, does not last.
King George V (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James) will be visiting the Crawleys while on a tour through Yorkshire. The news forces the Crawleys and their servants to be on their A-Game. But being on their A-Game is a challenge to say the least.
Upstairs, Robert (Hugh Bonneville), Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) and the rest of the family are preparing to be the perfect hosts for their majesties. Downstairs is a flurry of activity, which requires the steady hand of Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) to keep everything running smooth. That steady hand is not helped by the royal servants, who take over the running of the ship while the King and Queen are in residence at Downton.
There are quite a few movies that have been made based on television programs. A good number try, but don’t live up to the reputation of it’s television predecessor. Downton Abbey not only lives up to that reputation, it builds the reputation of the series and the world within the series.
Though some reviewers have stated that this movie is strictly for the Downton Abbey fan base, I disagree. It helps to have at least some knowledge of the television series, but it does not hinder the overall enjoyment of the film if one goes in as Downton newbie.
A good movie trailer is essentially a tease of the full movie. It gives enough away to tempt the audience to pay to see the movie, but it doesn’t (well hopefully it doesn’t) give away too much of the narrative.
The full trailer for the Downton Abbey movie was released earlier today.
Based on the uber-successful BPD Masterpiece television program of the same name created and written by Julian Fellows, the movie starts in 1927, a year after the series ended. King George V and Queen Mary will soon be visiting Downton, causing all sorts of commotion. I also fully expect there to be plenty of personal drama between the characters while the household is preparing for their royal visitors.
I am definitely looking forward to seeing this movie.
P.S. Whoever decided to end the trailer with a delicious verbal duel between Isobel (Penelope Wilton) and Violet (Maggie Smith) is a genius.
When we marry, the expectation is that the person we are marrying is who they say they are.
In the miniseries, Mrs. Wilson, Alison Wilson (Ruth Wilson, playing her grandmother), receives a rude awakening after the death of her much older husband, Alexander (Iain Glen). Her husband was good at keeping secrets. His most potent secret was that she was not his only living wife. Coleman (Fiona Shaw), her husband’s handler from World War II is not too forthcoming with information. There is also the question of Dorothy Wick (Keeley Hawes), who keeps popping up as Alison tries to find out the truth of her husband’s life. As the series flips between the beginnings of Alison and Alexander’s (who was known as Alec) early relationship during the war to the 1960’s, where the widowed Alison is desperate for answers.
I have to admit that I am impressed with this series. I am impressed because this is a very personal story for Wilson. It takes a lot to share a personal story that is part of her family lore with the public. As a viewer, I can understand why Alison was not the last woman to fall for Alec. He was charming, intelligent and appeared to radiate qualities that would qualify him as a good man.
Both Wilson and Glen are familiar faces to Masterpiece viewers. Wilson made her Masterpiece debut in the 2006 adaptation of Jane Eyre. In 2011, Glen had a brief role as Sir Richard Carlisle, Lady Mary’s fiance on Downton Abbey. As Alison and Alec, I was rooting for them as a couple. On the same note, my heart was aching for Alison as she grieved not only for her husband, but for the husband she knew.
I recommend it.
The first two episodes of Mrs. Wilson are online. The final episode airs this Sunday at 9PM on PBS.
My Girls: A Lifetime with Carrie and Debbie by Todd Fisher: When Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds departed this world two years ago, no one knew them better than their brother and son. The book is a love letter to them by one of the people who knew and loved them best.
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah: A young girl growing up in the wilds of Alaska learns some hard truths about life, love and marriage.
When Downton Abbey left the air in 2015 (or 2016 if you were in the States), it left a mark on our culture as few television shows have.
The teaser trailer for the Downton Abbey movie was released today.
Like all teaser trailers, this trailer gives nothing away, other than the movie is coming. The job of the teaser trailer is to announce that the movie is coming and to start to drum up excitement for the movie.
Downton Abbey is and will always be one of my favorite television shows. I am super excited about this movie and I cannot wait for it to hit theaters next fall.
Natasha Solomons’s new book, House of Gold starts a few years before World War I. The Goldbaum family is one of the wealthiest and most powerful Jewish families in Europe. Everyone within the family knows their place and their responsibilities. The men go into the family business. The women marry their cousins and produce the next generation of Goldbaums. The main character in House of Gold is Greta Goldbaum. A member of the Austrian branch of the family, Greta is independent and intelligent. She would love to live by her own rules, but she also knows that she is going to do her duty, one way or another.
She marries Albert, a distant cousin from English branch of the family. Like many arranged marriages, their relationship is slow to take off. When Greta is made mistress of the family garden, she begins to see that things are not so bad. She may even start to get to know her husband in the process.
Then war breaks out. World War I consumes all of the Europe. There is no amount of influence or money that can shield the Goldbaums from the horrors of war. As the war rages on, the family is torn apart and Greta must make a decision. She must choose the family she left in Austria or the new family she has come to love in England.
This book is amazing. While the beginning of the narrative is a little slow, it takes off about a third of the way in and does not let go until the very end. What hooked me most is the main character. While Greta is certainly a woman of her time, she is not one to automatically submit to her husband. She is intelligent, a little defiant when she needs to be, and has a backbone.
Another reviewer compared House of Gold to Downton Abbey. The comparison is spot on and this book is amazing.
The translation from the page to the silver screen is often a dicey one. Especially for a beloved book.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer was originally published in 2009. In 1946, Juliet Ashton is a writer looking for next subject. She received a letter from a man living on the island of Guernsey, whose residents survived German occupation during World War II.
While I could not get through the book, the movie looks very interesting. One of the appealing aspects of the movie (for me at least) is a mini-Downton Abbey reunion. Lily James, Penelope Wilton, Matthew Goode and Jessica Brown Findlay are all part of the cast. While the film will not hit US theaters until later in the year, I can only hope that the film delivers on the promises in the trailer.
At first glance, Downton Abbey appears to be just another BPD (British Period Drama).
But it so much more than that. Set in an English aristocratic home in the early 20th century, the focus of Downton Abbey is the story of the Crawley family, led by the Earl and Countess of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern) and their household staff.
The visitor is first greeted by Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) and Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan). Mr. Carson is eager to show the visitor the upstairs where the family lives, but he questions why the visitor is interested in seeing the downstairs portion. The visitor then goes up three flights of stairs, starting with the kitchen and areas where the staff congregate, then following the escalators upstairs to see the areas of the house where the family lives.
The exhibit is sheer perfection. Containing costumes, exact replicas of the sets, audio clips, video clips and so much more, the exhibit was made for the fans. It’s as if the creators of the exhibit were able to read our minds as to what would like to see and experience.
When a television show is as beloved as Downton Abbey is, an exhibit like this is akin to coming home. It is as if the visitor is a fly on the wall of the set. It is beautiful, it is enticing and worth every moment of my visit.
It is a must see.
Downton Abbey: The Exhibition is at 218 West 57th Street between Broadway and 7th Avenue until January 31st, 2018.
Family, if nothing else, is f*cked up. Just because we love each other and we have the same DNA does not mean that sometimes we can’t stand each other.
The revival of the J.B. Priestley play, Time And The Conways, is set in two different time periods, 1919 and 1937. Mrs. Conway (Elizabeth McGovern) is the widowed matriarch of an upper middle class family in Britain. She has six children: Alan (Gabriel Ebert), Hazel (Anna Camp), Robin (Matthew James Thomas), Kay (Charlotte Parry), Carol (Anna Baryshnikov) and Madge (Brooke Bloom). The rest of the cast includes two family friends, Joan (Cara Ricketts), Gerald (Alfredo Narciso) and a friend of Gerald’s, Ernest (Steven Boyer).
A friend who saw the play a few weeks ago said that these characters need to be in therapy. I couldn’t agree more. Mrs. Conway is not a bad mother, but her parenting skills need some improvement. I’ll be frank, I saw the play because Downton Abbey is and will always be one of my favorite television shows. I was not going to pass up seeing Elizabeth McGovern live and in person. What I liked about the play is that the playwright not only plays with the grey areas of life, but also that family is not the picture of perfection that we, as an audience almost expect.
I recommend it.
Time And The Conways is at The American Airlines theater until November 26th, 2017. Check the second link above for showtimes and ticket prices.
There are many who dream of earning their living as a performer. For all those who dream, only a small percentage will see their dreams become reality and an even smaller percentage will become legends for their performances.
Today is the birthday of Dame Maggie Smith, one the most respected performers on both sides of the pond.
Her two most famous roles are Minerva McGonagall in the Harry Potter film series and the Dowager Countess on Downton Abbey.
Both characters are well past their prime. In a culture where youth is prized over experience (especially for women), both characters not only proof that there is life after a certain age, but we can be as vital and alive in our waning years as we were when were young.
Happy Birthday Maggie Smith (and please be in the Downton Abbey movie, if it is made. Downton wouldn’t be the same without the Dowager’s one liners).