Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)

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

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Peter Capaldi- Actor of the Week

Peter Capaldi as the new and very well dressed Dr. Who
Peter Capaldi is getting lots of attention lately as the new Dr. Who. But many of us have known about this fabulous actor for years now. First, I have to point out his wonderful recurring role in The Vicar of Dibley as Tristan Campbell, a love interest for our lady Vicar.

Peter Capaldi with Dawn French in The Vicar of Dibley

Not only does he feature as the handsome floppy haired producer in the Songs of Praise episode, he comes back in another episode to ask Geraldine to marry him! Heart stopping, until it is revealed that...(spoiler removed- go and seek out this episode now!)

Peter Capaldi with Lindsay Duncan in The History of Tom Jones
If there has ever been any doubt about Peter Capaldi as a comic actor, one only has to point to his very camp portrayal of the effete Lord Fellamar in The History of Tom Jones. His final scene after a run in with a pistol puts a smile on my face just thinking about it. Bravo!

In Dangerous Liaisons from 1988

Peter has been time travelling for decades via various costume dramas such as Dangerous Liaisons. Here he is Azolan, the valet of the Vicomte de Valmont.

Peter Capaldi as Samuel Kent in The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher
I would say he looks mighty fine in a top hat here in the dramatization of a true crime story The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: The Murder at Road Hill House. I haven't seen this 95 minute television special from 2011 based on a Scotland Yard investigation in Victorian London. Can anyone recommend this? It looks good!

As Caecilius in Dr. Who The Fires of Pompeii
And Peter Capaldi has even done a bit of Dr. Who work already, in the episode entitled The Fires of Pompeii from 2008.

As Cardinal Richelieu in the BBC series The Musketeers
Peter is very scary looking as Cardinal Richelieu in the BBC series The Musketeers. He certainly can do evil and severe can't he? Anyone seen this? I am embarrassed to say I haven't been able to check this one out but Peter would be a great reason to tune in!

Peter Capaldi with Nicole Kidman in Paddington 
Although we no longer have Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear in the new Paddington film, we have Ben Whishaw as our favourite bear's voice and Peter Capaldi as the bad-tempered and penny pinching Mr. Curry. I hope this one turns out well. Hard to say at this point but fingers crossed!

So hurrah for the new Dr. Who and please leave a comment with your fave Peter Capaldi role below. He has been in so many great film and TV roles, I could only feature a few.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Pinewood Studios Film Restoration Magic

Have you ever wondered what became of a favourite film from your childhood? One that you had loved at the time and then never saw again?  You might soon find out because at Pinewood Studios in Iver Heath England, the Film Restoration department is hard at work digitally restoring old films for redistribution to be seen again in all their original glory.
The film in question for me was a 1976 musical called The Slipper and the Rose, a live action re-imagining of Cinderella starring Richard Chamberlain with songs by the Sherman brothers (Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) and a supporting cast packed with stars of British film and stage.  At the age of 12, I had seen it in a Hamilton Ontario movie theatre and then never again. In the days before video and DVD, if a film didn’t make it to television after its theatrical release, it just languished in a vault somewhere.
As the author of this film blog, I was fascinated to learn that a recent restoration of The Slipper and the Rose was done at Pinewood Studios, where the film was originally shot in 1975. I was able to stop by Pinewood on a recent trip to England to find out how the remastering and restoration of these old films are done.
The Day The Earth Caught Fire from 1961, recently restored at Pinewood Studios
In a quiet little building behind the giant sound stages of the James Bond and Star Wars films sits the Pinewood Media Preservation and Restoration Department. When I arrived, they were screening a little Sci-Fi gem from 1961 called The Day the Earth Caught Fire for some British Film Institute execs for their new Sci-Fi series Days of Fear and Wonder. Although it had the look of an old black and white American Sci-Fi classic from the 1950s, the accents and the snappy dialogue were unmistakably English.  
BFI Sci-Fi film series
After the screening, I was able to talk with Charles Fairall, Head of Conservation at the British Film Institute about their collaboration with Pinewood. The BFI has an incredible wealth of vintage films in its archives which it is gradually preserving and putting on the internet to be rediscovered and enjoyed via their BFI Player or on the BFI YouTube channel
Film being digitally photographed frame by frame
Although most of these old films (some dating back over a century) are just digitized for access by the public, some such as The Day The Earth Caught Fire are meticulously remastered and restored first. 
Pinewood technicians restoring film one frame at a time
After the film is transferred to digital frame by frame, it then proceeds to the technicians in the next room where each individual frame is cleaned using software called PFClean.  A few deft clicks of the mouse by these skilled techs and then on to the next frame they go. The sound can also be restored so that the audio does justice to the restored visual.
Rude Boy film from 1980, recently restored at Pinewood Studios
In another part of this beehive of activity, they were putting the finishing touches on the restoration of the 1980 film Rude Boy, a partly fictional rockumentary about a fan of The Clash who leaves his job in a Soho sex shop to be a roadie for the band.
Jon Mann, Technical Restoration Manager at Pinewood Studios
Although I was in high school in 1980 when Rude Boy was first released, my tastes even then tended more toward period drama than rockumentary. So I was delighted when Jon Mann, the Technical Restoration Manager at Pinewood told me he had found an old box of Slipper and The Rose miscellany which I was welcome to peruse for my research. 
Original film score for The Slipper and the Rose
Although mostly consisting of folders of correspondence and documents relating to the film's distribution worldwide, there were old posters, colour and black and white stills from the filming at Pinewood and on location in Austria and even huge sheets of original film score, written in pencil (with erasures) which I assume was in the hand of Angela Morley who scored and conducted the Sherman brothers’ brilliant songs.
The Slipper and the Rose still photo (the bridge behind Cinderella and The Fairy Godmother is still in the back lot of Pinewood!)
When Jon came back to find me poring over a filming schedule from 1975, he suggested I might like to wander out to the Pinewood gardens where the bridge and pond appearing in the film still exists. Pinewood Studios was built on a former country estate which gave them a huge garden and an old stately home as well as the land to build sound stages, offices and storage spaces. Sure enough the bridge and pond were there, surrounded by acres of garden and with only a few Pinewood employees having an informal meeting over a picnic lunch.

Japanese theatre poster for The Slipper and the Rose

After a last look at an amazing Japanese Slipper and The Rose poster, I thanked both Jon Mann and Patrick Wilbraham (Technical Operations Manager) who had graciously given me their time and access to their archive. I expect this part of Pinewood Studios will get ever busier as so many old and beloved films wait like Cinderella for their magical transformation.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Slipper and the Rose: The Story of Cinderella 1976

The Slipper and the Rose original film poster- leave a comment to win it!
The Slipper and the Rose, if you aren't already a fan, was basically the last of the big original musicals which was filmed at Pinewood Studios UK (and on location in Austria) in 1975 and released in 1976. It has been recently restored and remastered, mere steps away from where it was shot, at Pinewood's Media Preservation, Restoration and Archiving Facility. Having been gorgeously restored to it's original glory, the original UK edition is now available on Blu-ray, with extras including A Cinderella Story: The Making of Slipper and the Rose (narrated by executive producer David Frost) and I Can't Forget the Melody: The Sherman Brothers on the Making of Slipper and the Rose.
I first saw it in the theatre in 1976 and loved it, although I hadn't seen it since. What a thrill to see that it is just as wonderful as I remember. Possibly more so! So what is the story behind this under-appreciated film which is only starting to be rediscovered?

Richard Chamberlain as Prince Edward and Christopher Gable as John

Apparently the Sherman brothers (Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) were approached by David Frost and asked to write the songs for a live action Cinderella musical. Although they initially declined, they rethought the matter when they realized that they could put a new twist on the story by telling it from the prince's point of view. It certainly crossed my mind that Prince Charles was in the same fix as our Prince Edward of Euphrania at the time this was made, having to choose an aristocratic virgin bride. Well we all know how that turned out! No Camilla in this story however.

Richard Chamberlain and Gemma Craven

Richard Chamberlain was a wonderful choice for our Prince Edward as he is definitely a triple threat! We all knew he was a great actor but his singing and dancing are superb! Gemma Craven was an unknown plucked from the British stage in a Cinderella story of her own. She is quite adorable, especially when her eyes well up with tears. I have to admit, I was blinking back a few tears of my own. She is a true natural, considering this was her first film.

Michael Hordern, Annette Crosbie and Kenneth More

Michael Hordern as the King and Kenneth More as the Lord Chamberlain show the amazing talent available in Britain at the time. And Annette Crosbie rather steals the show as a hilarious new kind of fairy godmother. You may recognize Crosbie from her recent work in British TV, but I know her as the dog lady from the Calendar Girls film!

Dame Edith Evans with Julian Orchard and Polly Williams

Speaking of stealing the show, an 87 year old Dame Edith Evans sings, dances and throws out the odd hilarious line as the Dowager Queen. She looked like she was having a the ball...sorry about that one!
This film is a true English/American hybrid, although the wonderful funny bits thrown amongst the more serious scenes are so British and apparently were insisted on by Bryan Forbes. Bravo! And there is a twist at the end (not your usual Cinderella ending!)

If you love Mary Poppins you will very likely enjoy The Slipper and the Rose. Just don't judge it by today's standards. It was already dated in 1976, which is likely why it had only modest success in the UK and very little success in America. However if judged against the musicals of the 50s and the 60s, it holds up quite well. I still love it as much as I did when I was 12!

So by all means, grab a copy while you can. Share it with your sisters, your daughters and your grand-daughters. You will laugh and cry again and again. This Blu-ray won't languish in your DVD collection!

I will be adding an account of my trip to Pinewood Studios to visit their Archive, Preservation and Restoration facility soon, so stay tuned. In the meantime, please leave a comment below as well as your email address to win a copy of the cinema poster for The Slipper and the Rose pictured at the top of this post. I will draw a random name at the end of October.

Cheers and good luck!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

England trip on Twitter!

I will be in England for 2 weeks (leaving in a few days) and have decided to post photos on Twitter for anyone wishing to follow along. I will be seeing a few things related to period drama such as Kenwood House in Hampstead Heath above. As well as being the real home of Dido Belle Lindsay of the recent film Belle, it was dopy Mr. Rushworth's seat Sotherton in the1999 Patricia Rozema adaptation of Mansfield Park. It was also the setting for the scene in the film Notting Hill where Julia Roberts was filming a Henry James adaptation.

Ok, I am hardly excited at all. I will also be visiting Blenheim Palace, Winston Churchill's birthplace and as long as we are talking filming locations it was used for The Young Victoria, The Lost Prince and the new Kenneth Branagh Disney production of Cinderella starring Lily James (otherwise known as Lady Rose from Downton Abbey).Can't wait to take my niece to see that one!

So I will try to make my Twitter postings as visually appealing as possible and I promise not to Tweet any inanities! Feel free to make suggestions of places I should check out in London or in Oxfordshire/Buckinghamshire. Cheers!


P.S. I almost forgot to mention that I will be seeing Richard Armitage in The Crucible at The Old Vic Theatre in London. ;)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Georgette Heyer Film Petition now over 1000 names!

So here I am, flogging my Georgette Heyer Film Petition again. However, since we now have over 1000 names from all over the world on the petition (and lots of pleading and suggestions for which books to adapt and casting ideas) it was time to thank you all for your support. And obviously to beat the bushes for more Heyer fans who are aching for a really great film adaptation of one of her charming, hilarious novels.

Now if you have never read a Georgette Heyer book, you must purchase one instantly. And I can confidently say purchase because you will want to read these over and over again. OK, fine, I suppose you can also check them out of the library again and again as well. I have one or two on my e-reader but the beautiful covers of the new editions are so lovely on a bedside table that I think all future purchases will be of the paperback variety. My sister assures me that Georgette Heyer is one of the hottest sellers at used book stores world-wide, so they may be hard to find there however!

Alison Flood of The Guardian says of Georgette Heyer, "Just picking up one of the many battered paperbacks stashed around the house is like snuggling up in front of the fire with a mug of hot chocolate. Comfort reading, times a thousand."

So if there are so many Heyer fans from all over the world that have read the books to tatters and now would really like a film adaptation, where are the BBC, ITV and even Hollywood? What the heck is going on in the world of entertainment? The novels are almost film scripts already!

Well, apparently they don't realize that we are a large group of people with disposable incomes who will gladly part with some of it to see and purchase some quality film adaptations of Georgette Heyer's books. Money on the table people!!!

I suppose my next task will be to send the petition to some executives at the BBC and ITV and try to convince them of the financial viability of a film. I wonder if the fact that the books are still under copyright protection and can't be purloined gratis has some bearing on this. Hmmmmm.

So here is the link for the Georgette Heyer Film Petition again. And if you have already signed it, you nay want to go back and read some of the comments left by other fans. Countries represented include: The UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Russia, Brazil, Spain, Germany, India, Italy, Ireland, Greece, Poland, The Netherlands, New Zealand, France, Argentina, Croatia...well, you get the idea.

Perhaps I should drop off a copy of the petition to ITV and BBC when I am in London in a few weeks time. What say fellow fans?

Cheers and have a great summer. And take a few Heyer paperbacks to the beach!!!!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Belle 2014

I finally got to see Belle a few weeks ago with a group of girlfriends. I can highly recommend the film, although it is not without it's faults. Having said that, this is a DVD which will be welcomed into my collection when it is released. And I hope there are loads of extras as my main gripe was the film was TOO SHORT!

Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay was the "natural daughter" of British Naval Officer Captain John Lindsay and Maria Belle, a West Indian slave. Born in 1761, her father brought her back to England in 1765, taking her to the home of his uncle William Murray, the 1st Earl of Mansfield and his wife Lady Elizabeth to be raised with another niece Elizabeth Murray who was about the same age (photo of the painting which immortalizes the friendship above).

Lord Mansfield apparently doted on Dido and as Lord Chief Justice was best known for his Judgement in Somersett's Case in 1772 which basically stated that a slave brought to England who left his master's service could not be recaptured and removed from English soil. This ruling eventually opened the door to the suppression of the slave trade by Parliament in 1807 and the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833.

So, obviously the story practically writes itself. It was a tale which had to be told. The acting is great and the sets and costumes are the most incredible eye candy. So what is my beef? It is TOO SHORT! At only 107 minutes long, there is not enough character development to truly pull you into the story. It is almost as if the script writer Misan Sagay feared fictionalizing too much of this amazing story, so she just stuck to the facts. Harrumph! However she did a fine job with what is there. I was just left hungering for more.

So by all means, see it and judge for yourself. Like I said, I will wait hopefully for the DVD and PLEASE may there be many deleted scenes and extras to justify the purchase. I will also go to visit Kenwood House when I am in London later this month. I'd like to see the house where Dido and her cousin were raised (as well as the Vermeer and other great art works) on Hampstead Heath.

You know Kenwood House, it's the grand white house in Notting Hill where Hugh Grant goes to see Julia Roberts filming a costume drama- I think it was a Henry James adaptation. Anyway, here is the link for the trailer for Belle:

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Cold Comfort Farm 1995

I caught the film Cold Comfort Farm on cable yesterday and now want to read the book. Always a successful adaptation I think if it makes me go searching for the book!

The film of Cold Comfort Farm is an adaptation of the Stella Gibbons novel from 1932, a parody of the doom and gloom novels of the period (DH Lawrence, Thomas Hardy, Mary Webb and even further back, the Bronte sisters). Gibbons was obviously a fan of Jane Austen, as Flora Poste is an Emma Woodhouse type through and through, and Flora even has a line:

"Well, when I am fifty-three or so I would like to write a novel as good as Persuasion, but with a modern setting of course. For the next thirty years or so I will be collecting material for it. If anyone asks me what I work at, I shall say, 'Collecting material'. No one can object to that. Besides, I shall be."

Starring Kate Beckinsale as Flora Poste (I coincidence that the BBC cast her as Emma in 1996) and an all star supporting cast of Rufus Sewell, Joanna Lumley, Ian McKellen, Eileen Atkins, Stephen Fry, Miriam Margolyes and even an impossibly young looking Rupert Penry-Jones!

Flora is a well-to-do twenty year old London girl who finds herself orphaned and with only a hundred pounds a year to live on. She decides to impose on distant relatives who live on a badly run Sussex farm and who all seem to have deep rooted emotional issues which would have sent me running for the hills! Flora, in her best Emma style, sees the potential in not only the farm, but in each of the inhabitants and proceeds to drag them into the twentieth century all cleaned and polished!

So just make sure you are in the mood for some rather tongue in cheek parody as otherwise the OTT style of this might put you off. And I am a little undecided as to whether I should recommend the book or the film first. I leave it to my readers to decide. In any case enjoy. And watch out for "something nasty in the woodshed"!

I am off to order the book now!




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