Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)

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

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Gosford Park 2001-a Robert Altman classic

Gosford Park 2001
Gosford Park is a classic British ensemble piece, set in England at a country house weekend in 1932. It was written by Julian Fellowes(of Downton Abbey), who really knows what the English aristocracy do and did at their country houses on the weekends, so he is in his element here. And director Robert Altman is also at his best with the large talented cast, overlapping dialogue and improvisation which gives realism to this brilliant film.

Apparently, this film was originally conceived by Bob Balaban (who plays American producer Morris Weissman) and Robert Altman in 1999 when Altman suggested a whodunnit and asked Julian Fellowes to write the script.

Kristen Scott Thomas in Gosford Park
Kirsten Scott Thomas plays the aristocratic lady of the house, Lady Sylvia McCordle, who won her husband by drawing cards with her sister to see who would marry the older (but rich) Sir William McCordle (played by Michael Gambon).  Not sure if she won that card game or lost it! She plays the perfect snob and apparently had to apologize to her fellow actors after filming as she started truly becoming Lady Sylvia!

Lavinia Meredith: I don't care what's changed or not changed as long as our sons are spared what you all went through.
Lady Sylvia McCordle: Not all. You never fought, did you, William?
Sir William McCordle: I did my bit.
Louisa Stockbridge: Of course you did.
Lady Sylvia McCordle: Well, you made a lot of money but it's not quite the same as charging into the cannon's mouth, is it?

Maggie Smith as Constance, Countess of Trentham and her maid Mary (Kelly Macdonald)
Dame Maggie Smith is spot on as usual as the ultra snobby Aunt Constance, Countess of Trentham who is perennially short of cash and who thrives on gossip, put-downs and other people's hospitality.

Constance:   Mabel is so clever to pack light. Why should one wear a different frock each evening, we're not in a fashion parade.

Jeremy Northam as Ivor Novello in Gosford Park
Jeremy Northam sang and played the piano appearing as real life actor/singer/composer Ivor Novello. Novello wrote the famous song Keep the Homefires Burning which was very popular during WWI. Novello's real songs were used for Northam to sing (and for Maggie Smith to deride) although most of the gorgeous piano playing was done by Jeremy Northam's brother Christopher who is a concert pianist.

Morris Weissman: How do you manage to put up with these people?
Ivor Novello: Well, you forget, I make my living impersonating them.

Too many other wonderful actors to do justice to them all in this short post. Emily Watson as the head maid Elsie, Clive Owen as the mysterious hunk of a valet who finally kisses little Mary "I've wanted to do that ever since I laid eyes on you!"  Woohoo!

Dame Helen Mirren and Dame Eileen Atkins as the two main ladies in the downstairs area who have untold tales in their pasts. Ryan Phillipe and Bob Balaban as the horrid Americans. Tom Hollander, Charles Dance and Michael Gambon as some of the men, and darn fine actors in this too. I think the jam scene with Tom Hollander and Sophie Thompson is one of my favourites. "Try the strawberry!"

Wrotham Park at the Darcy's Ruby Wedding Party "Oh, crikey!"

And I wouldn't be thorough without mentioning the house in this, Wrotham Park. It is not open to the public, so unless you attend a wedding there, you will never see the inside of the house which is so gorgeous and a character of its own in this film. I did recognize the stairway with all of the portraits lining the walls where Bridget Jones pulls Mark Darcy out into when they are at the Ruby Wedding Party. "Oh, crikey!" However it was apparently also used as a filming location for The Way We Live Now, Jeeves and Wooster, Daniel Deronda and Sense and Sensibility 2008 among many others. Now I may have to re-watch these to see if I can recognize any of the rooms!

Now I need a few of you to comment with your favourite scenes or characters or lines from Gosford Park. I know I missed a few!


  1. Such a great film with so many wonderful little moments! The jam scene is definitely one of my favorites--so subtle, yet it says so much about the characters. Also up there is when Elsie makes fool out of the American actor. And I just love Mary's character.

  2. Hi Janeheiress,

    Yes, the jam scene is especially great because the speech on love by the maid (played by Emma Thompson's sister Sophie) changes the entire outlook of Anthony Meredith (Tom Hollander), who suddenly sees that it IS all about love after all!

    Elsie shutting the door on the silly American actor was wonderful too. I love that she took the dog with her when she left!

    And Mary (or should I say Meary) is truly the heart and soul of the film. The exchanges between her and Maggie Smith's Countess are priceless!

  3. It has been years since I've watched this! I've been meaning to revisit it ever since The Young Victoria came out and I've not done so. Love the cast and although I wasn't totally blown away by the whole film, I LOVED the final scene with Helen Mirren and Eileen Atkins! This film is in my queue to be added to ES soon - especially since it's been topic of conversation so often in last year with references to Downton!
    Thanks for your reviews Jenny! You have the talent!

  4. Thanks Cheryl, it had been ages since I had seen this one too and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed rewatching it. Maggie Smith is basically playing the same character as she does as the Dowager Countess in Downton (hey they are even both Countesses!) in Downton. And the zingers are just as good. The way she snickered when the American actor got the hot coffee in his lap was brilliant!

    I almost feel like watching it again now, as there is so much going on that you can't attend to it all at once.

    Enjoy it when you get the time. I know you are busy with your wonderful blog, but you need your movie time too!

    PS I loved the final scene between the sisters too. I believe that they improvised most of it. That's why they are Dames!

  5. I didn't know that they improvised that scene! Thanks for pointing that out - I look forward to re-watching the dames in action! Thanks for your kind words, yes, I do need more movie time!!

  6. My favorite line is at the beginning, when Bob Balaban asks Maggie Smith "Are you ok?" and she gives him an icy "Am I wot?"

  7. My favorite line is at the beginning, when Bob Balaban asks Maggie Smith "Are you ok?" and she gives him an icy "Am I wot?"




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