Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)

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

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

My Week With Marilyn 2011

My Week With Marilyn

I finally just saw My Week With Marilyn and I have to say I enjoyed it thoroughly. Based on two books by Colin Clark they recount his experience as a 23 year old working on the set of the film The Prince and the Showgirl in London England in 1956. The first one was a diary of his time on the set (The Prince, the Showgirl and Me) and the second (My Week With Marilyn) an account of 9 days in the middle of this job when he got a little closer to Marilyn than most people did. Whether you believe his account or not it makes for a captivating film.

Michelle Williams as Marilyn

Michelle Williams is luminous as Marilyn Monroe. I can't imagine any other actress more accurately capturing the essence of the ups and downs that were Marilyn. The still pictures don't do her acting justice.

Kenneth Branagh as Sir Laurence Olivier

Kenneth Branagh is also particularly brilliant in the role of Sir Laurence Olivier. If you look at trailers of the real Olivier in the film The Price and the Showgirl, you realize what a great job he did. He was born to play Olivier. There is a great story about the young Kenneth Branagh writing to Sir Laurence Olivier to ask for some acting advice. The link to the interview is here. It explains the reverence Branagh has always had for SLO.

Eddie Redmayne as Colin Clark

Eddie Redmayne was the perfect choice for the star struck young Colin Clark, using his family connections to Laurence Olivier and Vivian Leigh to break into the film industry. Memory being what it is, Colin Clark had obviously embellished his own importance in this story, however that is what Hollywood does anyway, so just sit back and enjoy this version of what happened on the set of The Prince and the Showgirl.

Judi Dench as Dame Sybil Thorndike

I know it is hard to find an English film these days without Judi Dench starring, but in this case it made sense to cast her as Dame Sybil Thorndike. Dench had actually met Dame Sybil many decades ago and has very fond memories of her. This made her peculiarly apropos to have her play the friendly yet feisty elderly actress. I enjoyed her immensely.

There are a plethora of other British actors sprinkled through the film. Michael Kitchen, Emma Watson, Jim Carter, Zoe Wannamaker, Domenic Cooper...the list goes on.

I liked the film and I hope you will too. It is a little peek behind the curtain of film making and it is beautifully filmed in many of the original locations. And to conclude, here is a peek at the trailer of the original film, The Prince and the Showgirl. Very 1950s!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Pam Ferris- Actor of the Week

Pam Ferris has been in so many period dramas! Most recently cast as Sister Evangelina in Call the Midwife, now showing on PBS, she has worn many a bonnet over the years.

Pam Ferris as Ma Larkin in Darling Buds of May

Possibly best known as the warm beloved mother Ma Larkin in The Darling Buds of May. Catherine Zeta-Jones may have been the sex appeal in this show, but Ma Larkin was the character who made you want to join the Larkin family for dinner.

Pam Ferris as Mrs. General in Little Dorrit

As the horrid Mrs. General in Little Dorrit, hired to accompany the Dorrit sisters on their trip to Europe and educate them, she is wonderful and terrible all at the same time. Poor little Amy Dorrit!

Mr. Dorrit: Mrs General and I have been in conversation about you, and we agree that you scarcely feel at home here in Venice. How is this?
Amy Dorrit: I think I need a little time. Father.
Mrs. General: [sighing] "Papa" is a preferable form of address. "Father" is rather vulgar. Besides, the word "papa" gives a pretty form to the lips. "Papa", "potatoes", "poultry", "prunes" and "prism" are all very good words for the lips - especially "prunes" and "prism".

Pam Ferris as Grace Poole in Jane Eyre 2006

Perfectly horrible again as Grace Poole in Jane Eyre 2006, the alcoholic minder of the crazy woman in the attic. Wonderful role to play but not a warm fuzzy role.

Pam Ferris as Mrs Boffin in Our Mutual Friend

As the friendly Mrs. Boffin in the Dickens adaptation Our Mutual Friend 1998, she gets to play a working woman who, with her husband, comes into a fortune. She retains her heart of gold while she tries to negotiate the world of the monied upper classes.

Pam Ferris as Miss Trunchbull in Matilda

As one of the most horrible characters in literature, Pam Ferris plays Headmistress Miss Trunchbull from the film based on the book Matilda by Roald Dahl. Evil, evil, evil...but at least Matilda gets revenge in the end!

Pam Ferris as Aunt Marge in Harry Potter

As the nasty Aunt Marge Dursley in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Pam Ferris gets "blown up" by Harry who accidentally uses his magical powers after being enraged by the things that Marge says.

Aunt Marge: I still don't like your tone, boy. If you can speak of your beatings in that casual way, they clearly aren't hitting you hard enough. Petunia, I'd write to them if I were you. Make it clear that you approve the use of extreme force in this boy's case.

Pam Ferris as Mrs Dollop in Middlemarch
In a small part in the 1994 BBC production of Middlemarch Pam Ferris plays Mrs. Dollop, the opinionated landlady of The Tankard in Slaughter Lane.

Pam Ferris as Sister Evangelina in Call the Midwife

But my favourite role for Pam Ferris so far is Sister Evangelina in Call the Midwife. This character (and the entire miniseries) has a wonderful balance of humour and heart. Sister Evangelina makes me laugh and cry all in the same episode. She is mostly a fun, no nonsense character who is likely drawn from a real person as the miniseries is based on the memoirs of midwife Jennifer Worth. I can't wait for more Call the Midwife. Apparently there is a Christmas special and another series coming next year. Yay!!!

Sister Evangelina:  Ah, Camilla Fortescue-Cholmeley-Browne?
Chummy Browne:  I generally answer to "Chummy". My pa used to say "Long dogs need short names".
Sister Evangelina:  Follow me. And mind your head. I understand you qualified by a whisker, Nurse Fortescue-Cholmeley-Browne.
Chummy Browne:  I did pass. It was a bit of a scrape.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Babe 1995

I have to admit that I thought about the Babe movie for the first time in a long time because of what I was serving for dinner. "Pork is a nice, sweet meat" I heard myself saying to my son. And then I had to revisit what is certainly one of the most charming films ever made.

After winning a piglet in a "guess the weight" contest at the county fair, Babe the pig is brought home by Farmer Hoggett to be raised by a border collie named Fly. He attracts the attention of the farmer by sorting hens by colour, and then herding the sheep by asking them politely to move them out of their pen. The film then follows his career as a sheep-pig and the viewer is left utterly charmed.

Babe: I'm sorry I bit you. Are you alright?
Sheep: Well, I wouldn't call that a bite myself. You got teeth in that floppy mouth of yours or just gums?
[Babe bursts out laughing and so does the other sheep]
Maa the Very Old Ewe: You see, ladies? A heart of gold.

Farmer Haggett and Babe, the sheep-pig

Farmer Hoggett: That'll do, Pig. That'll do.

Babe and Fly

Fly: All right, how did you do it?
Babe: I asked them and they did it. I just asked them nicely.
Fly: We don't ask sheep, dear; we tell them what to do.
Babe: But I did, Mom. They were really friendly.

Babe: Baa-ram-ewe! Baa-ram-ewe! To your breed, your fleece, your clan be true! Sheep be true! Baa-ram-ewe!
Sheep: [finally begins to speak] What - what did you say?

Mice:  Pork is a nice, sweet meat!

If I had words to make a day for you
I'd sing you a morning golden and true
I would make this day last for all time
Then fill the night deep in moonshine

So I recommend that you watch this one again on a day when you need a little ray of sunshine in your life. You don't need a child with you but if there is a little one in the house, I will bet they will curl up to watch this with you, and come to love Babe, the little sheep-pig. By the way, the film is based on a book Babe The Sheep-Pig for anyone who wants to keep the charm going!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Argo- "Ar-Go See It"

I just saw the movie Argo last night on a date night with my hubby (The Squire). First of all, I can wholeheartedly recommend this film. The film has Ben Affleck starring, directing and producing and he did a great job. If you don't know the story behind Argo, then I will fill you in.

Bryan Cranston and Ben Affleck as CIA agents

Back in 1979/80, Iranian students and militants took over the American Embassy in Tehran in support of the Iranian Revolution and in protest of Americans harboring the deposed Shah. A few Americans in the Embassy escaped out the back door, but most were caught and returned to the Embassy as hostages except for six, who found refuge at the nearby Canadian and Swiss Embassies in Tehran. Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor collected and hid the six Americans without alerting authorities in Iran for 3 months before smuggling them out with the help of the CIA and a harebrained scheme to have the six pose as a Canadian film crew scouting locations for a cheesy sci-fi movie. Seriously. And the "real story" wasn't revealed until the Clinton era when the CIA files were declassified.

John Goodman, Alan Arkin and Ben Affleck in Argo

This is a very well made film which is great for an evening's entertainment. Ben Affleck will be looking for some Oscar nods for this film and I think he really deserves some recognition for his film making skills here. He also did a great job of giving a little history lesson on Iran/US relations at the beginning of the film which help those of us not up on our Middle Eastern history and showing why Iran and it's people were justifiably angry at, and distrustful of Americans at the time.

Victor Garber as Ken Taylor, the Canadian ambassador

The story is rather embellished with tense and exciting scenes for entertainment value, so don't take it as a documentary on the events. "Based on true events" is the disclaimer at the beginning of the film. And I have to admit that I was snickering at the last 10 minutes or so of Hollywood action film ending. Yet I understand why the real events, dangerous and frightening as they invariably were would not make for a good film ending. I enjoyed it all the same. And you have to stay for the last scenes after most of the credits have rolled. There is a final bit of info at the end in Jimmy Carter's own voice which you won't want to miss.

The other 52 hostages were eventually released after 444 days of captivity on the day of Ronald Reagan's inauguration, Jimmy Carter's last day in office.

I have to admit that I am feeling my age when I go and see a period drama which depicts events during my lifetime which I remember quite vividly. I am just glad that this film was done so well. Kudos to Affleck!

I felt very proud as a Canadian that other countries were unwilling to help these six Americans, but our Ambassador and our government were so willing to help. This was downplayed in the film, but understandably as the film is based on the account by CIA agent Tony Mendez (played by Affleck).


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Upstairs Downstairs Season 2

Upstairs Downstairs Season 2

Upstairs Downstairs Season 2 has just started on PBS, depending on your local station. My local station WNED in Buffalo is rerunning the first series and then starts the second series on October 28th, so CHECK LOCAL LISTINGS. In any case, if you need to catch up and live in the USA, you can watch on

Set in 1938, just before WWII begins, we get a big history lesson with each episode. Don't expect Downton Abbey here, as UpDown has always been more serious, and lacks the huge budget of Downton Abbey. And yet, if you can endure the ping-ponging between story lines and a bit of hilariously soapy expositional dialogue, there is quite a watchable series here.

Alex Kingston in Upstairs, Downstairs

After the death of Sir Hallam's mother Maude (a plot point to explain Eileen Atkins refusal to join the second season), her sister comes to stay at 165 Eaton Place. Alex Kingston is a welcome addition to season 2 as Sir Hallam's bluestocking aunt, Dr. Blanche Mottershead. She gives the series a bit of life and has some interesting secrets in her closet.

Blanche and the Duke of Kent (Blake Ritson)

If there is one reason to watch this series, let it be the gorgeous Blake Ritson as the Duke of Kent.

"I must ask you to furnish me with a cigarette. Forthwith." 

If you have the foresight to record this (or go and watch online at I dare you not to rewind a few of the scenes involving the Duke of Kent. And pause them. And then watch them again. Damn, this man is underused in period drama. (Note to self- watch Mansfield Park 2007 and Emma 2009 again)

Oh, and an honourable mention goes to Adrian Scarborough as the Butler Mr. Pritchard for pure entertainment value. Keep an eye on his character and enjoy.

So, remember, keep your expectations low and you may really enjoy this series. Just maybe keep IMDb and/or Wikipedia handy to sort out the characters. 

Let me know what you think. I have a feeling you will either love this one or hate it. I was happy to watch it but I wouldn't purchase it on DVD.



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