Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)

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

Monday, November 21, 2011

Wives and Daughters 1999

Justine Waddell, Keeley Hawes and Francesca Annis in Wives and Daughters
I can't believe I haven't blogged about Wives and Daughters yet. This is one of the best British period dramas ever, bar none! Written by the talented Mrs. Gaskell and adapted by the almost equally talented Andrew Davies, this production nears perfection.

This is the story of Molly Gibson (Justine Waddell), the daughter of a country doctor who gets an unpleasant surprise in the guise of a silly and manipulative step-mother (Francesca Annis). Thankfully she also gets a pretty step-sister (Keeley Hawes) who grows quite fond of Molly although the motives for her actions are not always as pure and her feelings not as easy to read as her new sister's.

Bill Paterson as Dr. Gibson with his beloved Molly (Justine Waddell)
The loving father daughter relationship between Dr. Gibson and Molly is wonderfully played by Bill Paterson and Justine Waddell. The viewer really feels for Molly when her role as the most important female in his life is usurped by such a ninny as Hyacinth Clare Kirkpatrick (Francesca Annis).

Michael Gambon as Squire Hamley

Squire Hamley: I'm not saying she was very silly, but one of us was silly and it wasn't me.
Anthony Howell is easy on the eyes as Roger Hamley

Mr. Gibson: Women are queer, unreasoning creatures and just as likely as not to love a man who's been throwing his affection away.
Roger Hamley: Thank you sir, I see you mean to give me encouragement.
Mr. Gibson: My encouragement is neither here nor there, if she can stomach ya, I dare say I can.

Keeley Hawes as flighty Cynthia and Iain Glen as the hateful Mr. Preston

Cynthia Kirkpatrick: I didn't sell myself. I liked you then, but oh, do I hate you now!


As I was watching this, my husband (I have taken to calling him The Squire) was popping in and out of the room as is his wont, when he started recognizing actors. "Hey, that's the dad from Miss Potter. There's the mom from Miss Potter! There's Isobel Crawley from Downton Abbey! Lady Catherine de Bourgh! Mr. Collins! Mary Bennet! Michael Gambon! Chloe from MI5! Sgt. Milner from Foyle's War! Mrs. Jennings from Sense and Sensibility! The Welsh guy from Coupling!"

It was kind of hilarious as he kept recognizing actor after actor. And this was only hours after he had just ID'd the dopey Lol Ferris from As Time Goes By as Mr. Gardiner from Pride and Prejudice 1995, which I had failed to see in previous viewings. He's getting good! Which just shows how many of my period dramas he has sat through. Or popped in and out during, always demanding a plot update when he reenters the room. Well, perhaps he is paying attention after all!

Molly Gibson in the rain
In short, I can conclude by saying this has to be in the top 5 period dramas of all time so if you've never watched this one, please do so soon, and if you have seen it, you may want to cuddle up and watch it again if you need a Molly and Roger fix. Molly is so adorable and that man can make a microscope look sexy! Well, that and the cravat of course...


  1. I'm currently watching North & South thanks to your posts and Wives and Daughters is next on my list. I look forward to playing the same game your "Squire" played.

  2. @ladytoesocks- You will want to watch the ending scene to N&S a few times because it is perfect but it just doesn't last long enough! And it's so exciting that you still have Wives and Daughters ahead of you. Another Gaskell fan in the making. Enjoy!

  3. As for your husband doing his actor-spotting, we almost always watch TV with a browser window open on the IMDB on a laptop within reach.

    Modern British television can feel almost like a repertory company, in the way that you keep seeing the same people, but they're all so good, they often appear very different in the different roles, and it's really fun to try to figure out which faces in one programme we've seen as which other character.

    My favourite character actor of the moment is Phillip Davis: Mr Smallweed in Bleak House ("Shake me up, Judy!"), the ne'er-do-well father of the Pratt sisters in Lark Rise to Candleford, the guilty party in an episode of Sherlock, and all sorts of other characters.

  4. @maryellen-We love Mr. Smallweed! After watching Bleak House my husband walked around for weeks saying "Shake me up, Judy!". That was hysterical! I didn't make the connection that he was the father of the Pratt sisters (I did see that episode too) but I did spot him recently in Beau Brummel. I'm such a geek too, I got excited and squealed "Smallweed!"- Good to know his real name, Phillip Davis.
    Glad to know that you play the IMDb game too. My sister and I joke that there are really only 30 British actors and they just shuffle around. That is an exaggeration, I know, but sometimes it seems that way. You're right though, they are so talented that sometimes it is hard to ID them they blend into the role so well.
    Hope you had a good American Thanksgiving in England!

  5. no. Elizabeth Gaskell's novel North and South, and the films of the same are without a doubt, the best the 18th century has to offer. While so many swoon upon Jane Austin's novels, I find that Elizabeth Gaskell has so much more too offer - classicism, social stratification, and social ethics. I really feel that every high school english teacher should replace their Jane Austen with Elizabeth Gaskell. Gaskell leaves us with questions that we, today, still need to grapple with: the workers needs and the investors needs.

  6. ... And, Merry Christmas.

  7. @Anonymous- No name? Glad to know you are a big fan of Mrs. Gaskell's. I, being the period drama glutton that I am cannot live without quite a few 19th century authors, but your point is well taken. Gaskell does have more interesting plots I agree, but Austen's use of humour and the English language are quite dear to my heart. And then there is Dickens and Hardy and Eliot and Thackeray, Trollope and...well, like I say, I love them all! And a very Merry Christmas to you also!




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