Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

TV: A new Mapp & Lucia !, and back to Lillie ...

I have done several posts here on MAPP AND LUCIA, the 1980s British tv series based on the 1930s novels by E.F.Benson. The comic adventures and social snobbery of  Mapp, Lucia and Georgie Pillson were spread out over 6 books, and made a perfect 10 part series in 1983. They have just been repeated here actually, and the dvd is also available, and there are in fact at least 4 new novels. written in the style of E F Benson, so it seems Mapp and Lucia are here to stay. Left: the original 1980s trio. 
Quaint Irene with Georgie ?

I am now surprised to see that the BBC in its wisdom has made a new 3-parter titled MAPP AND LUCIA, also filmed at Rye, where E F Benson lived, and where the original series was shot. As it is just a three-parter I imagine it covers just the main book of when Lucia moved to Tilling (Rye actually) and became the queen bee in the town, supplanting the envious Miss Mapp (soon Mrs Mapp-Flint!) who tries every trick in the book to get the better of Lucia, but is always thwarted. Lucia's friend Georgie (soon to be her husband) assists Lucia and it is all deliciously comic, what with their servants and local friends also playing their part.
Anna Chancellor and Miranda Richardson are the new Mapp and Lucia, or rather Lucia and Mapp - though each could play either part. Georgie though is Steve Pemberton, who seems an odd choice - he is terrific in BENIDORM as the tightwad father of the Garvey clan, but as he is also scripting this it must be a labour of love for him. Here he is, with Georgie's wig and moustache!  It screens sometime this autumn, and the Benson purists will be out in force to see this latest incarnation of our favourites. Mark Gatiss is also in the cast as Major Benjy - I would have thought he and Pemberton would be better cast if they swiched roles ?

More blissful costume drama re-runs. I liked the 1974 British series JENNIE, LADY RANDOLPH CHURCHILL again recently, where Lee Remick made a marvellous Jennie (Remick label). ITV also did another perfect costume series in 1978 - LILLIE - about The Jersey Lily, Lillie Langtry,the beauty who fascinatated the likes of Oscar Wilde and the Prince of Wales, as she quickly charms her way through London society and wins the heart of the Prince. I have the dvd, but it also is being repeated now. 
Egan as Oscar
Oscar calls her "The New Helen" and champions her. Francesca Annis is simply marvelous here, so cool and poised and radiant as she soon drops her mourning outfits to dazzle society drawing rooms. Whether out riding side-saddle, or coping with her boorish husband, or indeed the King of the Belgians who goes too far during those morning visits of his .... It is a big series of 13 episodes (directed by John Gorrie, Christipher Hodson and Tony Wharmby) with a large cast, and was very popular, as our tempestuous and calculating heroine (she could give Scarlett O'Hara a run for her money) fights adversity, it also covers Oscar's rise and downfall ...  
Polanski's MACBETHs 
Annis was a child actress and is still working now. She was CLEOPATRA's handmaiden in 1963, and then one of those PLEASURE GIRLS in 1965 (Annis label), and indeed was Lady Macbeth for Roman Polanski in 1972 with Jon Finch, and also effective in later tv hits like CRANFORD, but LILLIE is her crowning moment. She also played Lillie in 1975 in a series BERTIE about the Prince of Wales, and intriguingly played the Romy Schneider part in a BBC version of GIRLS IN UNIFORM in 1967, opposite Virginia McKenna. Prince cast her in his UNDER THE CHERRY MOON, and she even played Jacqueline Onassis in a 1988 ONASSIS telemovie! as well as DUNE and a MADAME BOVARY in 1975, plus those early 60s items WEST 11 and SATURDAY NIGHT OUT (reviewed at Annis label), and she famously played Gertrude to Ralph Fiennes HAMLET on stage ...

Dennis Lill (Major Benjy in the original MAPP & LUCIA), is the Prince, with Sheila Reid (also in BENIDORM as Madge!) as his mother Queen Victoria, Anne Firbank as Princess Alexandra, and Jenny Linden (WOMEN IN LOVE) as Lillie's confidant. Peter Egan makes a perfectly exquisite Oscar Wilde, with Brian Deacon as artist Frank Miles.
John Castle is another Prince and one of her loves, by whom she has a child. Poor Mr Langtry (Anton Rogers) gets short shift though. Its all perfect of its kind, as we see how high society arranges its assignations and how smart professional beauties make their way in the world. Make-up and costumes are excellent too as the characters age ... Mrs Langtry (1853-1929) went on the stage where she did very well, tourng America, and continued to fascinate .... and wrote a lively menoir "The Days That I Knew". Ava Gardner played her in Huston's THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JUDGE ROY BEAN in 1972. 

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