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Downton Abbey 6.2

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I don’t know why I hope for a faster pace with Downton Abbey, but I often do. I should know by now that Julian Fellows likes to draw things out; it’s his style.

I had hoped we’d see Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes’ wedding this week, but we didn’t. Instead we saw them discuss and plan, not always harmoniously, the wedding. Thankfully, only Lord Grantham thought decorating the servants’ hall would work as a reception venue.

Afraid that he’ll lose his job, Thomas has started job hunting. He’s finding it’s slim pickings and that he’s got it pretty good at the Abbey. His interview did not go well as he learned that at this estate he’d be “chief cook and bottle washer.” They expected him to do the work of 3 or 4. Thanks, but no thanks.

Edith’s editor is giving her more trouble. Then speak on the phone a lot and he won’t listen to her. I expect once she’s got the gumption, she’ll fire him. She certainly should. One dramatic moment came later in the show and dealt with Marigold. Mrs. Drewe, the farmer’s wife who took Marigold in, doesn’t realise Edith is Marigold’s mother. Thus she wants Marigold back. It’s odd, but she seems to care about Marigold more than she does her own children. We’re led to see Mrs. Drewe as unstable. At a village agricultural fair, Mrs. Drew kidnapped the girl. Everyone scrambled around trying to find her and in the end they did. This storyline was oddly placed and there wasn’t a minute when I didn’t think they’d soon find Marigold.

Anna confided in Mary about her fertility problems and Mary escorted Anna to a doctor, who examined her and told her that she just needs a simple operation when she gets pregnant again, and she should be able to have children. Anna’s on cloud nine. I bet she’ll have a child by the end of the series.

Mary proved herself to one of the local agricultural bureaucrats (i.e. the man who arranged the fair).

The issue with the hospital remains and Violet and Isobel exchanged barbs. I do wish it were over an issue that I cared about more. Then the quips would have more potency.

Daisy talked about taking some exams and Mr. Mosley encouraged her. The world’s changing as we’re constantly reminded (I could do with more “show, don’t tell” with this theme) so it’s wise to be prepared.

As usual . . .

The dresses were splendid. Cora didn’t get to do much, but neither did Robert. And yet the acting is strong enough to carry an okay story.

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Downton Abbey, Season 6 Begins

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In the U.S. after months (maybe 10 months it seems) of promotions, Downton Abbey’s sixth season began on Sunday. My tradition has been to watch Downton with my aunt, who’s now living in an assisted living facility. I brought dinner for us and arrived early. Our problem was we couldn’t get PBS on Direct TV in her room. No one was able to help us. Ugh!

We had dinner and then I left to watch the show, feeling awful that my aunt wouldn’t be able to watch a show she loves.

I enjoyed this first episode, but feel that this review will echo what I said last season. I enjoyed seeing favourite characters and elegant costumes, but not all that much happened.

A chambermaid tried to blackmail Mary about her rendezvous with a Lord Whoever last season. We knew the chambermaid wouldn’t succeed and she doesn’t she’s just an annoyance. I’d expect a chambermaid in a nice hotel would have lots of opportunities for blackmail and that she’d be better at it than she was. It was odd how she had so much time and money to travel to the Abbey so frequently. By the end of the episode, Robert came to Mary’s rescue, showing his fatherly love, which made Mary realise how good a father he is. Still, I’d hoped that wily Mary would have outsmarted the chambermaid.

Violet has learned that a larger hospital would like to take over the village hospital. She shares her scuttlebutt at a board meeting and Isobel and Lord Merton, who seems to be trying to score points with her, oppose Violet and the local doctor, who doesn’t believe bigger is necessarily better. Cora’s caught in the middle and seems to be swayed more by Isobel’s views. I hope Cora gets a better storyline this season, but I doubt it.

Edith, as is often the case, didn’t get a lot to do. Her daughter is fully now part of the family. Edith handled an irate call with the editor of the paper she’s inherited. There was a nice scene with her aunt in which Edith considers moving to London to get out of Mary’s shadow, which would be best for her. Mary dominates Downton and there Edith will always play second fiddle.

I’ve wondered how the series will end and whether the Crawley’s will be able to keep their estate. In last night’s episode a nearby house went up for sale and the Crawley’s neighbours auctioned off most of their belongings. This sale obviously makes us all wonder what will happen to the Crawley’s who’re unable to replace staff and are now considering lowering wages.  The elegiac mood of the end of a beloved era hung more heavily last night and probably will throughout the series.

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At the auction, Daisy had an outburst. She’s very upset that her father-in-law will probably be kicked off his farm. When she saw the new owners, surrounded by her employers and all the people milling about shopping for antiques and what-not, Daisy let loose her feelings of the injustice of Mr. Mason. Though she had a point, she didn’t help Mason at all and just got herself in hot water. As Mr. Carson points out this was a “dismissible offence.” Yet the Crawley’s were merciful and Robert just scolded her.

Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes are engaged, but Mrs. Hughes was worried about the “terms of the marriage.” There was a bit of comedy as she had Mrs. Patmore run back and forth to find out how intimate Mr. Carson expected her to be. In the end, Mr. Carson convinced Mrs. Hughes that he wanted a real marriage and that his love for her was strong and real. I wonder whether Mrs. Patmore will have to continue to play the messenger/marriage counsellor between these two people who’ve known each other for decades?

With a flourish of deux ex machina, Julian Fellows tied up the storyline of  Anna being suspected of murdering her rapist. Another woman confessed to the crime. She must have been a female Jean Valjean since Anna was the prime suspect and there was no clear reason why the woman confessed, but it’s lucky for Anna that she did.

Favorite Violet lines

  • Does it get cold on the moral high ground?
  • If you were talking in Urdu, I couldn’t understand you less.

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Downton Abbey, 5.6-7

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The last two Downton Abbey episodes have really moved along. I’m delighted that the pace picked up. In episode 6 Cora discovered that Edith is Marigold’s mother and she made Violet and Rosamund take her to the hotel where they had fled to. As usual, Cora was quite composed, though disappointed that she’d been kept in the dark about Edith’s pregnancy as any good mother would. She cooked up the scheme to bring Marigold into Downton’s nursery under the pretext that the farmers couldn’t afford to keep her and Edith would adopt her. By the end of episode 7, Robert guessed that Marigold isn’t really adopted.

I was surprised that Rose’s engagement was so short. Suddenly, at episode 7’s start everyone’s preparing for her wedding. The only problem is that Atticus’ is Jewish and both his father and her mother don’t approve of mixed marriages. Rose’s mom, the ultimate sourpuss Susan goes as far as setting up Atticus by having a floozie take suggestive photos with him. Fortunately, the ruse doesn’t work. Nor does Susan’s announcement that she and Rose’s father Shrimpy are divorcing stop the wedding, although Atticus’ dad disapproves of divorce. We don’t know that much about Atticus, but he’s good looking and seems nice. I just hope he doesn’t die. Mary, Edith, Tom and Rose’s generation does not have a good track record for marriages. I suppose someone’s spouse bound to live. (I’ll count Edith in this list though she didn’t get a chance to marry her beloved.)

The Lord Gillingham/Mary relationship has been over and it seems he’s moved on. He’s realized that his former fiancée suits him best. Nothing’s moved forward with Mary and Blake and since Mary’s so critical and aloof, I think he can do better. The energy they shared when they saved the pigs has cooled.

The police investigation has slowly moved along.  In episode 6 the police seemed to have Mr. Bates in their crosshairs, but by episode 7, they brought Anna in for a line up and then arrested her. Anna! She can’t have done it, though she had a reason. It seems way out of character.

Tom is seriously considering going with his daughter to Boston to start a new life. I really hope he doesn’t. He adds a down-to-earth perspective to the family and I doubt life in Boston would be preferable. It’s good for Tom to bond with Sybil’s family and he can find love in the village, he just needs to seek out someone with similar values and decent manners. He has valuable work at Downton and couldn’t be replaced.

The episode ended very much like season one of The Village did, with the ceremony for the unveiling of the WWI memorial.

Downton Abbey, Season 5, Episode 5

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I thought episode 5, hummed along a bit faster than previous episodes. The big news was that Grigson’s death was confirmed and Edith was grief-stricken. Mary was her usual icy self. She seems to have lost any warmth she had when Matthew was alive. Yes, she and Edith are rivals, but most sisters form alliances every now and then. Mary has no women friends (well, no one on the show does, which seems odd) and shows zero compassion for anyone other than herself. (Which may be why she didn’t think twice of making Anna take her birth control and its manual home with her.)

Thus I fully understand why Edith ran to the farmers house, grabbed her daughter Marigold and fled. Life around Mary and the others who’re absorbed with their own little problems. Episode 6 should offer a lot of action for Edith.

Mr. Bates discovered the birth control and its manual and confronted Anna. In the end Anna explained they belonged to Mary, but Bates couldn’t fathom why Lady Mary, a widow, would need them. (Remember the “sketching trip,” Bates. Not everyone is truthful.) He’s holding a grudge against Anna.

There was a little thawing between Cora and Robert, who’s still angry about finding an art historian in his wife’s bedroom. Seems fair enough and Cora could have chucked that bounder out in a flash rather than going back and forth listening to Bricker spout off about her beauty and charm. No real damage was done and Robert’s sure to come round.

Mrs. Patmore looked into buying a cottage and that’s inspired Carson to think of buying property — with Mrs. Hughes. Love seems to be simmering under the surface, which is nice, but seems forced by the writer.

Mary’s second suitor Mr. Blake is matchmaking between Lord Gillingham and Mable Whoever. He connived to get them together at the equestrian event. It’s a little far fetched, but will probably work. I had feared that Gillingham was out for revenge and would spread rumors (well the truth) about Mary to besmirch her reputation. Seems that won’t happen.

Violet’s hired a new lady’s maid who’s very set in her ways and unwilling to abide by the customs of this house. If I were Violet, I’d just dismiss her. If the woman’s already a problem, it’s unlikely she’ll change her spots.

Rose is getting closer with Atticus Aldridge, a fine gentleman, whose only problem (for her parents I’ll bet) is that he’s Jewish. The show has brought up that Cora’s half Jewish this season and that’s a shock the Abbey inhabitants have absorbed, but my hunch is this will be an issue. The youngest woman in the cast is bound to marry someone who’s unacceptable; it goes with the territory.

The episode featured an important horse race, called a point to point or steeplechase. Mary competed and this time she explained why she rides side saddle, though most women rode astride since the end of the Victorian era. It seems her grandmother, Violet, would never let her hear the end of it if Mary rode astride.

To Marry an English Lord

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If you like Downton Abbey, you really should read Gail MacColl and Carol McD. Wallace’s  To Marry an English Lord. I got the audio book from the library. The narrator had the perfect voice, elegant and slightly aristocratic.

To Marry an English Lord presents all sorts of facts and vignettes about the American heiresses, and there were dozens if not hundreds, who crossed the ocean to marry well. The focus is on New York socialites, whose fathers had fortunes, but couldn’t break into the elite circle of the Kickerbockers. Kickerbockers were the descendants of the first New York settlers from Holland, these people wore knickerbockers, i.e. pants that stopped at the knees. No amount of money could get you into their social circle so those with new money headed for England where they were welcomed not just for their money (though that was key) but also because American girls were so open, confident and free. British girls were sheltered and shy. They were chaperoned everywhere, but the American parents gave their girls a lot more freedom. And they had much larger clothing allowances. A British girl would make do with 3 new gowns a season, but the American would get 18 or so spending about $500.000 in todays money (plus a 50% tariff). The British men noticed, in droves apparently.

The book covers every aspect of the women’s lives from dress, parents, education, hobbies and such to marriage, infidelity and socializing. I found it quite interesting that these girls had the best of all worlds because as was typical in the U.S. at the time they were encouraged to be spirited and confident as debutantes and unlike the women who married in America after they wed they could follow the custom of getting involved in politics or writing, which was normal in England.

The book is a solid and entertaining social history that makes me think a real life Cora had more meaningful work to do, more extravagant parties to give, more friendships and probably more infidelity than we see on Downton Abbey. (Mind you I’m happy Cora did not hop into bed with Bricker, the bounder.) The authors’ style is full of wit and energy.

While I enjoyed being able to listen as I drove, I think I’ll get the actual book, because I can envision wanting to fact check the history and that’s hard to do with a CD.

Downton Abbey, Season 5

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This season the story has been inching along, particularly during the last two episodes. The biggest event last night for me was when the art historian cum bounder went into Cora’s bedroom proposing a roll in the hay, though he put it more obliquely. Wouldn’t you know Robert returned early from his function. He was shocked to see Cora and Mr. Bricker in a tete-a-tete – in their pjs to boot. When Bricker suggested that since he was giving Cora the attention she needed his proposition was to be expected. Robert hauled off and hit him. Bravo!

Since I do believe Cora isn’t miserable in her marriage, and is just going through a period of ennui where she needs some direction or a new endeavor, Bricker’s been more of an annoyance than anything else. I am glad Fellows didn’t have Cora jump into bed with the art historian, but I also wish Cora would have more to do in the show. Perhaps she would find out about Edith and would have to deal with her feelings of being in the dark when both Violet and Rosamund have known.

On to Edith, I’m getting tired of the same old problem of her visiting the farm to see her daughter each week. Edith’s so mopey, though she sees Marigold more often than Mary seems to see George, which is odd. Or rather it’s odd to me because currently children are so central in a mother’s life. That wasn’t always the case. (In His Second Wife, the heroine mentioned not wanting to be a slave to her children. Different eras have different attitudes towards parenting.) How I wish Edith would throw herself into work and writing. She could take up the cause of single mothers or orphans. I wish this character had more facets.

I’m delighted that Robert stormed off when Miss Bunting rudely insisted that Mrs. Patmore and Daisy had to come up to the dining room so she could speak with them. Robert was right in my estimation since even after her hosts bent to Miss Bunting’s will and we could all see that Daisy and Mrs. Patmore were mortified, Miss B. continued to assert that she was right and that the servants were  dissatisfied and not respected. I’m delighted to hear that she’s leaving town. Tom could easily find a nice woman in the village who shares his political ideas — and is civil and respectful. My guess has been that even in Miss Bunting’s circle, she’s considered impertinent.

We didn’t learn much about whatever treatment Thomas is getting. I’m a bit annoyed. Again we’re getting strung along. If one or two stories are drawn out, that’s fine. But we’re being strung along with Edith’s story, the police investigation of Bates, the search for the Russian princess and Mary’s romantic storyline all move at a snail’s pace. I don’t mind a few stories moving slowly over a season, but I’d like some stories peaking mid-season or a third of the way in, while others develop more slowly.

Every week at the end I have this “Is that all?” question in my mind as I enjoy the banter, the costumes, but I can’t get around expecting something more to happen in a week.

Downton Abbey, Season 5.2

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This week’s Downton Abbey events hummed along, but nothing earth shattering happened. Jimmy left the estate after being dismissed for a liaison with an aristocratic former employer who was visiting the Granthams/Crawleys.

Daisy started to study with Miss Bunting. Mrs Pattmore was kind enough to offer to pay for the lessons. I don’t like that Miss Bunting will be around the house regularly and I wasn’t all that impressed with her advice to think of “figures as your friends.” That hardly unlocks the secrets of mathematics.

An art historian, whom I think we all understand will make a play for Cora, arrived. He’s quite a bounder and talks with more familiarity than I think a first time visitor should.

The biggest event was a police officer came to question Carson and the others about the rapist cum servant who died. Mrs Hughes kept her theories to herself while worrying about what the witness told the police.

Thomas continues to lurk and plot, while also missing his pal Jimmy.

Edith still spends way too much time with her secret daughter in the village. Edith spends a lot more time visiting Marigold in the village than Mary does with George. She’s asked Papa for permission to help the child out. Someone’s sure to put two and two together.

Mary’s off for a week rendezvous with Lord Gillingham. Not much happened there. The show ended with their arrival at the hotel. I’m sure this will blow up in her face. I predict she’ll finally decide Charles is “the one” and this dalliance may cost her.

All in all, the characters made small changes probably so the story is set for more drama in episode 3.

The dresses were exceptional this week!

Downton Abbey, Season 5 Premiere

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After months and months of hype and waiting, Downton Abbey’s fifth season began in the U.S. It’s a favorite show of mine, but I’ve never seen so much promotion. For crying out loud I saw three ads for Downton on CBS’ Sunday Morning — they’re in competition. CBS just had one promo for The Good Wife, which is on opposite Downton. Did PBS advertise on other networks as well?

It felt good to see the familiar faces of the Crawley clan and their servants. The costumes are always stunning. Julian Fallows offered his usual fare: verbal digs from the Dowager Countess, plots from Thomas, Cora going along with most everything, light moments with Mosely, Edith unsure and worried, and Mary capably preparing to take over the reins of Downton while mulling over her suitors.

Fallows packed a lot into the episode, which picked up where the last one left off although I was surprised that while the adults haven’t aged much, the children’s ages seem to have doubled. We learned that little Sybil calls her grandfather “Donk” as in donkey. How perfect! I love children’s names for grandparents and this one will keep Robert humble.

SPOILERS

While dedicated fans have already seen the new episode, let me note the following comments contain spoilers .

I’m glad that Miss Baxter told Cora that Thomas was using her and confessed that she’s been to jail for theft. Cora was discrete and fair with Baxter, who now can work without constantly worrying about Thomas.

  • There was no revelations about Bates. Perhaps he killed Anna’s rapist; perhaps he didn’t. It’s hard to say.
  • Edith seems to visit her daughter Marigold at the farmer’s house quite a lot. The farmer’s wife suspects that Edith’s got eyes for her husband, but I’d think these visits would be conspicuous to neighbors too. Alternative theories would come up and someone would get it right. Anyway, the husband’s sharp and he proposes the visits stop and agrees for a new story to explain them, because Edith can’t stop. Funny that she spends more time with her daughter than Mary does with her son, George.
  • Edith’s going to blow it. We all know that. The idea to bring Marigold to England was foolish and too tempting. I do have sympathy for Edith, but it irks me to see foolishness in any form. I’d love to see Edith get some gumption and hard as it is, send her daughter back to Switzerland. Then she should find a life’s passion and throw herself into it. Be a victor, not a victim, Edith!
  • Lord Gillingham visited Downton to woo Mary. Blake’s no where to be seen and Mary seems like the “out of sight, out of mind” type of woman. Any thought of Blake was fleeting. She’s agreed to go off with Lord G. to see if they’re compatible. I’m not sure that’s really historically accurate. Besides a week’s vacation isn’t a great way to learn about a person, especially when you’re traveling first class insulated from life’s trials and tribulations. The tryst is to be hush hush, but all secrets come out on TV. Seems to me there are other ways to gather the information Mary seeks. Also, is this going to be like the horrendous Bachelorette show? Will Mary give Blake a similar week?
  • Daisy’s starting to try to learn math. She’s struggling, but hats off to her for trying to take charge of her life. It’s funny how the high ranking staff had a pow wow about this. Carson and Mrs. Patmore worry that it’s too stressful for Daisy who already has a good job, in their opinion, while Mrs. Hughes supports Daisy’s desire to get more education.
  • As a surprise, Rose decides to invite the teacher Tom befriended to Cora and Robert’s 35th anniversary dinner. This Miss Bunting sets my teeth on edge. Throughout the evening she makes controversial statements such as questioning the need to remember the heroes of WWI (which we still do 100 years hence) and tries to cause trouble. She lacks the awareness to know that you can disagree, but you needn’t be rude and rabble rousing only rouses rabble. Tom’s just embarrassed and it took every ounce of patience and decorum for Robert not to toss this guest out on her tush. Miss Bunting was just boorish and self-serving. Her aim was to stir things up so she could then confirm her prejudices about the upper class. I really don’t like her and would love it if Fallows dropped her from the series, but I do doubt that. I fear Miss Bunting will go after Tom. What a pain!
  • Romance was on the horizon for Isobel Crawley, but Violet interfered as only she can. Violet does not want Isobel (Matthew’s mother) to marry a lord and gain status. So she hosted a big lunch inviting Dr. Clarkson, who’s sweet on Isobel and a beautiful widow who might divert Lord Whoever’s eye’s away from Isobel. It’s too soon to know whether that worked.
  • Robert’s nose got out of joint because the town committee wants Mr. Carson to lead the committee on the WWI memorial. Carson was as if not more upset by this unusual choice. My everything’s in flux!
  • Jimmy’s old employer showed up and they had a thing in the past, which gets rekindled. Almost literally.
  • The show ended with a house fire starting in Edith’s room. I’m not sure what happened. Did Edith try to burn that book with Gregson’s writing in it? Anyway Thomas was lurking in the halls trying to get dirt on Mary and to act as a lookout for Jimmy when he noticed smoke coming from Edith’s room. He swooped in and rescued Lady Edith, thus securing his job, which was on the line since his plot against Miss Baxter was discovered. I like justice so it would be fine with me if Thomas were fired. They can always bring in another devious footman and show Thomas in town, plotting against the family. I’m sure blackmail is in his skill set, as Lady Mary may learn.

I think Fallows could have made more of the fire. It was hard to believe the fire department could get their as fast as they seemed to and even with Robert and Tom’s quick response, I’m surprised there wasn’t more damage.

Downton Abbey Spoof

Actors having fun for the holidays. No one takes his or herself too seriously.

 

Désiré

Released in 1937 starring Sacha Guitry, Désiré is a comedy about a French woman and her household staff. Odette is a former actress who’s beau is a government Minister. Her staff includes a cook, a maid, a chauffeur we never see, but lacks a valet. The night before Odette, played by Guitry’s wife at the time, and her beau are to leave for the countryside, a chatty, meticulous valet comes to interview for the job. His references are impeccable and he’s hired. God forbid the couple goes to the country without a valet.

In the kitchen Désiré gets to know the maid and the cook. He’s very professional about his job and the hardest worker of the group, but also shares lots of observations about employers e.g. in a couple days a servant knows his employer well. In a year the servant can predict the employer’s every move and thought, yet after employing a servant for 5 years the employer probably doesn’t even know the servant’s last name. Touché.

Désiré’s previous employer intimates that while he was impeccable at his job, he made sexual overtures and therefore was let go. Odette is ready to send him packing but he persuades her to trust that it’ll never happen again.

All goes well until madam starts having dreams of Désiré making overtures. Her beau hears her calling out his name. Meanwhile Désiré also has dreams and the maid hears him calling out. Both don’t know what to do and try to hide the problem as best they can.

Désiré is a farce done with wit and intelligence. It makes some good points and is something of a counterpoint to Downton Abbey. Here the characters smoke and joke and toy with each other.  Guitry is a fine comic actor who held my interest from start to finish.

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