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Posts Tagged ‘Elizabeth McGovern’

Sorry not to have updated this blog lately, but I’ve been busy at work once again! Anyway, this is really to say that I’m still here, and have been enjoying the latest smash hit costume drama, Downton Abbey. It has been drawing audiences of around 11 million in England and Wales alone, after the controversial decision by STV not to screen the show in Scotland.

It’s odd now to think that about a year ago it was being predicted that costume drama would disappear from British TV, and from ITV in particular, as a result of budget constraints. Sadly, it does still seem that TV adaptations of older literary classics are an endangered species, with very few such productions planned in the near future – the BBC is working on The Sisters, based on DH Lawrence’s The Rainbow and Women in Love, and a new version of Winifred Holtby’s South Riding, with a script by Andrew Davies, and that’s about it at the moment. I thought someone was bound to commission a major Dickens adaptation for 2012 to tie in with his bicentenary, but have heard nothing on that front yet – though I’m hoping! (A Tale of Two Cities would probably be my choice, if anyone is wondering.)

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Richard E Grant as the Pimpernel in disguise

Sorry for being a bit slow in getting round to writing something about the second season of The Scarlet Pimpernel starring Richard E Grant.

I won’t write about this in as much detail as I did about the first season, which I think is better – but did want to say that I think it is worth watching, and the first episode of the second season, in particular, is probably my favourite out of the whole series.

The first series largely centres on the love triangle between Sir Percy Blakeney (Grant), his wife Marguerite (Elizabeth McGovern) and her ex-lover, now a spy for Robespierre, Chauvelin (Martin Shaw), who is Blakeney’s arch-enemy. However, in the second series both Shaw and McGovern are out of the cast – I don’t know what the reasons for this were but would guess that Shaw, at least, had other commitments – and Grant pretty well has to carry the series on his own. Ronan Vibert’s role as Robespierre is stepped up so that he becomes the main villain of the piece, and John McEnery is brought in as Sir William Wetherby, a new older sidekick for Percy. Both of these are fine actors and Vibert in particular is downright chilling as Robespierre – but  I must say that I missed both Marguerite and Chauvelin, and felt losing both these central characters together was a real shame, taking away from the romance and tension.

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I’ve now finished watching the BBC adaptation of The Scarlet Pimpernel, which was shown as two three-part seasons during 1999 and 2000, and has just been repeated here on BBC4. I started off intending to write just one posting about both seasons, but it is getting rather long, as I keep thinking of more to say, so I’ll make this one just about series one, and come back for part two in the next few days.

I gather this adaptation is controversial among diehard fans of the original books by Baroness Emmuska Orczy, for being “untrue” to the novels. However, I think it is a brilliant piece of television in its own right. Richard E Grant gives a dazzling performance as Sir Percy Blakeney/the Pimpernel, while Elizabeth McGovern and Martin Shaw are great too as Marguerite and  Chauvelin. I do also like the 1982 film starring Anthony Andrews, but this version  may just be my favourite. Although I enjoyed the books as a teenager, I haven’t reread them in many years – but the atmosphere of dashing romance, glamour and danger remains with me. I think that swashbuckling spirit is re-created in this series, however much the plot details are changed, together with a sense of the darkness underlying it all.

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