When this film came out back in 1994, I fully intended to go see it. Alas, it was not to be, and I did not get around to seeing it until this past Friday evening. It was adorable.
Princess Caraboo is a highly fictionalized take on a true story, that of one Mary Baker, a cobbler’s daughter from Devonshire who fooled the rich and powerful in early 19th-century England. In the film, she was a servant girl (played by Phoebe Cates) who made up her own language and allowed Bristol society to believe that she was a princess from an island nation in the South Pacific. The film shows her dancing with the Prince Regent and falling in love with a reporter (played by Stephen Rea). According to this article on the hoax from the BBC, neither of these actually happened.
Regardless of the departures from fact, the movie is highly entertaining and has a wonderful cast. Jim Broadbent is Mr. Worrall, Princess Caraboo’s host; Roger Lloyd-Pack (Owen from The Vicar of Dibley) plays a local magistrate who is also Mr. Worrall’s business partner; Kevin Kline plays Frixos, the Worralls’ Greek-born butler; John Lithgow is Mr. Wilkinson, the Oxford don who tries to figure out where Caraboo comes from; and Anna Chancellor (probably best known as “Duckface” from Four Weddings and a Funeral, but who also played Miss Bingley in the 1995 version of P&P) plays Mrs. Peake, Mary Baker’s former employer, who is the woman who “outs” Princess Caraboo as a fake.
All in all, it was a very enjoyable film and I’m glad I finally saw it. Next in the Netflix queue is “Party Girl,” with the Queen of Indie movies, Parker Posey.
Yesterday, while waiting for Olympic hockey to start (Canada’s women destroyed Slovakia, 18-0), I watched a new favorite movie, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. I had seen it on the big screen back in New York and loved it so much that I bought it as soon as it came out on DVD. My friend Karen, the proprietress of BookishNYC, recommended the book by Winifred Watson that the film is based on, and it’s just wonderful. It’s been described as an adult fairy tale — in late 1930s London, a down-on-her-luck governess changes her life in one almost indescribable day. She wangles her way into the employ of Delysia Lafosse, a nightclub singer with more than her share of man problems (all of them of her own making), and the fun begins.
Yes, the film is somewhat different from the book, but it is absolutely possible to love them both. The film stars Frances McDormand as Miss Pettigrew, Amy Adams as Delysia, Ciarán Hinds as Joe, Shirley Henderson as Edythe, Mark Strong as Nick, Christina Cole as Charlotte (“the Rabbit”) Warren (she is so good at playing nasty pieces of work — check her out as Mrs. Elton in the new Emma) and Lee Pace as Michael. In my own humble opinion, McDormand does a better job with the accent than Pace does, but Pace definitely gets an A for effort.
Read the book. See the movie. You will not regret either. Now I need to find other books by Winifred Watson. If her other books are as much fun as Miss Pettigrew then they are worth looking for.