October 2011


A lot happened in this episode. I almost don’t know where to begin, but I’ll do my best.

First, we have Sir Richard and Mary’s upcoming marriage.  They decide to buy a neighboring estate and ask Carson to leave Downton and come with them.  Sir Richard sees just how attentive Mary has been to Matthew, and he threatens to expose her secret if she jilts him. I dislike him intensely and, frankly, I hope he dies in the upcoming flu epidemic (we’re in late 1918 already [as an aside, the entire household honors the Armistice in a truly touching scene] and, since it affected such a huge portion of the world’s population, there is no way that these characters can’t be affected) so she’ll be safe from him.  Even if she doesn’t get to marry Matthew.

Next up is the mysterious patient covered in bandages whom we saw in last week’s preview. He claims to be Patrick Crawley, the true heir of Downton.  Only Edith believes him, and she’s very passionate in her defense of him to the family.  We know that Edith loved the real Patrick, so it makes sense that she would want to believe him.  Mary says out loud what I think — Edith says he remembers things, but it’s done in the same way as fortune tellers do it; they lead on their subjects and take it from there.  Also, how did he pick up such an impeccable Canadian accent in only 6 years?  And  then, soon after Edith tells him all the effort that has gone into finding out who he is, he disappears.  He leaves Edith a note, and she’s devastated. Personally, I don’t think it’s the real Patrick.

Matthew is still morose, and Lavinia comes back to Downton to be with him.  Sir Richard drives her from London. I think it’s because he wants to remind Mary that both she and Matthew are engaged to other people.  Well, one afternoon, when Bates is wheeling Matthew around the house, he seems to have feeling in his legs.  He doesn’t say anything, but it’s pretty obvious.

Bates goes to London to talk to Vera, and comes back with a nasty cut on his temple.  And, within a day or so of his return, he gets a telegram saying she’s dead.  Of course he’ll be blamed.  It’s got to happen.

Mrs. Hughes asks Cora to write to Ethel’s baby daddy to get him to accept his responsibilities.  They get a letter back from his father saying he died in one of the last battles of the war.

Isobel wants Downton to continue to be a convalescent home, and Cora and Violet are just not interested.  They want the house back, and they want it back now.  So Violet works her magic and convinces Isobel that she’s desperately needed to work with all the European refugees who are homeless because of the war.

As we saw last week, there is a new maid in the house.  Her name is Jane and she is a war widow.  She tries to convince Daisy that she isn’t being hypocritical in accepting the widow’s portion William wanted her to have.  We see a couple of conversations between her and Robert that are rather disturbing.  “Disturbing” because something is not quite right between them.  I can’t help but wonder if there had been something between them at one point, years ago.

Well, speaking of Jane and Robert, in the trailer for next week, we see a clip of him saying “I’m a foolish man who’s lost his way, and don’t quite know how to find it again.”   He says this to Jane. I am NOT amused. We’ve never seen him be anything other than a decent man who loves his family, and if he fools around on Cora with a housemaid, I will be seriously displeased. We’ll know soon enough.

I just finished Edith Wharton’s last (and uncompleted) novel, The Buccaneers.  My first impression was that it’s not nearly as depressing as is most of Wharton’s oeuvre.  This edition was completed by Marion Mainwaring, who used Wharton’s own outline for how the story should end. It was pretty obvious where Wharton ended and Mainwaring began.  The last chapter that Wharton wrote was 29, and it goes downhill from there.  Until that point, I found the story to be very entertaining. I was interested in all of the characters, even the ones I didn’t like.  But from chapter 30 on, the book read like a cheesy romance novel.  So much angst. So much drama.  So many people who needed smacks upside the head.  Yes, Mainwaring’s story has a similar ending to Wharton’s intended one, but it’s the way Mainwaring wrote it that bothered me.

The Buccaneers is the story of 5 American girls who, on the advice of the British governess hired by one of the families (Miss Testvalley), go to London to catch aristocratic husbands.  Why London?  Because their money is too new for New York society, but there are a lot of aristocrats in London who need the infusion of cash that these girls can bring with them.  So off they go. Conchita marries Lord Richard Marable. Virginia marries Lord Seadown (heir to the Brightlingsea title), Lizzy marries Hector Robinson and Nan (the youngest) lands the biggest catch of all, the Duke of Tintagel.  The 5th Buccaneer, Mable, ends up going back to the States and marries a rich American and is promptly widowed.  So far, so good.

None of the four is terribly happy, but Nan is downright miserable.  She falls in love with a handsome engineer who is widowed and also the heir to a baronetcy, Guy Thwarte.  The Duke is clueless.  His mother is a domineering old battle-axe.

According to this article, Wharton’s original ending was a relatively happy one, but I found Mainwaring’s take on it to be less interesting than the rest of the story had been.  Nan leaves the Duke but refuses to run to Guy.  Guy moves heaven and earth to find where she is, and they agree to elope.  Miss Testvalley, who had become the object of Sir Helmsley Thwarte’s attentions, helps them and is dumped by Sir Helmsley when he finds out. This is the short version of the ending.  But Nan’s agonizing goes on for pages and pages and chapters and chapters.  I understood it the first several dozen times; I didn’t need any more.  I savored the first 29 chapters. I sped through the rest of them.

The 1995 adaptation was written by Maggie Wadey, who gave us NA86, MP07, 2 episodes of The Duchess of Duke Street, and a slew of adaptations that I’ve never seen.  NA86 was bizarre and MP07 was mediocre, so 2 of the three Wadey productions I’ve seen did not impress me.  I’ve heard that she made a lot of changes to the story for her screenplay,and some of them don’t make sense to me.  It’s got 5 episodes, so I won’t be able to watch in one sitting.  I’ll keep you posted.

I just finished watching the last series of Spooks. After the weirdness that was series 9, I was looking forward to the show going out in a blaze of glory.

A friend told me I’d be irate at the ending, and I was.  I am very, very disappointed.  For years now, I’d wanted Ruth and Harry to live happily ever after, and for her to die like that is just so wrong.  Yes, she sacrificed herself for him, but it’s just not fair.  I got all teary-eyed when Ruth died, and then again when Harry looks at the list of names of MI-5’s dead. There was Adam, and Jo, and Ros and Ben and so many spies who I came to know and love.  Obviously Connie and Lucas aren’t there, but so many others were (one question though — I didn’t see Tariq’s name on that wall.  Did I just miss it, or was it not there at all?).

What I really found intriguing was the sight of Tom Quinn showing up at the Russian’s home just after the Home Secretary tells Harry that he knows how to deal with that particular Russian.  The idea of the Government hiring Tom to kill this man was just the right touch for the ending  of the series. It really brought things to a full circle.

Anyway, now it’s all over.  All we have now is the memory of 10 years’ worth of great television.  Next year at this time, there won’t be a new series of Spooks to keep me on the edge of my seat, and that makes me sad.  Not as sad as Ruth dying of course, but very sad all the same. Someday, when I have the funds, I want to buy a box set of the entire series so I can watch it whenever I want.

Back in November of last year, I mentioned that watching Downton Abbey inspired me to read To Marry an English Lord, by Gail MacColl and Carole Wallace.  Well, this year, I was inspired to take this theme a few steps further.

What inspired me this year was learning about Consuelo and Alva: the Story of a Daughter and a Mother in the Gilded Age by Amanda Mackenzie Stuart. I took it out of the library and learned more about Consuelo Vanderbilt Spencer-Churchill Balsan than I’d ever known. The book was very, very interesting, but only in parts.  Some readers prefer the parts about Alva and her burgeoning feminism, while others (yours truly included) prefer the parts about Consuelo and her life.  I agree with the NY Times review that the book is “overlong but excellent” and I confess to having skimmed much of the last quarter of the book.  I just didn’t find Alva’s story to be as intriguing as Consuelo’s and so I paid more attention to what interested me the most.

So, my latest foray into the world of American girls who married into the British aristocracy is Edith Wharton’s The Buccaneers, the only Wharton book I’ve read that is not unrelentingly depressing. Wharton never finished it, and this edition was completed by a woman named Marion Mainwairing.  I am about half way through and am enjoying it so far.  Next up will be the 1995 adaptation of the novel starring mostly people I have never heard of, but we do get Mira Sorvino as Conchita, Connie Booth as Miss March and Greg Wise as Guy Thwaite.

As of right now, the last installment in this mini-project will be “The Glitter and the Gold,” which is Consuelo’s memoir.  It was published in the 1950s, after she’d been happily married to Jacques Balsan for several decades.   The book was re-published a few weeks ago (this is the edition linked above), and I purchased the Kindle edition in another effort to force myself to use the Kindle.  I’ve had it a year now, and I still prefer real books.

My hiatus made it impossible for me to watch episode 4 last week, so I gave myself a “double-feature” and watched both 4 and 5.

There are only 3 episodes left in Series 2; I can’t help thinking that very little will be resolved and that Julian Fellowes will keep us hanging until Series 3.

Branson tells Sybil that he wants her to run away with him, and she doesn’t appear to be happy about it.  Branson is self-righteous and annoying.  He tells Sybil that her work as a nurse isn’t very important, and doesn’t seem to care very much that the Czar and his family were murdered in cold blood.

O’Brien took it upon herself to write to Vera and tell her that Bates is back at Downton. But it doesn’t go as she’d planned — Vera shows up and tells Bates and Anna that she’s not done causing trouble for them.  But Mary gets involved and tells Sir Richard the whole story and gets him to agree to shut Vera up.   But she finds out that she’s been stabbed in the back and she is NOT amused.  Watch out Anna and Bates; Vera is once again on the warpath.

Ethel “gets into trouble” with the mustachioed major, and Mrs. Hughes fires her.

Matthew and William go missing for a little bit and, when they make it back to Downton to recover, Matthew is told he’ll never have children because he’s paralyzed, and William dies from his injuries.  Daisy marries him on his deathbed because he wants her to get the widow’s share of his military benefits.

And, in the preview for episode 6, we see a Canadian soldier who’s been brought to Downton who claims to be the long-lost heir to the Earldom.  Yes, Patrick, whom we were told was dead back in episode 1.1, is supposedly alive and back at Downton Abbey.

This program is getting soapier and soapier.  But I still love it.

JE11 stars Mia Wasikowska as Jane and Michael Fassbender as Rochester.  It also features Judi Dench as Mrs. Fairfax, Sally Hawkins as Aunt Reed, Tamzin Merchant as Mary Rivers, Imogen Poots as Blanche Ingram and Simon McBurney as Mr. Brocklehurst.  Haddon Hall once again plays Thornfield, and it’s gotten to the point that I don’t know if I can imagine any other house as Thornfield.  This is, of course, the adaptation that inspired the Jane Eyre-athon project and, even though I still don’t love it, I am very grateful to it.

I don’t want to repeat what I said back in April, but it all still holds true.  I’m still not fond of the idea that most of the movie is a flashback. The last half hour was still terribly rushed. I still think it’s silly that Jane is an heiress but the Riverses aren’t her cousins.

I did listen to the commentary by Cary Fukunaga, and am very glad I did.  There were some interesting little tidbits, such as the fact that they filmed the entire movie in a 2+ month period (March — May) and had to add leaves to the trees digitally during scenes that were supposed to take place during the summer.  He said he really wanted to be faithful to the book and talked about scenes from the book that were either changed or omitted from the movie, and tells us why.  But he never mentioned that the Riverses are Jane’s cousins.  I really wanted to hear his reasons for omitting that information.

Given the fact that the movie is only 2 hours long, they spend a lot more time (on a relative basis) on Jane’s childhood than some other adaptations have.  Of course, Helen is not quite as devout as she should be, but I really did like the Lowood scenes (as an aside, we see a lot of Helen as a ghost in the deleted scenes). Gateshead was fleshed out more than it was in both JE96 and JE97, which I appreciated because what Jane goes through in her childhood is important to the rest of the story.  Unfortunately, there is no gypsy scene, and one speech that was otherwise taken directly from the book has been edited so that the grammar is incorrect.  Just before Edward proposes, and Jane still thinks he’s going to marry Blanche, Jane says:

I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you.

Unfortunately, hypercorrectness has set in, and in this film, Jane says “…as it is now for I to leave you.”

Ahem:

Dear Moira Buffini,

Here is today’s Grammar 101 lesson: “I” is a subject pronoun.  “Me” is an object pronoun.  The twain  never meet.  Subject pronouns are never part of a prepositional phrase; only object pronouns are.  The word “for” introduces the prepositional phrase and therefore must take “me” rather than “I.”

So, the next time you think about changing a sentence written by someone who writes better than you do, think again.  Either that, or buy a grammar book and learn what the parts of speech are.

Sheesh.

I honestly don’t think I’m being nitpicky.  After all, it seemed that Buffini’s intent was to lift the entire speech from the book, so why did she make that one change?  Did she think that Charlotte got it wrong? If so, I am not only not amused, I am also not impressed.

In the final analysis, I liked the film somewhat less this time than I did back in April.  After spending so many months with the likes of Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine, Timothy Dalton and Zelah Clarke, Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens, etc. I was forced to rethink my earlier impressions of the chemistry between the two leads.  This time, I really didn’t see much.  Mia’s Jane is sometimes too repressed.  Fassbender’s Edward rarely shows me that he’s tortured.  It still gets a “meh” from me.  It is beautiful to look at, but we know that beauty is often skin deep. There is just not enough substance in this film for my taste.  I know it can be done — JE70 (which is 20 minutes shorter and had a tiny budget) managed to do that without all the resources Fukunaga et al. had at their disposal.  It’s a shame, too; I had been looking forward to this version and thought it had great potential.

This is the end of the great Jane Eyre-athon.  I need to finish a bunch of library books, as well as some books I already own, and I need some downtime to figure out what my next “project” is going to be.  I’m leaning towards Wuthering Heights because, in large part, there are so many adaptations out there, and also because I’ve never read it.  I started it not too long after I’d read Jane Eyre, but I only read a couple of chapters before putting it down with no regrets. But that was almost 40 years ago, and I hope I can do better this time.  I also hope to include Sparkhouse as one of the adaptations, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

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I’m taking a break for a bit, but will be back with more blatherings in a week or so.  Ta!

It may be 11:50 at night, but the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and all is right with the world.

The Yankees lost Game 5 of the ALDS to the Tigers by a score of 3-2. AT HOME.

Life is good.

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