Before You See DOWNTON ABBEY, See These Movies and Shows

Before You See DOWNTON ABBEY, See These Movies and Shows

Sam Moffitt’s article about films and exhibits was originally posted Might 15th, 2015. In honor of the brand new hit movie version of DOWNTON ABBEY, We Are Film Geeks is reposting this record

By rights I ought to hate the English. Significantly, my background is nearly completely Scots and Irish. I grew up listening to concerning the troubles the English gave to the Scots and Irish, each in class and from my mother and father.

But I do not, I really like the English. How can I hate a country that gave us not only Monty Python but in addition Benny Hill and the Carry On Films? How can I bear any unwell will to a country that gave us writers of the caliber of Ramsey Campbell, Brian Aldiss, Michael Moorcock and J. G Ballard? How can anybody hate a country that not only prizes eccentric conduct however encourages it? Take Mr. Kim Newman for example, an excellent author whose work appears frequently in Video WatchDog and Videoscope Mr. Newman clothes himself, has his hair and mustache styled and speaks in the manner of someone from the 19th Century! And allow us to not overlook Hammer Movies as well as the actors that made them work, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. And I haven’t even touched on the British Invasion music from the 1960s.

And I need to point out Alfred Hitchcock, H.G. Wells, The Goon Show (especially Spike Milligan), Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, The Avengers and Boris Karloff. Boris Karloff!?!? If England’s solely contribution to world culture have been Boris Karloff I might forgive them anything!


All of which leads me to the topic of Downton Abbey and what to do until the Sixth and remaining season airs on this nation. I heard and skim lots about Downton Abbey and needed to see the collection. I warned my sweetheart Radah, that if we began watching them we might be hooked, a lot as we acquired hooked on Deadwood and Carnivale and Dexter.

And of course we did, binge watching all 5 seasons and reveling in the plot twists and the wonderfully written and acted characters. Especially the characters of Anna and Mr. Bates and their sluggish to develop romance and I personally love the character of Tom Branson, a real Irishman who always reminds the Crawley family that their lifetime of privilege has a worth.

I gave this some thought and came up with this highly personal, opinionated and timely record of flicks and tv exhibits which naked greater than a passing resemblance to Downton Abbey. My standards was easy, there needs to be a rich family, English or American, with major characters both upstairs and down. Which leads me straight to:

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  1. Upstairs, Downstairs 1971-1975

I’m not really enjoying truthful right here. I’ve to admit I never watched a lot of Upstairs, Downstairs. One of the widespread exhibits on PBS to be imported from England I noticed only a bit of 1 episode whereby the household mourns the demise of King Edward, bringing to an end the Edwardian period. However I’ve from reliable sources that a lot of Downton Abbey, including whole story strains, have been inspired by Upstairs, Downstairs.  It even inspired an American version on CBS which I might love to see again however seems to have vanished with no trace. Beacon Hill ran for not even a full season and detailed the lifetime of a rich Irish household dwelling in Boston’s Beacon Hill area. Something historians identified would have by no means happened in the 1920s era by which the present was set. By no means mind, I recall the family appeared to have been inspired by the Kennedys. I’ve not seen these episodes because the 1970s so forgive me if my memory just isn’t accurate. I recall a son who came again from WWI missing an arm and searching very F. Scott Fitzgerald together with his Arrow collars and slicked again hair and darkish rimmed eyes. I additionally recall the Downstairs crew had a black prepare dinner who truly had a narrative line for himself. The present was controversial in that the first episode had the male characters visiting a brothel, wherein all the working women have been additionally black. And much more historically accurate when the characters visited a speakeasy the jazz band was all black. All of this brought about a little bit of controversy which may have been a significant factor in the show being cancelled and leaving all of the storylines hanging. That and the fact that not many individuals watched (besides me) and I beloved the show and would like to see any present episodes once more. Youtube has a promotional advert for the present and that’s about it.


  1. REMAINS OF THE DAY   1993

A chic and authentic period piece from the prolific staff of Service provider/Ivory, Remains of the Day includes a sensible efficiency by Anthony Hopkins as a butler in an enormous English estate so devoted to his life of service he refuses to make any transfer to seek out happiness for himself. Matching him each in service and appearing chops is Emma Thompson as a head maid who makes the mistake of falling in love with this “gents’s gentleman”. Hopkins character is so targeted on his butler duties he continues to work the day his Father dies, ignores direct insults from an upper class, boastful twit, passes up the prospect for love with Thompson’s character and cannot see that his Lordship, the all the time sensible James Fox, is a Nazi sympathizer and principally not a really good individual. REMAINS OF THE DAY goes into as a lot element concerning the workings of an English manor home as does Downton Abbey and tells a heartbreaking story of a life that is principally wasted.

Laurence Olivier (Maxim de Winter). and Joan Fontaine (Mrs. de Winter).

  1. REBECCA   1940

Alfred Hitchcock’s first American movie is an excellent adaptation of a Daphne Du Maurier novel whereby a nameless American lady (Joan Fontaine) is wooed by and marries an English Lord, Maxim De Winter (Laurence Olivier) and finds herself means out of her depth making an attempt to fill the footwear of Rebecca,( Max’s first spouse, who died beneath mysterious circumstances,) and whose ghost apparently haunts Manderley , the good home the place the story takes place. Rebecca does not have a lot in the best way of Downstairs characters however we do get an actual winner in Mrs. Danvers, an unimaginable piece of labor from Judith Anderson. Her tour of Rebecca’s rooms and wardrobe is an unforgettable scene.  Hitchcock was made to comply with the novel intently because of the insistence of the producer, the legendary David O. Selznick. Regardless of, REBECCA is prime Hitchcock and an exquisite take a look at the higher and lower courses of England in that time interval. PBS did an exquisite miniseries model in 1979 for Mystery, and again in 1997 (a version I have not seen) and the novel continues to be terrific, as is all of Du Maurier’s work.

  1. The Addams Household 1964-1966

A 1960s sitcom a few “creepy, kooky” household? Sure, absolutely. The Addams Family matches my standards perfectly. In contrast to the working class Munsters, the Addams Family was independently rich, though how and when Gomez made his cash isn’t fairly explained. We solely get one Downstairs character however he is a winner, the unforgettable Lurch as played by Ted Cassidy (until you additionally rely Factor!). I only lately received the dvds of both seasons of the Addams Family and located, to my delight, they are still funny and the actual treasure of the show, the icing on the cake, is Lurch. All the actors are in on the joke they usually all shine but Lurch is such a particular presence and steals every scene he’s in, you look ahead to his scenes. I wish there had been more seasons. Both The Addams Household and The Munsters have been prime rated exhibits, highly regarded, and each have been cancelled with no rationalization from their respective networks. What a shame. When these exhibits have been model new I needed to be a member of the Addam’s Household, I needed to BE Pugsley, particularly after Gomez advised the varsity principal on Pugsley’s first day of faculty (in the very first episode) that “If we needed him joyful we’d hold him at house!”

My Man Godfrey (1936) Directed by Gregory La Cava Shown from left: Carole Lombard (as Irene Bullock), William Powell (as Godfrey Smith/Godfrey 'Duke' Parke), Gail Patrick (as Cornelia Bullock)

  1. MY MAN GODFREY 1936

Thought-about to be the first screwball comedy MY MAN GODFREY considerations a “forgotten man” terrifically performed by William Powell, who is collected on a scavenger hunt by a wealthy, spoiled, drama queen of a “madcap heiress” also properly performed by Carol Lombard (the 2 have been married for a time). Godfrey holds up very nicely and continues to be amusing riot. We get various Downstairs exercise, Godfrey turns into the family butler, straightens out the family funds, earns the respect of the Father (the all the time enjoyable Eugene Pallette) and every different member of the household and even throws Lombard right into a bathe with all her clothes on. MY MAN GODFREY has been in public domain for years so there are multiple variations available on the market. But the high quality people at Criterion issued a particular edition and cleaned up the sound and picture tremendously, that model is value looking for out. The various rooms of this mansion are lovely to behold when you’ll be able to see all the detail that went into the sets. A masterpiece of Upstairs and Downstairs characters and story.


  1. CAVALCADE 1933

I’m again not likely enjoying truthful right here. This British manufacturing from 1933 of a Noel Coward play matches my criteria, it follows not one but two English families who comprise both the Downstairs in addition to Upstairs characters. It is a handsomely mounted manufacturing however for my part is definitely the worst movie that ever gained a Greatest Image Oscar. Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide provides it four stars, (perhaps I should watch it once more someday?) What I recall is a grueling, slowly paced and stagey production crammed with Imperial rhetoric and snobbery, and the worst bunch of spoiled, upper class youngsters I’ve ever witnessed. A pattern of dialog? Because the Father will get able to go to South Africa and the Boer Warfare one of the spoiled brat youngsters is heard to say “Promise me you’ll reduce Paul Kruger (A Boer Leader) into tiny bits together with your sword! Say you will Daddy!” And this was the identical yr King Kong was launched!


  1. THE SERVANT 1963

A young higher class Englishman (James Fox again, absolutely sensible!) hires a private man servant and makes the error of selecting Dirk Bogarde (additionally sensible) who’s by no means what he appears.  Bogarde’s character has this “sister” you see, Sarah Miles, (and sure, you guessed it, additionally sensible!) and…  I don’t like to provide out spoilers however absolutely nothing is what it seems on this one in every of a sort movie, written by Harold Pinter, directed by Joseph Losey which turns the tables on the whole British class system and which might solely happen in England. See it and you’ll perceive why, this story could not stand an opportunity of being informed in another nation. In all probability the perfect film on this listing.


A devastating satire on the English class system Crichton (also referred to as Paradise Lagoon) sees an higher class household and their servants’ ship wrecked on a stunning tropical island (which exists only in films.) Probably the most resourceful, educated and the most effective leader within the group is in fact the top butler, Crichton, splendidly played by Kenneth Extra. Slowly but certainly the class distinctions disappear, though that is no grown up model of Lord of the Flies, no indeed, nearer in spirit to Blue Lagoon the upper class daughter finds herself enchanted with this new model of the household butler. Crichton is funny, warm hearted and eventually coronary heart breaking when the family is rescued and the previous class obstacles come flying again up. I have not seen Crichton in years however nonetheless recall the horror of Crichton resuming his previous position and the effect on his beloved. This one is just too unhappy for words.


  1. GOSFORD PARK 2001

One in every of Robert Altman’s nice movies and the direct ancestor of Downton Abbey, GOSFORD PARK was written by Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey. Very similar to any Agatha Christie story it considerations a homicide in an higher class English manor house however Altman, as standard, isn’t eager about making a film to evolve to anyone’s concept of style. Altman is far more in the Downstairs characters, of which there are various, and turning the conventions of the homicide thriller inside out. One of the delights is that Maggie Smith plays EXACTLY the identical character as she does on Downton Abbey. And with an all star forged it’s, as all the time with Altman, a delight to see the various characters juggled about, and each single actor has a second to shine. GOSFORD PARK, and probably REMAINS OF THE DAY, are the closest in spirit to the world of Downton Abbey.



Here lastly is what could be referred to as the Anti-Downton Abbey, and my personal favourite, Peter Medak’s leading edge satire of English class distinctions with a means excessive performance (two performances actually) from Peter O’Toole. The story is straightforward; the 13th Earl of Gurney has accidently hanged himself, in an opening scene with the good Harry Andrews. In a bedroom scene that’s each hysterically humorous and nonetheless surprising the previous Earl dons his purple Army coat and a ballet tutu and proceeds to auto asphyxiate himself, all of the whereas ranting upper class drunken gibberish “I see six vestal virgins smoking cigars! Moses in bed room slippers!” With the dying of the 13th Earl of Gurney the inheritance of the large property falls to Jack, the 14th Earl of Gurney, who can also be a paranoid schizophrenic who believes himself to be a minimum of Jesus Christ. In a performance that needs to be seen to be believed O’Toole is by turns funny, creepy, weird, touching and eventually believable, this man might very nicely truly be Jesus returned to Earth! Even more surprising, when Jack decides to truly take the duty that comes with nice wealth, inherited privilege and the title of a real English Lord he leaves Jesus behind and turns into a minimum of Jack the Ripper himself! Here is where lots of people have been confounded and outraged by Medak’s film, it goes from high comedy, full with sudden musical numbers, into dark and dangerous waters. O’Toole is more than up to the duty and pulls it off wonderfully. Once again we solely get one major Downstairs character however he’s yet one more winner for our aspect. The unforgettable Tucker (Tuck to the household) performed by Arthur Lowe, a personality actor within the grand previous tradition, Tucker is both a loyal servant and card carrying Communist. He inherits quite a lot of money from the deceased Earl and not has to work however stays on to torment the bunch of higher class twits who employ him and try to help the new Earl of Gurney make his means on the earth by which he finds himself. THE RULING CLASS is cruel in exposing the English higher class as a bunch of in bred, delusional, uneducated, racist, homophobic, stupid and eventually insane and murderous, toffy nosed twits who’ve hassle wiping their very own behinds. Actuality in other phrases. Should you completely love the world of Downton Abbey, THE RULING CLASS is probably not for you however it was a serious box workplace success in its day and remains a critical cult film.

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