06. June 2014 · Comments Off on Last Thoughts on Upstairs, Downstairs · Categories: Random Book and Media Musings · Tags: ,

We watched the final episode this week; the last of the season that I had never seen, even though I knew perfectly well what was supposed to happen during it. Still, it has been rather interesting, looking at the series, so many years later, charting the lives of an upper-class political family from the turn of the last century to the 1929 crash of the stock markets … and picking out, with a merciless eye, things like inauthentic costumes, hairstyles and attitudes. The fortunes of the series changed almost in reverse of the Bellamy fortunes; very much on a budget at first, then expanding; better and more historically correct costuming, more scenes shot out of doors, the characters jelled … well, some of them did. Others were just adjusted according to the needs of drama. Like Georgina, the ingénue turned battlefield nurse, who … turned into a frivolous flapper for the entire decade after the war in which she served? Just don’t see that; no matter how much she would have wanted to get back to something resembling normality after three years of hard and responsible work as a nurse … I just can’t see going on ten years of pleasure-seeking arrested development. A year or two to decompress, and then back to pursuing something, something earnest and useful, even marrying might have been more true to character and history … but the story arc dictated that Georgina be a Bright Young Thing for the duration of the season. And side note – my, did Anthony Andrews ever look so young! My daughter always loved the series with Jane Seymour where he played the Scarlet Pimpernel. Edward and Daisy – that was a bit more real, I think; she developing a spine of steel sufficient for both, but tactfully letting him take the lead publically, in most circumstances. Edward would have been a bit fragile, always – but Daisy would have looked after him in a way that wouldn’t have reminded him of that … except when it was the right time and in private.

Lord Bellamy was stalwart, and so was Hudson, in the tradition of Englishmen of that generation … of whom I can honestly say that I knew one example, very, very well – my paternal grandfather, a child and teenager of the Edwardian upper level working-class. (They were those who wore a proper 3-piece suit and polished shoes to do their work, of course – not the equivalent of boots with jeans and t-shirt.) Of course, his father – my great-grandfather, the gentleman’s gentleman, a valet and butler both –was thrusting into the middle class, thanks to a generous inheritance from his employer. The employer was fabulously wealthy, and left £600 to Great-Grandfather George in his will, sometime in the 1880s. GG-George must have been as treasured every bit as much as Hudson – and twice as canny, for he parlayed that inheritance into a society catering business and real estate, and eventually relocated to the New World. And Grandpa Alf reflected the values of his age, faultlessly, even down to the mustache and general bearing.

Anyway, back to Upstairs and Downstairs, and the world at the beginning of the last century: James – sigh. Self-involved to the end; a prime example of the truism that suicide is a hostile and passive-aggressive dagger directed at the heart of close kin and loved ones. I’ll show you – I’ll be dead and you’ll be sorry that you weren’t nicer to me, and didn’t live up to all my expectations of you! Impatient, unthinkingly, casually cruel – he was the sort of man, as my daughter observed – who was always after the next glittery, shiny object which attracted his interest, or the next glittery, shiny woman. Oh, charm and savoir-fair with bells on … but once achieved, he lost interest. Considerate of him to do the deed offstage and elsewhere than Eaton Place, but still … there still is something nastily passive-aggressive about his suicide.

Anyway – being done with this series, we are going on to watch Deadwood. Contrast much?

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