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“Downtown Abbey” Movie to Begin Shooting


It’s official! Downton Abbey fans! Rejoice! For the movie version of the blockbuster Masterpiece TV series is beginning to shoot in England. At where else? HIghclere Castle!

As the original cast is returning, it will feel like visiting with old friends. Including Dame Maggie Smith, Michele Dockery, Hugh Bonneville and Joanne Frogatt. Things have changed in that now the nefarious footman Thomas (Rob James-Collier) is now the head butler.

Mr. Carson is unwell, the character, not the great actor, James Carter, but his real life wife, Olivier-winning actress Imelda Staunton, the odious teacher Frances Umbrage of Harry Potter fame, will be joining the cast as Dame Maggie’s cousin.

Julian Fellowes wrote this at a brisk clip. It must have been like a walk in the country for him after writing EVERY SINGLE EPISODE of the six year series.

Others being added to the already starry cast are:-

Geraldine James (Anne with an E, Beast), Simon Jones (The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Brideshead Revisited), David Haig (Killing Eve, Penny Dreadful), Tuppence Middleton (War and Peace, The Imitation Game), Kate Phillips (Peaky Blinders, The Crown) and Stephen Campbell Moore (History Boys, Lark Rise to Candleford), amongst others.

It’s a packed house already! And will undoubtedly be packing movie theaters all over the world upon its’ release next year. Once again, I can’t wait!

One little spoiler that Lily James revealed in her “Mama Mia 2” press interviews is that her character, the vivacious, flirtatious, former flapper Rose, won’t be featured as much, because she said “The focus is on the family.” And Rose, if you remember, married a rich Jewish young man, and they both moved to New York.

Domage!

 

“Downton Abbey” Ends With Everyone in Tears

Maggie Smith“Downton Abbey”s over. It’s official. It ended in Grand Style tonight with everyone in tears. In the audience I mean. The larger than life cast of characters all had miraculously and ridiculously happy endings. Not the least of ┬áthem the lovelorn Lady Edith(Laura Carmichael) FINALLY heading down the grand Downton staircase as a bride, with a super-long silken train. Lovely. And of course, it reminds you of when she did this same thing a few seasons back and got jilted at the altar by Sir Anthony Stralen.(Boo! Hiss!)

Presided over by the great legend herself Dame Maggie Smith, as Violet, the peppery Dowager Countess of Grantham, “Downton Abbey” is simply one of the greatest TV series of all time.

Rob James-Collier1

And of course, you ask what was my favorite moment? Well, when Thomas Barrow, the perpetually lonely gay under-butler, was finally made butler! Well, I was just wiped out! Last episode, he tried to slash his wrists in a bathtub, and nearly died.

Rob James-Collier was the superb young actor who took us on Thomas’ long journey from a wine thief in Episode One, to WWI, where he shot himself in the hand to get out of military service, to kissing another valet and getting himself in trouble with the police for it.

Yes. You could just kiss a man in those days and it could have been the end of your career. Whatever career it was, it was ruined by something so innocent. Chilling. Frightening.

So when Thomas finally triumphed, it felt like a personal triumph, too.

As all the heterosexuals were pairing off at a dizzying pace, it was almost ridiculous. Lady Edith and the Earl of Hexham. Daisy and the new(ish)valet, who can’t read, Andy. Even Mrs. Patmore and Daisy’s benefactor/farmer Mr. Mason, and Cousin Isobel and Lord Merton. You could also see Moseley and Baxter eyeing each other as did Tom Branson and the new editor of Edith’s now successful magazine.

Lady Mary, of course had been married in the last episode  to her dashing racing car driver beau Henry Talbot, played to perfection by Matthew Goode, who has had quite a vigorous career in British films, and will go on to many more I predict.

Lady Mary 1That’s a lot of loose ends to tie up, but tie them up author Julian Fellowes did. It’s his great achievement in the end. He wrote every word and conceived all these great characters so vividly, so memorably, it’s hard to think that any of these talented actors are ever going to be able to top “Downton Abbey.”

Oh, and Anna and Bates had a baby. Her water broke in Lady Mary’s bedroom no less, so that’s where she had her little baby son.

The symbolism is getting a little heavy around here.

I’m so upset that it’s over. But there’s still more “Downton” to come. I think a movie is in the offing. Wouldn’t that be grand?

Lady Edith 1

In any case, “Downton Abbey” will simply never end. Not in our minds and hearts, anyway. It’s sooooo rare that television can touch us this way, and we’re so happy it did. And Bravos and Bravas to all concerned! May their futures be as bright and happy as this last episode!

“Downton Abbey” is back and better than ever!

Whatever was “Downton Abbey” going to do?

What do you do to follow-up World War I as a plot point and setting? Well, you just continue with the high level of scintillating scripting by series creator and sole writer Julian Fellowes and the superb acting of the outstanding British cast that the public has come to know and to love, upstairs and below-stairs. And yes, the great “Downton Abbey” is more than back and, I’m happy to say, is better than ever.

I’m glad I waited to sing its’ praises until now, un petit en retard, the airing of the new Season 3, Episode 3 is tonight at 9pm EST.

SPOILER ALERTS!!!!!!

Because in Ep. 2, the subplot of what happens to middle sister, the less good-looking of the three glamorous Crawley sisters, Lady Edith, just lands on one like an unexpected ton of proverbial bricks,just as it does poor Edith. She is shockingly abandoned at the altar by her groom, the older, and partially wounded in the War, Lord Anthony Strellin.Bastard!

It is heartbreaking and beautifully under-played by Laura Carmichael, as the luckless Lady Edith, and her mother the Countess of Grantham, Elizabeth McGovern. Lady Edith’s two grandmothers are no slouches in the sympathy department either as the magnificent Dame Maggie Smith and the dazzling Shirley MacLaine, offer their support to the sobbing Lady Edith, too, in wrenching scene after scene that tears your heart out and throws it on the grounds of the sumptuously manicured estate.

I was not expecting to be so impacted by this storyline of the less lovely, but utterly sympathetic, sister’s May-December hook-up with much older Lord Stallin. But yet I was. And better yet, it was an utter surprise.

You just don’t see the stupendously well-mannered and stiff-upper-lipped Lord Strallin doing something so cowardly and dastardly as this. But he does. And now the series has a new villain! Although we may never see him again. The least he could do is pop off due to stress and leave poor Edith all his money, house, grounds, the lot!

Humiliating poor Edith in front of an entire church-full of the assembled landed gentry of The County AND their horrified servants! It’s a trauma that you know is going to echo down this season, and the next and the next. Will Edith ever be lucky in love? All signs now point to “No.”

And this unbelievable, shocking debasement comes in Episode Two, right after her older sister, the beautiful, but difficult and opinionated Lady Mary (the superb Golden Globe nominee Michelle Dockery) has married so well and so grandly to the series dashing and desirable heart-throb, Matthew Crawley(Dan Stevens).Lady Mary and Matthew got married in grand style in Episode One, only to witness Lady Edith’s disgrace in Ep.2 Never a dull moment at Downton!

And Downstairs, the plot thickens and sickens, too. Mrs. Hughes(Phyllis Logan) the saintly housekeeper may have cancer. The abandoned and disgraced former housemaid Ethel(Amy Nuttall), has become a prostitute. AND former partners-in-crime,the villainous, but handsome gay valet Thomas(Rob James-Collier) and the equally witch-y Ladies’ Maid to Lady Grantham, Mrs. O’Brien (Siobhan Finneran)are now at each others throats,threatening each other, forecasting all kinds of skullduggery to come.

Worrisome and interesting, also, is the contrast of continuing downstairs problems of dutiful Anna,(Joanna Froggatt) head house maid, who married and fell in love with the valet Bates(Brendan Coyle), who is now in jail for the murder of his ex-wife, the no-good blackmailer Vera.

This May-December love story, with Holloway prison thrown in, has proven tremendously popular as “Free Bates” T-shirts being sold on the PBS website abound.

The intrepid Anna takes it into her hands to go out into the world beyond Downton, in this case, London, and try to find out just what happened to the loathsome Vera Bates. Was it murder? And if not her beloved husband, then who? Or was it suicide? She tracks down a neighbor of Vera’s in the East End and bribes her to talk about Vera’s last day. I think gets some clues, even though she doesn’t know it yet.

One) that Vera was scrubbing her nails quite violently the last time her friend saw her and
Two)that she was surrounded by rain-drops that made her look like she had a halo, according to the aggrieved friend.

Mark my words, Agatha Christie fans, those tiny details mean SOMEthing!

And one never tires of the endless interior and exterior shots of Highclere Castle, otherwise known as Downton Abbey itself. It’s presence (it IS one of England’s stately homes after all) continues to overwhelm its’ inhabitants, and it is itself the series focal point and most awe-inspiring character.

Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) looks like he’s losing all his and his rich American wife’s money, too,in Episode One. And her mother, the uber-rich American, Mrs. Martha Levinson (a perfectly brassy Shirley MacLaine)though in residence for Mary’s wedding, won’t give them a red cent.

The worry about just what is going to happen to Downton, and therefore the entire series, was just enough to start “Downton Abbey”s Season 3 off with a bang and I know if they can manage to pull us all back in WITHOUT the backdrop and drama of World War I, well, then we’re well and hooked all over again, and in for a full season of Downton drama and delight.

However, I do have to point out that Season 3, like many “seasons” of British television is only 7 episodes long! And so, you better make your date with Downtown tonight at 9pm.

And if you’re out and can’t be in to catch it, PBS.org is playing all the episodes online starting the next day, Monday. For a limited time. So one way or the other you can’t miss the magical magnificence of “Downton Abbey.”

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