Kind Hearts and Coronets

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Starring Dennis Price and Alex Guinness, Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) is a black comedy of revenge. Louis Mazzini’s mother’s upper class family disowned her when she married an Italian musician. After she dies, Louis seeks revenge. Using a different weapon or means for each subject, Louis plots to kill all eight of the relatives ahead of him in line for the family fortune.

Louis falls in love with his childhood sweetheart, but she throws him over for a rich man, whom she finds as dull as dishwater. She’s clearly mercenary, but then so is Louis as he’s reptilian in his ability to murder relatives one after another without feeling any remorse.

One quirk of the film is that Alec Guinness plays each of the eight relatives that kills. He plays young and old, male and female. It’s a clever technique.

The Criterion Collection DVD includes the American ending. The Hays Code prohibited films from showing a situation where crime paid.

Before I saw it thought it would be a much weaker ending, but they just added a few seconds with an action that I imagined would follow the end of the film. The British version led me to expect that action to occur. Nonetheless it’s interesting to see how the Hays Code influenced filmmaking.

Victoria, A Public Inconvenience

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This was the penultimate episode of Season 3. I’m not ready for this season to end.

This week the thread that captured my interest the most was between Sophie, her lover the footman Joseph and her mean husband. The husband suspects she’s being unfaithful and has paid Mr. Penge, the palace butler to spy for him. Before Sophie knows her husband knows, Joseph proposes that they run off to America. He believes he can make it big in the New World, where he wouldn’t have to hide his relationship and he wouldn’t have to deal with Mr. Penge. Sophie can’t commit. She has a son and fears losing him.

In the meantime, Sophie’s husband plots. To be cuckolded is the ultimate humiliation for a man like the Duke. By the end of the episode, he’s tricked Sophie and has gotten two doctors to commit her to an insane asylum. We don’t see the actual asylum, but I’ve seen One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and figure a 19th century mental hospital was much worse than a 20th century one. I don’t envy Sophie and wonder what Victoria will do when she learns her confidante has been committed.

While Sophie’s freedom is on the line, there was other drama in the palace. Victoria and Albert have a lot of conflict that they haven’t been able to deal with. Victoria has a keen sense of distance from the prince, though it seems to me that Albert cares so much about being right and logical that he doesn’t see how he should distance himself from Feodora and be less judgmental towards Victoria. She doesn’t need to be reminded that she’s not as logical as he is.

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Albert is enamored with the idea of hosting a Great Exhibition, which would feature developments in science and technology from countries all over the world. Originally, the idea was a smaller exhibit of British advances. Many are skeptical, but Albert won’t be dissuaded even though he can’t find an architect who can come up with a suitable plan for a hall that meets all the specifications.

When the Duke of Wellington announces his retirement, Victoria thinks that if he gives Albert he job of Commander in Chief, he’ll give up on the crazy idea of the Great Exhibition. He won’t. This is Albert’s new obsession.

Lord Palmerston gets in hot water by going to far in handling the Don Pacifico Affair, when a British citizen was attacked by anti-Semites in Greece where he lives.  Without realizing it, Victoria trusted Palmerston to resolve the matter without military intervention, however, Palmerston interpreted Victoria’s response to be that he had carte blanche. Luckily, military action was averted.

Victoria realized that she needed to do something about Feodora. I hoped she’d send her half-sister home to Germany. Instead Victoria decided to encourage Feodora to bring her teenage daughter to London. Near the end of episode, Heidi arrives. When she meets Alice and Bertie, she behaves like she won’t be the easiest guest. I think she may be a lot like her mother, but time will tell.

Everything is lined up in the plot to ensure a riveting finale last week. We’ll see the Crystal Palace of the Great Exhibition. We’ll learn what becomes of poor Sophie. There must be a reason Uncle Leopold returned and Feodora always has something up her sleeve. I expect first class television.

My 2¢ – It’s too late now but I think Sophie should have grabbed some of her jewelry and run off to America with Joseph. He would treat her well. Perhaps she could kidnap her son. Now she may be in some dungeon never to see the light of day. She knew her husband is diabolical. Sophie’s story does show that although Albert and Victoria are in a rough patch, it’s just that, a patch that won’t last forever.

 

 

Victoria, Season 3, Coburg Quartet

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Ready for the ball

This week’s Victoria was fascinating. Storylines were:
 

  • To celebrate the christening of her youngest child, Victoria holds a Georgian era themed costume ball and Feodora is charged with doling out the invitations.
  • Uncle Leopold returns. I didn’t like him in the first two seasons as he’s got a reptilian personality. With Feodora in the palace, he comes off as more humane.
  • Albert is worried about Bertie’s behavior and his education. Even though Bertie went through a horrendous experience at the hands of his abusive tutor. Nevertheless Albert hires a quack phrenologist who measures Albert’s skull and concludes based on pseudo-science that Albert has a tendency towards madness like King George III. Albert buys into this “science” and goes on to say that it all makes sense since Victoria’s more emotional than logical. What a way to make matters worse with Victoria, Albert!
  • Sophie, the Duchess of Monmouth, whose husband is a complete churl, is in love and acting on it with the strapping new footman, Joseph. Their clandestine affair is getting hotter. Yet her indifferent, abusive husband is now suspicious. He believes Sophie is fooling around with Lord Palmerston. He can’t conceive of his noble wife loving a servant, but there you go. Throughout the episode, the Duchess obliviously fools around with Joseph unaware of how thin the ice she was skating on was. I feared she’d be found out, but she wasn’t. Perhaps in the next episode.
  • Victoria and Feodora’s conflicts boil up as Albert is enthralled with Feodora’s logic and Victoria wonders how her half-sister is affording new horses and other goodies. It turns out that Feo’s sold invitations to the ball, which turns out to have a slew of déclassé guests that Victoria doesn’t know.

 
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My Thoughts

My heart goes out to Bertie who picks up on his father’s displeasure with him. He and Alice, his older sister, try to fix his skull by wearing some sort of basin on his head. By the end of the show, he tells his mother that he knows his father doesn’t love him and they share their feelings brought on because it seems Albert’s disappointed with them as they aren’t logical enough.

I worry about what will happen to Sophie when her husband finds out she’s fooling around with the footman. He might have a heart attack, but more likely he’ll go ballistic. She’s been lucky so far, but that never lasts forever. Joseph will lose his job, but she can face worse consequences in this era.

The fact ball was over the top and interesting. I prefer the Victorian gowns. Sure they’re hard to move in, but the Georgians had even more hoops and fabric to manage. They all had the big powdered wigs, which must have taken hours to style and would have weighed a ton. Did you know that the term “big wig” came from the Georgian era?

Albert continues to find it hard to be Mr. Victoria. That’s understandable, but for someone so logical, he doesn’t apply that logic to himself, to his weakness dealing with his unusual role of having a wife with a higher level position. He’s not aware of how much hurt he’s causing Victoria and Bertie. I’m perplexed that he’s so blind to how conniving Feodora is.

Victoria, Season 3, A Show of Unity

When her carriage is unsuccessfully attacked by Irish rebels, Victoria learns that the Irish want their freedom. Thus the queen takes her entourage to visit the Emerald Isle.

Albert gets Bertie a new tutor from his visit to Cambridge. Victoria’s not amused because she wasn’t consulted. That’s understandable. Albert continues to have trouble with his role, which he sees as second-fiddle, and Victoria’s mourning Skerrett and impatient that no one realizes this. All these emotions add to the marital conflict between the Queen and the Prince.

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The real Feodora

Like Cinderella or Jane Eyre, Feodora’s left at home to look after the children. She stews and pouts and is clueless about the new tutor, whom the servants suspect is up to something.

In Ireland, the royal retinue stay at Lord Palmerston’s estate. We meet Lady Palmerston. I expected a long suffering woman trapped in a loveless, arranged marriage. I was off base. Lady Palmerston is a busy beekeeper and happy with her open marriage.

Victoria’s blown away with the open marriage concept. She shares this arrangement with Albert, not that it’s something either of them want to try, but she’s amazed she’s met a woman who’s okay with this.

Love is also in the air between Sophie, the duchess with the churlish husband, and the new footman, Joseph. It’s a perilous relationship, that’s consummated and joyous. The duchess and the footman frolic in at the beach and aren’t as secretive as they should be. Rather jealous, Lord Palmerston notices and warns Sophie that she’s playing with fire. She doesn’t heed his advice and I suspect will be found out next week (or soon).

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Sophie, the duchess who’s playing with fire

Victoria is a big diplomatic success at the ceremony in Dublin where she says just the right things and shows the Irish she cares. This doesn’t solve everything, but she was the first British monarch to visit Ireland since the Middle Ages, so I think she’s due some credit.

Back home, Albert quarrels with Victoria. He also is proud as can be that Bertie’s making great progress with his studies. His math and French have taken off.

However, Victoria’s new maid eventually mentions that the servants suspect the tutor of child abuse. The queen immediately races to the children’s room and catches the tutor in the act. He’s thrown out. I would have like to have seen him thrown in jail and put on trial. Poor Bertie! I found this storyline the most heart-breaking of the week. (Sophie should know her affair will be found out and that to cuckold a duke with a hot temper will not go unpunished. I fell sorry for her but she’s an adult.)

As usual, the hour sped by. The program is packed with drama, gorgeous costumes, and splendid scenery. This week we were also treated to some fine Irish-inspired music.

Victoria, Season 3, Episodes 2 & 3

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Episode 2: London Bridge is Falling Down

Starting right when the first episode ended, the second episode begins with Victoria in labor and the barbarians, a.k.a. Chartists are storming the palace gates. With Bertie and Vicky peering through the doorway, Victoria gives birth to Louise. Albert gets the guards to protect the palace and then scolds the former French king, duke and VICTORIA SERIES 3

Episode 2: London Bridge is Falling Down

Starting right when the first episode ended, the second episode begins with Victoria in labor and the barbarians, a.k.a. Chartists are storming the palace gates. With Bertie and Vicky peering through the doorway, Victoria gives birth to Louise. Albert gets the guards to protect the palace and then scolds the former French king, duke and

The Chartists decide to take their petition to the palace, but one of the rebels, puts up a fuss. Abigail is a bit perplexed and smitten with him.

The Duke of Wellington comes to the castle to inform the Queen that hundreds of thousands of Chartists are coming to the castle. The Duke, Lord Palmerston and PM advise stopping them with soldiers. The Queen doesn’t want to go to that extent.

Francatelli convinces Miss Skerrett to elope after he’s bought a small hotel. While she’s in love, her work means a lot to her. I don’t think she’ll be able to quit. Francetelli even kids her on that account.

Louis-Phillipe gets in trouble for scaring Bertie and Vicky by telling them about how royals can violently lose their heads. Albert asks him to leave.

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Albert’s “cottage” Osborne House

Someone finds a load of guns (500!) in the office space for the Chartists. The PM and Lord Palmerston take this as proof of their danger. They come close to convincing Victoria to send the army out to deal with them. However, Victoria realizes that the Chartists are too poor to acquire all that weaponry. She gets word out to Duke Wellington in the nick of time. The crisis is averted and the spy was caught. Still Albert gets his way and the family and nobles are off to the Isle of Wright to his “cottage.”

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Episode 3: Et in Arcadia

All are frolicking at Osborne House, but soon the Prime Minister and Lord Palmerston, who brought the troublemaking King of Hungary to London in the Queen’s absence, are summoned to the Isle of Wright.

Francatelli quits, which causes a stir. His wife “Miss” Skerrett still hesitates about announcing that she’s married and leaving.

Throughout the episode, Albert hectors Victoria for wanting to return to London and for craving her subjects’ love. On top of that, they clash over how Albert handles Bertie and his resistance to books and tutoring. Albert sees Osborne house as a paradise and it’s quite annoying that his family doesn’t love it there. Victoria and Albert’s conflict escalates to an argument at dinner with the full court watching when the Queen throws a glass of water in Albert’s face.

Victoria’s feeling overwhelmed by her marital strife and political problems back in London when Skerrett finally announces that she’s leaving and that she’s gotten married. Victoria feels betrayed and is hurt that Skerrett did all this behind her back.

My Take

Both episodes speed along and in addition to the main plot have storylines with the Duchess who’s married to an ogre, who’s sent her young son to boarding school against her will and the men she’s flirting with. Victoria’s sister Feo continues to plot and manipulate.

I was surprised that Miss Skerrett did tell the Queen she was leaving because she got married. I thought she wouldn’t be able to and I stand corrected. I still don’t see how Skerrett will be happy not working at the palace.

We’ve got plenty of comic relief with Victoria’s attempt at swimming and a mix up with the bedrooms between Foe and the Duchess.

The sibling rivalry between the adorable Vicky and Bertie is realistic as is Victoria and Albert’s marriage problems. Sure most people aren’t married to royalty, but V & A’s arguments and reactions are authentic and engaging. Again, Victoria offers compelling drama.

The Chartists decide to take their petition to the palace, but one of the rebels, puts up a fuss. Abigail is a bit perplexed and smitten with him.

The Duke of Wellington comes to the castle to inform the Queen that hundreds of thousands of Chartists are coming to the castle. The Duke, Lord Palmerston and PM advise stopping them with soldiers. The Queen doesn’t want to go to that extent.

Francatelli convinces Miss Skerrett to elope after he’s bought a small hotel. While she’s in love, her work means a lot to her. I don’t think she’ll be able to quit. Francetelli even kids her on that account.

Louis-Phillipe gets in trouble for scaring Bertie and Vicky by telling them about how royals can violently lose their heads. Albert asks him to leave.

4h

Albert’s “cottage” Osborne House

Someone finds a load of guns (500!) in the office space for the Chartists. The PM and Lord Palmerston take this as proof of their danger. They come close to convincing Victoria to send the army out to deal with them. However, Victoria realizes that the Chartists are too poor to acquire all that weaponry. She gets word out to Duke Wellington in the nick of time. The crisis is averted and the spy was caught. Still Albert gets his way and the family and nobles are off to the Isle of Wright to his “cottage.”

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Episode 3: Et in Arcadia

All are frolicking at Osborne House, but soon the Prime Minister and Lord Palmerston, who brought the troublemaking King of Hungary to London in the Queen’s absence, are summoned to the Isle of Wright.

Francatelli quits, which causes a stir. His wife “Miss” Skerrett still hesitates about announcing that she’s married and leaving.

Throughout the episode, Albert hectors Victoria for wanting to return to London and for craving her subjects’ love. On top of that, they clash over how Albert handles Bertie and his resistance to books and tutoring. Albert sees Osborne house as a paradise and it’s quite annoying that his family doesn’t love it there. Victoria and Albert’s conflict escalates to an argument at dinner with the full court watching when the Queen throws a glass of water in Albert’s face.

Victoria’s feeling overwhelmed by her marital strife and political problems back in London when Skerrett finally announces that she’s leaving and that she’s gotten married. Victoria feels betrayed and is hurt that Skerrett did all this behind her back.

My Take

Both episodes speed along and in addition to the main plot have storylines with the Duchess who’s married to an ogre, who’s sent her young son to boarding school against her will and the men she’s flirting with. Victoria’s sister Feo continues to plot and manipulate.

I was surprised that Miss Skerrett did tell the Queen she was leaving because she got married. I thought she wouldn’t be able to and I stand corrected. I still don’t see how Skerrett will be happy not working at the palace.

We’ve got plenty of comic relief with Victoria’s attempt at swimming and a mix up with the bedrooms between Foe and the Duchess.

The sibling rivalry between the adorable Vicky and Bertie is realistic as is Victoria and Albert’s marriage problems. Sure most people aren’t married to royalty, but V & A’s arguments and reactions are authentic and engaging. Again, Victoria offers compelling drama.

Victoria, Season 3, Episode 1

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The documentary Victoria & Her Nine Children paints a detailed

Here’s a few things I learned:

  • After Albert died, the Queen asked for her youngest child Beatrice to be brought to her. She made the girls dress in Albert’s clothing and sleep with her.
  • Victoria thought babies were like frogs.
  • Albert scolded Victoria that she should find a way to appreciate motherhood and not always be cross with her children.
  • Victoria regarded Bertie, her eldest son as her biggest problem. She blamed Bertie for Albert’s death. Albert was severely displeased when he learned that Bertie had slept with a jolly actress. She connects his passion leading to his father’s death.
  • After marrying off three of her children, Victoria continues to mourn three years after Albert’s death. Laughter and delight are not permitted. The queen continues to wear black and all the palace’s curtains are black.
  • Victoria’s least favorite child is Leopold who can do nothing right. She saw him as awkward and clumsy and she didn’t notice that that Leopold was actually suffering from hemophilia.
  • When chloroform was first used as a painkiller during childbirth, Victoria was delighted to use it. Her physicians saw this as wrong as the Bible states that women will feel pain in childbirth (Gen. 3:16). Of course, these men so problem with using chloroform when they need surgery.
  • Victoria told people that Louise was stupid and constantly criticized her. Louise went from being the petted youngest daughter, but when Beatrice was born she fell from this position. Her teen years were spent in mourning. None of the usual coming-of-age rituals were allowed.
  • The queen spied on her children and even after marrying controlled whom they socialized with.

These poor children’s lives were lived under a dark cloud of mourning controlled by a powerful mother who’s psychologically damaged by grief. A mother with a venomous tongue who could shame and hurt her children.

You can learn more by watching on the PBS website.

Victoria, Season 3, Ep. 1

The premier of Victoria starring Jenna Coleman delivered great historical drama.
The series opens in Paris with yet another uprising in 1848. The barbarians are storming the gate and the King Louis-Phillipe flees for is life. Cut to a dignified, pregnant Victoria knighting a noble. Soon word reaches Victoria about her French counterpart.

Next Feodora, Victoria’s half sister, washes up on the shores and heads to the castle. Feodora, who seems to have a plotting and dramatic nature, seeks refuge with her younger sister the Queen. She’s seeking the high life as well as refuge, but is disappointed. When she hints around that she needs new clothes Victoria’s offer to let her wear her old dresses with some alterations was quite a bitter pill.

In Parliament another new character Lord Palmerston, the supercilious Foreign Minister, is stirring up trouble. Without consulting anyone, Lord P. wrote to the rebels in France. Neither Victoria nor Albert took this news well. In addition to being a political maverick, Lord Palmerston is coming off as a philanderer. Victoria’s new Lady of Robes had best be careful so she doesn’t get in trouble with her husband or the Queen.

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At home, there’s a bit of trouble in the nursery. Albert and Victoria now have five children. The oldest son Bertie, now 7, has no clue about the line of succession. He believes in England only queens rule. Throughout the episode he’s making comments about how women rule in England and how he doesn’t want to be a king. When Louis-Phillipe arrives and the children perform for him, Bertie dramatically refuses to play the king. Inadvertently, this pours salt in the wound for Albert, who’s never liked the role of Prince. Victoria seems very concerned though she does realize Bertie’s just a little boy.

Downstairs a new footman and maid arrive. The footman’s quite robust and Mr. Penge warns the women that he’s a known ladies man. He soon proves Mr. Penge right with his flirtation. Skerrett and the pastry chef are betrothed but haven’t set a wedding date. As the Queen’s right hand maid, Skerrett realizes life will be quite different as a married commoner. We see she’s got cold feet. I’m doubtful that we’ll see her marry this season.

The maid who is hired is a Chartist, so she’s part of the lower class activist movement that is protesting for workers’ rights. It’s 1848 and with Marxism getting popular and the French King getting deposed and begging to stay with the Queen, Victoria is quite worried. By the last scene of the episode, we see she’s right to be concerned.

The first episode had a brisk pace and lots of new characters, most of whom spell trouble. Lots of tension and uncertainty along with the gorgeous gowns and luxurious settings. We’re in for a good season.

Victorian Slum House

I discovered the absorbing Victorian Slum House series last night and was blown away. It’s a British reality show, which like PBS’ Frontier House took a number of modern people and put them back in the past. The participants of Victorian Slum House go back to the late 19th century to live in poverty in a Victorian slum.

One family  of 5 lives in a one apartment. Another is a tailor’s family and the four of them live in two rooms. As a tailor, they expected to make clothes from scratch. What they learn is their assigned to buy highly worn used clothes and fix or modify them. During the 1860s, when episode 1 is set, poor people didn’t buy new clothes. They bought what was patched up.

There’s a single man who’s a rent collector and also does some woodwork. He did opt to switch his modern protheses for one that resembles what was used back then. The producers did add some material that made it more comfortable than what people of his class had. There’s a couple that are shop keepers and they live on the top floor of the slum. They have better clothing and furnishings. Yet their finances are precarious because they depend upon their customers being able to pay up at the end of the week. No one knows for sure what they’ll earn in a week so their fear is real.

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Sleeping on benches, Victorian era

Finally there’s a single mom with ten year old twins. Her lot is the most precarious. She works from home making fancy gift boxes. She starts with lots of optimism, but bought more food on credit than the others and her earnings fell far short of what she planned. So she’s very close to being evicted. In fact, in the 1860s, my guess is that she would have been and she’d have wound up down stairs in the sleeping room, where people slept on benches sitting up.

The program is full of interesting facts and the participants comments are enlightening.

The Crown

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After several friends recommended, Netflix’s The Crown, I’ve started watching. It’s no secret that I have a soft spot in my heart for British historical dramas from Downton Abbey to Victoria. The BBC and itv have won me over.

I did wonder how the American Netflix would do telling the story of the current royal family. From the start it’s clear that Netflix spared no expense in this lush drama with exquisite, expensive costumes and magnificent palace settings. I’ve finished the first season, which contains a lot of flashbacks to contextualize the history. When the story begins King George VI is sickly and Elizabeth is newly married and while educated to become queen, she figures that’s a ways off. Within a few episodes, King George passes away and Elizabeth becomes queen.

Her first Prime Minister is Winston Churchill, who’s played by John Lithgow. Lithgow does a splendid job as Churchill.

One major plot line, that I wasn’t aware of, is Princess Margaret’s romance with Peter Townsend, her father’s personal secretary. Townsend is much older than Margaret and married. This is quite a juicy part of the series. When Townsend gets divorced, he hopes to marry Margaret, however, these plans are foiled because there’s a Royal Marriage Act that prevents royals from marrying without the Sovereign’s approval until they’re 26 years old. In season 1 Margaret is 23. The new queen can’t approve the wedding because although people are starting to divorce more, the royal family is not supposed to in any way approve divorce. Elizabeth is head of the church and the church is against divorce. That confused me since the reason the Church of England began was because Henry VIII wanted to get a divorce. He was a terrible model for morality so I’m wondering how the modern royal family became bound to live by high standards.

Claire Foy does an exemplary job as Elizabeth II. Her voice and mannerisms make be believe she is the queen. Matt Smith does resemble Prince Philip whom I knew was no saint, but now see his cavalier, playboy-ish. I think Smith’s prince is a bit gawkier than the real one, but I wasn’t born at the time shown in the series. Perhaps Philip’s posture was more bent over.

Continue reading “The Crown”