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GOSFORD PARK—SORTA PREQUEL TO DOWNTON ABBEY

I DELIGHT IN the works of Julian Fellowes, especially his film Gosford Park and TV series Downton Abbey. That a sole writer composed the scripts for these wonderful English period pieces is amazing. 

In her book The Wit and Wisdom of Downton Abbey, niece and chronicler Jessica Fellowes says, “There’s no team of writers alongside Julian—he sits, quite alone, wherever he finds himself working, whether at his desk in Dorset or on a plane to New York, and taps out hours and hours of scripts, each containing not only plots for the myriad of characters but also these highly quotable lines…. There are millions and millions of appreciative Downton Abbey viewers across the world, and one very proud niece.” 

Here are tidbits gleaned from my repeated viewings of Gosford Park and Downton Abbey, from The Wit and Wisdom of Downton Abbey, Jessica Fellowes’ collection, and from my usual Internet sleuthing..

Gosford Park. I start here with the 2001 film Gosford Park because Fellowes composing this led to his writing Downton Abbey. Indeed, originally the latter was envisioned as a spin-off of the former.

The Gosford Park plot is described in Wikipedia: “In November 1932, wealthy English industrialist Sir William McCordle, his wife Lady Sylvia, and their daughter Isobel host a weekend shooting party at their country estate, Gosford Park. The guests arrive: Sylvia’s sisters Louisa and Lavinia, and their husbands Lord (Raymond) Stockbridge and Commander Anthony Meredith; her aunt Constance, Countess of Trentham; the Hon. Freddie and Mabel Nesbitt; actor Ivor Novello (an actual famous actor of the time) and American film producer Morris Weissman; and latecomers Lord Rupert Standish [driving a Bentley of the famed Le Mans era] and Jeremy Blond.”

Maggie Smith’s Pair of Countesses. Maggie Smith portrays Gosford Park‘s Constance, the Countess of Trentham. She later is Violet, Downton Abbey’s Dowager Countess. Both characters are outspokenly upper-class, though Countess Trentham is more acerbic in her superiority. For example, she cuts Ivor Novello cold, what with his being a mere entertainer. Albeit, an immensely popular one of the era.

The Chandos Marilyn Hill Smith Sings Ivor Novello gives beautiful settings to his songs.

In Gosford Park, Mabel Nesbit has a charming interlude with Novello (as he sings his “I Can Give You the Starlight”). This is all the more annoying to Countess Trentham, who sees Mabel as daughter of a glove manufacturer. 

The Gosford Park CD contains several other Ivor Novello songs from the movie, including “And Her Mother Came Too.”.

The movie is both a period piece and a murder mystery, with Stephen Fry as the bumbling Inspector Thompson investigating the skullduggery. Let’s not reveal its complex plot. Gosford Park is well worth a viewing, or in my case, reviewing.

Downton Abbey. Here is a gleaning from Jessica Fellowes’ collection of the Dowager Countess’s wit and wisdom.

The Wit and Wisdom of Downton Abbey, by Jessica Fellowes, St. Martin’s Griffin, 2015.

“Well, in my experience, second thoughts are vastly overrated.”

“A peer in favour of reform is like a turkey in favour of Christmas.” 

“First electricity, now telephones. Sometimes I feel as if I must be living in an H.G. Wells novel.”

“You flatter me, which is just as it should be.”

“I do think a woman’s place is eventually in the home, but I see no harm in her having some fun before she gets there.”

“We’d better get her settled before the bloom is quite gone off the rose.”

“You can normally find an Italian who isn’t too picky.” 

“One way or another, everyone goes down the aisle with half the story hidden.” 

“There’s nothing simpler than avoiding people you don’t like. Avoiding one’s friends, that’s the real test.”

Violet and Isobel become good friends, of sorts, eventually.

Violet: “You are quite wonderful the way you see room for improvement wherever you look. I never knew such reforming zeal.” Isobel: “I take that as a complement.” Violet: “I must have said it wrong.”

Violet and Evelyn Napier.

Evelyn Napier: “Is this your first experience of jazz, Lady Grantham?” Violet: “Oh is that what it is? Do you think any of them know what the others are playing? Hmm?”

I do so love the wit and wisdom of Julian Fellowes. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2021 

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