Tag Archives: david haig

DOWNTON ABBEY (2019) – My rating: 10/10

Downton Abbey is a British period drama that represents the continuation of the BBC television series of the same name. The film is directed by Michael Engler and written by Julian Fellowes, who is also the creator and executive producer of the television series. Much of the original cast has returned as they perform the first Downton Abbey movie.  An official state visit by the British Monarchy to Downton Abbey upsets the entire staff and their way of life, as they bend over backward to please the King and  Queen of England. I found Downey Abbey to be one of the year’s best movie and I absolutely loved it.

****  SPOILERS BELOW  ****

Downton Abbey begins in 1927 when Robert Crawley (Hugh Bonneville), the Earl of Grantham, receives a letter from Buckingham Palace announcing that King George V (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James) are coming to Downton Abbey as part of a royal tour through the country. Robert’s daughter, Lady Mary Talbot (Michelle Dockery) and son-in-law, Tom Branson (Allen Leech) are the first to learn of the royal visit, which leads to Drama 1: The Countess of Grantham, Violet Crawley, Dowager  (Maggie Smith), is perturbed that Queen Mary’s lady-in-waiting, Lady Maud Bagshaw (Imelda Staunton), will also be coming to Downton with the royal family. Lady Maud is Robert’s cousin and the two families have fallen out over Lady Maud choosing her personal maid, Lucy Smith (Tuppence Middleton) as her heir over Robert.  Drama 2: Occurs when the royal staff arrives, which includes the Royal Butler, Mr. Wilson (David Haig), the Queen’s Royal Housemaid, Mrs. Webb (Richenda Carey),  the snooty Royal Chef, Monsieur Courbet (Philippe Spall) and the King’s Royal Dresser, Richard Ellis (Max Brown) — the Downton staff is affronted by their extreme arrogance. Drama 3: Occurs when Lady Mary believes that Thomas Barrow (Robert James-Collier), Downton Abbey’s butler, will fall short for the royal occasion, so she asks Charles Carson (Jim Carter), Downton’s retired butler, to temporarily resume his former duties, upsetting Barrow. Drama 4: The plumber, Mr. Sellick (James Cartwright) who arrives to repair the broken boiler flirts with Daisy Mason (Sophie McShera), Downton’s assistant cook, upsetting her fiancé, footman Andy Parker (Michael  C. Fox). Drama 5: A man calling himself Major Chetwode (Stephen Campbell Moore), arrives in Downton village. He seeks out Tom, who suspects he is a royal detective involved with security for the royal visit. Lady Mary sees Tom and Major Chetwode leaving a pub together.  Assuming something’s not quite right, she follows them. Drama 6: The king informs the Marchioness of Hexham’s, Edith Pelham (Laura Carmichael), husband, Bertie Pelham (Harry Hadden-Paton), the 7th Marquess of Hexham, that he is to accompany the Prince of Wales on a three-month tour of Africa. This is a problem for Edith who is pleased for Bertie but also upset because she needs him home at the time of the tour. Drama 7: Anna Bates (Joanne Froggatt) discovers that one of the royal staff, Miss Lawton (Susan Lynch) has been stealing from Downton Abbey. She agrees to say nothing provided Lawton returns the stolen items and remakes a ballgown for Lady Edith after the wrong size garment was delivered to her. Drama 8: Downstairs, Anna and John Bates (Brendan Coyle) have a plan to retake the household and restore Downton’s honor. The staff agrees. Drama 9: Thomas Barrow meets Chris Webster (Perry Fitzpatrick), who invites him to a club. Webster takes Barrow to a secret nightclub where the patrons are mostly men dancing together. The police storm the club, arresting everyone. Mr. Ellis of the royal staff is watching from across the street and sees the whole incident. Drama 10: At dinner, the king is impressed by the revised menu and praises his chef’s culinary skills, however, footmen, Mr. Joseph Molesley (Kevin Doyle) is quick to defend Downton and blurts out that the head cook, Mrs. Beryl Patmore (Lesley Nicol) prepared the dinner and that the Downton staff are the ones serving it. Everyone is stunned by Mr. Molesley speaking to the king without permission. Robert apologizes for Molesley’s outburst, but the queen praises Mrs. Beryl Patmore’s cooking and tells the Countess of Grantham, Lady Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) that they are accustomed to people behaving strangely around them.

Meanwhile, Henry Talbot (Matthew Goode), Lady Mary’s husband, arrives home in time to accompany the family to the ball at Harewood. As a self-appointed peacemaker, Lady Isobel Merton (Penelope Wilton) makes an important discovery that should settle an age-old feud. Mr. Carson and his wife, Mrs. Elsie Hughes Carson (Phyllis Logan) discuss Downton Abbey’s future. Carson asserts it will stand for another hundred years with the Crawley family still living in it.

As a fan of the popular BBC TV series, I was happy to see Downton Abbey come to the big screen, despite the long wait of three years since it ended on TV.  From the moment I heard the familiar Downton Abbey music while entering the movie theater, my heart started jumping for joy.  From what I could see of the trailer, the whole cast had reassembled once again to excite us with the ups and downs of a British hierarchy family in the late 1920s.  I learned so much about the culture just watching through-out the 6 seasons that Downton Abbey aired.  The movie didn’t slack on the heartfelt comings and goings of the household.  I found the movie generated much enjoyment with just the right touch of drama and secrets, as well as disappointments.  Downton Abbey left me with hopes of seeing a second movie, but without one beloved character, who I will not disclose at this time.  Make no mistake, there is a lot more story to be told.  I’m trying not to spoil all the surprises or all of the twist and turns this movie has I stored for you. Aside from my love of period pieces, I deem Downton Abbey as one of the better movies of 2019.  It opened with a $31M box office and is slated to pull in much more.  I highly recommend it to all ages — Downton Abbey is just simply delightful.  Check It Out!


FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS (2016) – My rating: 9/10

FlorenceFosterJenkinsThere seems to be a push in Hollywood for films based on true stories. Embellished as they may be to make the story more exciting, most are pretty good and add rather than take away from the events that made it worthy of a Hollywood film in the first place.  Florence Foster Jenkins (Meryl Streep) is no exception. Some of these films are about people a lot of us have never even heard of. I for one have never heard of Florence Foster Jenkins. I must say, it was my loss. It appears that Florence, an American socialite and flamboyant dresser, loved music more than life. She became a prominent musical cult figure in NYC from the 1920s through the 1940s. Madame or Lady Jenkins (as she liked to be called) loved to sing however, she was known for her poor singing abilities and allegedly had no idea how she actually sounded but sang anyway with the help of her beloved husband, St. Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant), her voice coach, Carlo Edwards (David Haig) and her concert pianist, Cosmé McMoon (Simon Helberg). Florence was born to wealthy parents on July 19, 1868 in Pennsylvania. She was labeled “Little Miss Foster” because of her lifelong passion for public performance, which included a recital at the White House during the President Rutherford B. Hayes administration. At the age of 7, she was considered a child prodigy, as she was an accomplished pianist. An arm injury ended her aspirations as a pianist, so she turned to singing but not until her mother passed in 1930.

Florence had difficulty with basic vocal skills as pitch, rhythm and sustaining notes and phrases. Her intonation was inaccurate and she was consistently flat. She also deviated from the proper pitch and her diction was substandard, especially foreign language lyrics. A great many songs she tried to sing were technically challenging and beyond her ability and vocal range.

There may have been a reason she was so awful at a talent she loved so much. After high school, she wanted to study music in Europe. Her father refused to grant his permission or the funds for her to do so. At the age of 17, she eloped with Dr. Frank Thornton Jenkins. She learned that she contracted syphilis from him and terminated their marriage immediately never speaking to him again. Back then, the treatment for Syphilis was Mercury and Arsenic. Florence’s difficulties were possibly attributable to the effects of the disease, which in the era before antibiotics caused progressive deterioration of the central nervous system. Nerve damage may have been compounded by toxic side effects, such as hearing loss from mercury and arsenic.

FlorenceFosterJenkinsPIXAt the age of 41, Florence met St. Clair Bayfield, a 34 year old handsome actor who became her manager and unofficial 2nd husband until her death on November 26, 1944. Florence Foster Jenkins is quite the story — you may think you have gotten an earful already but there is so much more I haven’t even touched upon. This is a scenario I’ve often thought of but have never encountered. For instance, why didn’t she know how she sounded? You might wonder how she was married a second time to a handsome man that was so much younger than she (and the bigger question) when she has syphilis? How did she get coaches and pianist to accompany her when she sang so badly? She also owned a night club called The Verdi Club — she made it a practice to never sing in her own club so when and where did she perform? Her last performance was at Carnegie Hall? How was that possible? Who came to all of these performances? Also, Cole Porter rarely missed one of her recitals. She received fabulous reviews after each recital she gave, why? To get answers to these questions, you will need to see the movie.  You won’t be disappointed.  By now, you can tell that I really loved this movie. Both Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant deserve Oscar nods for their portrayal of Florence and St. Clair, respectively. Surprisingly, this movie fell way under the radar despite it’s great ratings. There’s a documentary by Donald Collup on YouTube and Amazon that tells the true story if you’re interested in a follow-up.  I highly recommend this movie, it’s entertaining, delightful and informative.  BTW:  Florence Foster Jenkins is considered “The world’s worst singer”.