Dear friends and readers,
As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, I’m making the first of (I hope) a few (not too many) blogs on Andrew Davies’s movies to help me think about his vast and varied oeuvre. Perhaps some of these may be of interest to people who watch, enjoy, study, write about costume drama and film adaptation of historical novels and especially Davies’s Austen films(I now count at least 7by Davids if you include his Bridget Jones films and his Room with a View) and his romances and heroine’s texts (e.g., Wives and Daughters, Falling, Sleep with Me)
The paratexts of buzzards and a "folly" central to series.
The dialogue about it from Part 1: "… Diana as a young: "Gilroy built it to be sad in, don’t you think that … he fell in love with some girl he couldn’t marry so his heart broke … that’s what Drip said … He was really crackers, don’t you think. ‘ Jan as a boy: "I don’t know." Diana: "Well of course he was , He should have gone off and married somebody else … He bursts out: "I’m not common and I’m going to be a writer … "
The 1984 10 part mini-series Diana is so good it seems scarcely believable it hasn’t been marketed with the same intensity as the 1980 13 part To Serve Them All My Days. Not only has it not been marketed, the only way you can watch it today is to download the whole thing from Pirate ebay, a considerably time-consuming and sophisticated task. Jim did this for me, and among the revelations is that this is a book centered in erotic enthrallment, and (unexpectedly) thus imitates Brideshead Revisited repeatedly with its melancholy retrospectives spoken in over-voice by Kevin McNally as John Leigh (a Jan Ridd character — the allusion is to Richard Blackmore’s Lorna Doone) in the tone and manner of Jeremy Irons as Charles Ryder. It also compares closely to Julian Bond’s (the writer) film adaptation of H. E. Bates’s Love for Lydia: the same enthrallment, a sensitive hesitant male finds himself called upon by arisocratic family to squire arrogant solitary girl.
I suspect it "fell out of the canon" because the male at the center is not by nature macho male, but driven in that direction by his entrancement with Diana (as played in the first two episodes by Patsy Kensit and the next 8 by Jenny Seagrove). a femme fatale who turns out to be unconventionally ethical. McNally plays a gentle sensitive male with a depth of feeling for a particular woman he cannot get over in the Poldark films too (Drake Carne for Morwenna Chynoweth). Diana is also often a deeply melancholy film, much much less upbeat than To Serve Them All My Days too. Jan ends alone on his hill looking at his beloved’s gravestone in the countryside which nourished and sustained their love, Sennacharib. Yes the allusion is to Byron’s poem and meant to encompass the presentation of WW2 as bloody, brutal and (whatever the rational) amoral in its working out. Davies is ever anti-war (e.g., his Dr Zhivago)..
I have read Delderfield’s book and watched the film twice, the first time swiftly and with intense absorption before reading the book, and the second time after reading, slowly, taking some notes and capturing stills. It’s a very curious film: it takes a strongly masculinist book (Delderfield centrally believes that women want to be mastered and beaten by males) and turns it into a sort of woman’s film, for an inwardly developed Diana is the center of the film. At each turn, Davies discards the worst things in Delderfield (the class obsessions, the fawning, the unembarrassed male wet dream aspects) and subsitutes genuine humanity, decent activity and circles round the human vulnerability and isolation of his beautiful central presences. It is a commentary type adaptation; even some of the hinge points are changed along the way; in this it’s very like the 1974 Pallisers by Simon Raven out of Trollope.
Places: the Gaylorde-Sutton mansion, Heronslea, is the same house used for Cleveland in the 1971 Sense and Sensibility. Pythouse Estate, the Folly is Rushford Tower, north Chagford, Devon, near Rushwood Wood.
Allusions Davies adds: in Part 4 where Davies imitates film noir and 1930s and/or WW2 footage, he has Jan admit to his friend Twining (Jonathan Lynn) that he has been writing novels. First he had at first written a (silly) wish-fulfillment novel: "adolescent fantasy rich girl poor boy happy ending puerile," but now he is older and gone on to write a novel where "at center [there's a] rich beautiful amoral girl destructive and yet self-destructive, doomed though she never recognizes it." Twining replies with cliches which we are still to take seriously: "sprinkling of the jolly old Evelyn Waughs ….think I preferred the first version meself …" Evelyn Waugh leads us to Brideshead (Decline and Fall)
In order not to go on too long about this mini-series (or exceed the normal length allowed by LiveJournal) this will just take the form of summaries of notes and stills for every couple of parts. This blog will cover the part of the mini-series that adapts the first book of Diana (parts 1-5 and some of 6); tomorrow’s blog will cover Parts 7-9 which adapt the second book, and a third blog will be a description of Part 10 and final comment.
From There Was A Fair Maid Dwelling (part 1 of Diana as now printed)
Parts 1 & 2:
Notes; the woman who owns and runs bookshop is original addition by Davies, Miss Westbrook (Mary Morris): about the classic Lorna Doone, she says "Hi class twaddle in my opinion." The hunt Jan comes to watch (and be left out of) is in the novel, and also how Jan identifies with the fox. This exhilarating sequence of powerful girl riding will haunt the ending of the mini-series when Diana, nearly paralyzed, goes for her last ride before dying. In the scenes here Patsy Kensit wears a brilliant yellow sweater (all the sun comes to her) which stands out.
When Jan meets Diana for lunch, Ives de Roydon (her cousin she suggests, her parents would like her to become a wife of a man like him in rank) is clearly indicated to be gay, the point is reinforced. This is only mentioned as a possibility late in the book probably in order to blacken Ives. Davies brings in homosexuality as much to humanize as differentiate this foppish rich privileged young man.
Miss Reynolds (Gillian Raine), Diana’s ex-governess’s warns Jan. Diana calls her Drip: the character only marginal to the book and dropped mostly is developed fully and kept central by Davievs. She tells Jan:
"I just wanted to warn you I think I know how you feel about Diana and I think you’re very likely to be very badly hurt .. [I'm a] foolish sentimental old woman but I do have some experience of how people like the Gaylord-Suttons deal with people like us Jan. They keep us on just so long as we’re useful or amusing to them and then they crumple us up like old paper bags and throw us away .. have you ever wondered what it feels like to be called Old Drip …
It’s just a nickname it doesn’t mean anything, he says and she: No of course not of course not and I answer to it just as a dog answers to its name because that’s where my food and shelter comes from and I give my affection too because there’s nothing else for me to do with it. I’m speaking to you like this because I believe you still have a choice …"
Diana when she takes off her outer garments when she comes to his house late at night after a quarrel she started and is drenched by the rain: "It’s all right, the body is just the clothing of the soul you know" "I read that in a poem in school. Don’t you think that’s beautiful.’ Jan: "Yes I do". This is not in Delderfield.
Stephen J. Dean is good at embodying sultry, resentful, sullen, passionate too.
The narrative voice-overs of Jan by the end are Kevin McNally and the sentiments and music echo Brideshead: "She was offering herself but the offer was conditional I was going to have to become a gentleman. He has his Uncle Mark teach him to ride.
The trysts where they flee to Nun’s Island for 4 days is done as a Paul et Virginie sequence. Intense nostalgic over-talk by McNally: "It lasted for four days, four of the most extraordinary days of my life …I had never felt so close to another human being [this is the idyll of Sebastian and Charles] We talked incessantly about out family … books … our absurd pipe dreams. .. lived like savages … silence … I didn’t need to say we had used up all our supplies and our idyll was nearly done …" Some of these words are in Delderfield as is the visionary feel.
As well as use of candlelight at night (for atmosphere) the film makes modern use of flashbacks, voice-over retrospective throughout. I’d say Parts 1 and 2 are closest to the book of all the film but they take up less time in the film than they do the book. They are at least one half of the first volume while in the film adaptation they are one-fifth of the narrative. To be equivalent they’d have to be one-third.
Part 3 & 4
Much of these parts is wholly original: Davies fleshes out Jan’s story to give him a successful career as a reporter in London
Jan (Kevin McNally) taught by Mr Blackler (Fulton Mackay) not to be a "piss poor reporter:" people want "fighting and kissing." This is a motif throughout the series: Jan on one side of a desk, someone in with power in an institution on the other Pt 3
and then during the early 1930s in Europe a correspondent. He invents characters: Mr Blackler (Fulton Mackay), the boss, who like Uncle Reuben (Iain Anders) teach him different versions of reporter who keeps some integrity and sells newspapers widely; what reporting is; he gives a bigger part to Twining who at first appears to invite men to Jan’s London flat when Jan not there (it’s not made clear). Jan’s scrapbook; his returning to London house of Gaylorde-Suttons’: "most of these evenings ended on a fruitless vigil on the pavement opposite .. I never saw anybody come or good but my obsession made me linger …"
Added characters (Bellman [Lockwood West], the sports reporter whose pieces sell the paper). Jan goes back and learns one can’t go home again. Not in Delderfield at all. So in London John had found his "feet’ in life which means his career at the Illustrated Echo and life as a successful reporter — jazz music for this aspect of the experience – he feels a helluva felow that morning in 1934. This is where he takes up with Madeleine (from the novel).
What is kept is the Diana material: this includes his use and betrayal of Madeleine (Claire Toeman) in London (changed so that we see Jan lose his virginity and to make Claire a decent sort — the dislike of her as promiscuous in the book is dropped). His treatment of this sweet young woman made awful:
Part four brings Diana’s flight from him after she encountered him by chance in London bookstore, and their reunion at the Folly:
her having him in her room during her birthday party and what should be for him humilating use of him as a stud in her bed; the long flashbacks of memory as they make love (in his mind). Again is addition of homosexuality: Ives comes into her room by mistake; he does not want her but has his own secrets with male lover
Then her refusing to be serious with him, her letter turned into speech at the Folly and his intense anger dramatized. .
Then long stint of him as tough reporter: blends a sort of Bogart kind of archetype (complete with cigarette), news footage and Jeremy Irons retrospective narratives. In cafe given a darker sexier turn to make it fit a kind of small film noir during run up to WW2 part.He reads of how for her the war is antics for the rich. He meets her in cafe and rejects her.
Diana: I’m "in the pink. I’m always in the pink when I’m in Paris, aren’t you. Jan: "How the hell did you find out where I was .. She says he has changed; he replies: "We all change." She: "Where did he get that suntan. He: "Spain." She: "Oh but Spain’s absolutely impossible now with that dreary war …" He: "I did notice the war yes I was reporting it." She: "Frightfully interesting people" He: "Most of them are dead." She "Everyone loves Berlin. Maybe we didn’t meet the same people" He: "No I don’t suppose we did." She: "It’s not a crime to have a good time and enjoy yourself you know … oh what a bore you never used to be such a dreary earnest chap. I can’t tempt you then." He: "No not any more. She: "Oh well never mind, and trots off, "I expect you’ll see my picture in the papers. He (deep voice): "I sensed her unhappiness without malice but without compassion" (!) I told myself that I was free"
But she had rekindled my curiosity and he begins to follow her in the papers … "the pack she traveled with …" "In tracing that rootless life I began to feel my own rootlessness on impulse I cabled Uncle Reuben and told him I was coming back, coming back for good …
When he returns to Devonshire, finds she has been in an accident, at first thoght dead, but discovers she was drunk while driving and caused the death of three people, and of course he rescues her, teaches her, is her priest (though he denies it) and they seem returned to their love. Miss Reynolds says I hope you are not trying to bring back the past, he says no, and she "of course you’re not) but he was. Voice over of intense resonance. Sometimes the whole way McNally holds his body reminds me of Jeremy Irons in Brideshead
So the two parts become the education of Jan as he swirls endlessly around this woman he is a satellite of. He makes himself an ambitious man for her as well as himself. In the book he hardly leaves Devonshire, and Davies feels a need to account for his leaving this wonderful career Davies gave him so Reuben is now dying and wants to leave firm to him; then we get Reuben’s speech on egalitarianism (from the book) to which is added how he didn’t marry a girl above him he should have (alas she ended a spinster you see). Film has strong class-based conflicts in the scenes, including at funerals (people must pay to have lines in — Uncle Reuben’s).
So, death of Reuben, funeral, they are together in the Folly and part 4 ends.
Like much of Part 3 and some of Part 4, Parts 5 and 6 are made up of enormous amounts of invention, especially the long Alison sequence and setting up of children’s establishment at Heronslea, the interview process, the idea of what education is about (teaching the spirit, vivifying it) enunciated by implication during that interview and the pessimistic intimations or perception of existence we find in Alison Hill (Lynne Miller).
A wholly new character is Mary Easton (Christina Barryk) who works for Uncle Mark (Jack Watson) and then for Jan as horsewoman and manager; someone he neglected to love as a woman but helped enormously as a friend. Davies takes over the best of Delderfield’s scenes (such as his meeting with Mrs Gaylord-Sutton [Elizabeth Bennet) living in utter impoverishment at the close of Part 5, and he imitates whole genres (WW2 sequence) as well as the close of Brideshead where Charles is talking to Hooper becomes (Part 6) Jan talking to subordinate, Bowles [Michael Mella]).
The story: we see Heronslea now under wraps, white sheets (so common in these film adaptations); John visits Diana’s father to demand her hand, and is astonished to find her father only too glad; she seems to know, is off to London and he discovers her scheme to set him up with her money, he is incensed (this in the book). He will not be her plaything; so off to Uncle Mark to buy the riding place and turn it into a working money-making stables and genuinely habitable place. Mary’s strong help.
As they work, the nostalgic regretful voice: all new and invented: "[She was one] of Twining’s nutbrown lasses I took her utterly for granted and I never considered for a moment what she might feel about me" But all but Mary is in the book.
Station greeting between Diana and Jan: he all masterly forceful, they are not going to FoxHayes There is something angry in him. He shows her the stables. She: "You are joking — it’s a thatched cottage after all." He: "It’s mine it’s ours."Mary passes by and Diana to him: "You’ve sold out and spent your money on this dump …" accompanied by insulting way of treating Mary: "Who is this person? … " Jan: "This is Mary she works here … Diana: "Well hasn’t she got any work to do then?" Jan then pushes her Diana into house: "What the hell do you think you’re doing, talking to Mary like that" Diana: "I’ll talk any way I damn well like." Jan: "Not here you won’t, not in my place …" Diana: "You fool you could have had FoxHayes …"
He is defying her putting him into squirearchy and this is significant to Davies too: "I know I can make a business of this … well this is what we talked about, isn’t it … living together in Sennacharibb … I mean well this is it this is what I wanted .." Diana: "Oh Jan you bloody fool didn’t you realize that was just a game .. this is real life. Did you really think I’d want to live in a rural slum with a bunch of broken winded hacks and a fool for a husband" Suddenly and it’s not prepared enough and not in the book quite so directly: "You bitch … you stupid cruel mindless bitch." She: "how dare you say that to me" He: "Because it’s what you are you bitch …"
She takes something to hit hm with and whips his face. He stops her hitting again, and whacks her down with his bare hand. They make up intensely suddenly, and she "Make love to me, John – we are to feel this violence brought this on … He: "You did want to see the upstairs …" All from book.
He "Why don’t you want to stay with me …" He won’t let her go alone: "All right where are we going then …you’ll see I’ve got it all worked out." They are camping out in great house with record player they had in the Folly.. The emphasis on the Folly and mention of Nuns’ Island and use of phonograph is further intuitive development from Davies. They are again two trespassers, just two nameless wanderers who happen on a strange old empty house for shelter from the storm. A recreating Nun’s Island fantasy. After sitting and listening and drinking, she says she was fool about FoxHayes business, "Sorry Jan." Jan: "I don’t want anything from your family except you and I want to marry you now" She agrees "All right then" She says she will ilve in that rural slum and will be no practical use, cannot be bothered," admits her jealousy of Mary, but "I’ll make you laugh sometimes and well have lovely times in bed We know the worst about each other — "
But we have seen hardly any bad in Jan: Twining: he’s a "noble" person. He is an ultimate hero in this novel; his only flaw is in fact his enthrallment.
They are about to retire "upstairs," and telegram about her father’s bankruptcy (and we discover later suicide). "You’d like to see the upstairs would you" In high servant voice. "Yes I would very much …" She would have let phone ring … her father probably dead. He: "Yes of course "Let me drive you up …" "No thanks you’ve got much too much on your plate anyway I don’t want to get there before my mother does … We do rather seem to be doomed …"
The buzzards and folly — doomed lovers.
She didn’t stay very long; we were here only yesterday morning she does say "Whatever you read or hear about me remember I love you that’s all the counts … all right .. must fly." His face darkens.
Morning, Mary there and she makes him some breakfast. "The young lady”s gone to London. He apologizes for yesterday . "I hope you’ll come to like her very much Mary. Diana and I are engaged to be married. She: "Oh."
Now in news office again; Twining on phone to give news of bankruptcy and Sutton’s jumped out the window. John finds he cannot reach Diana by phone. London: Twining tells him to drink ujp as soon there will be none of this, war coming, he’s not expert but people tell him Spain a dress rehearsal — interest in Spain comes from Spanish civil war. He can find nothing about two women; mother and daughter have disappeared
Remembers the solicitor (Moray Watson) and scene of man behind a desk become kindness once again as the solicitor gives him Mrs Sutton’s address. People down and out have sordid landladies and live up high in old wooden surroundings. Much of this powerful scene taken from Delderfield (pp. 348-54):
He tells her he asked Diana to marry him, she said yes and Mr Sutton approved. She is cold and distant and congratulates him upon 1000 pounds. Her room impoverished. He came there to give her the 1000 pounds. "I’m quite penniless." (So what happened to Miss Rogers? — we are to forget how she survived)
Mrs G-S: "I shall survive, Mr Leigh. I was a dressmaker before I met my husband, I shall be a dressmaker once again. Now you see I have such excellent contacts."
Leigh: "And what about Diana?"
Mrs G-S: "You know I feel quite sorry for you, Mr Leigh [added line]"
Leigh: "Do you know where she is?"
Mrs G-S: "Oh yes"
Leigh: "Aren’t you going to tell me? Don’t you think I have a right to know?"
Mrs G-S: "I’m not sure that you do Mr Leigh. You seem surprised that I can face the prospect of life without money. What on earth makes you think my daughter could?"
Leigh: "Because she loves me and because she’s going to marry me, that’s why"
Mrs G-S: :"She may or may not love you, Mr Leigh, but I can tell you for certain she is not going to marry you [stretches out the scene]"
Leigh: "Let her tell me that. Where is she?"
Mrs G-S: "She’s in France where she was married yesterday to count Ives de Roydon. Could I make you some tea Mr Leigh?"
His face becomes intensely distressed — like when as Drake he would hear of Morwenna after her coerced marriage
Cut to Folly and buzzards.
Second half of Part 6 moves into The Unjust Skies (part 2 of Diana as now printed). And again a huge amount added in to provide structure and a trajectory that makes sense for Jan as a developing person
October 1939: he and Mary bidding adieu to their sadler’s establishment; he has paid for her to take a nursing training course; he has enlisted. She tells him he belongs here.
Eight months later, he is Lieutenant Leigh J supervising exodus — so this does follow book" "my own sector of that shambles they called the evacuation of France."
This gives Davies a chance to make WW2-looking film. Too many people, not enough boats; 4th day major killed in air raid, leaving him in charge. Delderfield does not account for this rise of Jan realistically; Davies does. Semi-comic dialogue with a soldier, Sgt Bowles (Michael Mella) whose thrust is exactly that of Sgt Hooper and Charles Ryder at the close of Brideshead
A human chain of people filmed slowly: we hear bombs or thuds and lots of expected kinds of noise We hear woman’s voice and see Diana: "Excusez moi. "Look sir there’s no need to be beastly …I’ve come to see Lieutenant Leigh …he’s a personal friend …" It’s all right, let her through and, with her, come five more children (pp. 357-78).
Absurd patriotic ending of Part 1 or There Was a Fair Maid Dwelling just lopped off; instead we get a fuller development of where she tells him Yvonne his and we get this black silhouette escape of children, then Jan, with Diana kissing him and bidding adieu.
Now new stuff brought in again: an education segment; life in the UK during this war. Then the building of Heronslea seen from the side in the way of 1971 S&S; car driving up, French/Spanish children voices "la casa .. la casa …" Out comes Miss Rogers (Drip); brought out of mothballs to run this establishment — all invented: when Unjust skies opens Alison is dead and we have only snatches of what went on before.
In the film Miss Roger doesn’t know how she’s going to manage; all invented creation of school … There’s cook … girl from village very young no training at all … Advertise in The Lady, do you think? he’ll organize a staff… little Yvonne (Kathryn Grant) is very like her mother, don’t you think? A long scene between Miss Rogers and Jan summing up meaning of his experiences thus far: an enthrallment, something worth while. What bothers Jan is not her desertion: "No it’s the way she’s used me the way she always uses me …"
Time out for interview process. This occurs in a number of his films, from To Serve Them All My Days (1980) to South Riding (2010). Mrs Eggers (Rosalind Knight) the type Davies thinks usually gets the job exposed as a bully who is nonetheless desperate. Then Mrs Alison Hill (Lynne Miller) who is bad at interviews. Key: Jan identifies.
Mrs Hill: "I’m terrified of horses … " Jan: "Part teacher part nurse maid part maid of all work and a fair bit of mothering thrown in do you think you could cope with all that?" She "I don’t know." Jan: "Not exactly brimming over with self- confidence. She: "I’m not very good at interviews:" He " No you’re not are you, still neither am I … headmistress speaks highly of you. Does that surprise you?" Mrs Hill: "She spent a lot of time [telling me] to be more strict .. thing is I didn’t mind that .. my class was noisy but they learned as much as the other ones .. they were happy …"
Jan: "I’d like you to tell me a bit more about yourself, Mrs Hill, you’re a widow aren’t you?" She: "Yes that’s right .. he was run over by a lorry. Jan: "Oh I’m sorry. She: "It doesn’t really matter how it happens does it? … every night they get out the photo album you see if I don’t get out now and start living my life I’m never going to." (Strong anti-heroism realism.)
So again identification in the interview is the key to being hired "I’ve upset them a lot Bryan’s parents but I’ve got to do it .. Jan: "Well you might find it a bit quiet here, there’s not many young people about (same pretend objection as in To Serve Them and South Riding) She: "I couldn’t be lonely here with the children I think I’d like it here." Jan: "Good."
He works in headquarters. Jeremy Irons’ voice over: "In that unreal time I found myself increasingly living for my visits to Heronslea, the place itself, the sense of hope the children gave me, Yvonne and more and more the thought of seeing Alison Hill again …"
Alison’s long soliloquy now of evil gremlins, e.g., "I tried to believe in it but I couldn’t if there is any God He is making a terrible mess of things isn’t He? He "It’s just chance .. not so bad once you get used to it." She: "How do you explain good things ? chance doesn’t have to be bad … you don’t have to be the way you are …" Davies no longer does this kind of thing; he has an equally long soliloquy given to Diana just before she marries Jan about religion.
Miss Rogers helps the affair to flourish along by telling Jan of the headmaster Mr Ramsay’s interest in Alison, so jealousy can make Jan more alert. Jan teaches Alison to ride; again dialogue with Alison, now about children and teaching, and now about her anger at husband for dying. Out to dinner for the pair of them; theirs a conventional love but nonetheless as consistently meaningful, maybe more for Jan in his central selfhood than Diana:
They come back to dark hall, minor key version of theme music: "You don’t have to go back to your : little cold room if you don’t want to .. "you’re sure …" "oh yes" In bed and naked under sheets after sex: it’s so nice I’d almost forgotten how nice it is."
Morning and he’s up and dressed. He’s up and dressed He: "Looking at you thinking" She "Not bad thoughts I hope.:
He: "No Quite serious thoughts. She: "Look you can go if you like it must be dreadful waiting around. You’re very gentle, you must go now if you want to, I wish you’d say something."
Then it comes: " Would you marry me, Please? (just perfect words for him there then) She looks serious and theme song comes in. We remember his overlooking Mary, his bad behavior to Madeleine, how Diana deserted him, and we wish all the best for them. All invented, all beautiful. But swirling still around Diana, for he wants Alison as a barrier.