Mr. Selfridge, the popular Masterpiece series starring Jeremy Piven as Selfridges department store founder Harry Gordon Selfridge, begins its fourth and final season on THIRTEEN on Sunday, March 27 at 10pm.
Based on Lindy Woodhead’s biography Shopping, Seduction & Mr. Selfridge, the series blends fictional characters and storylines with those inspired by the real-life people and celebrities from Selfridge’s life. Cosmetics queen Elizabeth Arden, blues singer Alberta Hunter, and vaudeville stars The Dolly Sisters are just a few of the famous faces that pop up in Season 4.
To christen the final season, here’s a guide to some of the notable figures who have added sparkle, excitement, and drama to past seasons.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
While he is best known as the author of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (John Sessions) also had a longstanding interest in spirituality and mystical subjects. So it’s no surprise that in Season 1, episode 6 of Mr. Selfridge, we find him leading a séance – and possibly invoking the spirit of Mr. Grove’s recently deceased wife, to Miss Mardle’s great horror. He also hosts a book signing, and Rose Selfridge is one of the first devotees in line. Check out this scene of her fan-girling to the max.
There’s no shortage of fanfare when internationally renowned Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova (Natalia Kremen) makes an appearance at Selfridges, dazzling store patrons and staff in Season 1, episode 3 with her glamour, fabulous fashions, and to-die-for Dying Swan. As Harry’s wife, Rose, declares in this video preview, “Every woman should have a Pavlova moment.” Rose’s enchantment with Pavlova inspires Harry to dedicate a store window to the famous ballerina. Clearly, everything is beautiful at the ballet – and at Selfridges.
Photo on the right: HOW MUCH IS THAT BALLERINA IN THE WINDOW?: A vintage newspaper clip shows the Selfridges window celebrating the glory of ballerina Anna Pavlova.
It’s the battle of the great American retail tycoons in Season 1, episode 7 when Frank Woolworth (Michael Brandon), founder of the F. W. Woolworth Company, pays Harry a visit and announces that he is opening stores in London. To compete with Woolworth’s low-priced “five-and-ten-cent” department stores, Harry launches a mid-season sale, complete with bold window displays and an extensive advertising campaign. Woolworth offers Harry some tough business love in this scene from the episode.
Sir Ernest Shackleton
In the Season 1 finale, Sir Ernest Shackleton (Mark Dexter) comes to Selfridges and we learn that he and Harry are gambling buddies. (Now we know how the legendary explorer passed the time between expeditions to Antarctica!) Shackleton makes a press appearance at Selfridges and is impressed that showman extraordinaire Harry has obtained a display model of the car he used in the Antarctic. In this scene, Shackleton bonds with Harry’s young son Gordon, who makes it clear that being an explorer is way cooler than being a boring old department store king.
Mack Sennett and Mabel Normand
Hollywood royalty makes a splash in Season 2, episode 7, as Keystone Studios head Mack Sennett (Joseph Beattie), silent film star Mabel Normand (Andrea Deck), and a bevy of Sennett bathing beauties come to the store for a shopping spree. Normand was the star of The Extra Girl, Tillie’s Punctured Romance, and other slapstick comedies of the silent film era. Her professional and romantic adventures with Sennett inspired the 1974 Broadway musical, Mack and Mabel, which starred Robert Preston and Bernadette Peters, and featured “Tap Your Troubles Away” and other snappy Jerry Herman tunes.
Things get très chic in Season 3, episode 1 as the Selfridges staff prepares for the most extravagant fashion event the store has seen. French designer Madame Lanvin (Beverley Klein) is showcasing her new collection, and if all goes well, Harry could secure an exclusive contract with her. The real Jeanne Lanvin began her fashion career in 1889 as a hat designer for wealthy Parisians and founded the House of Lanvin, the city’s oldest thriving fashion house. Lanvin was one of the first designers to use lamé, and her Arpège perfume has been in stores since 1927.
(Inspired by) Elinor Glyn
Elinor Glyn, a notorious 1900s jezebel and author of erotic women’s fiction, was one of the real-life Harry Gordon Selfridge’s many famous lovers. According to The World of Mr. Selfridge: The Glamour and Romance, the official companion book to the series, Glyn is the inspiration for Delphine Day (Polly Walker), the risqué novelist and nightclub owner who makes waves for Harry on a personal and professional level in Season 2 of Mr. Selfridge. Glyn coined the term “It” as a code word for sex in one of her racy short stories, and was the producer and writer of the 1927 film It, which catapulted flapper Clara Bow to fame as the era’s definitive “It” girl.
The Dolly Sisters
Blonde bombshells Rosie and Jenny Dolly, a.k.a. The Dolly Sisters (Emma Hamilton and Zoe Richards), figure prominently in Season 4 of Mr. Selfridge, preying on Harry’s weakness for gambling and gams. The Hungarian-born identical twin dancers who enjoyed fame on the vaudeville circuit and beyond had a reputation for dating wealthy men, earning the nickname “The Million Dollar Dollies.” Before you experience this sister act on Mr. Selfridge, revel in the Technicolor fabulousness of Powder, Lipstick, and Rouge, an outlandish ode to make-up from the 1945 movie The Dolly Sisters, starring Betty Grable and June Haver.
Mr. Selfridge: The Final Season airs on Masterpiece Sundays, March 27-May 22 at 10 p.m on THIRTEEN; Mondays, March 28-May 23 at 9 p.m. on WLIW21; and Wednesdays, April 20-June 15, 9 p.m. on NJTV.