Downton Abbey Dish #37

Deborah Gilbert | May 4, 2015

I hope you Downtonians are enjoying the (sort of) warmer weather. No matter how cold the winter, spring always comes eventually, making it a great metaphor for winters everywhere, of every variety.  Lots of Downton in the news as always. Royals and Nazis and dead parrots, oh my! Let’s begin…

What Happens in Windsor, Stays in Windsor:

It seems that Duchess Kate isn’t the only royal who’s a Downton Abbey fan. Apparently the Big Boss, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, is too. So much so that Maggie Smith was recently invited to be an overnight guest of Liz and Phil at Windsor Castle, Liz’s little weekend home.  Weekend home? What’s a weekend home?

Thank Heaven for Little Midwives:

call_the_midwife_tweetFor New Yorkers who hate tourists (that would be most, if not all, of us), here is evidence that they are not all bad. That’s not just anyone tweeting a picture of themselves posing in front of the Flatiron Building; that’s Heidi Thomas, the creator of Call the Midwife, along with her real-life hubby Stephen McGann (AKA Dr. Turner), and his on-screen wife Laura Main (AKA Shelagh). They were all in town for the opening of Gigi on Broadway (Heidi wrote the book). What would you have done if you had been walking down the street and seen this motley crew posing in front of random landmarks in your neighborhood? I suppose I could drop my Poland Spring on the ground, scream that my water just broke and I needed their help. I don’t know. It could work.

When Worlds Collide:

portrait_gallery_tweetIn Season 5 of Downton Abbey the Dowager accused Isobel of stringing out a moment like Ellen Terry. Also in Season 5, Carson likened himself to John Singer Sargent when insisting to Mrs. Hughes that he really was a Modern (despite all appearances to the contrary). But did you know that John Singer Sargent actually painted a portrait of Ellen Terry? Neither did I, until this past week when the National Portrait Gallery in London tweeted a picture of her as Lady Macbeth, by Sargent. Small world! Here is the story of that painting. And here you can see the iconic color painting referred to in the article. Right now there is a huge and gorgeous collection of Sargent’s portraits on exhibit there. It looks so fabulous I was seriously tempted to jump on a plane and fly to London to see it (and if you know anything about my fear of flying, you know that’s a big deal!). But then I found out I don’t need to fly to London after all because the same show, Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends, opens June 30 at our very own Metropolitan Museum of Art! It runs through October 4, demonstrating that the Met Museum knows how to string out a moment as well (thankfully!).

Run Thomas, Run:

Rob James Collier, who seems to be a much nicer fellow than Thomas Barrow, ran the London Marathon last week to raise money for a Multiple Sclerosis charity in the UK. And to help raise those funds, he and his cast mates spent some down time on the Downton Abbey set filming a Downton Abbey/Star Wars parody on his iPhone. The film, called Evil Butler, stars Mr. Bates, Thomas and Anna (with a cameo by Carson), and answers some of the questions you’ve always had about these characters – and it is too, too funny!  You’ll love the way Bates mocks Anna accent, (and check out the camera dolly in the background). You are going to want to watch this more than once, for sure: www.evilbutler.com And, by the way, this is just Part 1 – there is more to come. As an incentive to get people to donate, Rob explains that he posted Part 1, and once he reached his goal of 10K he would post Part 2. As we went to press, he had just reached his goal and Part 2 should be posted at the Evil Butler site soon (if it isn’t already). Enjoy!

The Ballad of Hank and Annie:

wolf_hall_tweetAre you loving Wolf Hall? I am! It doesn’t matter that we know how the ‘romance’ between Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn ends, I still cannot wait to see what happens next. That is the hallmark of a great drama, isn’t it? This telling of the story is dark and chewy and, yes, sometimes I wish some of the characters were wearing name tags, but holy cow, Mark Rylance is rather amazing, isn’t he? That face! He has that same thing Audrey Hepburn had; when he is on screen you cannot take your eyes off him. It is remarkable how this period of history can be told and retold in so many ways. Maybe it’s because there is so much of it that we don’t have a definitive account of. And maybe (at least part of it) is because so many relate to the experience of a wished-for Prince (or King) turning into a frog (even if a bit less dramatically). If the phrase, ‘be careful what you wish for because you just might get it’ wasn’t coined for Lady Anne Boleyn, it should have been! Also fun for PBS-ophiles: Footman Jimmy and Jenny Lee! (AKA Downton Abbey’s Ed Speleers and Call the Midwife‘s Jessica Raine). And the cast includes Dr. Clarkson (AKA David Robb) as Papa Boleyn. Note: Even though I said ‘we know’ how the story of Anne and Henry ends, I have to say that one of my 20-something coworkers does not know how the story of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn ends so, shhhh…let’s not spoil it for her! But it’s not all doom and gloom. The picture of Cromwell here shows him walking the runway at Tudor Fashion week. Werq it, Tom!

The Tickets Are Too Damn High:

At this year’s Olivier Awards (the British Tonys), held in April, Downton Abbey’s Penelope Wilton (AKA Isobel Crawley) won Best Actress for her work in Taken at Midnight. Penelope had received five previous Olivier nominations, but 6 must be her lucky number: This was her first win. Even though the play is much darker than Downton Abbey, she was on familiar ground, playing a mother fighting for her son. It takes place in pre-war Nazi Germany, and in it Penelope played the mother of a lawyer who had put Hitler on the witness stand (maybe he’s the guy who found out what happened to Editor Charming) and was later imprisoned for it. The play finds her fighting for his release. In an interview after her win, Penelope mentioned the high price of theater tickets pricing young people out of the theater experience.

Ahem, here’s a little not-so-young-anymore person in the corner raising her hand. I have often worried about the same thing with regard to the future of the theater, but you never hear someone of this stature mention it. How very Isobel of her. Bravos all around!

And Now For Something Completely Different:

To celebrate the upcoming reunion of Monty Python, a 50-foot-high, allegedly dead parrot has been placed in a London park. Then again, if he is dead, isn’t he 50 long instead of 50 high? Some insist he is not dead, just resting, but either way it is a sight to see!

FYI: No parrots were harmed in the writing of this column. Thank you.