Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Lady Sybil Branson Period Drama Quiz 2012

And now the end is near and so we all brace ourselves for awkward encounters with random relatives, a barage of misconceived yet well-intentioned gifts and the acceptable face of gluttony. Lets celebrate the year just gone here at the Period Drama King with the second annual compendium of headscratchers based on the previous year's period-drama delights. I'd like to take the opportunity to thank every one who has checked this here blog out in the last twelve months, particularly the ever-loyal Monarch of Mosside Road and Glasnevin's answer to Miss Jean Brodie. Merry Christmas to all who read this and here's to good times and plenty more of the past in 2013.

1. Philip Glenister, Daniel Mays, Rupert Penry-Jones, Eddie Izzard and Toby Regbo began their year searching for which famous literary location on Sky?

2. Which actress has been killed by Julian Fellowes twice in the last eighteen months?

3. Florence and the Machine wrote and sang the theme tune to a period fantasy film released in the summer. Can you name the movie and song?

4. Two movies about the life of Alfred Hitchcock were released this year, both set against the backdrop of the making of particular Hitchcock classics. Can you name both the newly-released films and the films depicted in them?

5. Madonna's W.E. (pictured above) was released in February. Why did a scene set in 1936 in which the death of a monarch is announced on the radio spark particular interest?

6. The Queen of England's encounter with James Bond was a highlight of the opening ceremony of the Olympics for many. Which actress, who appeared in all seven episodes of the BBC's Cranford amongst many other things, was the Queen's stunt double?

7. In Parade's End, what is the name of the family estate of Christopher Tietjens?

8. The King's Speech re-united Elizabeth and Mr Darcy from the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice. Which 2012 film re-united Elizabeth and Mr Darcy from the 2005 version?

9. The Hollow Crown series of Shakespeare adaptations featured the stories of three kings but which one spoke the line "let us sit on the ground and tell sad stories of the deaths of kings"?

10. Why might the Dickens character Mrs Gamp fit in at Nonnatus House?

11. Sadie and the Hotheads, Uncle Vanya, The Heiress, Mr Stink and The Sweeney are all what?

12. "Mr Brown goes off to town on the 8.21 but he comes back each evening and is ready with his gun." Name that period comedy.

13. "These days I do less. When I played that part in 1957, I was as mad in as many ways as possible. Now I know it is better to be mad in only one way." Who said this in 2012 and what part was she talking about?

1. Treasure Island. They all starred in a new Sky adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's novel that aired in the New Year

2. Maria Doyle Kennedy. Her characters Vera Bates in Downton Abbey and Muriel Batley in Titanic both died and both dramas were written by Fellowes.

3. The film was Snow White and the Huntsman and the song was Breath of Life.

4. Hitchcock features the making of Psycho and The Girl features the making of The Birds.

5. George the Fifth died in 1936 but the scene mistakenly refers to him as George the Third.

6. Julia McKenzie

7. Groby.

8. Keira Knightley and Mathew Macfadyen both featured in Anna Karenina.

9. Richard the Second played by Ben Whishaw.

10. Mrs Gamp was a midwife in Martin Chuzzlewitt and Nonnatus House is where the midwives live in Call the Midwife.

11. They are all other projects pursued by Downton Abbey regulars in 2012. The cast members in question are Elizabeth McGovern, Laura Carmichael, Dan Stevens, Hugh Bonneville and Allen Leech.

12. That is a line from the theme tune to Dad's Army.

13. Judi Dench on playing the part of Ophelia in Hamlet.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Le Morte d'Arthur and More

December is shaping up to be quite the busy month for period dramas this year with Call the Midwife and Downton Abbey both being promoted as the jewels in the crown of the Christmas Day schedules on BBC1 and ITV1 in the UK respectively. The former will feature an abandoned baby on the steps on Nonnatus House, Miranda Hart's hapless Chummy organising a Nativity play and an old vagrant lady touching the lives of the nuns and nurses while the later will, unlike last year's festive special, not be set at Christmas but during a Crawley family holiday in the Scottish Highlands. With the servants back in Downton at a loose end it seems Mrs Patmore indulges in a spot of romance and, judging by the trailer, Anna may have had to do a lot of letting out of Lady Mary's dresses since we've seen her last........ Also, coming to a climax this Christmas after five autumns on the Beeb is the hugely popular children's magical adventure series Merlin, which is not by any means ending on a whimper but, to this blogger's mind, the best series yet. Rather ropey and unsophisticated entertainment when it first aired in 2008, the average episode of Merlin is now much more exciting and emotionally engaging than the likes of Sinbad and Doctor Who. Personal recent highlights have included a genuinely creepy installment featuring the vengeful spectre of the old king returning from beyond the veil to punish his son for bad life choices and Merlin, still hiding his true self from the oblivious king, dressing up in drag in order to perform a spell in plain sight.

It is, all told, probably the right decision to quit while the going is good because just like any long-running series it has a formula and one would hate for the formula to become completely exhausted before time is called in Camelot. How many more times can Merlin be summoned to a cave by a mysterious old woman to be told that it is his destiny to protect Arthur from bitter sister Morgana only for the supposed evil genius Morgana's plans to fizzle out once again sending her and her big hair off in a huff? And, even accepting that this version of the Arthurian legend re-invents the once and future king as a dumb blonde, surely even he would have cottoned on by now that his servant Merlin is doing more for him on a weekly basis than simply washing his drawers. The real masterstroke of Merlin is Colin Morgan's performance as the eponymous sorcerer, at times hilarious and at times heartbreakingly sad, which suggests a homoerotic subtext which has sparked many a colourful conversation in student houses and internet forums over the years but is never too knowing for its own good. With visions of Arthur's death haunting Merlin at night and the faithful dragon with the voice of John Hurt ailing, the sense of doom has been nicely foreshadowed and the two-part finale should be one to watch. However Merlin ends up when the credits rolls on the final episode, Morgan (pictured above) has undoubtedly a bright future ahead of him.

Merlin has not only helped to launch the careers of Morgan and other series regulars Bradley James and Katie McGrath but also Holliday Grainger who made an early guest appearance in the first series and is now going from strength to strength career-wise playing Lucrezia Borgia in HBO's The Borgias and giving a memorably touching performance as Estella in the latest big-screen Great Expectations, more than holding her own opposite the reliably charismatic Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham. The film itself is a not-entirely-successful mixed bag but does have its charms and screenwriter David Nicholls knows what he is doing and it is a better version than the bleak BBC miniseries we saw last Christmas. Its potential as the period drama film of the season has been unceremoniously eroded by ecstatic early reviews for the long-awaited movie adaptation of the mega-musical Les Miserables which frustratingly does not open this side of the pond until January 11th 2012. Other potential period delights to be enjoyed in the coming weeks include the first film in the The Hobbit trilogy, Loving Miss Hatto, a BBC1 TV film written by Victoria Wood about a strange case of artistic fraud involving an elderly classical pianist, the launch of Ripper Street, the dark thriller about life in London in the time of Jack the Ripper also on BBC1, an ITV adaptation of a Frances Hodgson Burnett story called The Making of a Lady starring Joanna Lumley and, last but not least, the second annual period drama quiz to be published on this blog presently. Amn't I good?