Monday, November 08, 2010

Titles and Plots

‘Oh pish!’ I thought when Julian Fellowes named his book Past Imperfect published in 2008. When I started my blog in January 2006 I had named it Past Imperfect and planned to use the same title for my memoir. I discovered that Joan Collins had used it in 1978 for her autobiography but, as there is no copyright for book titles, I admire Joan and it was published last century it seemed reasonable to use it again. I’m still searching for the right title.

Last night on BBC1 TV was the final episode of the period drama Downton Abbey written by…Julian Fellowes. At first I thought it was just another Upstairs, Downstairs that fine TV series from 1971 written by actresses Eileen Atkins and Jean Marsh there are many similarities

In spite of the large viewing audience some of them have pointed out historical inaccuracies, spotting a television aerial, double yellow lines on the road and a very modern looking conservatory( it is set in Edwardian times) Then there were rumblings about sections of the plot; suggesting that parts had been plagiarised from the novel Little Women and the 1942 film Mrs Miniver.

‘All we get is this permanent negative nit- picking from the Left. The real problem is with people who are insecure socially,’ says Mr Fellowes, whose wife is lady- in- waiting to Princess Michael. There’s posh!

I have to say that although both the film and the book are old favourites of mine I wasn’t troubled by any plot similarities.

There are said to be only seven basic plots in literature – or 39, or a 100 depending on who is being quoted. The point is that some are bound to be recycled from time to time.

‘Who can say what is lodged in one’s brain? I am not conscious of lifting either, but it doesn’t mean they are wrong,’ was Fellowes’ response and I sympathise with him.

I have watched every episode and found it to be perfect Sunday night television. The casting director deserves an award; every one of the large cast is just right and Dame Maggie Smith was born to play the Dowager Countess of Grantham

There was a time when her acting became as camp as Christmas – but that was decades ago and she has since proved to be one of the best actresses in living memory.

The plot threads are shared between the family and below stairs with a certain amount of skilful intertwining. There was no happy ending – WW1 had just broken out, a love affair has gone wrong and – without giving the story away - there is a tragedy in the family. It is already out on DVD and in spite of the flaws – the Dowager Countess would not have said:

‘Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

I urge you to watch it for some escapist entertainment.

There is a new series commissioned for next year and I believe there is going to be an updated version of Upstairs, Downstairs. That should set the cat amongst the pigeons.


Scarlet Blue said...

I loved Downton Abbey to bits, it was superb viewing. I also loved Gosford Park - also written by Fellowes... it's all in the tiny deatails.

rashbre said...

I only managed to see the episode where the Butler's past in music hall was revealed, but it looked like a good series. And I know Highclere (which looks like a mini Houses of Parliament) quite well. Indeed, we have some Highclere daffodils at rashbre central.

Pat said...

Scarlet: great there is a second series.

Rashbre: it is odd looking. Fancy having their daffs!

Kim Ayres said...

I've been asked a few times, if I could photograph anyone famous, who would it be? Dame Maggie Smith is always there at or near the top of the list. What a face, and boy does she know how to use it - a portrait photgrapher's dream :)

Talking of your book - the word verification is "nouns"

Guyana-Gyal said...

Picking a title is nerve-wracking, isn't it? So is trying to be as original as possible, and praying that someone else's work hasn't lodged itself in your brain.

But there's only ONE Pat's past imperfect.

R. Sherman said...

It sounds interesting, but I'm afraid there'd be too few car chases and gun fights for my tastes.


Mike and Ann said...

Hi Pat. You are in good company. The late P.G.Wodehouse published a novel in 1929 called Summer Lightning, and in the preface he revealed that since thinking of that title he had discovered that five other novels had been published called Summer Lightning. He ends the preface "I can only express the modest hope that this story will be considered worthy of inclusion in the list of the Hundred Best Books Called Summer Lightning."
Warm regards to you both, Mike.

Pat said...

Kim:I was looking up her association with Kenneth Williams in the fifties and throughout the decades she has always had this marvellously expressive face. A fantastic tool for acting.

GG: I have actually discovered phrases that have unconsciously lodged in my brain. And goodness knows - it's not very big;)

Randall: what am I going to do with you? Deep sigh!

Mike and Ann: that's interesting! Perhaps by the time it's published so much time will have elapsed I can use it with impunity. it's hard to relinquish something that seems just right.

angryparsnip said...

I will have to wait and see if PBS/ Masterpiece theater shows it or I will have to rent it from Netflix.
I use to watch BBC America for some great TV shows but now all it seems to run is a show called Top Gear (?)and reruns of Star Trek... I don't even check it out anymore
so bummed !

Cheers, parsnip

Pat said...

Parsnip: I do hope you get to see it- it's like comfort food but less fattening.

Macy said...

Hmmm Not aware that nit picking was a perogative solely of the LEFT. I believe the Right have harboured a few pedants in their time.
Damn now I've been put off Downton Abbey...

Eryl said...

It sounds like the kind of thing I'd have enjoyed watching with my mother-in-law, back in the days.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

We haven't gotten this series here yet, But it sounds WONDERFUL! Right up my alley...!
I look forward to it and maybe I can rent the DVD! Thanks for the Heads Up, Pat....
Come by and read my Anniversary Post, if you have the time...!

Pat said...

Macy: don't be put off - it really is worth watching and I only quoted it because it is such a ridiculous thing to say. When it was pointed out to him that the remarks had been made by right wingers he trotted out the 'people who are insecure socially.'

Eryl: you might even enjoy it now - Scarlet loved it;)

Naomi: do see it if you can and let me know what you think of it. I'll pop ever before bed-time.

kenju said...

I remember watching Upstairs, Downstairs and I loved it and couldn't wait for the next week's show to arrive. I hope they bring it back, but I'd really like to see all the old episodes again. That and "Roots" were the best things on TV, ever.

Pat said...

Judy: Roots is also the name of one of my favourite plays by Arnold Wesker but I'm sure you don't mean that Roots.

sablonneuse said...

My goodness, an updated version of Upstairs Downstairs? We've only just finished watching all five series on DVD.
If titles aren't copyright I don't see why you shouldn't call your book Past Imperfect. But all your readers must be waiting eagerly to get a copy whatever it's called.

Pat said...

Sandy: my mind has been otherwise occupied. I must brace myself and start the demoralising business of sending it out again.

Leigh Russell said...

It is so difficult to think of strong titles for books that haven't already been overused.