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.