I’ll confess, I am enraptured with Julian Fellows’ Downton Abbey. Season four has just begun and I am more enthralled with the lives and relationships of the Crawley household–both upstairs and down–than I am my own. But isn’t that why we all enjoy books, film and television? We love to be whisked away by a story–something that simultaneously takes us out of our sometimes painful, often dull lives but also shows us how others are coping, making their way. It is an intoxicating brew.
Additionally, it brings us together–despite our different heritages, backgrounds, preferences and experiences–to see the actors recite the lines of the writer that redeem, forgive, comfort, teach and evolve characters, giving them…well, character. We all have similar lessons of love and growth and stories allow us to watch voyeuristically from a slight distance as our beloved literary friends muddle through, confirming the universality of this human experience in the process.
I am an admitted anglophile. Silky was the first Brit I ever knew and I suppose the one who taught me the English allure. The BBC and PBS’ Masterpiece Theater have only made me more of a fan. My first series was Brideshead Revisited based on the Evelyn Waugh novel. I watched it with my uncle and his girlfriend when their baby was a toddler. We met at Gam’s every Sunday for languid pool days then Gene cooked us dinner and we gathered round the tele to watch the decline of the Marchmain clan prior to and during World War II. I have watched nearly every British period mini series ever since and when I visited England for the first time in 1986, I made the pilgrimage to Castle Howard where Brideshead was filmed. I may have to take myself to Highclere Castle the next time I cross the pond.
As much as I devour all British literature–Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, E.M. Forrester and the like, it’s really the period between the two World Wars that floats my boat. The fresh style and changing times of the nineteen twenties, thirties and forties–the clothing, the jazzy music and dance, the Art Deco movement, the budding technology and shifting social consciousness–it was a truly exciting time. Or at least I imagine it was. It’s hard to romanticize war and impossible to embrace the the horrors of Hitler, but the rest of it seems divine to me.
This week’s photo shows Sylvia and Douglas Fairbanks returning to London from their Paris wedding in 1936. Welcoming them home is Silky’s nephew Timothy who later died quite young in an automobile accident. Silky looks radiantly happy–and why shouldn’t she be? After years of uncertainty, she finally married the love of her life. What a divine story she lived. And how fortunate I am to have learned so much from her.