Downton Abbey, Mrs Miniver, and hissy fits

Written By Lingkar Dunia on Sunday, December 18, 2011 | 7:30 PM

Revisiting the Competition for Best Rose
We watched the 1942 movie Mrs Miniver last night.
It's the famous WW2 movie that so moved President Roosevelt that he reportedly had leaflets printed with the final speech by the vicar with its "We will fight on the beaches etc." kind of message, and had them dropped over Europe.

It is a clever piece of work, definitely propaganda, with also with definite charm, particularly when the year of its first screening is remembered.  Though it was filmed somewhere in North America, there is an English "feel" about it, complete with haughty dowager who rules the riverside village with a feudal hand ... and Greer Garson (who got an Oscar for her role) is peerless.   The scene in the air raid shelter is particularly well done (watch the cat gradually get more nervous as the whistles and bangs of bombs get closer; fine acting, that).

Anyway, we were intrigued to see a whole scene from the hit TV series Downton Abbey played out before our very eyes.  Mr. Ballard, humble rose-grower and station master (Henry Travers) wants to win the Beldon Cup for his beautiful red rose.  The Cup, however, belongs by feudal right to Lady Beldon (Dame May Whitty; and yes, they do give her title in the credits), who wins it every year.  Mrs. Miniver, however, persuades Lady B. to weaken -- by sheer body language, apparently.  "You have that look in your eye," the grand dame complains, and lo, the prize is awarded to the station master, who goes all faint and overcome.
Remind you of an episode in series one of Downton Abbey?

We certainly blinked at the coincidence -- to the extent that we were almost reciting the lines before Mrs. Miniver and Lady Beldon.

Of course we weren't the first to notice the striking coincidence.  As far back as October 2010, Christina Jarvis from Essex wrote to the Daily Telegraph say she had been "slack-jawed" as she watched "the flower-show contretemps" in the latest episode of Downton Abbey, saying "precisely the same situation appeared in the film Mrs Miniver", which she had seen the previous week.

Well, people can be inspired by all kinds of books and films, often unconsciously (though the striking similarity of the rose competition scenario is stretching the word "unconsciously" a bit), and many of the situations in Downton Abbey go all the way back to Addison et al. 

What is really amusing is to find out that the creator of Downton Abbey has a really, really thin skin.  Julian Fellows has won all kinds of awards and has done extraordinarily well, so one would expect him to be quite airy about it, when challenged.  Instead, as the Telegraph reported on an incredulous note, when he was asked about the apparent similarities, "Fellowes accused this newspaper of being part of a left-wing conspiracy."  There is "a permanent negative slant" in the press, he snarled.

What a shame the term "hissy fit" is too modern for him to use in a script.

More gossip: Richard Ney, who plays Greer Garson's son in the movie, was only 11 years older than she. They fell in love, and married (disastrously) the following year. When he left her, such was her popularity that his Hollywood career was ruined.  But never mind, he became a very rich financial trader.


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