September 21, 2014

The Real Downton Abbey



I have been enjoying this series and am looking forward to the new series.
There is a lot more to it than the not-so glamourous  lives of the staff and  the glamourous lives of the family who live there.

It is very much a look at the social conditions of the time when a huge staff looked after a relatively small family.

This theme has reoccurred in many other historical  movies and television shows in the past.

I especially remember the television series "Upstairs, Downstairs" which showed the wealthy in the city rather than at their country estate.

And as far as movies are concerned I particularly enjoyed and recall "The Admirable Crichton", especially since it was on my literature curriculum at high school.

This 1957 movie was based on a play by Sir James Barrie who also wrote "Peter Pan" among many others. It presents a somewhat different side of this social scene.
Crichton is the the top of the tree in the servant's quarters - the equivalent of Mr Carson, if you will. Both are extremely competent and proud of their work.

The fun begins when Crichton and his employers are shipwrecked, and somehow we see an amazing role-reversal where Crichton 'becomes' the Earl of Grantham's equivalent and takes over. 

When the family and its servants are rescued and returned home safely everything reverts back to normality. After all - back then everyone knew their place in society!

There was little upward mobility.

Understanding the social history behind it all makes "Downton Abbey", and similar shows, far more interesting!


From the You Tube clip above:

"Throughout the nineteenth century and until the First World War domestic service constituted the largest single employment for English women, and the second-largest employment for all English people, male and female. Yet it is a largely unknown occupation. No Royal Commission investigated it or suggested legislative protection of the worker; no outburst of trade union activity called attention to the lot of servants, as it did to that of the building workers, the cotton-spinners and the dock labourers. . . Immured in their basements and attic bedrooms, shut away from private gaze and public conscience, the domestic servants remained mute and forgotten until, in the end, only their growing scarcity aroused interest in "the servant problem."

Picture credit for "Downton Abbey": 925Fresh FM


And here is the 1957 movie, "The Admirable Crichton" starring Kenneth More and Diane Cilento as the "Tweenie". Well worth watching!

‘Downton Abbey’ and History: A Look Back

Complete list of Golden Globe winners here.

Downton Abbey Becomes Downturn Abbey: Secrets Of Series 6 Revealed

Downton Abbey: Ending After Its Sixth Season?
The Real Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey Producers In Talks To Make A 1930s-set Feature-length Movie

Maggie Smith: Michael Coveney’s Biography