Famed British film director David Lean went from intimate British drama to epic widescreen history by way of some of the best adaptations of Dickens put to celluloid. As part of our five of the best series we present for you five of his must see movies.
A Passage To India (1984)
Beautifully adapted from E.M. Forster’s novel, A Passage to India is the tale of a young British woman, Adela (Judy Davis), who accuses a local doctor of rape while she’s traveling in India. This was British filmmaker David Lean’s magnificent comeback film, following a silence of more than a decade; sadly it was also the last film of his career. Peggy Ashcroft won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her outstanding performance as Mrs. Moore; composer Maurice Jarre won an Oscar for the movie’s score. Lean was also nominated for directing, adapting and editing.
Cast: Peggy Ashcroft, Victor Banerjee, Judy Davis, James Fox, Alec Guinness
Ryan’s Daughter (1970)
Director David Lean (Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago) directed this sweeping romantic drama set amid the political turbulence of early 20th-century Ireland. Young Rosy Ryan, daughter of the local pub owner in a small Irish town, is married to quiet schoolteacher (Robert Mitchum). But her affair with a British military man (Christopher Jones) sets off waves of regret and despair for her and her husband, and leads to an impassioned questioning of her political and personal loyalties in town. Gorgeous cinematography of the green Irish landscape accentuates the tragic romance at the film’s center.
Cast: Sarah Miles, John Mills, Robert Mitchum, Evin Crowley, Barry Foster, Trevor Howard, Christopher Jones, Marie Kean, Leo McKern,
Dr Zhivago (1965)
The ultimate in mid-’60s, big-budget Hollywood filmmaking, with casts of thousands, exotic locations, strikingly beautiful stars, and the sheen that only money can buy. Based on the Pulitzer Prize—winning novel by Boris Pasternak, about a Russian surgeon and poet, married to one woman yet in love with another, who becomes a victim of the Russian Revolution. Academy Award Nominations: 10, including Best Picture; Best Director; Best Film Editing.
Cast: Omar Sharif, Julie Christie, Rod Steiger
Bridge On The River Kwai (1957)
An outstanding, psychologically complex adaptation of Pierre Boulle’s 1952 novel. British POWs in Burma are forced to build a bridge to aid the war effort of their Japanese captors. British and American intelligence officers conspire to blow up the structure, but the British commander (Alec Guinness) who supervised the bridge’s construction has acquired a sense of pride in his creation and tries to foil their plans. Too late, he realizes the devastating consequences of his actions. Although credited to the director, the script was actually written by blacklisted writers Wilson and Foreman. Awards include Golden Globes for Best Director; Best Actor in a Drama: Alec Guinness; Best Motion Picture, Drama.
Cast: Alec Guiness, James Donald, Jack Hawkins, William Holden, Andre Morell,
Brief Encounter (1945)
Adapted from Noel Coward’s one-act play Still Life,” this romantic drama follows two married strangers who have a chance encounter in a London railway station. English housewife Laura Jesson (Johnson) is on her way home when a cinder catches in her eye and Dr. Alec Harvey (Howard) is nearby to remove it. They chat briefly and part but find themselves looking for each other in the same place a week later. Each week they meet and chat but eventually come to realize they are falling in love. Oscar-nominated for Best Director, Best Actress (Johnson), and Best Screenplay.”
Cast: Trevor Howard, Celia Johnson,Joyce Carey, Everley Gregg. Stanley Holloway, Marjorie Mars, Cyril Raymond
Kick-Ass TV Heroines: Xena – Warrior Princess
What was not to love about Xena? As Lucy Lawless says: “Xena is a bad-ass, kick-ass, pre-Mycenaean girl.” Evildoers, clearly, must stand down, but not only bad guys (and girls) have Xena-phobia. Even heroes quake when she swings her broadsword.
Originally created as a syndicated complement to Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena pretty much kicked Herc to the curb. It was like when the Bionic Woman made us lose interest in the Six Million Dollar Man–only more so.
Unlike Lindsay Wagner’s early half-woman, half-machine, Xena wasn’t prone to frailty. Nor did she need robot parts. In fact, the Warrior Princess never lost. If she’s down, it’s not for long.
Plus, she was in touch with the dark side: This big-boned bruiser had definite moments of blood lust, as well as lust of some other varieties. Garbed in a leather miniskirt and armed with her trademark razor-edged, boomerang-action chakram, we watched Xena single-leggedly kick down entire platoons of Roman soldiers.
Sure, there were murmurings about Xena and her softer female sidekick, Gabrielle (actress Renée O’Connor). So what if they liked to conserve bathwater by doubling up? And what’s wrong with close friends frenching once in a while?
Then again, maybe it was true–and there’s anything wrong with that.
Actress: Lucy Lawless
Show: Xena: Warrior Princess
Classic TV Revisited: McMillan And Wife
Starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James, McMillan and Wife was a super cute crime-solving saga from the 1970s made for the NBC’s Mystery Movie series.
Who were they?
Hubby was the debonair San Francisco police commissioner Stewart McMillan.
Sally was a foxy, rather scatterbrained dame with a knack for finding corpses.
Worked down the morgue did she?
Hardly. Sally’s finds were usually in some glitzy mansion which the couple were frequenting for a weekend cocktail party. She also had a habit of getting her life threatened or being kidnapped.
Who was in it?
Tragic Hollywood star Rock Hudson no less. He took on Stewart McMillan in his first TV role, after years as a matinee idol with movies such as Giant.
Fans of the lantern-jawed star were dismayed when he went public about having Aids. He had long kept his homosexuality secret. He carried on working in ’80s glam drama Dynasty, but make-up could not disguise the deterioration of this once-statuesque man. He died in 1985, aged 59.
What about Sally?
That role fell to raven-locked Susan Saint James. The Ali MacGraw lookalike was previously in shows such as Alias Smith And Jones and The Name of the Game.
A vital ingredient to McMillan And Wife was sharp-tongued housekeeper Mildred, played by Nancy Walker. Somebody needed to keep the place tidy while they gallivanted about solving crime.
Famous guest stars?
The couple’s conception?
Like Hart To Hart, the idea was borrowed from Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man books of the ’30s.
Gritty crime drama?
Hardly. These were cosy whodunnit cases, where the brutality of murder was never portrayed. The show was more about the interplay between McMillan and Sally.
Had viewers arrested?
Certainly in the US. It was the fifth highest-rated show in 1972 and 1973.
Fate of the golden couple?
Susan Saint James quit in 1976 over a contractual dispute. Nancy Walker also packed away her duster as housekeeper Mildred.
The dame’s exit was a fatal blow?
Certainly for the character of Sally – she was killed off in a plane crash. But Rock soldiered on with new assistant Sgt Steve DiMaggio (Richard Gilliland). The show became McMillan.
Audiences dwindled and the plug was pulled.
Cosy pillow talk, cocktail parties, Rock Hudson, pyjamas and numerous corpses.
Let’s go to bed. Turn the light out, darling.
Must you eat toast in bed, darling. Apologies, but I’ve got terrible flatulence. Separate bedrooms.
Not to be confused with
My Wife Next Door, Harold Macmillan, The Merry Wives Of Windsor and Mr And Mrs.
Classic TV Revisited: The Royal
The Royal was an ITV drama commission and was inspired by its sister programme Heartbeat.
The lowdown: This nostalgic family drama is set in the swinging 1960s and centres on the staff of a cottage hospital in Yorkshire. Newly qualified doctor David Cheriton (Julian Ovenden) is determined to make a difference to the world and arrives at St Aidan’s Royal Free Hospital in Elinsby full of big ideas. But he clashes with the hospital’s secretary TJ Middleditch (Ian Carmichael) who is determined to run things his way. Then there is the Matron (Wendy Craig) who rules her nurses with a rod of iron and tries in vain to stop them being distracted by the handsome arrival.
Memorable moments: Watch out for former Heartbeat favourite Bill Maynard who crosses dramas and continents as Claude Jeremiah Greengrass. Greengrass has returned from a Caribbean holiday with a mystery illness but that doesn’t stop him trying to earn a fast buck. It doesn’t take long before Claude attracts Matron’s ire.
Trivia: The Royal is a family affair for real life husband and wife Robert Daws (Ormerod) and Amy Robbins (Weatherill). No fewer than seven members of their clan have appeared in the series including their daughters and stepson.
Michelle Hardwick, who played receptionist Lizzie, says her favourite moment in the whole series didn’t come on screen but in the actors’ green room. She says: “I was sitting in there with Wendy Craig and Honor Blackman and we were having a lovely conversation. I sat back and thought ‘Wow, this is great, I can’t wait to tell my gran’.”
A modern day set version called The Royal Today aired 7 January – 14 March 2008.
First broadcast: 2003
Starred: Wendy Craig, Ian Carmichael, Michael Starke, Robert Daws and Julian Ovenden
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