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Lillie (ITV 1978, Francesca Annis, Anton Rodgers)



Francesca Annis in Lillie

A hugely popular and critical success in its day Lillie really had its roots in the earlier and equally popular 1975 production of Edward the Seventh which also saw Francesca Annis briefly playing Langtry.

The life of Lillie, told over the course of 13 episodes, was one of real rags to riches variations, having been born the daughter of a humble Channel Islander clergyman she rose to become the glamour figure of her day. Elizabeth Taylor or Paris Hilton could only imagine what it would be like to be her, courted by royalty and the most influential and intellectual figures of her day on both sides of the atlantic.

Anton Rodgers plays Lillie’s weak husband Edward who has to stand by and watch as Lillie becomes the plaything of Edward (or Bertie to his friends), the Prince of Wales (a role for the always excellent Denis Lill). Francesca Annis, always beautiful and deserving of her BAFTA for best actress, does a wonderful job as Lillie aging from a sparkling ingenue of 16 to a seen it all 70. Along the way embracing the likes of Oscar Wilde (Peter Egan) and James Whistler (Don Fellows) and the rest of well to do society.

production details
UK / ITV – London Weekend Television / 13×60 minute episodes / 1978

Writers: David Butler, John Gorrie / Idea: Mike Smith / Book: James Brough / Music: Joseph Horovitz / Executive Producer: Tony Wharmby / Producer: Jack Williams

Francesca Annis as Lillie Langtry
Anton Rodgers as Edward Langtry
Patrick Holt as Dean Le Breton
Brian Deacon as Frank Miles
Don Fellows as J.M. Whistler
Basil Hoskins as J.E. Milais
Debbie Farrington as Sally
Denis Lill as Bertie
Peter Egan as Oscar Wilde
Ann Firbank as Queen Alexandria
Jennie Linden as Patsy Cornwallis-West
John Castle as Prince Louis of Battenberg
Annette Crosbie as Henrietta Labouchere
Michael J. Shannon as Freddie Gebhard
Simon Shepherd as Lord Alfred Douglas
John Justin as Paul Esterhazy
James Warwick as Hugo De Bathe

THE EPISODES 24 September – 17 December 1978
1. EMILIE (24 Sep 78)
2. MRS LANGTRY (1 Oct 78)
3. THE JERSEY LILY (8 Oct 78)
4. THE NEW HELEN (15 Oct 78)
5. BERTIE (22 Oct 78)
6. LET THEM SAY (29 Oct 78)
8. GOING ON THE STAGE (12 Nov 78)
9. AMERICA! (19 Nov 78)
10. HOME ON THE RANGE (26 Nov 78)
11. MR JERSEY (3 Dec 78)
13. FIFTY CENTS A DANCE (17 Dec 78)