Thursday, April 21, 2011

Deja Vu In Between Stairs

I have finished watching the first series of Upstairs Downstairs that takes place between 1903 and 1909. I've already ordered he next set.

Like my Tighsolas story, the first series ends in a wedding. And as befits the 1910 era, hats are at center stage during this scene.

The original Upstairs Downstairs shows how to produce a period piece without a huge budget. There are no establishing shots, no outdoor sets to speak of, save the outside of the home in Belgravia and the outside of this church where the wedding takes place. Few wide shots either.

Furniture takes the place of setting (like on stage)...tables and chairs.

Writing and acting take center stage and there's a great deal of attention to historical detail.

And the costumes are impeccable, as well.

At the wedding a servant is wearing a ludicrous hat covered in cherries (which are meant to be real, I imagine. Lady Bellamy is wearing a breathtaking work of art on her head as she reflects the epitome of good taste (in a rather tasteless time) and there are all kinds of hats in between reflecting the personalities and levels of taste in between. Bellamy's society friend has just too many roses perched upon her hat, but ladies did that.

Now, of course, you can turn to YouTube to see real people in the era's hats and movies of the time.

The researchers for the original Upstairs Downstairs didn't have the Internet, but they did have real Edwardians to talk to. Edith and Flora Nicholson, for instance, were still alive and no doubt they watched this scene and remembered their own big hats. Edith always wore a hat to church, my husband remembers, even when they were no longer in fashion.

Now, after 5 years of researching the Tighsolas era on my own (without having seen Upstairs Downstairs.. I could have just ordered the tape at any time this past decade)it's like deja vu all over again.

There's even a short allusion to the eugenics movement in the scene with the daughter's bohemian friends.

Tighsolas is neither Upstairs or Downstairs. It is IN BETWEEN Stairs.. The Nicholsons are middle class and as I have been told, letters written by middle class women and preserved are rare.

Now, I didn't see this series because in 1972 to 77 I was at school, the one time in my life I watched no TV. I had better things to do. No doubt I saw a few episodes and I certainly heard all about it. Indeed, my introduction to the term Edwardian Period was likely because of that show.

The daughter in the first series is 21, and that would have been a bit older than me. They played up the New Woman aspect of the era through her - no doubt to appeal to young female viewers like me. I certainly would have identified with her.

1971, forty years ago. There are quite a few references to homosexuality in this series, quite adventurous for a series in 1971, I would think.

I also think the respresentation of female sexuality was pretty well bang on. With respect to sex. Kissing was considered risque behavior and prudishness crossed the class lines, although the daughter mentions the bedroom activities of the upper class marrieds during her Scottish visit.