Saturday, July 7, 2012

Guest Post: The Duchess of Duke Street

My rating on a 1-10 scale: 9
Main characters: Louisa Trotter, Charlie Tyrrell, Mary, Mr. Starr, Merriman, Major Smith-Barton
Genre: Drama, Some Comedy
Recognizable actors: Gemma Jones, Joanna David (in a couple of episodes), Robert Hardy (in one episode), Jullian Fellowes (in one episode)
Length: 31 Episodes (2 Series), 1 hour per episode
Based on: Loosely based on the life of Rosa Lewis, the Duchess of Jermyn Street
Time period: 1900 - 1925
Year it came out: 1976
Story: Louisa has one dream: to become the best chef in England and work for "the best people there is -- rich people". The series follows her story from an assistant cook to the owner of the Bentinck Hotel in Duke Street. The story takes place throughout the Edwardian era, through World War I, and half way through the 20s.
My overall opinion: This is a very good series. Just a quick heads-up before I go into the review, there are some suggestive themes in The Duchess of Duke Street and maybe a couple of scenes that you might want to skip, but I will say that nothing is graphic. If it were on TV, it would probably be rated PG. Now onto the review:

The main character of The Duchess of Duke Street is Louisa, who was once a poor woman, but who rises to become the owner of the Bentinck Hotel. Louisa does have her faults, but overall she is a likable character. Even though her position in society gets higher and higher as the story goes on, she still has her cockney accent and attitude. She cooks more at the beginning of the series, but when she runs the Bentinck, she cooks less and manages the hotel more. 
And if you hadn't noticed, Louisa is played by Gemma Jones, who can also be seen in Sense and Sensibility (1995) as Mrs. Dashwood and Jane Eyre (1997) as Mrs. Fairfax.

As Louisa builds up the hotel more and more, there are more additions to the staff and residence of the Bentinck...

The person that has been with Louisa the longest is Mary (pictured on the right), who Louisa met at her first cooking job. She is one of Louisa's most trusted employees and one of her closest friends. Mary becomes closer with another employee, Mr. Starr (who, sadly, I don't have a picture of, but you might be able to find him in the staff picture -- he's the one next to Mary); Mr. Starr is always accompanied by his beloved dog, Fred.

The oldest member of the staff is Merriman, the butler. The thing you have to forget about him as you are watching The Duchess of Duke Street is his age. He really doesn't age and is there for the entire series (save the first couple of episodes); he is just always old, but still strong.

In addition to the staff that also lives there, the Bentinck is also the home of a couple of Louisa's friends.

Most importantly, Charles "Charlie" Tyrrell (later Lord Haselmere) resides in a room that is reserved for him. He helped Louisa with financing the hotel when it was on the verge of bankruptcy. He is also the only man that Louisa ever loved.

Another one of the permanent guests is Major Smith-Barton (or Major as Louisa calls him), who is retired from the army. He kind of is a guest, but he also works at the hotel due to not being able to pay his hotel bill.

Something that I didn't expect from a show made in the 70s is good costuming, but The Duchess of Duke Street has it! Many of Louisa's dresses are very pretty. For the most part, her dresses are Edwardian, but as fashions change, her clothes change.

Louisa is always nicely dressed and has very fine clothing. My only issue with her clothes is that towards the end of the series in the 20s, her clothes made her look older and weren't as pretty as her older dresses.

Overall, this is a very good series and I highly recommend it. The format of the show is like Upstairs Downstairs, but I like Duchess of Duke Street better. As you watch the series, you really get to know all of the characters pretty well. And, like I've said before, the show would be about TV-PG due to a couple of scenes.

If you would like to read my original reviews of The Duchess of Duke Street, you can read them at my blog:

Elegance of Fashion

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