Saturday, January 5, 2013

All Things Abbey

Multiply the phrase "highly anticipated" times ten and you have the euphoria centered around season three of the global phenomenon known as Downton Abbey. Premiering Sunday, January 6th at 9:00 PM/ET, look for fortunes lost, love triangles below the stairs, a possible wedding and pregnancy? and more squabbles over the proper ladle to use in the soup terrine as the fate of poor Mr. Bates hangs in the balance (no pun intended). 11 million viewers in over 100 countries and counting will no doubt be tuning in.

Perhaps the most exciting discovery is the arrival of veteran Oscar winning actress Shirley MacLaine (wonder who she channelled at the 400- year - old Highclere Castle?) who plays American socialite Martha Levinson and mother of Lady Cora (Elizabeth McGovern). MacLaine has already reported a "supernatural energy" from the effects of King Tut (who I always said died for tourism) whose tomb was once stored in the castle. At any rate, fireworks with viewer favorite Maggie Smith (Dowager Countess of Grantham) as the other rambunctious wise cracking mother in law.

MacLaine reported that the pictures actually
 fell off the wall of haunted Highclere

Shirley MacLaine makes her arrival to Downton
and with her, ushering in a new age (again, no pun intended)
Maggie Smith as Violet Crawley aka The Dowager

I caught up with production designer Donal Woods over the Christmas holiday who informed me they are hard at work on Season Four as we speak. (Fingers crossed that the media reports of  Dan Stevens (Mathew Crawley) not returning are untrue). For more on look of  the interiors  and my interview with Woods, see Designing Downton Abbey in Traditional Home .

And if the show leaves you wanting for more, get your fix on great posh period interiors from classics such as Remains of the Day and Gosford Park (two other films that dealt with the upstairs - downstairs theme of master and servant) to Howard's End, Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre in The Castles and Manors of Cinema's Greatest Period Films in Architectural Digest.

Production designer Stephen Altman used a historical consultant to make
 the period perfect interiors accurate yet comfortable and livable.

For a behind the scenes look at both the historical perspective and making of Downton Abbey, I highly recommend the illustrated book The Chronicles of Downton Abbey: A New Era (St. Martin's Press) with a foreword  by creator Julian Fellowes. Each character has their own chapter with lots of never before seen photographs -- its the perfect primer to the show and available here on Amazon.

Happy viewing and cheers to a wonderful 2013!

Photo Credits: Moviestore Collection Ltd./Alamy, Carnival Film and Television Ltd., St. Martin's Press,  USA Films.