TBT: Love in a Cold Climate (2001)

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Given the latest adaptation of Nancy Mitford’s novel The Pursuit of Love starring Lily James is coming to Amazon on July 30, I thought it was high time to do a full review of the previous adaptation, Love in a Cold Climate (2001). Starring Rosamund Pike and Elisabeth Dermot Walsh, the 2001 BBC miniseries combines The Pursuit of Love with its sequel, Love in a Cold Climate to tell the story of three minor aristocratic women’s love lives in 1930s England. I’ve raved about this series before, but having just rewatched it, I need to rave again — THIS IS SO GOOD!!

First, we need to talk Mitfords, because if you aren’t familiar, get ready to get interested. The real Nancy Mitford and her sisters had a very eccentric childhood, and they grew up to be gorgeous, stylish, and sometimes scandalous in the 1930s and beyond: Nancy was a novelist/biographer and socialite; Diana was a socialite and fascist; Unity became a devotee of Hitler; Jessica moved to the US where she became an author and communist; and Deborah became the 10th Duchess of Devonshire. The novels are semi-autobiographical and they are witty, sparkling, and highly entertaining. There’s a number of biographies written about the sisters; I can recommend The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family by Mary S. Lovell.

The real-life Mitford sisters: Unity, Diana, and Nancy.

Three of the real-life Mitford sisters: Unity, Diana, and Nancy.

Love in a Cold Climate‘s Characters

Heading back to that eccentric upbringing, I’m almost loathe to really get in-depth in the story/characters of Love in a Cold Climate because they are SO DAMN GOOD and often the surprise is part of the joy. Yes, in some ways this could be Yet Another Good BBC Interwar Miniseries — but here, the characters are unconventional, colorful, and often downright hilarious. So, if you trust me, go watch this and then come back and read this review! If you don’t, here we go:

Fanny, played by Rosamund Pike (Wives and Daughters, The Libertine, Pride & Prejudice, Radioactive), is the narrator. Her mother has left so many men that she’s become known as The Bolter; Fanny takes the opposite tack, being kind, stable, and loving. She’s raised by relatives, but spends all of her holidays with her best friend/cousin’s family.

2001 Love in a Cold Climate

Sweet, stable Fanny, played by Rosamund Pike with perfect 1930s hair.

2001 Love in a Cold Climate
2001 Love in a Cold Climate

Her long lost mother, The Bolter!

That best friend is Linda, really the main character. She’s sweet, trusting, and a total romantic. She falls in love immediately, without thinking through whether she’s made the right choice, and then falls in love again and again.

2001 Love in a Cold Climate

Young Linda (left, Elisabeth Dermot Walsh: Cleopatra, Bertie and Elizabeth, From Time to Time) starts off ready for love…

2001 Love in a Cold Climate

… and stays ready for love!

Love in a Cold Climate (2001)

Which sometimes frequently leads to her making Bad Decisions.

Woven in from the novel Love in a Cold Climate is Polly, another relative and friend. She’s been living in India with her parents for a few years, but is back. She’s a beauty, but for some reason is totally indifferent to all the men she’s meeting, to the despair of her mother.

Love in a Cold Climate (2001)

Polly (Megan Dodds, who I have just discovered is the bitchy sister in Ever After!).

Fanny and Linda basically grow up together. They (and Linda’s siblings) form a secret society called the “Hons” (short for the title honorable, I think?) and have meetings in the linen closet, as it’s the only warm room in the rambling manor house.

2001 Love in a Cold Climate

PUPPY!

Linda’s parents are Uncle Matthew/Fa (Alan Bates: Far From the Madding Crowd, Quartet, The Wicked Lady, Hamlet, Gosford Park, Bertie and Elizabeth), who is all bluster, hilariously stuck in the World War I mindset (all Germans are “Huns,” all foreigners are suspect), but very loving; and Aunt Sadie (Celia Imrie: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Nanny McPhee, The History of Tom Jones) who keeps him in check.

2001 Love in a Cold Climate

Uncle Matthew and Aunt Sadie.

2001 Love in a Cold Climate

And there’s a raft of annoying younger sisters — and one very hot brother, Matt (Christian Coulson: The Forsyte Saga, Tom Riddle in the Harry Potter series, the Duke of Monmouth in The Last King).

2001 Love in a Cold Climate

Then you’ve got SO MANY GOOD supporting characters that I can’t cover them all, but here’s a few:

2001 Love in a Cold Climate

Lord Merlin, a neighboring aristocrat, aesthete (he dyes his doves PINK – note center!), possibly gay, wears banyans and takes an interest in Linda.

2001 Love in a Cold Climate

Polly’s mother, Lady Montdore, played by Sheila Gish (The First Churchills, Quartet, Mansfield Park).

2001 Love in a Cold Climate

She’s BEYOND a snob, and despairs of her daughter.

2001 Love in a Cold Climate

And I’m tempted to not include this photo because it’s such a great transition, but let’s just say life intervenes and she ends up LIKE THIS!

2001 Love in a Cold Climate

Boy, married to Polly’s aunt, possibly the lover of Polly’s mother, a lecherous pedophile, and also possibly gay.

2001 Love in a Cold Climate

He’s played by — yes really — Anthony Andrews (The Pallisers, Brideshead Revisited, Ivanhoe, The King’s Speech, Birdsong).

2001 Love in a Cold Climate

And then there’s Cedric. I’m not even going to tell you anything about him!

2001 Love in a Cold Climate

He’s FAAAABULOUS and played by Daniel Evans (Great Expectations, Daniel Deronda, The Virgin Queen).

There’s many more, but I gotta get to:

Costumes in Love in a Cold Climate

Okay, this is an early 2000’s BBC production, set in the interwar years, and designed by Mike O’Neill (Daniel Deronda, The Last King, North and South, Elizabeth I) — so you know they’re good! There’s less to say about them other than they’re perfect for the period, and there’s lots of pretty to look at.

You’ve got your simple daywear:

2001 Love in a Cold Climate 2001 Love in a Cold Climate 2001 Love in a Cold Climate Love in a Cold Climate (2001)

Debutante gowns:

2001 Love in a Cold Climate

Elegant outwear:

2001 Love in a Cold Climate

Glam eveningwear:

2001 Love in a Cold Climate 2001 Love in a Cold Climate

Some faaaabulous wedding gowns:

2001 Love in a Cold Climate 2001 Love in a Cold Climate 2001 Love in a Cold Climate

And it’s the 1930s, so the hat game is ON POINT:

2001 Love in a Cold Climate 2001 Love in a Cold Climate

Have you seen Love in a Cold Climate? If you haven’t, run don’t walk to see it! You won’t be disappointed.

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About the author

Kendra

Website

Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

18 Responses

  1. Roxana

    Nancy was a fascist too. In fact she was married to Sir Oswald Mosley the Blackshirt leader. Unity tried to kill herself when England went to war against her beloved Hitler. She survived permanently mentally impaired. Dispite their despicable politics the Mitford sisters are tremendously interesting. They created their own Hons CLB but I don’t know if they met in a linen closet.

    Reply
    • Bronwyn

      Nope. Diana was married to Mosley.

      Nancy was married to Peter Rodd for a bit, then had a French lover she hoped would marry her but never did.

      Reply
    • Lynne Connolly

      I’ve seen the new version, and Lily James is tremendous. Linda’s father is closer to the one in the book, unreasonable, hunting his children with hounds when he couldn’t find a fox (Lord Redesdale actually did that!) I love both versions, and I think they can coexist.

      Reply
  2. Bronwyn

    One of my favorites!

    I’m really looking forward to the new one but it just looks so shiny. This one feels more real.

    Reply
  3. K W

    Commenter from the UK here. I will only offer one comment on the latest “The Pursuit of Love”: Fanny gets excellent hats, Linda’s are terrible.

    Reply
  4. M.E. Lawrence

    I have a postcard from Jessica Mitford–typed and signed in red pencil–in response to the only fan letter I have ever written anyone. Her letters are wonderful; I once overheard my teen-aged daughter giggling at them.

    Reply
  5. Susan Pola Staples

    Loved it. Characters so wonderful but beside Fanny, I adored Cedric. And Lady Montdore was blind about his sexuality. Parts left me in stitches.

    Reply
  6. Sharon in Scotland

    Il love the 1980’s version, with Judi Dench as Aunt Sadie, Micheal Williams as uncle, Vivian Pickles as Lady Montdore and Jean-Pierre Cassel as Fabrice, the fabulous French lover. I do remember the production looked gorgeous

    Reply
  7. GinaP

    I love everything about this series, the story, the acting, the costumes, the characters. I’ve seen the 80’s version, they really flesh out the story and follow the book more closely, and Aunt Sadie has more of a role (it was played by Dame Dench, so yeah) but prefer the 2001 incarnation. However, the 80’s version has a fabulous Carnivale themed party with a lagoon Lady Montdore set up in the ballroom.

    Reply
  8. Roxana

    Is it me or is there a distinct shortage of decent men in Mitford’s writing? Not that the women are so great either. But then a lot of between wars writing seems to be about entertainingly dysfunctional people living from crisis to crisis. That certainly seems to have been the Mitford sisters milieu.

    Reply
    • Popka Superstar

      Yes, but I’ve found that in most writing from the time. You have this overly abusive, toxic, overvalued masculinity and a corresponding total devaluing of feminity that was parodied in Cold Comfort Farm, this idea of “spare women” that were useless now there were no men to marry them. It was the context for fascism and nazism. I don’t know how it was in real life, but even people who don’t subscribe to those ideas at all like EM Delafield mostly have awful men in their books. I guess a lot of men (and some women) were deeply traumatised by war, too, which can’t have been good for relationships.

      Reply
  9. Janet Nickerson

    ‘The Bolter’ was based on Lady Idina Sackville, queen of the Happy Valley set seen in ‘White Mischief’.

    Reply

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