There are some British miniseries made in the 1970s that appear to have amazing costumes, that I’ve long considered watching … but every time I do, I think of the crappy video quality and the stagey production values, and I back out. I’m guessing none of us will ever review these five productions, although I could be wrong! But their costumes look great enough that they deserve a shout-out.
There’s tons of other 1970s British miniseries that might be even more obvious contenders for this list: Emma (1972), I, Claudius (1976), The Duchess of Duke Street (1976-77), Elizabeth R (1971), Lillie (1978), The Shadow of the Tower (1971), The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1970), and Upstairs, Downstairs (1971-75). But we have reviews of those! And some of them I’ve even watched personally! (Okay, only two).
So, here are five 1970s (okay, one late 1960s) British miniseries that I’d love to watch … except for the crappy video quality that I know I’ll encounter! Are any of these worth slogging through? Let us know in the comments!
The Pallisers (1974)
A BBC production of author Anthony Trollope’s Palliser novels. Published between 1864 and 1879, these focus on the fictional Palliser family, whose central figure is heir to a dukedom and involved in various parliamentary positions. It looks like there’s pining, thwarted marriages, adultery, and even a murder. The cast includes Anthony Andrews, Susan Hampshire, Jeremy Irons, Derek Jacobi, and June Whitfield. The costumes were designed by Raymond Hughes (1937–2015), who also designed The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1968-69), Wives and Daughters (1971), Countess Dracula (1971), The Far Pavilions (part one, 1984), Young Sherlock Holmes (1985), Jekyll & Hyde (1990), and The Musketeer (2001).
Jennie: Lady Randolph Churchill (1974)
Made by Thames Television, American actress Lee Remick stars as the real-life Jennie Jerome, American heiress who married British Lord Randolph Churchill and was the mother of Winston Churchill. People, I had a big thing in my 20s for the American “Buccaneers” — rich socialites who married British aristocrats. So it makes me sad to think this miniseries exists but is probably fuzzy and dry! Am I wrong? The rest of the cast includes Siân Phillips and Zoë Wanamaker. The costumes were designed by Jane Robinson, whose other credits include Brideshead Revisited (1981), A Woman of Substance (1985), Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna (1986), Poor Little Rich Girl: The Barbara Hutton Story (1987), A Handful of Dust (1988), Attila (2001), and From Time to Time (2009); and Jill Silverside, none of whose few IMDB credits jump out as recognizable to me.
The First Churchills (1969)
Focused on John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, and his wife, Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough from their first meeting in 1673 through 1713. The duke was a key English general and statesman (his estate, Blenheim, is named for the battle he won), and his wife was the favorite of Queen Anne (as recently depicted in the film The Favourite). The cast is led by John Neville as the duke and Susan Hampshire as the duchess. The costumes were designed by Joan Ellacott, who designed The Forsyte Saga (1967), Vanity Fair (1967), Emma (1972), Anna Karenina (1977), Pride and Prejudice (1980), The Lady and the Highwayman (1988), and Duel of Hearts (1991).
Fall of Eagles (1974)
Given my Romanov thing, this should be right up my alley! Three intertwined stories cover the ruling houses of Austria-Hungary (the Habsburgs), Germany (the Hohenzollerns), and Russia (the Romanovs) from 1848 to 1918. All kinds of fascinating historical characters show up, and the cast includes Gemma Jones, Patrick Stewart as Lenin!!, Michael Kitchen, Miriam Margolyes, and John Rhys-Davis. The costumes were designed by three different designers: Penny Lowe, Robin Fraser-Paye, and Daphne Dare. Lowe also designed one episode of season one, and all of season two, of Poldark (1975-77); Fraser-Paye designed Coming Through (1988), The Woman He Loved (1988), as well as various episodes of Poirot (1991) and Sharpe (1994-97); and Dare designed 87 episodes of Doctor Who (1963-67), as well as the film Century (1993).
Edward the King aka Edward the Seventh (1975)
My fascination with those late 19th-century American heiresses led me to a related fascination with the glamorous mistresses of Britain’s King Edward VII. So I may have to break down and watch this, since there’s also tons of the fabulously dressed Queen Alexandra. It looks like this series goes from Edward’s youth through the end of his reign (older Edward is played by Timothy West). Annette Crosbie played his mother, Queen Victoria, Helen Ryan played Alexandra, and other cast members included Robert Hardy, Charles Dance, John Gielgud, and Francesca Annis as Lillie Langtry (a role she’d play again in the miniseries Lillie). The costumes were designed by Ann Hollowood (Disraeli: Portrait of a Romantic, The Muppet Christmas Carol), Sue Le Cash, and Christine Wilson.
Have you seen any of these British frock flick miniseries? Do any stand the test of time?