Friday, February 28, 2014

"For your consideration": enduring Oscar notables

On hand at all times in the Daedalus DVD section is an array of films both classic and recent that have garnered top honors, including Academy Award wins and nominations. For example, director Tamara Jenkins' original screenplay for The Savages was nominated for an Oscar in 2008. As estranged siblings dealing with the death of their father, it starred Laura Linney (Oscar nomination) and the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman (Golden Globe nomination).
Multiple Oscar nods and statuettes also went to Capote (with a Best Actor Academy Award for Hoffman). Scroll down this shortlist and you'll find a passel of award-winning flicks to catch your fancy and add to your collection. Highlights include Chariots of Fire, The Shawshank Redemption, Network, An American in Paris, Dr Strangelove, Bullitt, Kinsey, A Single Man, A Farewell to Arms, An Education, Gods and Monsters, Glory, McCabe & Mrs Miller, Away From Her, Roman Holiday, Now Voyager, The Social Network, The Lives of Others, Sex, Lies, and Videotape, Midnight Cowboy, Kramer vs. Kramer,  A Prophet, Girl Interrupted, Gunga Din, Georgy Girl, and Rambln' Rose.
Here's hoping your favorites walk away with the golden icon on Sunday night!
In 1971, Julie Christie (above, with Warren Beatty) received an Oscar nomination for her role in Robert Altman's surpassing Western McCabe & Mrs Miller; in 2007, she starred unforgettably in Away from Her, Sarah Polley's adaptation of Alice Munro's novella "The Bear Went Over the Mountain."

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Behind "The King's Speech"

Albert Frederick Arthur George, King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions and the last Emperor of India, woke suddenly. It was just after 3 am. His bedroom in Buckingham Palace was normally a haven of piece and quiet, but this morning his slumbers had been interrupted by the crackle of loudspeakers being tested on Constitution Hill. “It was so loud one of them might have been in our room,” he wrote in his diary. And then, just when he was finally dropping back off to sleep, the marching bands started.
It was May 12, 1937, and the 41-year-old King George VI, father of the present Queen, was preparing for one of the most nerve-racking days of his life. He had acceded to the throne five months earlier after his elder brother, King Edward VIII, abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson, a twice-divorced American, plunging the monarchy into one of the worst crises in its history. Today, the reluctant monarch was to be crowned in Westminster Abbey.
The coronation, a piece of national pageantry unmatched anywhere in the world, would have been daunting enough for anyone, but King George – known to the royal family as Bertie – had good reason to be anxious: he suffered from a chronic stammer that turned the simplest of conversations into a challenge and a public speech into a terrifying ordeal. Words beginning with the letter 'k' – as in king – proved a particular problem: confronted with one, he would struggle to make any sound at all, leaving an awkward silence.
Despite the King’s misgivings, the coronation, followed by a live radio broadcast that evening heard by tens of millions of people across the Empire, proved a resounding success. He barely stumbled over his words. "The King's voice last night was strong and deep, resembling to a startling degree the voice of his father," reported The Star. "His words came through firmly, clearly – and without hesitation."
This success was due largely to one man: a self-taught Australian speech therapist 15 years the King’s senior, named Lionel Logue. Dismissed by the British medical establishment as a quack, Logue helped his royal patient conquer his speech impediment, turning him into a great monarch who, with his wife, Elizabeth alongside him, would become a rallying point for the people of Britain, and of the Empire, during the darkest days of the Second World War.

Above is an excerpt from the book The King's Speech: How One Man Saved the British Monarchy, by Logue's grandson Mark Logue and British journalist Peter Conradi, which fills in much fascinating detail to the story dramatized in the popular film with Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush.
Before the King spoke to the Empire on the evening of September 3, 1939, the day Britain declared war on Germany, Lionel Logue rehearsed the speech with him carefully, striking out problematic words from the text, and was beside him in the room at Buckingham Palace from which he broadcast. "In this grave hour," the speech began, "perhaps the most fateful in our history, I send to every household of my peoples, both at home and overseas, this message, spoken with the same depth of feeling for each one of you as if I were able to cross your threshold and speak to you myself."
Lionel Logue in his study; the portrait on his desk is of his wife, Myrtle. He recorded his assessment of his patient as follows: “Mental: Quite Normal, has an acute nervous tension which has been brought on by the defect. Physical: well built, with good shoulders but waist line very flabby.” He prescribed for the future King a mixture of breathing exercises and tongue twisters, combined with talking therapy.
"Bertie" had began to stammer at the age of eight, and the affliction worsened after he was created Duke of York in 1920 and had to appear at official events. A disastrous speech before thousands at the 1925 British Empire exhibition in Wembley was broadcast around the world. Before him loomed a major six-month tour of Australia and New Zealand.  The Duke had seen many experts, to no avail. He was persuaded to have one last try by his wife, Elizabeth, played in the film by Helena Bonham Carter (below, with Rush and Firth).
When the King died, Logue wrote to Elizabeth, now Queen Mother. She replied, “I know perhaps better than anyone just how much you helped the King, not only with his speech, but through that his whole life & outlook on life. I shall always be deeply grateful to you for all you did for him."
Despite her gratitude, Elizabeth was disinclined to discuss the issue of the King's speech problems publicly. "A speech impediment was seen as a weakness; it would have been inappropriate to point it out — it would have been a slight on the dignity of a sovereign," co-author Conradi told USA Today. "There's a clear parallel to FDR: Everyone knew he was in a wheelchair, but they didn't feel a need to talk about it." When screenwriter David Seidler, a former stutterer, sought help from the Queen Mother in telling this story in the 1980s, she refused. It was only when Logue's grandson discovered a cache of papers that the complete tale could come to light.
Queen Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) listens with Princess Margaret and Princess Elizabeth while the King makes his first wartime broadcast. "The one thing a king has to do is be a symbol," Peter Conradi told USA Today, "and he had the misfortune to come (to the throne) in the radio age, which further focused attention on his disability."
~Above, the Duchess of York meets the prospective speech therapist. (I don't have a "hubby", we don't "pop" and nor do we ever talk about our private lives!)~
Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother; King George VI; Princess Margaret. by Dorothy Wilding, 1951. National Portrait Gallery. "He had an incredible sense of duty toward his people," Lionel's grandson Mark Logue told USA Today.
And what of the Duke of Windsor, the short-reigned King Edward VIII whose abdication thrust his younger brother onto the world stage? He and his American divorcee wife Wallis lived a life of privileged vagabonds. He was beloved by his nieces Elizabeth and Margaret, but spurned by the Queen Mother. You can see a dramatization of the love affair that cost him his crown in the film Wallis and Edward.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Downton Abbey Season 4 finale: "Is that American for hello?" / "British peerage is a fountain of variety."

As Cora's brother Harold, visiting Europe whilst the Teapot Dome scandal dies down, Paul Giamatti got glowing reviews from the English press—which mitigated somewhat the buffoonish portrayal by writer Julian Fellowes of him and his mother. Do they really need to be quite so crude and unmannerly??
"Giamatti filled out the spaces round an underwritten part to bring both delectable humour and bathos to his role" wrote the +Telegraph+. "When his mother asked an aristocrat what kind of lord he was, the mystified incredulity Harold brought to the question, 'There are different kinds?' was killing. When he bumbled up to the Prince of Wales and introduced himself in the American way so that the Prince thought he was being addressed as Harold Levinson, the bedraggled expression with which Giamatti came away, his eyes great pools of confusion, made him look the spit of an affable bulldog. If only this excellent comedian could move to England, and into the Abbey."  Right on!
As Harold and Cora's mother, Shirley MacLaine was ill-served throughout by her dialogue; like a sledgehammer, it had no subtlety. Ultimately, Fellowes handed Violet (whom he portrays three-dimensionally) the coup de grace:
Martha Levinson: "I have no wish to be a great lady." Countess Violet: "A decision that must be reenforced whenever you look in the glass."
While Lord Ainsgarth tries to cozy up to Martha, Harold dallies with the Lord’s daughter, the straightforward (and lovely) Madeline. Lord A. proposes to Martha but she declines, with the sop that she'll set him up with some wealthy widows at her "cottage" in Newport.
Amidst abundant pomp and circumstance, Lady Rose is presented by her aunt to the King and Queen at Buckingham Palace (filmed, actually, in Clarence House). As usual, she creates a huge kerfuffle by instigating a chain of events resulting in an intimate letter from the Prince of Wales to his mistress being stolen, by that bounder and cad Sampson. All kinds of convolutions have to be gone through to get it back, amongst which Lady Mary becomes a midnight burglar and Bates's forging skills are pressed into service. (As Granny pithily observes, "I feel as if I have spent the whole night trapped in the cast of a whodunnit.")
 Lady Rose is ultimately rewarded for the letter's retrieval by a surprise appearance and a dance with the prince to open the Grantham House ball. (How does she do it!?) The mistress (Freda Dudley Ward, who is married) tells Rose that the Prince remains ignorant of the theft and the peril for potential scandal he was in had Sampson sold the letter to those horrid American papers.
Lord Merton shows up at the ball as promised because he's googly (as much as a peer can be) about Isobel Crawley and can't wait to dance with her. Violet is bemused, befuddled—and, methinks, a tad jealous!
Isobel: "Oh, heavens. It's Lord Merton and he seems to be headed in this direction."
Violet: "No doubt to lead you down the primrose path of dalliance [giggles].

Violet: "Cora insisted I come without a maid. I can't believe she understood the implications." Isobel: "Which are?" Violet: "How do I get a guard to take my luggage? And when we arrive in London, what happens then?" Isobel: "Fear not. I've never traveled with a maid, you can share my knowledge of the jungle."
During a chat with Tony, Mary learns that Mr Blake (seen with her here, at the National Gallery, perchance?) has a title and a none too shabby inheritance. Tony is sportingly leveling the playing field. Hmmm.
As for sister Edith, we learn that she stayed long enough in Geneva to wean (and presumably bond with) her baby girl. Not a good idea. Sure enough, she reverts to her plan of having tenant farmer Mr. Drew raise the baby under the pretense that a friend who died had asked he and his wife to care for her. Michael Gregson is still missing, but another tidbit of news comes to light: he got into a fight with a "gang of toughs" in Munich, obviously proto-Nazis. The saddest line in the show is spoken by Mary, as the sleeping arrangements for the London house party are being worked out: "I’d rather sleep on the roof than share with Edith."
Phyllis Logan as Mrs Hughes, a linchpin in the world of Downton and in the series.
We turn with relief to the downstairs lot. Daisy nixes Harold's attempt to lure her to America as his cook, but Ivy takes him up on it. Molesley gives Baxter the support to stand up to Thomas, despite the potentially damaging secret he perpetually dangles over her. The worm has turned, Mr Barrow, so watch out!
Mr Carson wants to take the staff to the science museum or similar as a reward outing for working their tushies off during Rose's coming-out celebrations, but the wise Mrs Hughes bides her time and posts a photograph of the seaside on their bulletin board. When a notable lack of enthusiasm for his improving suggestions is felt, he tells Mrs. H that a seaside jaunt would be the ticket. She just smiles and says that that would be swell. The last scenes of the episode are some lovely dialogues by the ocean, culminating in Mrs H and Carson wading in together, hand in hand. ("We’re getting on Mr Carson you and I, we can afford to live a little." Amen to that!)
Molesley/Baxter and Mrs Hughes/Mr Carson were the most popular the last time I checked our Downton Abbey couples quiz!! Do head over and weigh in! I kind of go for Harold and Madeline ... what about you?
Maggie Smith's one-liners were topping in this episode, as usual. She could definitely take a one-woman show on the road!
Here are a few to chortle over:
"British peerage is a fountain of variety."
Can’t you even offer help without sounding like a trumpeter on the peak of the moral high ground?
Martha Levinson: "Well the gang’s all here I see." Countess Violet: "Is that American for hello?"
"A card game? Here? What are the ladies supposed to do? Put feathers in their hair and serve the gentlemen with cigars?"
"The combination of open air picnics and after dinner poker make me feel as though I’ve fallen through a looking glass into the Dejeuner sur l’Herbe."
What did you think of the finale? Do you agree with The Guardian's Viv Groskop?
"What could be more revolting than to rummage through a strange man's socks?" Er, I don't know. Maybe the suggestion that two respectable ladies should break into a man's rooms and go through his things in a misguided attempt to protect the reputation of the Prince of Wales, a character we absolutely don't care about anyway? Never mind all that, though. It was what Downton always is. Utterly beautiful and mesmerising to watch. Packed to the gills with sumptuous costumes and gorgeous locations. And superbly acted." 
 Goodbye, Downton, until next year! (sniff). Meanwhile, you can avail yourself of the series on DVD and other related items by visiting our "Roaring Downton" Forum!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A German fräulein who became quintessentially Russian: and an Empress to boot

“How delightful to discover that Robert K. Massie, 82 years old, hasn’t lost his mojo” opened the New York Times review of Massie's latest foray into Russian history/biography (which took him eight years to polish). Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman reads like a great novel: I  gobbled it up in three or four sessions of nighttime binging.
He understands plot — fate — as a function of character, and the narrative perspective he establishes and maintains, a vision tightly aligned with that of his subject, convinces a reader he’s not so much looking at Catherine the Great as he is out of her eyes…. She wanted power and she wanted what she “couldn’t live for a day without” — love — and she’d get them both, in spades, but not from the husband who awaited her…. For the reader who has followed her career as intimately as Massie allows, many times thrilled by the sang-froid of an extraordinary woman secure in her gifts and her authority, Catherine’s ruthless abrogation of any threat to the power she claimed is at least as delicious as it is deplorable. Whatever it takes, we want her to remain forever where she placed herself — in history’s pantheon.—Kathryn Harrison, New York Times
Portrait of Grand Duchess Ekatrina Alekseyevna, later Catherine II, c. 1745 by Georg Christoph Grooth, Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia. At 16 she was already thoroughly Russianized, although she continued to read and speak French fluently.
Catherine and her new husband, who would become Emperor Peter III. His psyche was irretrievably damaged by an abusive tutor. (Portrait of Catherine the Great (1729–96) and Prince Petr Fedorovich (1728–62), 1740–45  by Georg Christoph Grooth (1716–49), © Odessa Fine Arts Museum, Ukraine)
Catherine preparing to march on Peterhof, where she would force her disturbed husband Peter III to abdicate. (Equestrian Portrait of Catherine II the Great of Russia by Vigilius Erichsen, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Chartres)
The imperial coronation crown designed for Catherine, which was used in all six of the ensuing Romanov coronations. "The ceremony lasted four hours. Catherine listened as the archbishop of Novgorod described the revolution of June 28 as the work of God and said to her that 'the Lord has placed the crown on your head.' Next, Catherine personally arrayed herself with the symbols of imperial power. She removed her ermine cloak and draped another cloak of imperial purple over her shoulders. Traditionally, a Russian sovereign crowned himself or herself. Catherine lifted the huge nine-pound imperial crown ...and settled this ultimate symbol of sovereignty on her brow. Shaped like a bishop’s miter, it was crusted with a cross of diamonds surmounting an enormous 389-carat ruby. Below, set in an arch supporting the cross and in the band surrounding the wearer’s head, were forty-four diamonds, each an inch across, surrounded by a solid mass of smaller diamonds. Thirty-eight rose pearls circled over the crown on either side of the central arch. When this glittering masterpiece was in place, she picked up the orb with her left hand, the scepter with her right, and calmly looked out at the cathedral audience."
During her reign, Catherine’s hoard of paintings expanded to almost 4,000. She became the greatest collector and patron of art in the history of Europe. This work by Rembrandt painted in 1635 was one of the last acquisitions in the collection of Robert Walpole (1676-1745). In 1779, Catherine purchased the Walpole Collection to fill out the art collection of the Imperial Hermitage in St Petersburg. A public subscription campaign in England to buy it back failed. Her comment to a confidante: “The Walpole paintings are longer to be had for the simple reason that your humble servant has already got her claws on them and will no more let them go than a cat would a mouse.”
Catherine regularly worked 15 hours a day. She spent two years researching how to revamp Russia's legal code and brought together representatives from every strata of society in a doomed effort to forge a coherent consensus. She did outlaw torture by fiat but was unable to free the serfs or legislate for their rights. This is Catherine's epitaph for herself:
Born in Stettin on April 21, 1729. In the year 1744, she went to Russia to marry Peter III. At the age of fourteen, she made the threefold resolution to please her husband, Elizabeth, and the nation. She neglected nothing in trying to achieve this. Eighteen years of boredom and loneliness gave her the opportunity to read many books. When she came to the throne of Russia she wished to do what was good for her country and tried to bring happiness, liberty, and prosperity to her subjects. She forgave easily and hated no one. She was good-natured, easy-going, tolerant, understanding, and of a happy disposition. She had a republican spirit and a kind heart.She was sociable by nature. She made many friends. She took pleasure in her work. She loved the arts.
Read excerpts from Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman below.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Flappers, the jazz age, and Downton Abbey couture

If there's one thing Downton Abbey has done spectacularly well, it's the costumes. As Season 4 draws to a close, Lord Grantham heads to America, the place where hot jazz and the new flapper styles originated. "Your niece is a flapper; accept it" says Lady Mary to her father re her jazz-dancing, nightclub-loving cousin, Lady Rose. The term flapper is supposed to have derived from the movement of women's handkerchief-type hems as they danced energetic new dances such as the Shimmy, Black Bottom, Turkey Trot, and Charleston.
"Look Ma, no corsets!"

It's the mid-'20s: curves are out; dropped waists are in. Bustles and corsets are horrid things once worn by your mother. Fussy furbelows are for Granny (a.k.a. the Dowager Countess). Dresses are straight and sleek, with opulent beadwork or embroidery upping the ante for more formal events.
The costumers have lavished Lady Edith in particular with stunning attire in Season 4 of Downton. I can't get enough of her ensembles—and she wears them so well!
With both her sportswear and her evening wear, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel liberated women to move their bodies freely and yet remain chic. Below, Chanel dresses from the mid 1920s in the collection of the Phoenix Art Museum, photographed by Ken Howie.
For more on the couture of the era, delve into Fashion in the Time of Gatsby, and for the changing tenor of society, see Bright Young Things: A Modern Guide to the Roaring Twenties.
Profiling Chanel, Clara Bow, Zelda Sayre, Louise Brooks (left), and other female celebrities of the jazz age is Flapper: A Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity, and the Women Who Made America Modern. Male fashions are included in the Gatsby book, needless to say. Below is a vintage magazine illustration and a photo of Yale's a cappella group the Whiffenpoofs from 1927 (dig the saddle shoes!).
We'll conclude with the cloche hat, an iconic item of 1920s apparel.
Don't miss the Daedalus Books "Roaring Downton" Forum—a nexus of books, DVDs, news videos, quizzes, fan chats, and other fascinating items relating to the series!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Downton Abbey, Season 4 Episode 7 recap: You say bazaar-oh, I say bizarre-o

Violet has bounced back from her pneumonia scare, so she's up for a walk over to the Abbey when Isobel stops in to check on her. “Isobel: It's only me.” Violet: “I always feel that greeting betrays such a lack of self worth.” Oh Granny, give a gal a break!
At Downton, Cora is getting ready for the annual village bazaar and asks Rose for help. But her niece is secretly planning to meet up with Jack Ross and begs off. Later, as Mary dresses for dinner, she tells Anna that Lord Gillingham will coming yet again for an overnight visit. Anna finally tells Mary that Green was her attacker. Mary wants to tell Gillingham about it, but Anna is still afraid that if Bates finds out, all bets are off. Mary resolves to call Gillingham and tell him not to come, and a relieved Anna tells her that she’s frightened every time Bates and Green are in the same room.
Downstairs, Molesley has another sweet interaction with Baxter. She tells him that even though “life has kicked the stuffing out of [him],” he can climb back up, because she did. Can't wait to find out about her past!! Later he brings her some coffee (that's a switcheroo) and they have the following dialogue:
Molesley: “Miss Baxter, I do know what it’s like to feel fragile. I felt fragile my whole life. You’d have realized by now that down here, we don’t care much about Mr. Barrow, which might offend you.”
Baxter: “I’m not offended.”
Molesley: “But I wish you’d give us credit for making up our own minds about you.”

Anna and Bates discuss Mary’s romantic prospects, and Bates brings up Green, wondering if Anna has “gone off him,” since she seemed to like him at first. She sidesteps the issue by saying she doesn't remember.
Tom drives Isobel to Thirsk and glimpses Rose in a tea shop with Jack Ross. Jack is cautious about pursuing the relationship, but Rose is insistent. Tom and Isobel run into Sarah Bunting, the pert young woman Tom met at the political meeting. She teases him about his politics, and Isobel springs to his defense. We find out that she's a teacher, and they definitely seem to be warming to each other. Even later, he helps her fix her car when he finds her stranded on the road, and she gleans the information that he came to Downton as a chauffeur.
That night, Mary tells Anna that she couldn't reach Gillingham, and that he’s still coming. Rats! Tom pops in to Mary's boudoir to spill about Rose and Jack Ross.
A maiden all forlorn. ("No snacking!")
Were you wondering when we'd get to potential unwed mother Edith? Well, Rosamund has come to Downton to support her when she tells Cora about her pregnancy. Edith, however, tells Rosamund that she wants to use tenant farmer Mr. Drewe as a patsy so as to keep the baby. Rosamund points out that this is basically cuckoo (what if Drewe talks about it, people might see Edith going to his house, the baby might look like Edith; she doesn't even mention problems like how Edith would manage to hide the pregnancy at Downton or where she would have the baby!) Rosamund's idea is for them to go to Switzerland for four months and give the child up for adoption there.
Downstairs, the repugnant Mr. Green is blathering on obnoxiously about his preference for London, when Bates offhandedly asks him where he lives. Dum dum dum dum!
Mary tries to reason with Rose about Jack, but she is having none of it and accuses Mary of being imperialist and—horror of horrors—just like Rosamund.
Rose: “I love him. And I won’t listen to any imperialist nonsense about racial purity, and how he should be horse-whipped for daring to dream.”
Mary: “Don’t you know me better than that?”
Rose: “I’m going to marry him, Mary. And I don’t care what it costs, and I won’t keep it a secret, not once I’ve told mummy. I want to see her face crumble once she finds out.”

Seriously … is she out of her ever-loving' mind??
Then Gillingham drops the long-expected (to us) bomb that he's not going to marry the Honorable Lady Moneybags.
Gillingham: “I’ve made up my mind to break off the engagement.”
Mary: “Does Mabel know?”
Gillingham: “Not yet. I haven’t been in London since, and I must tell her face-to-face.”
Mary: “Of course, you must! But I wish you’d think seriously before you do.”
Gillingham: “You mean you’re going to turn me down again.”
Mary: “I’ve told you, I’m not on the market, Tony. I’m not free. Sometimes I almost wish I were, but I’m not, and that’s all there is to it.”

Oh Granny, thank you for the following hilarious exchange. We were so in need of some comic relief! She has  invited Rosamund and Edith for tea, but is really trying to ascertain what’s up with them.
Violet: “I want to know what you are doing at Downton.”
Rosamund: “I don’t understand. Why shouldn’t I come to Downton? I grew up here.”
Violet: “I see I have to take the slow path. You telephone to say Edith is to be cherished, but you don’t say why.”
Rosamund: “Didn’t I?”
Violet: “No. Next, you invite yourself to Downton and reveal at dinner that you and Edith are retreating to the continent for several months, so you can improve your French.”
Edith: “Yes.”
Violet: “Rosamund has no interest in French. If she wishes to be understood by a foreigner, she shouts.”

Violet later tells Edith that the best plan is for them to go abroad. She offers to pay for everything, because she doesn’t want Edith to be so much in Rosamund’s debt.
Mary goes up to London to see Jack, who tells her that he won’t marry Rose because he doesn’t want to ruin her life. He really seems to love her, although one boat ride, an evening of dancing, and a meeting in a tea shop hardly seems like much to go by. Anyhow, he tells Mary that if they lived in a better world, he wouldn’t do this, and she tells him that if they did, she wouldn’t want him to either. Back at Rosamund’s house, Mary tells Anna that she’s going to ask Gillingham to dismiss Green.
At Downton, the bazaar is in full swing, and Molesley gets a leg up on both Thomas and Jimmy in front of Miss Baxter, ending up walking off arm in arm with her. The mouse that roared! Cut to a car pulling up … and it’s Robert! The lord of the manor is back! Everyone is thrilled to see him, especially Cora, who gives him a lingering smooch. All of a sudden Gillingham is back too, popping up like the proverbial Whack a Mole. He felt it necessary to tell her in person that Green was killed in Piccadilly when he slipped and fell into the road. How convenient! Thankfully, Bates was in York … or was he?? Blake boomerangs back as well—because he just can't stay away from Mary either.
Blake: “You do know why I came today.”
Mary: “To see the bazaar?”
Blake: “To see you. I find, perhaps to my surprise, that since I left I can’t think of anything but you.”
Mary: “To your surprise and my surprise.”
Blake: “I’m only asking for a chance.”
Mary: “Was there really a conference in Whitby?”
Blake: “Of course not.”
Mary: “I’m flattered, Charles, and even moved. But rather than add to the list of men I’ve disappointed, it might be kinder to refuse you now, and let you off the hook.”
Blake: “I’m afraid I couldn’t allow that. Not without putting up a fight.”

Daisy goes off to visit her erstwhile father-in-law on his farm to avoid running into a visiting Alfred yet again. (Why oh why is she still working as a scullery maid when he has offered her his farm?) He convinces her to bid a final farewell to Alfred, and so she does, with a present of a basket of provisions. There a lovely little scene with Mrs. Patmore, who tells Daisy "If you were my own daughter I couldn’t be prouder than I am now."
Stay tuned next week for the "Christmas Episode," when all will be revealed (at least until Season 5!)
The Downton ladies are amused at Mary's plethora of suitors
"Joy or sorrow, her face treats those two imposters just the same. Her expression is always blank, blank, blankety blank…. She likes to drift around Downton as if the coat hanger was still in all her dresses." 
Do you agree with these Daily Mail quips about Michelle Dockery, who plays Lady Mary?
Dockery certainly seems to be having a rip-roaring time in this spoof of an ad for a new cop show from Funny or Die. ("Don't call her dainty." ... "This anachronistic behavior has to stop!")
~ Don't miss the Daedalus Books "Roaring Downton" Forum—a nexus of books, DVDs, news videos, quizzes, fan chats, and other fascinating items relating to the series. We also have a super giveaway going on for the duration of the show.