The Forsyte Saga (TV Series 1967– ) Poster

(1967– )

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Well worth the 36 years' wait
behrens-413 March 2003
In the early years of the last century, John Galsworthy wrote nine novels, divided into three trilogies. "The Man of Property," "In Chancery" and "To Let" formed the first trilogy, which he called "The Forsyte Saga." The second group, "The White Monkey," "The Silver Swan" and "Swan Song" formed "A Modern Comedy." Finally "Maid in Waiting," "Flowering Wilderness" and "One More River" made up the last group called "End of the Chapter."



The first three books concentrated on the property-driven first generation Forsyte men, whose world was broken up by a beautiful woman called Irene, "a concretion of disturbing Beauty impinging on a possessive world," as Galsworthy puts it in his preface. But it is also a saga that brings us from the Victorian world in the 1880s up to the 1920s when the new generation finds new values.

Now this is very difficult stuff to reduce to a miniseries, but that is what BBC did quite successfully back in the 1960s and the television audience on both sides of the Atlantic went wild. For half a year, given a 50-minute episode each week for 26 weeks, they sat fascinated as they watched the fortunes of the Forsytes, man and woman, grasping, losing, growing older, having children who suffered from what their parents had done, some finding happiness at last, some settling for second best, but all interesting and very human. It is said that the idea of British miniseries based on famous novels is what prompted PBS to create Masterpiece Theatre to satisfy the demand. (Coincidentally, at the time of this writing, the very first Masterpiece Theatre, "The First Churchills," is due at the time of this writing to come out on DVD from Acorn Media!)

I am sure many of you have watched the first third of the new version of "The Forsyte Saga" complete with color, the obligatory scenes in bed, and horse manure carefully piled up in the streets of London. Be advised that the 1967 version is a studio version, with several location shots, in glorious black and white, with a cast that is simply hard to beat or even match, and a tendency to be wonderfully addictive.

I have viewed the DVD version on 7 discs released by Warner Home Video on the BBC label. (Yes, that is 1300 minutes in all, followed by 2 hours of spellbinding, often extremely funny, "bonus" material on the 7th disc.) If you prefer video tapes, the series comes in two sets: The First Generation on 6 tapes, The Second Generation on 7 tapes. They do not contain any of the extra material, so be advised. Technically, the picture has been beautifully restored except for a second here and there when there is a slight blur, perhaps 10 seconds worth out of more than 21 hours hours, and now and then the sound does get a bit fuzzy. In fact, I remember that being true when this series was first telecast, so that is no fault of this restoration.

The major stars are Eric Porter (Soames Forstye), Nyree Dawn Porter (Irene), Kenneth Moore (young Jolyon Forsyte), and a pretty actress who made her reputation in this series, Susan Hampshire. I cannot begin to list the rest, all of which you can catch during the end titles and much of which you can find on the Internet Movie Data Base. Porter plays to perfection the "unlovable" man who cannot understand why he is so; and as the story unfolds, his partial mellowing, as played by Porter, is an example to all "modern" actors.

In the book, Irene is seen only through the consciousness of the other characters, and as good as Ms. Porter looks as Irene, her acting is a touch wooden for such a catalytic character. Still she looks far more striking than her counterpart in the 2002 version.

Galsworthy has been compared with Thackery, but he does not quite have the sweep of that earlier author. Still, the scene at a party after a lawsuit in which the loser is attracting all the attention while the winners are being cold-shouldered by their so-called friends is both painful and telling. (In fact, if it makes you think of "Chicago," you can see how far ahead Galsworthy was in his estimation of how we treat "morality.")

Of course this is high class soap opera, but the production values are quite good for a 1967 studio production, the acting superb, and the dialogue a bit more intelligent than you will find in the afternoon on commercial series. This set, on tapes or DVDs, is a real "grabbit." It afforded me nearly 22 hours of viewing pleasure and will do the same for you.
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10/10
Watch This One!
overseer-320 October 2002
Please, oh please, watch this original b/w 1967 British version of The Forsyte Saga instead of the 2002 mini-series. You cannot compare the two; the modern version has terrible casting, lacks charm, and has a terrible script. The actors in that version try but do not reflect the authenticity of the characters in this Galsworthy classic. This 1967 version in contrast has perfect casting, a completely amazing script, multi-dimensional characters, why even the house at Robin Hill is more gorgeous in the original version! The DVD box set you can purchase off Amazon is well worth the price. Buy it before it goes out of print. Do yourself a favor and enjoy this sirloin steak version, instead of the 2002 chopped liver disaster.
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A landmark that's now hard to find.
Mister-UHF12 October 2002
`The Forsyte Saga' was a landmark in the history of television, not just in the UK, but globally. It was apparently the first miniseries to be produced anywhere. It was produced in part to start up the BBC's highbrow BBC2 channel. It was the BBC's most ambitious and expensive series up to that time. It was also the BBC's last major production in black and white, although plenty of color publicity stills were shot for it and BBC2 was intended to inaugurate color television in Britain. The series was originally aired in early 1967 on BBC2, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of author John Galsworthy's birth. It was so popular that it was quickly repeated on the more popular BBC1 channel. The series' popularity was phenomenal. The entire country seemed to rearrange its collective schedule around the show and the streets were empty when it was on. In the following years, the BBC would produce a slew of other period piece miniseries such as `The Six Wives of Henry VIII' and `Elizabeth R.' Britain's commercial network, Independent Television (ITV), got into the act with works like `Upstairs, Downstairs.'

`The Forsyte Saga' was exported and had a major impact abroad. Networks in other countries were soon producing their own period miniseries. `The Forsyte Saga' was the first television series from a Western country to be shown in the Soviet Union.

`The Forsyte Saga' was first shown in the United States in 1969 on the National Educational Television (NET) network and was its first prime time hit. It was repeated on NET's successor, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), which was soon importing and airing similar series under the `Masterpiece Theatre' banner. A few years later, the commercial networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) were busy producing their own period miniseries like `Rich Man, Poor Man' and `Once An Eagle.'

`The Forsyte Saga' had a profound influence on the careers of its cast. It greatly boosted the fortunes of Eric Porter, Nyree Dawn Porter, and Margaret Tyzack, made Susan Hampshire the uncrowned queen of BBC2, and gave Michael York and Martin Jarvis their big breaks. The series gave Kenneth More his best role during the long and inexplicable twilight of his career. On the other hand, June Barry, Dalia Penn, and Nicholas Pennell all had prominent parts in the series, but were little seen in subsequent years.

In fact, the same can be said about the series itself. `The Forsyte Saga' hasn't been aired in the Washington, D.C., area in 20 or more years and is currently not available in this country on video or DVD. Its importance in television history is great and undisputed, but it's now spoken about more than seen.
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9/10
Lovers of Masterpiece Theatre will be delighted.
frog138425 July 2004
This 1967 adaptation of Galsworthy is presented in the grand old style of Masterpiece Theatre and is riveting despite its length. At 26 hours, it can afford to spin out the tale in a rather leisurely fashion, thus providing us with a richer and deeper insight into the characters than the more curtailed 2003 version. But it never seems boring. Casting is strong with the possible exception of Irene, played mechanically by Nyree Dawn Porter, who seems more like a Barbie doll than a real woman. The young Susan Hampshire is a delight when she finally arrives on the scene.
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The Best Dramatic Series in Television History
Frank Miller31 January 1999
This is one of the most influential series-and one of the best-ever made. It's the film that inspired the creation of PBS's "Masterpiece Theatre" and the birth of the U.S. mini-series and for it's almost 24 hours it's utterly spellbinding.

The series is adapted from six novels and three short stories by John Galsworthy about the Forsyte family of upwardly mobile Britishers in the late 19th-early 20th century, focussing in particular on the "Man of Property," Soames Forsyte (Eric Porter), who mistakes possession for love until he finally has a child, the spoiled yet totally captivating Fleur (Susan Hampshire). The adaptation is mostly faithful, though it opens with three episodes not in the original novels but dramatizing their backstory. In addition, Soames's first wife, Irene (the utterly amazing Nyree Dawn Porter), is more of a presence in the final chapters than she was in the later books.

If you ever get a chance to see this series (I don't think it's availabe on video at present), jump at it. The story is epic in scope yet quite moving on the personal level as Galsworthy traces the tortuous relationships of this large Victorian family in a manner that would make most soap opera writers green with envy.
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Galsworthy's chronicle of property and possession. Not shown in the U.S. until the early '70s, it inaugurated the PBS TV series "Masterpiece Theatre."
pharrer31 March 2004
As of this writing, all 26 episodes of this legendary series are available in the U.S. on DVD through BBC Video via Warner. For the past several evenings, I have been working my way through them, enchanted by its solid craft and thorough execution. What most impresses is the quality of the writing and acting, and how well it all holds up after nearly 40 years. Eric Porter's portrayal of Soames Forsyte is a remarkable creation: Caustic, selfish, sexually predatory, and haunted by sadness, it is among the small screen's great performances. This pillar of society is a suffering outsider and one of the series' most intriguing aspects is how the viewer's sympathies are subtly guided toward Soames and away from Jolyon and Irene as the saga progresses.

Soames may be loathsome in the early episodes, but age and a life of disappointment soften him into an admirable, if wintry, human being. Whereas Kenneth More's Jolyon and Nyree Dawn Porter's Irene seem more and more complacent and sanctimonious, especially in those scenes where Jolyon expounds endlessly on the need for freedom in human relations to a nodding, dewy-eyed Irene. Yet these two goody-goodies forbid their son Jon to pursue his love for Fleur! What is Jolyon, but a breezy, if fundamentally decent, charmer who blunders his way into an inherited fortune? And what is Irene, but a spineless beauty who cannot cope with the depth of Soames' feelings? (But then, who could?)

Other than the scenes where Soames appears, the later episodes relax. Nicholas Pennell is admirable as Michael Mont, the aristocrat with a heart-of-gold who marries the wayward Fleur (Susan Hampshire) and unintentionally causes endless unhappiness. His character underscores Galsworthy's essentially skeptical view of human endeavor. The outstanding cast included some of Britain's best performers of its day. Some went on to bigger things, such as the game Ms. Hampshire, but a review of the cast's vital statistics reveals that many have already passed away. This is their legacy.
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10/10
So good, you forget it's black-and-white
winstonfg7 January 2008
After several dropped hints, I was given the DVD collection of the Forsyte Saga for Christmas and have just finished watching it over a 3-day marathon, including the last 14 episodes in one sitting - it's that good.

I've already stated on this site that I think 'I Claudius' was the best miniseries ever created, but this one is a VERY close second. The sheer length of it allows all the major characters to be developed and grow on you, and the acting, as ever, is superb. The choice of Kenneth More for the part of Young Jolyon was inspired - any other actor would have had trouble bringing such a goody-goody character to life - but the bedrock of the series is Eric Porter's masterly portrayal of Soames, interestingly revealed as the 54%/39% winner in a nationwide Irene-Soames poll taken in the week of the last episode.

There are a few trifling criticisms - I'd agree with others that Nyree Dawn Porter is a little stiff, but one has to remember that she was one of the youngest members of the cast (2 years younger than Susan Hampshire), and I suspect her 'look' was more suited to those times; the American accents of Anne Wilmot and her brother Francis are unconvincing by today's standards, and there are also the low-budget sets, which move alarmingly at some moments, and a couple of gaffs not picked up by the grips - but they are are minor flaws, and the quality of the acting by all concerned, right down to the small roles of Smither and Gradman (who, I notice, is not even credited in the IMDb cast list), who share a touching mini-scene near the end, is so good that you quickly forget them .

These days budgets are bigger and presentations slicker, but you have to go a long way to beat this one. I haven't seen the 2002 version yet, but if 'Rome' is anything to go by, I'll stick with the originals.

As a final note, I have to mention that Margaret Tyzack is in both of my top picks. Either she has great judgement or a great agent. Probably both.
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Absolutely engrossing and brilliantly acted
tonyd-512 December 1999
The entire Forsyte Saga written between 1906 and 1933 (last 2 books were published after his death) earned John Galsworthy his Nobel prize. The version that the BBC produced is true to the story and the characters. Eric Porter's Soames is brilliant. Nyree Dawn Porter, who I never saw again, brings quintisential elegance to the role of Irene. Kenneth More plays Jolyon to the hilt. The remaining cast is solid and binds the 26 hours of TV history together as well.

This program was the forerunner of the extended series. It broke new ground and captivated audiences at the time. The BBC version was based on 6 of the 9 books. That is OK, since the last three books extend the story to relations of the main Forsyte characters.

It is available on video. However the video is PAL format and you need to get it converted to NTSC. (If interested in the details of this please e-mail to me. I do not sell or convert the tapes but I'll tell you how.)

There also is a set of 9 Audio Tapes where the entire book is read by David Case (Books on Tape). Mr. Case does a truly excellent job in bringing every character to life.

I recommend that you get the family tree prior to reading, listening, or viewing the tapes.

This is a real treat to those that like Victorian/Edwardian period pieces.

You'll enjoy
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10/10
You Can't Improve On Perfection
hjmsia4910 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I totally agree with all the previous viewers who lauded this original television masterpiece which gave birth to the many great mini-series that followed. The recent 2002 color version pales in comparison. How can anyone even attempt to replicate the brilliant performances of Eric Porter, Nyree Dawn Porter, Kenneth More and Margaret Tyzack in the original. Eric Porter well earned his Best Actor BAFTA award as Soames Forsyte and I found Damien Lewis' red haired, smirking Soames portrayal in the recent version irritating. What can you say about the enduring beauty, radiance and performance of Nyree Dawn Porter as everyone's Irene. I felt sorry for poor Gina McKee trying to even attempt to equal the original and quintessential Irene. The two unrelated Porters will always be remembered as Soames and Irene. My only quarrel, a minor one, is the strange disappearance of two rather important characters. Annette, Soames second wife, who is never seen in the final episodes, either at her daughter Fleur's wedding or at the birth of her grandchild. The grandson Kit, is never seen after his birth. He was often mentioned but never seen. I urge everyone who have only seen the 2002 version to look in on the original. The DVD contains many excellent special features including critical debate (Soames vs Irene), cast comments and public reaction.
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The prototypical "Masterpiece Theater"
eastbourne177 November 1999
To my knowledge this series was the first of its kind, and established the style and tone for all the programs which the term "Masterpiece Theater" now stands for. It is a mystery to me why it seems to have been forgotten completely, and why videos of the series are not available. Its successor, "Upstairs, Downstairs" seems to have usurped The Forsyte Saga's rightful place as the favorite high-toned soaper. Because it was the first, it should be honored for that reason alone.
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8/10
A Portrait of the Cost of Empire in Britain, c. 1886 On; An Artistic Triumph
silverscreen88810 August 2005
The Forsyte Saga" was a vast undertaking for the British Film Industry when it was first created. It ran 26 weeks and virtually may be said to have launched the TV-miniseries genre, since "Masterpiece Theater" was brought into being to exhibit it. The series was based on the three sets of social novels by observer and trenchant author John Galsworthy. The saga is set before the turn of the 20th century; and, it must be remembered, it is about the British Empire, a corrupt political system whose leaders were every bit as incapable of good government as the empire of Rome's leaders were before them. The lives of those we see, the numerous Forsyte clan, are the products not of capitalism but of mixed-capitalism, government-connected de facto "tsars"-of-privilege-or-favor and those with whom they do business, exactly as is the U.S. empire of post 1994, for instance. The series focuses for the first 15 episodes upon the pentangle of actions undertaken by Soames Forsyte, the eponymous "Man of Property" of one of the author's novels. His wife is Irene Heron Forsyte, who falls in love with architect Philip Bosinney, builder of the couple's new home. Soames sets out to ruin the man when he finds out about the attachment; and when a distraught Bosinney is run over in a London street, Irene takes up with Jolyon, the black sheep of the Forsyte family who had made a mistress of the nanny he had employed. The fifth member of the pentangle is Fleur, flapper daughter of Soames and his next wife, who is madly in love with Jolyon and Irene's son, but marries instead for wealth. The proceedings in this long, very-well produced and rather well-acted epic have been nominated as 'melodrama'; they are nothing of the sort. This handsome production is a drama, a bit sluggish at times but always interesting since it is written about folk who very strongly either understand individualism or do not, understand justice or do not, understand equality of human beings or do not. The point of the entire proceeding is that the human virtues--true inward beauty, intelligence, incorruptible honesty, imagination and sympathy are NOT the possessions of any ruling class smug in its self-importance but lacking in anything except pride in its own narrow-mindedness, bigotries and piled-up possessions. The production designs by Spencer Chapman, Raymond Cuscik and Sally Hulke has a muted stylistic charm I find, but cannot compare in my opinion with that accorded the beautifully-mounted 1949 feature film "That Forsyte Woman". Lennox Phillips and Donald Wilson get the credit for the interesting adaptation of Galsworthy's huge novels and for dividing them into 26 intelligible episodes. James Cellan Jones and David Giles directed the long piece with what seems to most observers to be consistent intelligence. The sound recording, following the British practice of recording live voices, is sometimes uneven; and the production's other values such as lighting, costumes and art direction are seldom memorably good abut never less-than-adequate. The earlier half of the saga is more idea-level to me as a writer, but the later segments are period pieces in their own right. Among the actors, Eric Porter seems to be exactly the sort to play Soames, investing the hollow man with native charisma, canniness and a concentration that makes everyone else look good who acts with him. Nyree Dawn Porter as Irene is no Greer Garson but is attractive and quite adequate to playing a psychologically-normative person, Irene's outstanding quality. Fine actor Kenneth Moore is sympathetic as Jolyon, Susan Hampshire dynamic and vivid as Fleur. Other standouts include Joseph O'Conor as Old Jolyon, Margaret Tyzack as Winifred, Caroline Blakiston as Marjorie Ferrar and a number of others in less-lengthy roles among the older generation. Those who admire this huge project, and I am one of them, regard it is one very difficult to approach in artistic quality let alone to match. It is must watching in the history of film as the first great TV mini-series, as a social drama, and also as an artistic achievement of the first water.
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A masterpiece
edward wilgar15 January 2003
I was absolutely delighted to have an opportunity recently to see the original `Forsyte Saga' on the ‘Ovation' channel on cable TV in Australia.

Forget the recent remake and after about ten minutes you'll certainly forget that this is thirty-odd years old and made in black and white. Maybe its high-class soap opera but even so its all class.

Truly a saga spanning four or five generations, the story is dominated by Eric Porter's Soames, the cold venal rapist who eventually commands our grudging respect and the truly beautiful Irene played by Nyree Dawn Porter, Soames' victim who later finds love. And then there's Susan Hampshire's pretty but totally selfish Fleur, drawing you eye whenever she's on-screen. Incidentally, Nicholas Pennell plays Fleur's husband as if he was Wilfred Hyde-White in My Fair Lady! There are many other major characters, all well portrayed and you'll really care what happens to them.

Even the make-up of the two Porters is worth a word of praise as they age convincingly.

A minor criticism I could make is the rather eccentric recording of the sound. The dialogue level soars and drops as if the microphones were concealed in flowerpots like the early talkies. Doors slam loudly and there are unidentified knocks and bangs in the background.

See this masterpiece of television if you can, I don't think it has been bettered.
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Probably the best adaptation in film history
VR19 March 2005
Being a huge Galsworthy fan and knowing what an immense popularity this TV-series had claimed worldwide,I was eager to watch it. Widely regarded as one of film history's most faithful(if not the most faithful)adaptation after a literary work,I think that it's perfectly true.This where Galsworthy's genius(one of my favorite writers)is intertwined with B.B.C.'s high professionalism to create a cinematographic masterpiece. Characters,sets,costumes,the care for the historical period,make this film a precise depiction of one world literature's most brilliant literary work as well as of the Victorian age and its aftermath. It's the story of an upper-middle-class family(Galsworthy's newly rich family being actually the source of inspiration)having recently acquired wealth in nineteenth century Britain,their rise running almost parallel with the rise of modern Capitalism and the Industrial Revolution. Until 1886,when the story begins(though trough several flashbacks the viewer is let know what happened beginning with 1879),this family's main and virtually only concern is how to make money and to belong to London's better half-subsequently by 1886 almost every member of this family is either a successful lawyer or businessman,major shareholder,landlord or other typically capitalistic entrepreneur.Of course the Forsytes are the typical products of Capitalism,their behavior being characterized by a mixture by thrift and lavish spending(both as a form of wise investing and increasing social influence),snobbery,collecting art and building impressive houses not due to aesthetic reasons but merely as an investment. But there are always several exceptions from this not so bright and profound,however socially very successful mentality:the "young" Jolyon-of the third generation of wealth in this family-who turns a not so respectable love-affair into a not suitable marriage and his cousin Soames who marries the strangely beautiful Irene,a woman from a poor social background,who doesn't love him. Therefore 1886 is not only the year when this family reached its pinnacle of fame and fortune,not only a symbolical year in British history(the year before queen Victoria's golden jubilee),but also the year when the traditional family values of the Forsytes start to crumble. Soames has certainly patriarchal and somewhat rigid views on family life,on a wife's duty,however he's not a tyrant or a pervert in a behavior towards Irene,he certainly worships her,however doesn't know how to express his affection.Irene,on the other hand,seems to me selfish,cold and ungrateful under her extremely beautiful and oversensitive crust-but maybe she isn't superficial,it's just the feminine mystery what makes her so unpredictable and difficult to please. However Soames is a true gentleman,capable of true love and generosity and willing to sacrifice everything to be loved.His tragedy is that he never gets the love he deserves and that not even his vast fortune can't buy love.First Irene,then his second wife and finally Fleur,his daughter,decades later,fail to give him the feeling of truly caring about him and appreciating him.While Fleur is the typical roaring twenties's flapper-spoiled,careless,choosing suitable marriage rather than true love,only for the upkeep of her fortune and status(even her name,along with her behavior remind of another famous twenties's flapper,Fitzgerald's Daisy Buchanan). The characters are faithfully depicted by brilliant,though not necessarily world-famous,actors,besides Soames,Jolyon,Irene and Fleur,also the performances of the old Forsytes being just like someone would imagine after reading the book. Watching this film I understood why it is considered as the best adaptation after a literary work in film history(and,in spite of being a T.v. production and the subject of a rich family widely used in soaps ,it is definitely not a soap-opera,but definitely an art-film).
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10/10
definitive and faultless TV drama
didi-511 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
'The Forsyte Saga', made in 1967, and one of the last programmes to be filmed in black and white, is part of television legend. On its first showing in the UK it gripped the nation and even made a recorded impact on the National Grid (one which has been a benchmark ever since).

Based on a series of books by John Galsworthy, and set over a period of more than 30 years, the tale follows a family of property, the Forsytes, and their trials and tribulations during the Victorian age, the Edwardian age, the First World War, the Great Strike of 1926, and other milestones. It covers new industry, the art world, the smart set, the world of politics and boardrooms, the legal profession, and the status of servants, all in a bottom-numbing 26 hours, should you watch it all in one go.

Beautifully scripted and directed, and daring not just for its own time but in all television (with Soames rape of Irene), this finely cast drama lives up to its well-deserved reputation. Kenneth More as Jo and Eric Porter as Soames stand out in a cast who complement each other perfectly. There are no wrong notes and no weak moments throughout the saga.

As regards Galsworthy's books, the writers do an admirable job of filling them out with appropriate dialogue and in setting the scene so perfectly you can almost imagine yourself in middle-class England when people still stood for the Queen and refused to serve a court notice on a woman. In the three generations of the central Forsyte branch (old Jolyon, Jo, and his sons Jolly and Jon) we see a changing world with changing priorities ... while in the relationship between Soames and Irene we get a chance to feel sympathy, empathy, and change our perspective as the series progresses.

A wonderful series, presented on DVD in a beautiful transfer with lots of extras from the time (such as Cliff Michelmore on 'Talkback' and sections from 'Late Night Line Up').
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The series is a marvelous treat.
MAUDE-81 August 1999
The series is a marvelous treat. I watched it twice in the 1960s, when my local public television station ran it twice back-to-back. I have since watched it twice again; I found it on video. So I wanted people to know that it is now available.
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10/10
Just a fantastic series...
mgr8176024 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I watched this on DVD last summer. It was just fantastic. Eric Porter's portrayal of Soames is, as everyone has noted, perfect. The series would be worth watching if just for him alone. I felt sorry for Damien Lewis, who had to play Soames in the 2002 remake--Porter's performance was so strong yet so natural that in order to differentiate himself, Lewis had to take Soames to a point of seeming psychosis, which ruined the essence of the character.

This is the kind of series that your local library is likely to carry. It is so much worth checking out...you absolutely cannot lose. The story is so well known that even reviewing the "spoilers" won't detract from your enjoyment...the acting is the all in this series, and is done at a quality not seen, I think, in a miniseries ever again.
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I want to acquire this on VHS
sjbaggaley29 October 2002
Now that I am watching the current version, I realize how marvellous Eric Porter, Nyree Dawn Porter, and Kenneth Moore were in their respective roles of Soames, Irene, and Young Jolyon. The 2002 version is worth watching, but, at the same time, for somebody like me who saw the original, it lets me see the tremendous difference in the portrayal of the main characters. I am researching how I can get hold of a VHS version of the original.
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10/10
A Timeless Masterpiece
ameilius29 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This classic mini-series looks as good today as it did when it first premiered in 1967. I rate it a 10 out of 10 because of (1)cogent, witty scripts that follow Galsworthy's original storyline and (2) the fine acting and perfect casting choices that were made. The Forsytes are depicted as a rich, bourgeois English family from the late 1800's to 1926. They have a hereditary tenacity that, in the end, both makes and breaks them. Epitome of the family ideal is Soames, "the man of property," who treats his beautiful wife Irene as a possession. Irene, however, hates him and pines to be free of the cage that is her marriage. Ultimately this mismatched pair divorce, but not before their rupture has split the Forsytes right down the middle in a multi-generational family feud. And then, 20 years later, Soames' daughter Fleur and Irene's son Jon meet and fall in love---with tragic consequences. Fleur, a true Forsyte, is stubborn and tenacious in her obsession with Jon, even after he and she have married other people. And ironically, in the end Soames will be redeemed by his unselfish devotion to the daughter that is, at heart, so much like himself...

What more can I say about this series? It's a masterpiece. Eric Porter, as Soames, brings this complex character to life and despite Soames's essentially un-lovable nature, makes him both pitiable and endearing. Irene, portrayed by Nyree Dawn Porter, is beautiful but remote as in the books. Nyree does a good job with Irene, certainly not an easy role to play, and viewers may well be conflicted as to which side to take in the ongoing Soames vs.Irene Conflict. (Myself, I rooted for poor Soames all the way!) Susan Hampshire, then a very young actress, is a sensation as Fleur, the spoiled little Daddy's girl. And Nicholas Pennell is also wonderful as Michael Mont, her long-suffering husband.

I would recommend this version of The Forsyte Saga to anyone who hasn't seen it. It's far, far superior to the recent Masterpiece Theater remake, which falls woefully short. The modern remake is plagued with miscast actors, bad scripts and a general disrespect for the books on which it's supposed to be based. The remake tries to change, i.e. rewrite much of what John Galsworthy, a Nobel Prize-winning author, scripted! Bad idea. Whereas the 1967 mini-series hits a home run by faithfully following Galsworthy's original, brilliantly plotted storyline. This earlier version is a real winner and is still remembered fondly after 44 years!
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A One of a Kind Classic
tekwkp26 September 2001
Filmed in Black & White and brilliantly cast, this BBC serial, referred to as: The Grand daddy of BBC Serials, captures the mores of Victorian and early 20th Century England. A winner. True, but unbelievable, the PBS ceased airing it in the late 1970s'. The flawed reason is because it is in B&W, that there is no audience appeal. It has not been aired in a good 25 years. I have tried to track a copy for viewing. Contacts in the UK have told me the BBC discarded the series, meaning trashed it. The Forsyte Saga, filmed in the w\early 1960s', the series, no longer exists. I have been told a copy exists in Canada. Whether the copy will be replicated is another matter.
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9/10
Highly Addictive Soap for the Cognoscenti
howardmorley29 October 2007
One of my wife's friends bought, at a Hampstead charity shop, the complete 12 volume 1986 BBC VHS video set of this stupendous 1967 drama series.She then gave these videos to me but after playing 3 volumes my v.c.r. promptly gave out forcing me to have the antiquated machine fixed at a local electrical repair shop so I could see the saga in its entirety.The video set is rated PG as there are several adult scenes (for 1967) and I noticed in the film credits several personnel were employed to dramatise the various episodes of this legendary Galsworthy classic.Other reviewers have made a good job of explaining the history of the saga and its transition to TV, so I won't dwell on that.

This series needs its critique updating and re-appraising on IMDb as some of them are now quite old.For a TV miniseries the acting is of a very high standard.I hesitate to single out individual actors since even the maids' roles were chosen and cast with care.My late parents were addicted to this series when it was originally shown on BBC TV in 1967 when I was 21 and living at home, (I'm now 61).I remember it was transmitted on Sunday evenings by the BBC but as my parents were churchgoers, they were obliged to miss some of the episodes.My father got around this by attaching a timer device on his reel to reel tape recorder, timed to come on when the episode started.There were no video recorders available to the public in 1967 and this meant they could only listen in sound on their return from church!For me it's a bit like going into a time machine and going back 40 years being the interval since I last saw it.I notice now, what I wouldn't have noticed then, being that Galsworthy drew attention in his saga to the social problems and conditions of the working classes living in England in the period 1880s-1920s.Other social dramatists like J.B.Priestley noted this in plays like "An Inspector Calls".I can incidentally recommend the latter film from 1954 with Alistair Sim in the title role, as it is set in 1912 when the Forsyte saga is partly set.Other reviewers, especially our American cousins, have noted the difficulty in obtaining this video series in the USA.It's a pity, because there is an American side to this drama when young Jolyon goes off to S.Carolina with his mother Irene and meets Anne while her brother comes to England and meets and is enamoured of the flapper who sues Fleur for libel.I found the actress who played Anne very appealing.For those film fans who do not possess a copy, try looking on eBay.Maybe someone's executor may be trying to auction off the complete video series to raise money for the estate and by so doing giving film fans a treat.I rated it 9/10.
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10/10
The Forsyte Saga 1967 series is satisfying and a treat for the senses
climbingivy9 January 2015
Warning: Spoilers
What I can say firstly about the 1967 British series The Forsyte Saga is thank the producers for not putting music to the entire series.I love how there is intelligent conversation, beautiful sets and gorgeous costumes for the production.Imagine a program that does not have nasty cussing,cursing God and Jesus,explosions,loud music,ridiculous sex on the desk after sweeping off all of the items on the desk, or next to the wall with a man that can barely hold up the woman while he is experiencing a very fast orgasm.The reason that I was rather crude in my description is so the point can be made that television productions in 1967 were watchable.Now they are not.Imagine that a series is based on a classic story that is not about every filthy subject known to man.This 1967 British production relied on acting ability alone.It is 26 episodes in glorious black and white and as far as I am concerned the series was not long enough.For lovers of the early British Masterpiece Theater series,you will be gloriously happy with this one.
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10/10
Soames the man of property:)
kcoumbos6 February 2014
This mini-series was originally epic in its scope and vision. The whole series is based on a series of books that were written by John Galsworthy following the story of three generations within the Forsythe clan. This particular version of the Forsythe movies was in black and white but was probably the most far-reaching and epic version that's out there. Normally the word epic (to me) can be considered daunting, but in the case of these episodes it changes to something more friendly and welcome. You fall in love with these characters; you grow and feel for them like they're you and yours (pun intended - as one of the points of this story is about ownership of people and their emotions). In my opinion even Soames - the man of property - becomes admirable in his love for his daughter at the end. Any ways, I think it's a very complex story that was translated extremely well into film by those working on this version of the story! So enjoy it for the whole 1300 minutes!
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8/10
You cant beat perfection the new version 2002 is rubbish compared to the original
Maria Trim30 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I managed to buy The Forsyte Saga on DVD 7 discs. Living abroad a lot most of my life i missed this. I have decided to catch up on all the classics and found it on Ebay.

I didn't know what to expect as i have never heard of the story.

I did find it a bit of a muddle at first with all the Forsytes being introduced, but I soon settled down when the main characters came in and their stories unfolded. I loved the older ladies who spent a lot of their time gossiping in the drawing room.

The main characters Soames, Irene, young jolyon played expertly by Eric Porter, Nyree Dawn Porter, and Kenneth Moore.

I was sad to see young Jolyon leave the story so early. I loved Irenes character, and her love for young jolyon i found once he left the story it dipped and i lost a bit of interest as she went off to America with her son Jon, and it wasn't the same again, until they came back to England, which was to start off a catalyst for the main character Soames and Fleur. I found Fleur the daughter of Soames and his French wife a chore to watch as she was so spoilt and selfish and couldn't have what she wanted which was Jon Irenes and young Jolyons son i wont say much you need to watch it really.

My main complaints about this saga was the lack of the war. It is set against the Boar war but also the biggest war, the First World War. It was hardly mentioned and there was nothing about it really, in actual fact i got lost at one point as i was lost in what year it was several times actually.

The first world war was huge, there were Zepplein attacks on London, and then towards the end the awful Spanish flu which killed millions, but not a word said about any of it.

It was like we were skipping through time. Even Irene who spent a lot of time in France never once said a word about the state of France after the war I found it odd to be honest like it never happened.

I think there are books missing on the 1967 version, the ending left me flat to be honest i wanted more, i wanted to know what happened to Fleur. I loved Michael her husband who was besotted by her but we had no resolution to their relationship. I thought it quite apt that Soames would find his end by one of his beloved paintings the Goya quite apt really i wondered if Galsworthy the author had a little bit of sense of humour there.

Yes i really enjoyed it but i felt there were stories missing some how, time slipped gaps in it. But the acting was amazing and i was so upset when Kenneth Moore left as for me he was one of the main characters.

Its certainly worth watching i will watch it again, at the moment i have just started the new series in 2002, and after one episode i realise it wont be a patch on the original.
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9/10
Formidable Unit of Soap Opera
Marcin Kukuczka26 July 2015
Everything changes and every day in every way, one may be getting better. This maxim of auto-suggestion said by Fleur (Susan Hampshire) in 'No Retreat' (19) may also apply to the test of time that only few are lucky to stand, including the products of a new medium that television was in the 1960s. One example, however, that barely changes in impact is this formidable, classic, cult TV series.

Ms Hampshire in the extended 1991 interview with Richard Amphlett (the Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham) referred to THE FORSYTE SAGA as an unchanging phenomenon, a 'definite costume drama.' Labeled as 'crescendo of publicity and popularity' and seen as 'national obsession' (Cliff Michelmore) at the time of its airing on BBC, the 26 episode - series may still be regarded as soap opera but...its truly formidable unit which, in passing time, brings about even greater awe and respect. Based on Galsworthy's three trilogies (THE FORSYTE SAGA, A MODERN COMEDY, END OF THE CHAPTER), it not only fanned enthusiasm towards the literary work (raising sales' number to a million of copies worldwide) but also became one of the most cherished soap operas. Even in the Soviet Union and Poland, life stopped with its episodes being showed.

Watching them almost half a century later is still a supreme entertainment. Exceptional camera-work by Tony Leggo, memorable designs by Spencer Chapman, ear-catchy music by Eric Coates and a variety of costumes by Joan Elcott predominate as pleasing to the eye and ear. Although the series is black and white and considerably stagy, everything is atmospheric and contributes to the feeling of nostalgia for the times depicted herein. Yet, what truly emerges as unforgettable are artistic personalities, warm hearts, recognizable brains, legal minds... so to say, completely memorable characters.

From 'A Family Festival' (1) to 'Swan Song' (26), one can be stunned by this great variety of people that prompt viewers to feel what they feel, identify with their worlds. The eldest Aunt Ann with her elegance among a group of other 'Victorian ladies' meeting at tea; Helene Hilmer singing her love song despite conventions; Winifred described by the actress Margaret Tyzack as 'forward looking and liberal;" Phil Bossiney, the architect of 'simplicity and regularity;' Marjorie, an exception from the Forsyte chronicle, a 'nuisance' who pushes the limits of moral acceptability, and many many others inside or outside the family cannot leave viewers indifferent. The director(s) prove to have 'put actors on screen in best advantage' (David Giles).

Developing the theme in a more in depth manner occurs impossible due to word limit. For that matter, reviews on single episodes will occur necessary. In this general review, I will highlight only the few most eminent character starting with Jo, surely no 'true Forsyte', as he says 'a bit of a mongrel' a prodigal son at moments, compared to Prince Rudolf of Austria by Sir Gerald Nabarro, excluded from the established order society but the one who calls our attention and sympathy from the very beginning.

Played warmly by KENNETH MORE, Jolyon is a "thoroughly understandable, broad minded man" (Kenneth More in a 1967 interview). The part where Jo actually turns up creates a unique atmosphere of an exception from the rule of legal background, the rules within a sense of property that so powerfully defines this family. Mr More admitted that there was no 'struggle' to find the character because it simply developed itself as a 'decent, open, loving' observer and the one who lives his life fully. We feel at ease watching him.

The intense contrast to Jo is the protagonist, the 'man of property,' Jo's cousin Soames Forsyte played with insightful psychology and powerful penetration by ERIC PORTER. His performance alone makes the series worth watching, never to be copied, never to be repeated, the artistic achievement stands in itself as towering. Eric Porter appears most to depict the fact that 'the close knitness in the family came over into private life." He sets his mind and heart on the role. As Donald Wilson, the producer observes, his character brings about a true study. As the story gets more concentrated in later episodes, Mr Porter delivers sheer brilliance contrasting and connecting the 'old man' with the 'young man.' His legal mind for whom a contract is a contract seems to be at war with most of the characters that come and go, especially women. Here, viewers still take sides...Soames or Irene, his first wife?

Her musicality and the sense of art contradict with his skepticism and the sense of property. Neither is good or bad, but simply people who can not get on well with each other. Portrayed by NYREE DAWN PORTER, Irene is 'a beauty to be possessed,' a woman who does not change, described by Galsworthy as "born to be loved and love." As Ms Porter admits, she is seen through the eyes of other people. Selfish, confident, loving?

SUSAN HAMPSHIRE as Fleur, Soames' only daughter, reveals something different. Richard Amphlett rightly observes: "there is little superficiality about her pragmatic and asture demeanor, and an intuitive intelligence in her mode of thinking." A woman with a passion to know, a passion to have; her feelings correspond to people she meets, a sort of 'mirror of her father' in the quest for possessive temptations and a woman who stands on her own in her quest for emancipation. The rapport (or its lack) with Michael Mont, her husband, is interesting in the context of changing times.

In order to get overwhelmed by the entire series, one needs to discover the wonderful entertainment supplied by each scene so well measured, each single person who appears on the screen and provides us with memorable feelings. One needs single episodes and their great continuity.

THE FORSYTE SAGA is sheer pleasure to watch for all those who can appreciate an ambitious story and can grasp true brilliance of British performances. Tastes change but genuine work remains.
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My only disappointment with this series was Bosinney
Laraine Barker27 May 2012
Warning: Spoilers
(If you haven't seen the series yet, there is a possible spoiler in this review.)

I remember when I first heard that this series was about to air on Television New Zealand. In 1967 I was 22 and not at all interested in TV. I'd never been much interested in movies either. I preferred reading. But this series had the whole family riveted. I remember criticism (from a New Zealand critic) of Nyree Dawn Porter's portrayal of Irene. But I felt she did everything that was required of her, which was mainly to look so ravishing the gaze of all, both male and female, followed her, and to have an air of mystery. She also had to make it plain that she was unaware of the effect she had on others. Irene could have chosen any man she wanted, but unfortunately Soames Forsyte saw to it that no other man could get near her. And she was so naive and innocent she didn't realise how dangerous it was to marry a man whose very proximity made her flinch and shudder. Her stepmother wouldn't have cared to enlighten her either; she just wanted rid of the girl, and Soames was, to all intents and purposes, a very good catch.

I feel this series is, on the whole, much better than the remake. The only improvement in the remake was Bosinney, played by Ioan Gruffud. I'd have fallen for a Bosinney who looked like Gruffud, but I never could believe in Irene (or June) falling for John Bennett. Neither could I believe that all eyes would follow an Irene who looked like Gina McKee. There is nothing wrong with McKee's looks; she just isn't outstandingly beautiful enough for the part. Neither did she have the air of mystery that was so much a part of Nyree Dawn Porter's appeal as Irene.

Apart from a miscast Bosinney, I also felt the 1967 series was badly let down by its portrayal of the rape scene. In the books Irene was in bed asleep and therefore more helpless than portrayed in the 1967 series. At least the 2001 didn't make this very grave error.

Eric Porter as Soames was absolutely brilliant; an act that nobody, regardless of his acting skills, could hope to match, never mind outdo. While Porter managed to convey Soames's coldness, he also grabbed viewers' sympathies. That's no mean achievement.

Finally, I have to express my disappointment that this series is in black and white. I saw it in black and white, because that's all New Zealand television had at the time, but I didn't realise it wasn't filmed in colour. I probably received the impression it was filmed in colour because of a colour photograph of Irene on the cover of The Listener.
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