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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).
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"
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
be honored for that reason alone.
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
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.
*** This review may contain 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.
*** This review may contain 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').
Now that I am watching the current version, I realize how marvellous Eric
Porter, Nyree Dawn Porter, and Kenneth Moore were in their respective
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
see the tremendous difference in the portrayal of the main characters. I
researching how I can get hold of a VHS version of the original.
*** This review may contain 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.
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.
*** This review may contain 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!
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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