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Formidable Unit of Soap Opera

Author: Marcin Kukuczka from Cieszyn, Poland
26 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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The Forsyte Saga 1967 series is satisfying and a treat for the senses

Author: ( from United States
9 January 2015

*** This review may contain 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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Soames the man of property:)

Author: kcoumbos from United States
6 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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My only disappointment with this series was Bosinney

Author: Laraine Barker ( from Rotorua
27 May 2012

*** This review may contain 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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