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Recently released on DVD....I couldn't wait to view it again. First saw
on Masterpiece Theater in the late 70's, when I expressly stayed home on
Sundays to savor the 13 episodes in their entirety. It was programing like
this, Elizabeth R, Upstairs, Downstairs, I Claudius, etc. that got me
for life on Masterpiece Theater. 'Love For Lydia' is basically a handsome
Jazz Age soap opera. A highly exuberant and distinguished backdrop for a
mini-series endorsed as a romance but in reality a coming of age story.
`Love For Lydia', written by H.E. Bates ( My Uncle Silas) of Northamptonshire, England is an admonition and harbinger of rural England pre-and post depression. It's as much about the loves of the lead character, Lydia Aspen, a self centered young heiress played with remarkable and wicked alacrity by Mel Martin as it is about Edward Richarson, a H.E. Bates alter ego character. Both youths are so impossibly immature that I spent the first 10 episodes deciding which one was more obnoxious. Lydia is a typical spoiled rich kid who will stop at nothing to get what she wants. After first becoming involved with Edward she proceeds to seduce every man in North England. Edward, being a sensitive would be writer can not seem to detach himself from her emotionally, which, of course is how she likes it best.
It's curious to note that the supporting cast are often more assertive and certainly more appealing than the main characters. In Edwards best friend, Alex Sanderson, we have a brilliant and youthful Jeremy Irons, who down right commands the show in his part as a conceited prat who somehow manages to be charming in spite of himself. An actualization of the quintessential snotty young upper crust Brit...of the type they are always trying to cast now days with Hugh Grant. Irons talent was astonishing even then...so raw that there was little doubt of predicting his brilliant future. Rachel Kempson and Beatrix Lehmann were enticing as Lydia's elderly Aunts, Juliana and Bertie. They were so delectably in character I always longed for scenes with these two ladies. Lydia's disagreeable Uncle Rollo was made lifelike by Michael Aldridge `Love in a Cold Climate" (1980). Add to these many more capable actors and it's quite a impressive cast.
As for the DVD, the color is faded and the sound is not digital. This was produced pre-DVD so there are no easter eggs here. The good news is you can rent the whole series...because while it is a scrumptious rent...it would be hardly worth owning. It's important to remember that it was designed to be viewed in one hour increments, therefore to sit and watch 3 or 4 episodes at a time would prove a little too monotonous...especially toward the end when the flapper era has been laid low by the economic crisis that preceded W W I. However, the lavish attention to detail that marks Masterpiece Theater is ever present. If you enjoy British literature adaptations you will be drawn right into the drama.
In my view it's test of time score is 8 ½.
LOVE FOR LYDIA is the sexy, sophisticated story of the dizzy and
exciting but also rather empty lifestyle of English society people
during the wild Twenties decade. The central character, Lydia, is a
beautiful but rather shy girl at first. Then she inherits a great deal
of money and begins to realize that she is a very desirable catch --
and that men will let her get away with almost anything!
The one man who truly loves Lydia is Richardson, a would-be writer from a rather poor and humble local family. On a cold winter day, Lydia has her first kiss from him, but instead of making her fall for him it merely sparks her interest in men in general. Before long Lydia is the talk of the town, dashing about in her flashy new clothes and going to hot, Twenties-style dances where she is always the center of attention. One by one, all the handsomest and most exciting young men in the neighborhood simply collapse at her feet -- rich and stylish Alec Sanderson, sweet and trusting Tom Holland, and even the tough local mechanic, mean and muscular and hairy-chested Blackie Flannagan. Lydia toys with all three men at once, totally enjoying both the sense of power and the pleasure. Totally ignoring the pain in Richardson's eyes, she grows more and more reckless, until at last tragedy strikes. Lydia sees herself as she truly is -- weak, greedy and selfish. She wants to change, but by now even loyal and faithful Richardson is tired of her. Is it too late for Lydia -- too late for love?
LOVE FOR LYDIA is a sumptuous and beautifully filmed romantic epic. The big dance scenes are exhilarating, but the quiet scenes draw you in too. Lydia changes from a shy schoolgirl to a glamorous and sexy siren.
But in her quiet moments you can see her basic insecurity, like the way she lies on the bed listening to the same jazz love song over and over. Night after night she dances till 2 or 3AM, and then next day is still asleep past noon.
There's an aimless quality to her life, and an emptiness as well. It shows in the way she downs a drink before dinner or takes a quick hit from a pocketbook flask. Glamorous and sexy, but you feel the human side of it -- the loneliness and the waste. A very good British series.
This excellent series was brought to American TV audiences on PBS'
"Masterpiece Theatre" in 1979, two years after it first was aired in
Great Britain. I saw it then, bought the book by H.E. Bates, and later
purchased the DVD set. This is a superb adaptation of a subtle literary
work on British pastoral life, the many segments of the series giving
adequate time to fully bring out the nuance of the book. It has
encouraged me to visit England many times to savor the beauty of the
countryside and small town charm. I think the author would have been
very pleased to see how well his book had been adapted for television,
and sadly he died just a few years before the project was completed.
Mel Martin and Christopher Blake give touching performances, and it is sad to see that Christopher Blake has died in 2004 while only in his mid-50's. You get to see Jeremy Irons do some fine work long before he earned his Oscar. Peter Davison is also excellent, before he became famous in "All Creatures Great and Small" and "Dr. Who." The distinguished older actors and actresses in this production remind us of the enormous pool of talent that can be found in Great Britain, where noted stage stars frequently appear in television dramas. I highly recommend this DVD set.
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