Ian Struan Dunross is chairman of Struan & Company, the oldest and largest of the British-East Asia trading companies. To the Chinese, that also makes him "Tai-Pan" ("supreme leader") of ...
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Tai-Pan is Chinese for "supreme leader". This is the man with real power to his hands. And such a Tai-Pan is Dirk Struan who is obsessed by his plan to make Hong Kong the "jewel in the ... See full summary »
Ian Struan Dunross is chairman of Struan & Company, the oldest and largest of the British-East Asia trading companies. To the Chinese, that also makes him "Tai-Pan" ("supreme leader") of the "Noble House". Unfortunately, with his power, he inherits ancient promises, dark secrets, and deep financial problems on a small island full of people, who want to see Struan fall, so they can become the Noble House. Dunross' worst enemy is the vicious Quillan Gornt, a lesser tai-pan, and he's doing everything in his power to bring the Noble House to ruin. Drawn into the fight between Gornt and Dunross, is an upstart American billionaire, who tries to gain a foothold on the Hong Kong market, and has made a deal to steal something that will give him power, even over the Noble House. Unfortunately, that something has fallen into the hands of a powerful Chinese overlord. "Everybody was watching (and cheating on) everybody." Who will succeed in the end? Written by
Harald Mayr <email@example.com> and Phoenix Roberts
Struan & Company was inspired partly by real-life, as it was modelled after Hong Kong-based trading company Jardine-Matheson. In a nod to this, the exterior shots of the Struan & Company building, is that of Jardine House, the headquarters of Jardine-Matheson. See more »
[reading from the legacy of company founder, Dirk Struan, in the family Bible]
"To whomsoever gives me the other half of any of these coins, I will grant one favor."
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Produced and aired at the end of the 1980s, Noble House would be one of
the last in a line of lengthy and epic miniseries. Based on James
Clavell's thousand plus page novel (and move forward two decades in
time to the then present day), Noble House features a wealth of
location filming, dozens of characters and multiple plot lines across
four parts and more than six hours of screen time. So how does it hold
up a quarter of a century later?
The performances hold up well. Pierce Brosnan is fascinating as Ian
Dunross, Tai-Pan of the Hong Kong company Struan's, the Noble House of
the title. Brosnan is convincing as the man in charge of a 150 year old
company who struggles to deal not just with the crises of today but
with the weight of legacy of the Noble House upon his shoulders as
well. While Dunross is not above perhaps less than savory at times,
Brosnan nevertheless makes clear that is a likable man with a strong
sense of honor and duty no matter the cost. It is Brosnan as Dunross
that ultimately ties in the various diverse plots together and, if his
performance was anything less than what it is, I'm not sure Noble House
would work as well as it does.
Moving on from Brosnan, there's a strong cast behind him. There's John
Rhys-Davies as Quillan Gornt, the head of Struan's biggest rival and a
man who seems to live for nothing but bringing it down. There's Deborah
Raffin and Ben Masters as the heads of the American company Par-Con
whose motives and actions are questionable throughout the entire
miniseries. From there the cast of characters ranges from police
Superintendent Robert Armstrong (Gordon Jackson) to Struan employees
such as John Van Dreelen as Jacques DeVille, Michael Siberry as Linbar
Struan and fellow Hong Kong businessmen such as Damien Thomas as Lando
Mata. Rounding off the cast in two cameo roles are Denholm Elliott as
outgoing Tai-Pan Alastair Struan in the first part and John Houseman as
Hong Kong governor Sir Geoffrey Allison in the last part.
Where the cast, and indeed both the writing and the miniseries as a
whole, runs into trouble is with its native characters. The writing
(and as a result the performances) mean that they are often walking and
talking clichés, especially Khigh Dhiegh as Four Finger Wu and Tia
Carrere as Venus Poon as well as the less savory characters who figure
in its first half. Even characters such as Burt Kwouk's Phillip Chen,
the compradore of Struan's, fall into moments of cringe worthy dialogue
that undermine them considerably. Somehow it seems a shame that the
script couldn't treat these characters with the same respect, though
how much of that is down to the original source material I'm not sure.
Despite that problem, Noble House otherwise makes excellent use of Hong
Kong itself throughout. In fact the city and its surrounding areas
(including Macao) are as much as a player in events as Brosnan's
Dunross or anyone else. The large amount of location filming gives the
various story lines a strong sense of verisimilitude.
The miniseries is also blessed both with a large amount of screen time
and a script that makes the most use of it. Based on the massive novel
by James Clavell, Noble House makes the most use of its six plus hours
and four parts. There's everything from business dealings ranging from
a deal between the Noble House and Par-Con to Gornt's trying bankrupt
the Noble House, kidnapping, murder, romances, concerns over Hong
Kong's return to China (which was still a few years off when the
miniseries was made) and international intrigues as well. Behind all
that is the characters and how they change and develop (or don't) as
they face not just those events but disasters natural and man-made. As
a result there's much going on as there are not only multiple plot
lines but ones that intersect, often in the most unexpected ways.
Whatever else can be said then, this miniseries is definitely not
lacking in incident.
Across more than six hours, Noble House lays out a tale filled with
business dealings, murder, romance, intrigues and much more. It is
carried by its performances and a fascinating portrait of late 1980s
Hong Kong and the people who inhabit it (despite some clichéd writing
and performances). If nothing else, Noble House is a sprawling epic
that makes for fascinating viewing a quarter century on.
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