Was Sir Donald reprising his performance as Sergeant Buzfuz?
I wish more details were given about this British television show. I don't think any episodes of LILI PALMER THEATRE ever appeared on American television, but it sounds like it was promising. Did the fair Ms Palmer appears as Mrs. Bardell? It's a good question.
For those who have not read PICKWICK PAPERS or seen the movie starring James Hayter as Samuel Pickwick, I have to explain what exactly is the subject of this particular play-let. In the novel PICKWICK PAPERS, for the first time in his literary career Dickens made social comments about defects in the law. He had been a law case reporter for the newspapers, and had seen things that most people would not believe concerning procedure and decorum in court, and the results of losing criminal charges (his father's stays in debtor's prison remained a permanent stain in Charles Dickens' memory). Here it is more comical than in later novels (like the death sentence against Fagin in OLIVER TWIST). Mr. Pickwick rents rooms from a widow, Mrs. Bardell. Mrs. Bardell would not mind if the wealthy bachelor Mr. Pickwick would be her second husband. On an odd night, she manages to get him to make an accidental comment to her that could be considered a proposal of marriage. She conveniently faints in his arms, and just then his three friends (Mr. Tracy Tupman, Mr. Augustus Snodgrass, and Mr. Nathaniel Winkle) enter his rooms, shown in by her son. The boy, seeing his momma in the arms of the befuddled and confused Pickwick, starts kicking him.
As Pickwick never assumed he proposed to anyone, he is surprised to get a legal writ that says he is being sued for breach of promise of marriage to Mrs. Bardell. He confronts her shady (but clever) solicitors - Dodgson and Fogg, Esqs. - and says he will fight these charges. He does not know how good (as solicitors) those gentlemen are. They hire England's premier barrister, Sergeant Buzfuz, to make mincemeat of Mr. Pickwick and his friends. Buzfuz does so.
Now in the movie version, Buzfuz was Sir Donald Wolfit, and for once his tendency toward grandiose, old style overacting actually fit. Buzfuz is overly dramatic. If one reads the chapters of the trial in PICKWICK PAPERS, one comes away with the idea that Mr. Pickwick's instructions to Mrs. Bardell to have "chops and tamata sauce" were not so innocent, but an invitation to sexual misconduct that Caligula and Nero would have been shocked at. It is one of the funniest chapters from an English speaking novel ever written.
Wolfit only popped up for a few minutes in the movie version - but long enough to show the bullying, histrionic Buzfuz at his most effective and intimidating (Tupman, Snodgrass, and Winkle are all in total confusion from his antics).
My question is whether Sir Donald was approached to play the Sergeant again, but this time doing the full trial as Dickens has it (rather than two minutes of the film. If so, and if Sir Donald was as good this time as he was in the film, then this was probably worth watching. It would be nice to know who the rest of the cast was - and whether Lili Palmer played Mrs. Bardell (who was more like Hermoine Baddeley or her sister Angela). I can't think of any other character in the novel she could have portrayed, and only Mrs. Bardell is important as a female character in the trial sequence. It would be nice if someone who saw the show could tell us more about what it was actually like.
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