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The Secret Life of Mrs. Beeton (2006)

In 19th century Victorian England, Mrs. Isabella Beeton produced what became an essential book for housewives of the day. She was married at a relatively young age to Sam Beeton, a ... See full summary »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Sam Beeton
Henry Dorling
Elizabeth Dorling
Siobhan Hayes ...
Anne - the Maid
Fred Greenwood
Liz Kettle ...
John Albasiny ...
M. Goubard
Pierre Becker ...
French Assistant
Blonde Woman
Tim Preece ...
Dr. Ramsey
Philip Anthony ...
Dr. Oliver
Dr. Winchester
Maureen Bennett ...


In 19th century Victorian England, Mrs. Isabella Beeton produced what became an essential book for housewives of the day. She was married at a relatively young age to Sam Beeton, a publisher of books and magazines on a variety of subjects. Not someone to sit at home in the traditional role of a housewife, Mrs. Beeton started work in her husband's business, initially as an editor correcting English but then writing some of the columns herself. It as at this point that she developed an idea for a cookbook and Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management was born. Her life was not an easy one however. The publishing business went bankrupt, she lost two children at a young age and had several miscarriages. She died at the age of 28. Written by garykmcd

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16 October 2006 (UK)  »

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A quite entertaining account even if the modern and light approach does rather take away from the impact of the tragedy
10 March 2007 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

At age 28 it is time for the funeral of Isabella Beeton (nee Mayson). Leaving behind her husband and small group of friends, Isabella takes the opportunity to look back at her life, commencing the story with her first adult meeting with publisher (and future husband) Samuel, the trials of her children, the publishing of her famous book of household management and, full circle, her death from puerperal fever.

I'm not sure why I taped this film, because "Mrs Beeton's" life was so secret to me that I had never heard about her or her famous cookery book. So I did a little bit of reading before watching it and came into the film with a slim sliver of knowledge to see where it would go. I assume that the makers knew that at most, a large portion of viewers would only know of Beeton for her book and not her life. So to help make it accessible the film is delivered to-camera and with a lively sense of pace and humour. This helped me to get into it and be engaged by the characters but I must confess that it did rather affect how convinced I was by the sense of place and period. The modern delivery did make it all feel quite modern and, although I accept it made it accessible, it did come at a price.

Luckily the price is worth paying simply because it was quite interesting and light. Madeley's key role is light and likable. As with the delivery of the film, her performance is mostly light and friendly which does work in helping us like the character. She deals very well with the individual tragic moments but her character didn't really change to the degree one would expect, which again was a slight weakness to it. Feild is similar in this regard and his light, bawdy husband is all a bit too "new man" for my liking; makes it easy to watch but perhaps has a wider impact on the film. The support cast mostly fit around these two well. Jones directs and continues the modern fell with his camera work, although the sets and costumes mostly do a good job of giving an understanding of "when" we are.

Overall then a light and accessible film that is interesting and quite entertaining. It probably does at least help to know who Mrs Beeton was (if only in terms of her book) but is still worth a look. One thing though, is that the light and slightly cheery tone doesn't ultimately sit well alongside the rather tragic and sad content of the story. The mix doesn't quite work unfortunately but the film is still pretty good.

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