Set during the years between the "Rebecca" trial and the writing of Du Maurier's short story "The Birds", including her relationship with her husband Frederick 'Boy' Browning, and her ... See full summary »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
...
Ellen Doubleday
...
...
Tommy Browning
...
Nelson Doubleday
...
Elliott Naylor ...
Kits (as Elliot Naylor)
Meg Dixon ...
Flavia
...
Dickie
Nicholas Murchie ...
New York Prosecutor
Felicity Montagu ...
Director, 'September Tide'
Jay Taylor ...
Evan Davies - Actor, 'September Tide'
Coral Beed ...
Actress, 'September Tide'
Jenny Howe ...
Tod
Natalie Best ...
Maid
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Storyline

Set during the years between the "Rebecca" trial and the writing of Du Maurier's short story "The Birds", including her relationship with her husband Frederick 'Boy' Browning, and her largely unrequited infatuations with American publishing tycoon's wife Ellen Doubleday and the actress Gertrude Lawrence. Written by Anonymous

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12 May 2007 (UK)  »

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Hollywood Epic
(uncredited)
Music by Jack Beaver
KPM Music
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User Reviews

 
Bodices survive unripp'd
25 July 2012 | by (New Zealand) – See all my reviews

Contrary to what you may have heard, the world is becoming a better place, more understanding, more tolerant. The first thing that an inhabitant of this blessed year 2012 notices about the BBC dramatisation "Daphne" is that it appears to be happening on some other planet. A planet where the very word that begins with L can be "hateful". And yet actress Gertrude Lawrence died only 60 years ago. What if we learned that a popular author of romantic fiction was bisexual? - these days it would be no big deal. It might even explain how she could write so sensitively about "lurv". But AD 1950 puts us back in the Age of Sapphoparanoia (all right, I made that word up). Shock, horror, the old rules might not work any more! The rule went like this: if you could keep your young women (daughters, sisters, wives) separated from the males of the species, their virtue might be preserved, their hormones kept in check. But what if the "predatory seducer" should turn out to be another female? All the elaborate machinery for the segregation of sex would be undermined! Daphne (1907-89) was such a successful author that she was made a Dame of the British Empire. A marvellous book, "Historica's Women" explains: "Early in her writing career, Daphne du Maurier discovered that a large segment of the reading public still yearned for 'old fashioned' stories that featured love and adventure, a touch of danger, a hint of sexual tension, and perhaps an encounter with the paranormal." Geraldine Somerville works hard at the role of Daphne, trying to be a proper wife and mother, humiliated by intrusive and embarrassing questions in the "Rebecca plagiarism" court case, torn between the need to suppress and the need to express her aching, problematic love. Daphne's husband "Tommy" is rather cruelly portrayed by Andrew Havill as that familiar cliché, the ineffectual English gent of yesteryear. In real life "Tommy" was Sir Frederick "Boy" Browning, a distinguished military leader and war hero (article in Wikipedia). It's a slander to represent him as a mushy wimp - his nervous breakdown did not occur until 1957, five years after the action of "Daphne". Janet McTeer has fun as the exuberant and uninhibited Gertrude Lawrence, and Elizabeth McGovern has to be ambiguous and nuanced as Ellen Doubleday, wife of the American publisher.

Daphne du Maurier always left a smidgen of mystery in her stories -what exactly happened? - what really happened? What were people's real motives? Were the good characters quite as good as they seemed to be, and the bad characters quite as bad? Her fans felt that she treated them as if they were sophisticated and intelligent readers - but only just sophisticated and intelligent enough to understand her stories. Hitchcock valued this whiff of the unexplained and turned two of her narratives into great movies, "Rebecca" and "The Birds". This biopic "Daphne" attempts a similar "conundrum" approach, but it's not entirely successful. Soft-edged hints crowd out clarity. We're never quite sure, while watching "Daphne", whether we should be paying more attention to the subtleties, or whether some of these "subtleties" are in fact short on content. One suspects that Daphne herself, the author of "My Cousin Rachel", would have done a better job of writing this script, with rather less messing about.

So is "Daphne" a chick flick? It tries very hard not to be, but inevitably the microscopic examination of facial expressions (does she like me, or does she desire me?) is not going to appeal to many guys. It's an honest attempt to recover a bygone age, when fear and bewilderment clustered around bisexuality, in that limbo land on the far side of Beauvoir (English translation 1953) and Greer (1970). But delicacy and pathos are poised dangerously close to the edge of vacuity. The psychological complexity is nicely done, but you can't help feeling, and hoping, that the real Daphne du Maurier was of a personality and character more robust.


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