The Forsyte Saga (1967– )
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A Family Festival 

In 1879 London, we are introduced to the rich upper middle class Forsyte family. The nominal head of the family is Jolyon Forsyte, the eldest of several brothers and sisters, referred to as... See full summary »



(novel), (adaptation) | 1 more credit »


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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Joseph O'Conor ...
Nora Nicholson ...
Nora Swinburne ...
Maggie Jones ...
Fanny Rowe ...
John Welsh ...
George Woodbridge ...
A.J. Brown ...
Kynaston Reeves ...
Susan Pennick ...
Lana Morris ...


In 1879 London, we are introduced to the rich upper middle class Forsyte family. The nominal head of the family is Jolyon Forsyte, the eldest of several brothers and sisters, referred to as 'Old' Jolyon to differentiate him from his son who is referred to as 'Young' Jolyon. Unlike his cousin Soames Forsyte, who is a solicitor and whose future seems assured, Young Jolyon is a painter and looked upon somewhat askance. He is married to Frances and has a daughter June, but is also having an affair with his daughter's German nanny, Helene Hilmer, who he would like to marry. Meanwhile, his cousin Winifred, Soames' sister, is to be married to Montague Dartie. Rumors and scuttlebutt about Young Jolyon abound, however. Written by garykmcd

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Plot Keywords:

year 1879 | year 1886 | See All (2) »






Release Date:

5 October 1969 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

A Family Festival - A Family Introduction
23 August 2015 | by (Cieszyn, Poland) – See all my reviews

Since all 26 episodes of the 'national obsession' (Cliff Michelmore) compared to CORONATION STREET by Stuart Hood stand on their own as clever plot frames with the development of the leading characters, the changing generations and appearances of many supporting characters, I would like to review each single episode separately and will feel privileged if I should manage to arouse your interest in my subjective analyses.

Dramatised by Donald Wilson and directed by David Giles, the first three episodes adapt Galsworthy's first novel, A MAN OF PROPERTY. They alter certain events and plots as a clever conceit to frame their plot and, indeed, the result is astonishing. Episode 1 titled 'A Family Festival' will soon make you either fully captivated by the series and its specific standards or it will make you indifferent to its stagy drama (the latter being rather a rare case). I don't mean to promote it artificially in any way saying how good the old adaptations were but I believe that everyone should decide to see all these episodes and judge for themselves whether it captivates them personally or not. It's a historic piece of TV production.

The London of 1879 is, perhaps, quite a predictable locale of the story. Yet, the unpredictable whereabouts and what-abouts of an upper middle class family, the Forsytes, seem to absorb us from the start with the engrossing charm and sentimentality of the Victorian period, their importance of social life, legal background so typical of the literary author and a versatile group of people. Right away we are introduced to the Forsytes by the most 'un-Forsyte like fellow,' the most identifiable and likable chap of them all, young Jolyon (Kenneth More) who retains certain distance to what is being said and done. All the members of the family appear at Bayswater Road, uncle Timothy's house (not at old Jolyon's as is the case of the novel). Nevertheless, it is not any festival yet but a simple encounter to 'reaffirm confidence in the stability of the family.' And for serves another purpose: a great family introduction.

Elderly aunts, including the eldest aunt Ann (Fay Compton) born in 1799 whose face Galsworthy describes as "personifying the rigid possessiveness of the family idea;" along with aunt Juley (Nora Nicholson) and aunt Hester (Nora Swinburne) are those ladies of delicious thrill and absorbing tickle tackles. Galsworthy refers to the fans each had in her hand highlighting their distinguished manners and elegance. Elderly uncles are, naturally, different and similar alike meaning more concentrated on the supreme quality of a Forsyte life, that is property. From among uncle Roger (A.J. Brown), the collector, uncle Timothy (John Baskcomb), uncle Swithin (George Woodbridge) with his "shaven, square face and the most dignified look" (Galsworthy), supposedly a 'devil with women four-in-hand' Forsyte, two of them appear to draw particular attention: Jolyon (Joseph O'Conor) and James (John Welsh). As much as there are huge differences between those two in many aspects which we, in time, discover; there are also incredible differences between their sons: young Jolyon (Kenneth More) and Soames (Eric Porter). But not yet is it time to let oneself be overwhelmed by their discrepancies. This much is so far noticeable: one is a man of art and feelings (which does not give much money, of course) who is not afraid to live openly, decently and lovingly with one woman (although she is not his wife), the other one is a 'man of property' dedicated to the established order, a legal mind so memorably depicted in the scene with Mr and Mrs Lomax.

'A Family Festival,' however, appears to highlight a crucial aspect. It depicts two couples in love. First, these are Winifred (Margaret Tyzack), Soames' sister and Monty Dartie (Terence Alexander) getting married (the title festival-wedding, the episode's social event). Second, these are our protagonist of the part, Jolyon Forsyte (I will refer to him as Jo) and his mistress, an Austrian nanny of his daughter June, Helene Hilmer (Lana Morris).

Although both couples have this one thing in common: they are in love, they are, nevertheless, perceived in a totally different way by the members of the family. And these reactions seem to inspire the superior spices to the whole plot, especially because, from a Forsyte point of view, we see Winifred as 'conventional' in her decision (though there are doubts if they are a suitable match) and Jo, an even greater 'exception' from the rule, as an 'outcast, traitor to his class.' While Winifred and Dartie may prompt doubt whether they are a suitable match or not, Jolyon and Helene constitute a real 'scandal' to be kept in secret for the time being... In one little but immensely important scene of anticipation, Winifred is preparing for the wedding and a French Madame Debrie (Anna Korwin) tells her about marriage and its success or failure depending on whom one marries. In another scene, Jo confronts his wife Frances (Ursula Howells) and tells her he is not going to join them for the 'family festival.' He refers to her as seemingly 'the most typical of the Forsytes.' Is she? In what way? That is yet to come...

The first episode, as it revolves around social meetings, sets the tone for the remaining episodes, that is a very skillful pace and curiosity of single plots. I especially enjoyed the scenes of elderly ladies where Fay Compton as aunt Ann delivers a purely straightforward manner of dealing with people and gossips and other ladies become more likable with their 'little drawbacks' (especially aunt Juley). Old Jolyon with his appetite for tea appears to us as a true gentleman of the Victorian time and easily likable. Austrian motive with Johann Strauss BLUE DANUBE waltz being played in the background of 'family festival.'

In spite of everything, these are Jo and Helene who close the episode, close it with a promising yet a difficult note. Will they truly cause a 'family scandal?'

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