Nancy Mitford's two delightful novels, 'The Pursuit of Love' and 'Love in a Cold Climate' were beautifully if rather slowly realised in 6 x 50 minutes episodes by Thames Television 20 years ago in a production so vivid that much from it still lingers in my memory. Much funnier and much less pretentious than 'Brideshead Revisited' it no doubt did for respect of the aristocracy what Jack the Ripper did for blind dates, but it was a great romp nonetheless.
This time round the BBC has covered the same ground in 150 minutes. It is another beautiful production but I was left with the distinct feeling the fast forward button was on. The novelist Deborah Moggach was responsible for the script. Some things still come across well - Linda's relationship with her French lover Fabrice is well portrayed and the return of the Bolter for instance is a highlight, but the Cedric character and his relationship with the Montdores is truncated and that classic neurasthenic Davey Warbeck so sympathetically played by Michael Williams in the 1980 version has disappeared altogether. John Woods's Merlin is very good though and Anthony Andrews (who starred as the doomed Sebastian in 'Brideshead') is excellent as the feckless bounder Boy Dugdale. Alan Bates as Uncle Matt is rather more menacing than Michael Aldridge's delightfully dotty 1980 version (I guess we can't have our fascists too lovable anymore) and some of the comedy is lost thereby. Elisabeth Dermot-Walsh is lovely as the love-struck Linda but Megan Dodds as Polly is strangely hollow.
The stately homes are well cast as usual the Mitfords may have been aristocratic backwoodspersons, but they lived in a very nice part of Oxfordshire and location shooting is used to good effect. However, it seems that current TV production costs mean that a novel adapted for TV can never be more than severely edited highlights (no-one would do 'Brideshead' in 13 x 50 minute episodes today). This being the case, there's only one thing for it read the book!
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