5/16/11

MARGARET RUTHERFORD AND "THE STATELY GHOSTS OF ENGLAND"



I have more--much more--to say about George Stevens, my favorite major Hollywood filmmaker of yore. And I'll get to some of it. But I was put off from continuing the series based on the sudden unavailability of youtube clips of "Shane" and the undeservedly obscure "Something To Live For" (both had been posted in complete versions until literally moments before I began writing about Stevens--or so it seems)...and, to be honest, the constant snorts of derision about Stevens work began to become tiresome to me. As a filmmaker, I am less interested in arguing movies with others than many buffs might be. To me films are dreams and you either have them or don't. But the steady stream of negativity I encountered when discussing Stevens depressed me and without the necessary clips to prove my case I found myself developing a massive case of blog avoidance-the very thing that led me to abandon my beloved on-line magazine this past Xmas to begin with.

I hope that in the future the poor schlub trying to convince readers that my work is worth reconsideration (readers? Who knows what they'll be at that awful point in the E-Future) is more energetic and less easily discouraged than I am. I have more to say about George Stevens and will soon do so. Meanwhile:

Behold Margaret Rutherford, beloved dotty English actress famous initially for her marvelous turn in David Lean's film of Noel Coward's "Blithe Spirit" (or really Noel Coward and David Lean's film of Noel Coward's "Blithe Spirit", a David Lean Joint), and later famous for her peerless characterization of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple. Rutherford, embraced by the English as a delightfully harmless stereotype and adored by the world as the great English Auntie we all secretly wanted to be offered our first nip of Bushmills by, was an UK institution and her life intersected with mine (well, with my family's more accurately) in 1964. That's the year that my father, Frank De Felitta, was commissioned by his then employer NBC news with creating a one hour television documentary special based on Diane Norman's book "The Stately Ghosts Of England", a look at several great English Manor houses renowned for their history, their beauty and their ghosts. Dame Margaret was the program's host, along with "society clarivoyant" Tom Corbett (now isn't that a job title to aspire to?) and MR's husband/producer/manager/valet/slave Stringer Davis (now isn't that a name-for-an-English-fellow to aspire to?) The film was shot in England shortly after my birth--hence my memories of the on-set shenannigans are a bit thin. But for many years after its completion, my father would show the film to my grade-school classes each Halloween and the kids really dug it. Which says something about kids in 1974 versus kids in 2011 I would imagine.

If you are not (or are only vaguely) familiar with Dame Margaret, take one minute and fifty-three seconds and check out this charming little tribute reel. But don't stop there...



Now move onto the first two parts of the delightful "Stately Ghosts of England", made a in then-new "living color" (dig the opening promo) and broadcast on the Peacock network on January 25, 1965. I defy you not to be enchanted and to want to swallow the whole delicious one-hour dish in one big gulp. In which case go to my youtube channel and...you know the drill...





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1 comment:

  1. This is fascinating...how wonderful to have a father who created a show like this! A few days ago I wrote a post about The Stately Ghosts of England on Silver Scenes ( http://silverscenesblog.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-stately-ghosts-of-england-1965.html )and got to thinking about which was the first show to seriously give the audience a tour of a haunted house. Was The Stately Ghosts of England one of the first? Did your dad ever mention how the idea came about? Was he the producer of the special? I can just imagine how fun it was for those school kids to see this show before Halloween.

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