DOWNTON ABBEY – Review by Susan Granger

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If you’re an avid fan of PBS’ dramatic series Downton Abbey, you’ll relish this big-screen version. If you aren’t, you’ll probably wonder who these people are and why the audience adores them.

Conceived by Julian Fellowes, the 52-episode TV series spanned a 14 year period from 1912 to 1926, set in the titular 300-room British country house (Highclere Castle) that was magnificently landscaped in the 18th century by Capability Brown.

It’s now a year later in the home of aristocratic Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville), his American heiress wife Cora (Elizabeth McGovern), their eldest daughter Mary (Michelle Dockery), her beleaguered sister Edith (Laura Carmichael), and their Irish Republican, widowed brother-in-law Tom Branson (Allen Leech).

The extended Crawley family includes the acerbic Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) and her equally tart nemesis, Isobel Merton (Penelope Wilton).

They’re tended by a battalion of devoted servants: recently retired Head Butler Carson (Jim Carter), new Head Butler Barrow (Robert James-Collier), Ladies’ Maid Anna (Joanne Froggatt), Valet Bates (Brendan Coyle) Housekeeper Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan), Footman Molesley (Kevin Doyle), Cook Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) and her assistant Daisy (Sophie McShera), among others.

Everyone’s a-twitter when the Royal Mail arrives, announcing that King George V and Queen Mary (grandparents of Elizabeth II) will arrive for an overnight visit, involving a luncheon, parade and formal dinner.

Traveling with them to Yorkshire are Lord Grantham’s estranged cousin, enigmatic Lady Maud Bagshaw (Imelda Staunton), and her devoted maid, Lucy (Tuppence Middleton), inciting an inheritance battle.

Working with screenwriter Julian Fellowes, director Michael Engler manages to give everyone his/her own mini-crisis and catharsis, involving proper manners and utmost civility, drawing on the trials and tribulations of England’s inherent class system, which exists despite anti-monarchist grumbles.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, Downton Abbey is an elegant, endearing 8, totally satisfying for those who have embraced this charming cast of characters.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.