"The Crown" (Netflix)

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Donald Binks

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"The Crown" (Netflix)

PostMon Nov 07, 2016 3:01 pm

I didn't think that I would be lauding praise on another television production that could come to equal "Downton Abbey" - but here I am doing such a thing only a year or so later with "The Crown". (Currently streaming or available on "Netflix")

Series One of Ten Episodes is conveying the life of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II from the time she is to be wedded in 1947 to Lieutenant Phillip Mountbatten - through the death of her father, the beloved King George VI, - her accession to the throne - whilst she was in Kenya, - through the Peter Townsend affair with Princess Margaret Rose, through the killer London fog of 1952 and a swathe of other events.

In these first few episodes which I have seen, the other central character is the aging Prime Minister - Sir Winston Churchill, played by the usual comedic American actor, John Lithgow who one would have thought too lean and tall for the role.

The evidence that a great deal of money has been spent on producing “The Crown” is there in nearly every scene. Everything has had to be re-created or photographed elsewhere from the original, and in this they have been very clever. The casting too has been excellent. I didn’t know of Clare Foy previously but she plays the young Queen very convincingly. Of other particular mention would be Pip Torrens as Tommy Lascelles, the Queen’s Private Secretary, and Alex Jennings as David, Duke of Windsor. They both stand out as more than merely cardboard cut-outs. Then there is Dame Eileen Aitkins as Queen Mary and surprisingly Matt Smith as Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, they play convincingly too. But I am merely citing a few, whereas to be honest, everyone is very good – even John Lithgow who has managed to disguise his physical “defects” very well.

Whilst I daresay it would be impossible to cast a picture in a way such that everyone would look exactly like the people they are supposed to represent, there are a few in this series where a resemblance is there – even though not quite exact. In this I would mean that The Queen and Prince Phillip are fairly close approximations, even the child Prince of Wales has stick out ears. Also, Princess Margaret Rose and Lord Mountbatten take after the originals. It is somewhat unfortunate then that the fellow playing King George VI doesn’t look anything like him – which must mean that the playing of him would be all the harder. There is a lot of ground to cross in making the part convincing. (I think that to a measure they were able to overcome this barrier in “The King’s Speech).

This is of course a drama, from a script that has been thoroughly made-up – although perhaps some of the material may be real, based on letters, speeches and the like. It is hard though to take this into consideration as one views it all, as it seems so real. That is the beauty in the whole treatment. It is like watching living history. It is written well too, and there is no dumbing down of the language to suit those people who, I am afraid are in the majority these days; those not acquainted with the abundance of words in the English language. As an example, I was quite taken aback by how eloquent David, Duke of Windsor is portrayed. I had to go and look up a couple of words in the dictionary later.

Although a familiarity with some of the events associated with Britain’s Royal Family is a distinct advantage – there is certainly enough connection to world events to be able to follow the period. Also the script is written in a manner that enables one to follow everything as purely a family drama. Not that everything is spelled out, but clarity is certainly there.

The episodes are singularly distinguished by essaying a particular event and thus giving an in-depth analysis. In some of these our heart strings are tugged vigorously and those scenes leading up to the death of King George VI had me in tears – knowing as I did, what a courageous and dutiful man he was.

One learns a lot too. I had no idea that Queen Mary was a secret puffer. We also know that King George VI had odd moments when his temper got the better of him. Usually whilst he was pruning roses, but here we see him getting frustrated whilst dressing – or should I say being dressed. It takes two valets to get him into a shirt and he loses his cool whilst one of them is attaching his collar. Luckily he snaps out of it pretty quickly due to the presence of his equerry, Peter Townsend (who would later be linked romantically with Princess Margaret Rose) and the two of them engage in reciting some bawdy limericks. Another facet of the King I had not previously known.

There are some amusing moments - like the servant who is there to hold an ashtray whilst Prince Phillip enjoys a puff. In fact everyone in this is puffing away – which was the norm in them there days.

I think that it must be immensely difficult to re-create a period of time – to such a large extent, as has been achieved in this series. The 1950’s are virtually shouting at the viewer.

Apparently it is planned by the producers to follow the life of my Queen right to the present day through a succession of series. I shall be looking forward to it all with much relish if the standard of what I have seen so far is maintained.
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Donald Binks

"I was in love with a beautiful blonde one time. She led me to drink. It's the only thing I'm thankful to her for."
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Paul Penna

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Re: "The Crown" (Netflix)

PostMon Nov 07, 2016 8:55 pm

I just watched the first episode, encouraged by Donald Binks's review; I quite enjoyed it.

As for the George VI portrayal - I wasn't particularly predisposed to be off-put by the lack of resemblance, or by wondering whether the man himself behaved as depicted, but purely as a dramatic characterization of a man in that position and in those circumstances, I found Jared Harris's portrayal extremely moving. It was the standout performance of the piece, I think, even above that of John Lithgow as Churchill, as good as it was.

I could have done without the operation scenes being quite so graphic.

For the next comment I'm putting on my techno-geek hat; normal people may feel free to dismiss or roll their eyes as they may deem appropriate.

About the home movies. While I can understand the desire of the producers to convey the impression of home-movieness to a non-tech-savvy general audience, a 16mm Bolex like the one the King gave to Elizabeth would have produced film that, from a purely technical standpoint, would have been of professional quality, nothing like the flickering, light-fogged images presented. Some shots also showed brief, jerky usage of a zoom lens - theoretically possible, though the camera shown had a typical turret of fixed-focal length lenses. In what's presumably another bow to the common conception of old home movies, some color flares inexplicably flash in some portions of the otherwise black-and-white film. Finally, we have edges of sprocket holes visible.

Back in regular life, I'll definitely keep watching.
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TempleDrake

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Re: "The Crown" (Netflix)

PostThu Nov 10, 2016 8:04 pm

Donald Binks wrote:
Then there is Dame Eileen Aitkins as Queen Mary



I must check this series out, as I recently watched BERTIE & ELIZABETH (2002) on The Acorn Channel where Eileen Atkins also gave an excellent portrayal as Queen Mary.

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