Visit England and the English Through13 of My Favorite Films and Have a Movie Marathon!
To help you get in the spirit for a trip to England and the opportunity to hang out with the English, let me suggest you plan a movie marathon for a day when the weather suggests you plan a day or more at home. You might want to invite one or more friends to join you. Plan a buffet brunch, have munchables available so you don’t have to be interrupted to while watching the films and create food-intermissions to round out your virtual travels.
The films listed below all give you insights into places to visit, things to see, a sense of history, and some understanding of the psyche of the people. They are also listed in a timeline order that makes sense for viewing and include classics, historical docu-dramas, comedies, and films that are very different while delivering information on the destination and its people.
Go to our FORUMS and, at Ask Stephanie, post your feedback on any or all of the films and suggest others that should be included in an English Movie Marathon.
1. Classic 1939 film, “Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex,” with Bette Davis, Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland. Based on Maxwell Anderson’s play, this is a wonderful way to step into your English film history.
2. Released in 2004, “Vanity Fair,” with Reese Witherspoon opens in what is supposed to be Olde London Town but was actually shot in modern Bath, England. The story depicts England in the early 1800’s.
3.” The Young Victoria” (2009) explores the coming of age of the young Queen of England who became queen at the age of 18. Costumes, cuisine, customs, historic events, and her enduring love for and with Prince Albert are chronicled in this entertaining and informative film. Emily Blunt does an excellent job playing Victoria.
4. “W./E.” is currently in theaters. This marvelous film that was co-authored, directed and produced by Madonna and it is fantastic! It’s the story of Wallace Simpson, the twice div0rsed socialite from Baltimore, Maryland who became the paramour of Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David, who became King Edward VIII for 10 months and 21 days until he abdicated the throne to on December 11, 1936 in order to marry Wally Simpson. The film provides interesting shots of London and Paris and tells the story through parallels of the life of a young woman living today who was named Wallace, called Wally by friends, family and colleagues, and brings the story of Wallace Simpson to life. W./E. takes on the same format as the film, “Julia and Julia” where the story flashes between the lives of Julia Child and a young woman devotee trying to know Julia Child better through her first cookbook. This film is terrific! there are so many wonderful photographic shots, superb acting, and a story you’ll remember.
In W./E., you’ll see flashes of King Edward’s brother, Albert, and you’ll recognize him by his stammering. His speech challenges are the subject of the next film that provides insights into London and England in the film, “The King’s Speech. Note that while Edward was known to friends and family at David, Albert becomes King George VI and gives his brother, the dethroned King Edward VIII, the title of Duke of Windsor.
5.That brings us to “The King’s Speech” with Colin Firth playing King George VI who has inherited the throne from King Edward VIII and needs to get control of his stammering and stuttering in order to make the public speeches he needs to deliver on behalf of the British Empire to his people, and Geoffrey Rush, who plays Lionel Logue, the speech therapist who helps to improve his speech patterns and becomes a lifelong friend of the king. Great shots of London and its not-so-impressive neighborhoods as well as the areas of pomp. You’ll see glimpses of news reels as well as actresses playing the future Queen Mother of Queen Elizabeth II and her sister, Princess Margaret.
6. Checkout the 1989 film, “Shirley Valentine,” (consider its rating for language and nudity before showing to general audiences) one of my favorite films, about a middle-aged English woman who feels neglected and unwanted as well as overworked and bored taking care of her husband and children in their 20’s who anguishes over whether she should go on holiday with a friend who won a trip to Mykonos, Greece. You’ll get a chance to see neighborhoods and shopping areas in London and then spend the rest of the film with Shirley in Mykonos. A touching, funny, romantic comedy that I’ve seen dozens of times. You’ll get some insights into politics of being a student as well!
7. “Calendar Girls,” the 2003 film, is the true story of a group of women in the UK who tackle a fundraising project to buy comfortable seating in the waiting room at the hospital for family and friends who spend hours there when someone important to them is in hospital. (Note that I said, “in hospital” as they don’t say “in the hospital” over there. One of those little oddities of speech!). These typical churchgoing housewives find themselves making a pin-up style calendar which creates a series of challenges and funny situations as well as some embarrassing moments. But you’ll get to see places in the UK that most travelers don’t get to!
8. “The Queen” picks up the story of Elizabeth II as an adult and the Queen Mother, well along on the aging scale, at the time of Princess Diana’s death. You’ll see great shots of London, Buckingham Castle, various places around London, and the region around Balmoral Castle in Scotland. The story gives insights into the struggle of Prime Minister Tony Blair in his effort to alert the Royal Family to the need to be sensitive to how the people of the UK and the world perceive the reaction of the Queen to the death of Diana whom the Royal Family did not embrace.
9. “Notting Hill” was filmed in a variety of places around London and brings you into the lobby The Ritz Hotel and The Savoy as well as driving you through a variety of places in and around Londong. The bookstore with the blue door is located at 142 Portabello Road in Notting Hill. Aside from being a romantic comedy starring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts and a strong supporting cast whose characters are quite memorable, you’ll be treated to some interesting British customs including being treated to a game played at dinner to decide who gets the last of the for dessert brownies. Coming up with dinner table games is an oft-practiced British mode of entertainment at dinner parties.
10. Four Weddings and a Funeral: Great fun in the British countryside and in town as you become a guest at the events described in the title. Watch the scenery as well as the story!
11. Bridgit Jones’ Diary: You’ll get around London and into the countryside with this romantic romp with Renée Zellweger, Colin Firth and Hugh Grant. If you watch the British version of Antique Road Show you may identify the character that breaks up Bridgit’s parent’s marriage in this fictional romantic romp.
12: The Holiday: Through this Kate Winslet-Cameron Diaz film about two women tired of their environments and lives, you, too, can live through their decision to switch homes. Kate Winslet’s character heads for Los Angeles and Cameron Diaz heads for Godalming and Shere in Surry, England. My favorite scenes are those of Cameron Diaz walking down a country lane in Godalming where her taxi cannot or will not drive, dragging her luggage through the snow, to arrive at a wee cottage in the woods. This is quite the contrast to the contemporary modern California house forwhich Kate Winslet has swapped her English cottage.
13. “Made in Dagenham,” is based on the true story of the 1968 strike of the women in the machinist shop at the Ford Motor Company’s plant in Dagenham, England, where they sewed the interior seat covers and door panels for the cars produced by Ford in the UK. Their actions led to the Equal Pay Act of 1970 in the UK which had a domino effect worldwide in securing equal pay for equal work for women at Ford and other companies. In the film, Made in Dagenham, the composite character Rosie O’Grady, who apparently represents more than one person’s contribution, includes Rose Boland’s contribution. Rose Boland is credited as the woman who led a group of 8 women from the Dagenham plant to meet with Barbara Castle, the first female cabinet member in the UK and a staunch supporter of labor and of women, met with these women and was instrumental in getting them salaries on par with their male peers. In addition to trips to to London and around Dagenham, you’ll get to see other regions where the women of Dagenham go to rouse interest in their plight.
Remember to check the ratings on these films before inviting your children to join you as some of them, while note X rated, are not appropriate for young or prudish audiences. I, on the other hand, count these films among my favorites! Watch for lists of other films which bring the world to you and just may inspire you to take a trip to those places to experience them first hand! And on another note: Except for the stag that is bagged in Scotland in the film “The Queen,” (and maybe a bit of warfare in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex), I don’t think there is any shooting in these films so you can relax, and laugh, and visit the UK all at the same time!
Go make some popcorn and happy viewing!
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