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Wednesday, May 14

CRANFORD: Male Cast Highlights Episode Two

Cranford continues ...

Episode two of the PBS presentation of Cranford aired last Sunday and I am happy to say that the story is building, and does not disappoint. Romance is in the air, and also some mischief! The charming spinsters and ladies of Cranford continue to dominate the story, but the men of Cranford hold their own. Here are some of my favorite male performances of episode two.

Mr. Edmund Carter (Philip Glenister) is Lady Ludlow’s progressive land agent of Hanbury Court who upsets the anachronistic order of her ladyship’s household by mentoring young Harry Gregson (Alex Etel) as his clerk. The opposition of their views on social order puts Lady Ludlow (Francesca Annis) and Mr. Carter at odds with each other over his choice to educate Harry and elevate his position from pauper and poacher to educated clerk. Philip Glenister shines as Mr. Carter, whose strict and gruff exterior earns the respect of young Harry, and our hearts.

Elizabeth Gaskell created a plum character for Mr. Glenister to portray who is caught between the transitions in England from an agricultural to industrial nation. I was touched by the bit in the story about Mr. Carter’s reaction to his financial windfall from his investment in a cloth mill which has made him a handsome fortune until he realizes the human cost in labor and misery that was expended to earn his profit and sells out. He is a man of principle.

UK viewers will recognize Philip Glenister from his role as Detective Chief Inspector Gene Hunt on BBC One’s Sci-Fi police drama Life on Mars which has been picked up by ABC for the upcoming fall season. I have not seen the series, but its spin-off Ashes to Ashes received raves from AustenBlog editrix Mags, who follows the Brit television scene closely and is quite a discriminating viewer! The one film that I have seen Philip in was Calendar Girls with Helen Mirren, Linda Basset (Mrs. Jennings in Sense and Sensibility 2008), and Cirian Hinds (Captain Wenworth in Persuasion 1995). You can read more about Philip at his web site.

Mr. Thomas Holbrook, (Michael Gambon), resurfaces as a previous suitor of Matty Jenkyns (Judi Dench), and the possibility of a renewed romance is intriguing. Elizabeth Gaskell really knows how to tug at our heartstrings when after the sudden death of Matty’s sister Deborah (Eileen Atkins), she introduces the charming and prosperous yeoman farmer back into Matty’s life. Perfect timing since the family opposition that had squelched the budding romance 30 years ago has all passed away. Michael Gambon is the perfect distinguished elder gentleman to court our genteel heroine Miss Matty, and he charms her with primroses and promising letters before he departs on a trip to Paris. When tragedy visits Cranford yet again, and Mr. Holbrook succumbs to pneumonia after his return, I did not expect so much misery to visit such a delightful village as Cranford. It was a low point for the community and for me.

Sir Michael Gambon has had a long and distinguished acting career. Recently he was seen as Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2008), Gosford Park (2001) with Jeremy Northam (Mr. Knightley in Emma 1996), Sophie Thompson (Miss Bates, Emma 1996) & (Mary Musgrove in Persuasion 1995), and Wives and Daughters (1999) with Barbara Leigh-Hunt (Lady Catherine de Bourgh in Pride and Prejudice 1995), Rosumund Pike (Jane Bennet in Pride and Prejudice 2005), and Lucy Briers (Charlotte Lucas in Pride and Prejudice 1995). His next project will be Brideshead Revisted with Emma Thompson (Elinor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility 1995) and Hayley Atwell (Mary Crawford in Mansfield Park 2007) due out July 2008. You can read more about Michael Gambon here.

Dr. Jack Marshland (Joseph McFadden) arrives in Cranford for a holiday visit by invitation of his colleague Dr. Frank Harrison (Simon Woods), and observes romance in the air for his friend with the young Sophy Hutton (Kimberley Nixon). The spinster ladies of Cranford are charmed to have a new single man included in their festivities, but Dr. Marshland prefers pranks for his entertainment, and his actions set in motion the future humiliation and torment of the community and his friend. Joseph McFadden has one of those lively faces with a captivating smile that just lights up a room. You want to trust him immediately, and that is the deception, because though he is well meaning, his sense of humor can embarrass and ridicule without malice.
Joseph McFadden’s popular television career has been steadily peppered with UK drama and comedy including the staring role in The Crow Road (1996) and Heartbeat (2008). He is an accomplished singer with a fine tenor voice which we had the pleasure of enjoying during the Christmas Eve party celebration in episode two of Cranford. Mr. McFadden wears Victorian garb and Dickensonian charm smartly and would make a fine Herbert Pocket in Great Expectations, which is due for a re-make if any producers are paying attention! (As if!) You can read more about Joseph McFadden here.

Don’t miss the conclusion of Cranford on Sunday, May 18th, at 9:00 pm when episode three airs on Masterpiece Classic. Don’t fret gentle readers. Like Dickens, Gaskell gives us a nice moralistic ending with a nice surprise! You can read the synopsis here (spoilers).

Posted by Laurel Ann, Austenprose


Laura said...

I love Philip Glenister. I justed watched him as Dobbin in the 1999 Vanity Fair.

Mags said...

I adore Phil Glenister and have for ages, since I first saw him as Dobbin in Vanity Fair, and then as Hobbs in the second Hornblower series. I took a lot of abuse in the Horatian fandom for my fangirling until Life on Mars came out. Then they ALL GOT IT. ha ha! Ashes to Ashes is a sequel to Life on Mars and is just spectacularly good. (One episode has Matthew Macfadyen, Mr. Darcy as was, sitting in a bathtub full of baked beans. If that's not worth the price of admission I don't know what.)

And of course Phil is wonderful in Cranford, isn't he? Just wait till next week. Get the tissues ready. I read the book(s) and still went through half a box. I haven't bawled so much over a movie since I saw Brian's Song when I was 12.

Scarlett 423 said...

Nice to hear praise for Joe Mcfadden, a great actor we will no doubt see much more of in years to come. The character of Dr Jack was adorable and so well portrayed, impish but not malevolant. IMO he is wated in Heartbeat (nothing against it and he has managed to give personality and charm where his predecessors failed. The BBC pride themselves on their period pieces so please do keep up the good work and next time Joe should be the starring role !

Rosie said...

I agree with Scarlett...Joe McFadden is so under-rated, and yet he's been the lynch pin in some excellent dramas. Despite the fact that his role in Cranford was very small, he still made it so that Dr Marshland was remembered.