The House of Eliott –Fashion Haute Couture

House of Eliott

House of Eliott

This BBC television series broadcast between 1991 and 1994 is a sleeper, dramatizing feminism immediately after the First World War. A consistent theme throughout “The House of Eliott” is the struggle of women in the 1920s to live fulfilling and independent lives. Created by Jean Marsh and Eileen Atkins, who had previously devised “Upstairs, Downstairs,” this is a period drama focused on the same era as “Downton Abbey”.

Two sisters, Evangeline and Beatrice Eliott establish a fashion house designing haute couture after they are forced to be on their own by the sudden death of their father. Left almost destitute and without any education, the sisters are forced to sell the family home. Refusing to accept the extremely low wages paid by prominent fashion houses, they decide to establish their own business at a time when women were not allowed control their own finances, when women could not obtain bank loans, and when working was considered an oddity and a scandal, except for the poor. On the cusp of the women’s suffrage movement, Bea and Evangeline have to carve out their own destiny in a man’s world of fashion.

“The House of Eliott” charts the two young women’s struggle to assert their newly discovered independence and establish a successful fashion house as well as confront those who try to interfere with their business plans. The sisters’ personal and professional breakthroughs are aided by a fun-loving photographer, Jack Maddox, who encourages them at the same time he pampers the vanity of the wealthy women who become the Eliott sisters’ customers.

This is an entertaining BBC series, but the paced is slow as is common in the nineties. Marsh and Atkins have written endearing and intriguing characters. The clothing– beautiful yet controversial in design– could almost be considered a stand-in for the freedom and independence of women.   As the clothes become more comfortable and less confining so do the Eliott sisters.  Fans of “Downton Abbey” will be in for a treat with “The House of Eliott”.



Posted in movie reviews, Television reviews | Tagged , , , | 2 Replies

2 comments on “The House of Eliott –Fashion Haute Couture

  1. Wow, talk about a sleeper. I LOVED this series when it aired in the ’90s.
    I have thought about it a lot since and gave up looking for a “rerun” on public television and/or BBC.
    These young women’s struggle just to make a living for themselves was enlightening to me at that time. The clothing was remarkable. The different
    “casts” of people was also apparent for the times that always is interesting in this “day and age.”
    I am now anxious to find the House of Eliot and view it again.

  2. Like Susie, I also saw this series and have told others about it. Diana, I’m so glad that you are bringing attention to the series. The evolution of the sisters in their personal lives, relationships and style is worth watching. And the clothing is fabulous.

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“Will you be called Grandma, Granny, Grandpa, Gramps, Granddad, Papa or Nana?”

Grandparents MonthFor all of you who remember your grandparents fondly, are grandparents yourself, or look forward to being a grandparent in the future, this guest post is to celebrate Grandparents Day (September 13) and Grandparents Month (September).

Guest blogger, Jane Hanser, author of Dogs Don’t Look Both Ways {Abbreviated from the original with the author’s permission]

It’s an exciting time when the first grandchild appears in this world and the family negotiates which grandparent will carry which name. With divorce and remarriage there can be three or more sets of grandparents! And that makes the naming game even more of a challenge! The proportion of grandparents raising the children of their children is on the rise, too. These grandparents, who have needs of their own, step in to raise their grandchildren usually under difficult circumstances and with little preparation or warning.

My mother’s mother was the only grandparent I knew, the only grandparent who was alive in my lifetime. I remember the smell of her fresh sausage, and her snoring when, at a young age, I shared my bed with her when she stayed overnight. But Granny didn’t reach out much to me. I would have loved it if she had. But that wasn’t her.

Ida, my paternal grandmother, is the one I feel the deepest connection to. But that didn’t happen until well into my adulthood. I sought out her grave, and discovered her given name wasn’t Ida at all! Her European name Chana Henye bore testimony to both Hebrew and Yiddish roots, but was replaced upon reaching the New World. Ida, in casting off her old world name, may have been trying to create something new while I, in reaching back to her generation, am trying to grasp, understand, and hold on to the beautiful things about my ancestors, their lives, personalities and values I tried for years to locate even one photo of her. The closest I came was a photo of her sister as a young married woman and which I have prominently displayed in my office.

Not all grandparents revel in their grandkids. My husband remembers his maternal grandfather saying to him and his brother, “Wassa matter mit you”? and yell or turn away. I, Nana, however, am waiting eagerly for the first time we’ll be called upon to babysit our three grandkids. We don’t expect we will have them in their beds quite at their regular bedtime, we don’t even promise that they’ll fall asleep before we do! But we do promise that it’ll be a night to remember!

Posted in Lifestyle | Tagged , | 5 Replies

5 comments on ““Will you be called Grandma, Granny, Grandpa, Gramps, Granddad, Papa or Nana?”

  1. Lovely story, Jane. You help us remember our own grandparents. I think the role is evolving. I know my mother thought she had the role of teacher with my children. Meanwhile, they just wanted someone who loved them. I hope I am more of the grandparent that my children wanted when they were young.

    • Matilda,
      (Sorry for the delay in responding to your comment.) I’m glad my piece played a part in your remembering your grandparents. Many grandparents do more, but Yes! Bottom line is the grandchildren just want somebody who will love them. My expectation is that your grandchildren will be quite fulfilled with you in your capacity as grandparent!

  2. Fascinating where our memories take us, isn’t it? Let’s not forget that some of us are ‘Invisible Grandparents’ and have no in-person inter-generational time to pass on our values and memories, or even imagine what we’d be called. I am such a grandma and wrote a book about how I healed from these circumstances beyond my control. I set up two websites where invisible, alienated or estranged grandpareents can share their stories inspired by my columns in … check out Thanks and blessing on your grandparenting times!

    • Pat,
      Yes, memories, or having to piece together our sense of who our missing, and missed, relative(s) were.

      Yes it’s painful when we are prevented from seeing a grandchild (or any other relative, a niece, nephew, even a parent). But eventually your grandchildren will grow up and no longer be minors. Without getting into my own personal experience on this matter, which is considerable, I believe that you must be patient and understanding and allow your grandchildren the time they require to grow up. Eventually they will want to construct their own understanding of reality and they will want to – and will be able to – make their own connections.

  3. Pingback: It's Grandparents Month: Memoir Writers Take Note — Memoir Writing Blog

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“Southpaw”—Left-handed Compliment

SouthpawThe boxing movie genre—Raging Bull, Rocky, Million Dollar Baby, The Fighter (see July 11, 2011 review)—is commonly tackled in movies because of its inherent drama and overt conflict between the protagonist, a down-and-out boxer and a champion. “Southpaw” neatly fits into this mold, but the story has some interesting surprises, not just a re-tread of previous boxing blockbusters.

Of course, it is a story about how life knocks you down—literally—only to force the protagonist back onto his or her feet. Through Antoine Fuqua’s sensitive direction, excellent dialogue and performances, “Southpaw” transcends the stereotypes and clichés. The roles of the wife (a stellar supporting role by Rachel McAdams) and his young daughter, Leila (newcomer Oona Laurence) add heft and connection to the protagonist’s humanity that is pivotal and essential for the plot’s emotional stakes.

Billy Hope (a physically transformed and bulked up Jake Gyllenhaal), the reigning junior middleweight boxing champion, has an impressive career, a loving wife and daughter, and a lavish lifestyle. However, when tragedy strikes, Billy hits rock bottom, losing his family, his house and his manager. He soon finds an unlikely savior in Tick Willis (Forest Whitaker), a former fighter who trains the city’s toughest amateur boxers, who alone can teach Billy how to temper the almost blinding rage that both drives and traps him. Tick’s backstory is never revealed, but hints at similar rage in his heyday.

The grippingly raw and honest acting of Jake Gyllenhaal definitely sets this film apart, making his performance Academy-Award worthy.The actors in supporting roles also share in the quality of “Southpaw”. Rachel McAdams’s role as the strong wife, Maureen, clearly impacts the trajectory her husband must take for the remaining portion of the film. Bespectacled little Oona Laurence shares some intensely emotional scenes with Gyllenhaal and holds her own.

Beyond the great acting, there are a few loose ends:

  • Who was responsible for what happened to the wife?
  • What is the former manager’s malfeasance?
  • What is the backstory of the trainer?
  • Is there more to Billy’s absence as a father, and his past relationship with his little girl?
  • How does the title “Southpaw” add to the narrative?

Nonetheless , Jake Gyllenhaal owns this film and made it an extraordinary boxing film to watch.

Note: As in most of Fuqua’s films, the fight scenes are extremely brutal and bloody, adding to the tension.


Posted in movie reviews | Tagged , , , , | 3 Replies

3 comments on ““Southpaw”—Left-handed Compliment

  1. Southpaw – I was equally moved by this movie. Jake Gyllenhaal certainly gave a great performance. On an interview, he said his sister cried through the movie forgetting that this was her brother, he was so engaged in this character. I was so impressed by his performance with the daughter – he and she had such chemistry, it was hard to believe they were not really father and daughter.
    As a fan of Forrest Whittiker, he did not disappoint, but I would have to say it wasn’t his best performance. I think he played this role a little too “even”. Wish he could have made his character seem more conflicted.
    All in all I think this might become one of my favorite “fight” movies, because it has all the energy of what boxing brings to sport and all the conflicting emotions and relationships that make a good fighter. (Think Mike Tyson and what a great fighter he was and how disfunctional his personal life was.)
    I wouldn’t mind seeing this movie again and again, there is a lot to take in.

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