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”.

 

 

“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!

“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.