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Brideshead Revisited

By Donald Liebenson

Fill a bowl with alpine strawberries, break out the Château Lafite (1899, of course), and bask in this benchmark 1981 British miniseries based on Evelyn Waugh's classic novel. Adapted for the screen by John Mortimer (Rumpole of the Bailey), this impeccable, nearly 11-hour production mesmerized American viewers during the course of its PBS run in 1982. In his breakthrough role, Jeremy Irons stars as Charles Ryder, a disillusioned Army captain who is moved to reflect on his "languid days" in the "enchanted castle" that was Brideshead, home of the aristocratic Marchmain family, whose acquaintance Charles made in the company of an Oxford classmate, the charming wild child Sebastian. Anthony Andrews costars as the doomed Sebastian, whose beauty is "arresting" and "whose eccentricities and behavior seemed to know no bounds." The "entitled and enchanted" Sebastian takes Charles under his wing ("Charles, what a lot you have to learn"), but vows early on that he is "not going to let [Charles] get mixed up with [his] family." But mixed up Charles gets. He becomes a friend and confidante, not to mention a lover, to Sebastian's sister Julia (Diana Quick). Meanwhile, the self-destructive Sebastian's life spirals out of control. Brideshead Revisited boasts a distinguished ensemble, including Laurence Olivier in his Emmy Award-winning role as the exiled Lord Marchmain, Claire Bloom as Lady Marchmain, and the magnificent John Gielgud as Charles's estranged father. Grand locations and a haunting musical score make this a memorable revisit of an irretrievable bygone era. For those who scheduled their weeks around the original Monday-night broadcasts or those visiting Brideshead for the first time, this boxed set release will be, as Charles rhapsodizes at one point while strolling the castle grounds, "very near to heaven."

 

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TV TIDBITS

Aired: 1981

Cast: Jeremy Irons, Anthony Andrews, Phoebe Nicholls, Diana Quick, Jane Asher, Simon Jones, Claire Bloom,

Network: PBS

Genre: British Period Drama

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