Thursday, June 17, 2010

What I've Been Watching - Horatio Hornblower

This is a series I've wanted to see for quite some time. I remember just about the time that Pride & Prejudice was being released on television in the USA I kept seeing previews for the Horatio Hornblower TV movies. So I was quite excited when I found the series on YouTube and was able to watch all 8 films in the series.

They were quite more or less what I expected, swashbuckling adventures on the high seas. Other things I found that I wasn't expecting: daring deeds, gentlemanly manners, very few ladies (thankfully it was pretty clean that way) and lots and lots of handsome sailors!

I was very surprised at the amount of actors who I recognized. Among the many were:

Jamie Bamber as Acting Lt. Archie Kennedy
Horatio's loyal friend and companion who is easy going and fun loving, he adds lots of humor to the series but is also very honorable and defends his friend on many occasions. Actor Jamie Bamber is good at playing best friends, he played Hugh Dancy's best friend Hans Meyrick in Daniel Deronda (and looks a lot different without mustache and goatee).

Robert Lindsey as Captain Sir Edward Pellew
A very noble friend and a leader worth of respect. This actor's face looked so familiar but I couldn't remember where I'd seen him before. Turns out he was Fagin in the BBC's 1999 adaptation of Oliver Twist.

Robert Brathurst as Lieutenant Eccleston
The newest Mr. Weston from BBC's Emma. Lt. Eccleston is a mild mannered leader who unfortunately didn't last much longer than the first two films. It was a bit funny to see the actor with longer hair and wearing a sailor's uniform!

Samuel West as Major Edrington
A brave and bold military soldier. I have enjoyed many of Mr. West's preformances in films such as Persuasion (as Mr. Elliot), Jane Eyre (as Sinjon Rivers), BBC's Prince Caspian and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader (as Prince Caspian), and I'm looking forward to seeing him as Dr. Constantine in Murder On The Orient Express. His character in this series is a bit prideful and a tad aristocratic but a good egg over all.

David Rintoul as Dr. Clive
I immediately recognized Mr. Rintoul from BBC's 1980 adaptation of Pride & Prejudice where he tried his hand at Mr. Darcy. I've never been too impressed with his acting skills but this one was fairly believable. Dr. Clive is a ship's sergeant who, although he is skilled in medicine and fixing wounded sailors, mostly looks out for himself and his own interests.

Cranford & adventures on the high seas?!?!

Philip Glenister as Gunner Hobbs
You might remember actor Philip Glenister as the gallant Mr. Carter from Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford. Gunner Hobbs is somewhat of a seedy character who isn't fond of new men like Hornblower barging in on his turf.

Greg Wise as Major Côtard
Another familiar face from the town of Cranford, Mr. Wise has portrayed many characters in period dramas including Sir Charles Maulver (Cranford), Franklin Blake (The Moonstone), and John Willoughby (Sense & Sensibility). It was a bit odd seeing and hearing Mr. Wise portray Frenchman Major Côtard but he was lovely as always and his character turns out to be a brave, wise and honorable soldier.

Julia Sawahla as Maria Mason
Completing the Cranford set is lovely actress Julia Sawahla who plays Horatio Hornblower's sweet love interest and kind Jessie Brown in Cranford. Her other period drama roles include: Lydia Bennet (Pride & Prejudice), Dorcas Lane (Lark Rise to Candleford) and Charity Pecksniff (Martin Chuzzlewit). Talented and lovely as always!

Ioan Gruffudd as Horatio Hornblower
One big attraction to this series was Welsh actor Ioan Gruffudd who I've admired for years and had hoped would play Henry Tilney one day, but unfortunately he is now much too old for the part. His other period drama roles include: Pip in Great Expectations, Philip Bosinney in The Forsyte Saga, Lancelot in King Arthur, and William Wilberforce in Amazing Grace.

I was very impressed with the character of Horatio Hornblower. A gallant sailor with sharp mind and kind heart and a good head on his shoulders. Very gentlemanly toward ladies and honorable toward his fellow sailors, even captains who don't deserve the respect. Another great fictional hero.


My final recommendation: If adventures like these are you cup of tea definitely enjoy but watch with caution. It's a fairly clean series as far as sexual content, but it does contain some cursing, some brutality (there is fist fighting, beatings and whippings) and theatrical elements such as storms, cannon and gun shots, and war scenes. I enjoyed the stories, scenery, costumes and learned a lot about the navy and military at Regency times and during the Napoleonic wars.

I recently created this music video with themes and lots of photos from the Horatio Hornblower series. I thought the music from this series sounds a bit like some of the themes from Wives and Daughters. Turns out composer John E. Keane wrote the music for Wives & Daughters (music video here), the Horatio Hornblower series, Mansfield Park (2007) (music video here), and Far From the Madding Crowd (1998)(music video here). A very talented gentleman!

So that's of the many period dramas I've enjoyed lately.
What have you been watching lately?

Edit to add: I totally forgot about this other actor who was probably my favorite of the sub-characters!

Paul McGann as 2nd Lt. William Bush
William Bush's character appears halfway through the series and is a bit hesitant to be bold and brave at first. As the series goes on he starts taking more risks and acting more nobly. If you like Dickens adaptations you might remember actor Paul McGann as Eugene Wrayburn from Our Mutual Friend. Other period roles include: Girard in The Three Musketeers, Dr. Peter Lord in Poirot: Sad Cypress and John Worthing in The Importance of Being Earnest (1986).


Elinor Dashwood said...

Glad to hear it's good! I have been recommended to watch or read it for studying for my story that happens on the sea during that era. It looks neat, and I LOVE Ioan Gruffudd in the roles I've seen him in.

What do you mean by "fairly clean"?

Miss Laurie said...

Elinor, "fairly clean" means that there's only a few scenes that could be considered sensual. But there are quite a few "scary" scenes of war and "killing/fighting" so I wouldn't recommend HH for young people under the age of 14 (my sis is 14 and I'm not even sure she'd want to watch some parts). There is a LOT of history in it though, things that helped me understand the life of sailors in the Regency era and what characters such as Captain Wentworth of Persuasion and his brother officers. Hope this helps!

ldsjaneite said...

I have just discovered your blog and I think I may have met a new best friend! :-) I, too, longed to see Ioan as Henry Tilney. So glad you posted all of these pictures and mentioned some of their previous films. Makes my heart so happy!

OldFashionedCharm said...

ldsjaneite, welcome to my blog! I'm so glad you enjoyed my post. Jane Austen is my favorite author and Northanger Abbey is my favorite of her novels, Henry Tilney my favorite hero! I hope you stick around my blog and enjoy my posts about period films, actors, history, music and art - all old-fashioned!

~Miss Laurie :)

Anonymous said...

So glad I found this blog! I love classical literature and like to hear your take in it. I am advanced for my age, but I am 13 and had no problem with the HH series. You would expect some violence in a show about war. Also, Ioan does and excellent job as Hornblower. All the actors were excellent! Over all great to hear what other things shows these actors have been in!

Anonymous said...

So glad I found this blog! I love classical literature and like to hear your take in it. I am advanced for my age, but I am 13 and had no problem with the HH series. You would expect some violence in a show about war. Also, Ioan does and excellent job as Hornblower. All the actors were excellent! Over all great to hear what other things shows these actors have been in!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the review. I was looking for a review before sharing with my sons and this was the only good review I could find that would address content. I remembered enjoying it, just wasn't sure if it was age appropriate.

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