A VICTORIAN SUPERSTAR...,
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This review is from: Lillie [Region 2] (DVD)
This thirteen part Masterpiece Theatre series, which first aired in 1979, is certainly worth watching as it is quite entertaining and well done. Detailing the life and loves of the notorious Lillie Langtry, the Victorian era superstar, it gives the viewer a taste of an era gone by. Beautifully acted by a stellar cast, the production suffers only from the unfortunate lighting used in the nineteen seventies, giving the sets and actors a somewhat washed out and flat appearance. That being said, it is still a series well worth watching.
Born on the British isle of Jersey to a womanizing clergyman and his wife, Lillie is a tomboy who matures into a beautiful girl. At an early age, she marries Edward Langtry, a purportedly wealthy yachtsman from a shipping family, who takes her to live in Southampton. There, she finds life not to her liking. She soon discovers that her husband has sold her a bill of goods, as his wealth has been spent. After a bout with a serious illness, she contrives a move to London, where she is exposed to a taste of high society. After a false start, she gets noticed by the local swells and becomes a renowned beauty, sought after by all. Now, a fashionable society woman, she finds herself with her name on everyone's lips. Lillie eventually comes to the attention of the married Prince of Wales and becomes his mistress.
Trapped in her loveless marriage with the hapless and alcoholic Edward Langtry, Lillie goes on to have numerous love affairs with some of the most socially prominent and wealthy men of her day and eventually has a love child. Courted by all, her beauty and need for money brings her to the stage, where she becomes an actress with her own company. Her fame by now has spanned the ocean and made her a celebrity in America, as well as in Europe.
Lillie certainly knew the value of marketing, as she endorsed numerous products with her name. A woman ahead of her time, who marched to the beat of her own drum, she still went to great pains to avoid scandal, though it was never far from her doorstep. Alas, in the end, her fame and beauty decimated by age, her lovers dead or gone, Lillie, no longer the toast of two continents, ends up nothing more than a lonely old lady.
The cast for this production is stellar and the costumes are first rate. Francesca Annis is beautiful and certainly gives a competent performance as the notorious Lillie. Though her performance is acclaimed, however, the viewer cannot help but wonder why such a fuss was ever made over Lillie, as she comes across as supremely shallow and vapid. I attribute this to the fact that Ms. Annis' portrayal of Lillie comes across as being rather flat, failing to make her a truly likable character. Peter Egan, on the other hand, is superb as Oscar Wilde and, as far as I am concerned, steals the show. Filled with much social intrigue and witty repartee, the series will keep the viewer riveted to the screen.