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First Churchills, the

John Neville , Susan Hampshire    Unrated   VHS Tape
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More Than Historical Drama Jan. 30 2005
I find it curious that this twelve-part miniseries, classified as historical drama and remembered for its commencement of PBS's Masterpiece Theatre, had its premiere long before social history formed the thrust of so much historical research. On the one hand, it seems that the creators of this series have given us a magnificent retrospective of Charles II's era: all the pageantry, artistry, politics, religious fervor; petty alliances,lifelong allegiances,blessed triumphs, ill-fated outcomes. On the other hand, it is impossible to ignore what may be this drama's most outstanding offering -- thanks to a truly memorable cast: its universal human appeal. Each episode is its own rich survey of humanity. Enter the future Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, ever loyal and loveable (John Neville and Susan Hampshire), and the ever vital role they played in the court of Charles II and each of his "Stuart" successors.
A second noteworthy feature is this drama's psychological implications. Take, for example, the maiden Sarah's progressive assertiveness at such a young age; her apparent ambivalence towards her mother; her steadfast refusal to marry for reasons other than love or be "kept" by men in high places. Consider Churchill's own refusal to marry merely for the sake of bettering his social position; his singular, almost godlike, willingness to serve strictly on his honor when false patronage among courtiers was quite the fashion. Imagine, from the vantage point of 17th century "nobility," the notion of constancy in love equalling that of desire and seeming to override the importance of it: hence, John's (almost too) oft repeated words to Sarah: "My dearest soul.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Historical drama at its very best Nov. 25 2004
By Paul Magnussen TOP 500 REVIEWER
Anyone seeking to widen their acquaintance with either history or historical drama need look no further than this wonderful BBC set from 1969.

Based on Winston Churchill's Marlborough: His Life and Times, this production is virtually faultless in scripting, acting, direction, costumes and just about everything else. All the settings are completely believable (putting French television's Les rois maudits into unfavourable contrast); even the battle scenes are convincingly done, although the cast is not huge.

But dominating everything is the magnificent performance of Susan Hampshire as Sarah Churchill, which justly won her an Emmy; right now I can't think of a more commanding performance in any medium, even Paul Scofield's Thomas More. Neither are any of the supporting cast less than first rate — I must make particular mention of Margaret Tyzack's lonely and rather pathetic Queen Anne, John Standing's lovely sympathetic Sidney Godolphin, and a host of delightfully repulsive political back-stabbers and other minor characters.

I do not have Churchill's huge Marlborough opus to hand, but I do have The History of the English-Speaking Peoples, and in nearly nine hours the only historical error I noticed was a brief glimpse of a lute with machine-heads.

If you loved Elizabeth R and I, Claudius, then this saga of the most brilliant soldier of his day, sandbagged by dim-witted monarchs and spiteful politicians, will not fail to fascinate you too.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Movie Jan. 26 2013
By Richard
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Mind you, I love Susan Hampshire so I tend to look favourably on any film in which she stars. And, she certainly shone in this film. It moved at a good pace and the plots and plots within plots held my attention. The wigs worn by the men were a bit disconcerting - it seems that back then, the men wore fancier and more elaborate wigs and clothes than did the women. And, it also seems that the men changed wigs depending on the situation which made it a bid difficult to distinguish among some of the characters at times. But, all in all, a film filled with political intrigue. And Susan Hampshire was, as always, superb.
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