HOWARD'S END is set, for the most part, in London, and revolves around two families: the Schlegels and the Wilcoxes. The Schlegels and the Wilcoxes are separated by class; the Schlegels are a middle class family, comfortable, but definitely not "old money," while the Wilcoxes are far more "to the manor born." Society, at the time HOWARD'S END takes place, dictated that the Schlegels and the Wilcoxes definitely not mix. However, mix they do, with disastrous results.
In the Schlegel family are two sisters, Margaret (Emma Thompson), the older and plainer, and Helen (Helena Bonham-Carter), the younger and more beautiful. We know trouble is brewing when Helen becomes involved, though briefly, with young Paul Wilcox. Of course, the Wilcoxes consider Helen (or any Schlegel, for that matter) to be beneath them, but the affair also distresses the Schlegels as well.
The lives of the Schlegels and the Wilcoxes are destined to be intertwined, however, and Margaret befriends Ruth Wilcox (beautifully played by the always-ethereal Vanessa Redgrave), the mother of young Paul. The lives of the two families become further entwined when Ruth Wilcox dies and leaves her lovely country home, "Howard's End," to her good friend, Margaret. Of course, this doesn't sit at all well with the Wilcoxes, who are truly shocked, and Henry Wilcox (Anthony Hopkins), Ruth's husband, tries to cover up Ruth's final wishes and keep Margaret away from "Howard's End.Read more ›
The story revolves around the Schlegel sisters, Margaret and Helen, and their involvement with various characters including a ruthless businessman and his dying wife, and a down-on-his-luck day clerk. Margaret is the sensible sister, caring but careful, while Helen is the idealist, out to save the world, without realising how condescending she can be in attempting to do so. Their brother is almost an afterthought in the story. Margaret is portrayed by Emma Thompson, veteran Shakespearean and British actress; Helen is played by Merchant-Ivory veteran Helena Bonham Carter. Other players include Oscar-winner Anthony Hopkins, James Wilby (also in other Merchant-Ivory productions), Samuel West, and the great Vanessa Redgrave. (Look for Prunella Scales, best known as Sybil Fawlty from 'Fawlty Towers' in what might be described as an extended cameo role.)
The characters show some of the principal social class divisions of late Victorian/Edwardian England. The Wilcoxes are a successful business family, unlettered and conservative; the Schlegels are genteel aristocrats with an idealistic bent but slowly declining economic fortunes; the Basts are underprivileged but yearning for more.Read more ›