As a part of the British series "Theater 625," a three part adaptation of Ford Madox Ford's "Parade's End" was produced and aired in 1964. An epic tale of love, scandal, marriage, and war, the original publications were actually a series of four novels released between 1924-28 that were pulled together and packaged under the new title of "Parade's End." The three parts (each approximately 90 minutes) of this miniseries are separated by the original book titles that they represented. You may be thinking that this is a rather random title to pop out of the BBC archives, but two things make this a surprisingly timely release. First, a young Judi Dench has one of the biggest female roles as a progressive who captures the heart and mind of the central character. She's the "good girl" of a romantic triangle set amidst the era of World War I. Secondly, BBC recently aired a 2012 adaptation of "Parade's End" written by Tom Stoppard and starring Benedict Cumberbatch. That production also recently aired in America on HBO.
The star of "Parade's End" is Ronald Hines, who plays Christopher Tietjens. Tietjens is an upright aristocrat trapped in a rather complicated marriage to Sylvia (Jeanne Moody). After establishing the unpleasantness of this pairing, the story has Tietjense meeting a free spirited suffragette (Dench). The remainder of the story follows these three principles, and assorted other characters, as they navigate a world ravaged by war.
Some Do Not..: In this introductory chapter, we meet the three central characters. As Tietjens attempts to be the proper gentleman in every circumstance, the cards seem stacked against him. Cuckolded by a vicious wife, intrigued by a new love, and trying to be a supportive friend, he finds himself in the middle of drama and scandal that is completely unwarranted. Playing off themes of class and gender, Tietjens is almost victimized by propriety and the results are very personal and devastating.
No More Parades: This episode deals primarily with Tietjens experiences in the war. As he gets stationed in France and later in Belgium, the conflict is just one more component in his constant struggle for understanding. Plagued by moral and social constraints, the war only compounds these concerns. It is almost a physical manifestation of an internal battle. While he will see some fighting, the biggest challenges still come from within.
A Man Could Stand Up: In the final installment, the war is over and Tietjens must return home. But into whose arms will he find himself? Dench steps up into a leading role for this piece which has Tietjens reconciling his past choices. The war and his recent experiences with Sylvia have really taken a toll, and his soul is battered and bruised. As he recounts the trauma, the confession serves as a catharsis. But is it too late to claim a new life?
I really enjoyed "Parade's End" for its grand storytelling. But as large as the tale may seem, it is really the journey of one man. Hines is strong and Dench is charming. But, for me, the most memorable role is the incomparable Jeanne Moody. A classic villain in many ways, Moody chews the scenery in almost every instance in a bold and fearless performance. I was concerned that this production would shy away from some of the unpleasantness inherent in the story (as it is from 1964), but it is still intact if not always graphically depicted. A nice staging, I'd definitely give this a look if you enjoy classic British drama. KGHarris, 3/12.