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The Bretts: The Complete Collection

Norman Rodway , Barbara Murray    DVD
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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The Bretts have ruled the London stage since the 1880s. Patriarch Charles (Norman Rodway, Reilly: Ace of Spies) is a matinee idol and a womanizer. His wife, Lydia (Barbara Murray, The Pallisers), is a glamorous star of musical comedies. Their five children include actors and a radical playwright, and their dramatic household is further enlivened by loyal but gossipy servants.

But now it’s the late 1920s, and times are changing. As talking pictures loom and Hollywood calls, the family buys a West End theatre to manage. Hilarity, tragedy, and slapstick ensue as the battling Bretts struggle to maintain the life they have always known.

Seen on Masterpiece Theatre and created by Upstairs, Downstairs writer Rosemary Anne Sisson, this British series is brimming with wit and Roaring Twenties flair.

Due to the age of these programs and the improved resolution that DVD provides, you may notice occasional flaws in the image and audio on this DVD presentation that were beyond our ability to correct from the original materials.


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3.0 out of 5 stars Sparkles like champagne Aug. 25 2011
By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Who says Masterpiece Theatre is boring? One of their most entertaining series has been "The Bretts," a sparkling soap opera set in the roaring 20s. It suffers from some random plot twists (and character departures), but is entertainingly soapy fun.

Charles and Lydia Brett (Norman Rodway, Barbara Murray) were the stars of the 1890s stage, with his costume dramas and their shared romantic comedies. Now they live with three of their kids: party-girl actress Martha (Belinda Lang), not-so-successful actor Edwin (David Yelland) and blooming socialist playwright Thomas (George Winter).

The series opens rather weakly, when Charles and Lydia briefly break up over Charles hiring a sexy secretary, and his new swashbuckler almost bombs. But things stabilize as the main problems arise -- stages are being replaced with silver screens. Soon Edwin has become a hot Hollywood star, with the movie adaptation of his dad's latest play.

Charles is determined to keep the London stages from being overtaken, and refuses to have anything to do with the movies (though he's willing to vacation at Edwin's villa). But the biggest drama is BEHIND the scenes: secret pregnancies, drug addictions, scam artists, rape, murder, heart attacks, trips to decadent Berlin, lawsuits, illegitimate children, the IRA, fatal illnesses, shattered engagements, illicit affairs, and much more.

Basically, "The Bretts" is about packing as much drama as possible into a matter of episodes. And it's even more entertaining, since it's set in the sparkling era between world wars, with plenty of flappers, spangled clothing, communism, and glamorous homes in the South of France.
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars NEW re-manufactured IMPROVED collection reviewed June 20 2011
By Harold Wolf - Published on Amazon.com
This review is not a carry-forward from an old DVD set. For one thing, SUBTITLES are added. This is an excellent 1927-1931 period drama that involves a London theatre family. The sets, costumes, and props are true to the times, such delight. It is frothy with scandal as well as the ups & downs of acting careers, primarily the members of the Brett family. The lives of the family and their help are as addicting as "Upstairs Downstairs". The interplay with the downstairs Brett staff with the family is a mirror of "U,D". Surely that has something to do with the fact that one writer wrote for both series. The final episode leaves the viewer grieving over the discontinuation of episodes, like a death, the sign of a good DVD set.

The only downside I found was a bit of overacting by the male lead Charles (Norman Rodway) who appears older than 55. On the other hand, an aspect I enjoyed was cases where special effects (i.e. fog), excessive make-up, obviously painted backdrops, and those overacting bits helped keep the entire series in the ambiance of the late 20's theatre. Scenes may be showing the actors in their plays or talkies, other times it is in their dining, bed, or living rooms, it all works to make this a Roaring 20's atmosphere. I could not help but think of another spectacular series of the period, "House of Elliott". Costuming is spot on.

You will not only enjoy the dramatic lives of star performers, but also the home-life, even bickering and rivalry between the all-acting kin. Lydia (Barbara Murray-Pallisers) is matriarch. Brett siblings: Martha (Belinda Lang-2.4 Children); her twin Edwin (David Yelland-David Copperfield); Thomas (George Winter-Merlin); Perdita (Sally Cookson); & married Nell Caldwell (Victoria Burton-Gems).
Nightengale Grove (Brett's home) Staff: butler Sutton (Tim Wylton-As Time Goes By; A Bit of a Do); maid Emily (Rebecca Lacey-Casualty); cook Flora (Rhoda Lewis-Lorna Doone); driver Hagarty (Billy Boyle-EastEnders).
Plus plenty of known Brit stars filling other roles.

19 SUBTITLED episodes, as short as possible, for those wishing detail synopsis:
1 THE KING SHALL NOT DIE; 1927 Overdue bills, Charles hires gal (Shirley Cassedy) causing Lydia to talk divorce. Charles rents theatre & play struggles.
2 DRIVING AMBITION; Motorcar bought and then maybe the Princess Theatre.
3 VAGABONDS AND THIEVES; Playwright Thomas a success, his next in the Princess? Charles suggests rewrite with himself cast, then it gets shocking.
4 FULL HOUSE; Charles' parents arrive. George (Frank Middlemass-Poldark; As Time Goes By) is dad. Thomas leaves unhappy. Martha has a lover.
5 MOVING PICTURES; Eddie goes silent film, appalling till Chas screen tests. Butler Sutton also gets an offer.
6 BROADWAY, HERE I COME; Songwriter flirts with Lydia, pursues Martha. Tax crisis. Ruffled family feathers.
7 REVENGE IS SWEET; Eddie accosts a play critic & backlash hits the whole Brett clan.
8 GET ME TO THE CHURCH ON TIME; 1928 Martha's arrest followed by Edwin's befriending Lady Diana (Christine Kavanagh-Doctors). Sutton has love ails. Martha gets an American offer-of sorts.
9 THE ACTRESS AND THE BISHOP; Martha's injured. Jean resigns. Chas in court over a Bishop/actress play.
10 FORBIDDEN FRUIT; a intricate romance for each Brett sibling + Sutton.
11 FORBIDDEN FRUIT: PT 2; Martha grieving, turns to Rx. Eddie adds 3rd lady to romance (bad) making Sutton envious.
12 ALL RIGHT ON THE NIGHT; Is Chas having an affair just prior to his 35th wedding anniversary? Lydia suspects, family/staff confused. Denis Quilley is Guy Vere, Ann Bell (Jane Eyre) his wife.
13 GRAND FINALE; P. Theatre burns. Can Christmas pantomime save finances? Jane Downs as Elsie Carstairs.
14 HOME AND AWAY: PT 1; May 1931 Edwin's place, S. France. Brett family has holiday, except for one who makes fun use of an empty London home. Mark Kingston as Sir James for next 3 episodes.
15 HOME AND AWAY: PT 2; Should Princess Theatre sell after a Brett heart incident? New cook better received than Eddie's off-screen antics.
16 A HOUSE DIVIDED; Hagerty's nephew witnessed murder-is he next? Martha (brief rape nudity) & Chas have their own attacks. Oliver Cotton (Beowulf) as Edvardo.
17 THE LUCK OF THE IRISH; Nephew hides from IRA. Martha & Thomas have interesting prospects that clash. Romeo meets Juliet. Hugh Frazer (Poirot) is Oliver in last 4 episodes.
18 I'VE GOT YOU UNDER MY SKIN; Sutton accepts tragedy blame. Talkies vs theatre still divides the family. Marion Bailey (Persuasion 2007) as Agnes, just one of Eddie's ladies.
19 THE GOLDEN DUSTMAN; Eddie/L. Diana affair. True love, financial affairs, films and theatre move forward with a brisk Brett pace. Julie Hills as Dulcie. Patrick Ryecart (Nancherro, Coming Home, King's Speech) as dir Barron.

This NEW version of The Bretts: The Complete Collection is worth the investment in entertainment period drama. Over 16 hours. Any actor, drama student, or person who has worked backstage in pro or amateur theatre will enjoy this novel interpretation.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sparkles like champagne May 1 2011
By E. A Solinas - Published on Amazon.com
Who says Masterpiece Theatre is boring? One of their most entertaining series has been "The Bretts," a sparkling soap opera set in the roaring 20s. It suffers from some random plot twists (and character departures), but is entertainingly soapy fun.

Charles and Lydia Brett (Norman Rodway, Barbara Murray) were the stars of the 1890s stage, with his costume dramas and their shared romantic comedies. Now they live with three of their kids: party-girl actress Martha (Belinda Lang), not-so-successful actor Edwin (David Yelland) and blooming socialist playwright Thomas (George Winter).

The series opens rather weakly, when Charles and Lydia briefly break up over Charles hiring a sexy secretary, and his new swashbuckler almost bombs. But things stabilize as the main problems arise -- stages are being replaced with silver screens. Soon Edwin has become a hot Hollywood star, with the movie adaptation of his dad's latest play.

Charles is determined to keep the London stages from being overtaken, and refuses to have anything to do with the movies (though he's willing to vacation at Edwin's villa). But the biggest drama is BEHIND the scenes: secret pregnancies, drug addictions, scam artists, rape, murder, heart attacks, trips to decadent Berlin, lawsuits, illegitimate children, the IRA, fatal illnesses, shattered engagements, illicit affairs, and much more.

Basically, "The Bretts" is about packing as much drama as possible into a matter of episodes. And it's even more entertaining, since it's set in the sparkling era between world wars, with plenty of flappers, spangled clothing, communism, and glamorous homes in the South of France.

And the tragedies and drama -- Martha partying to forget her lost loves, Edwin's suspended contract -- are tempered by comedy (the near-disastrous Cinderella play). And just when you think things are going to calm down, some dirty secret or problem arises, and the Bretts are back to slinging witty repartee at one another.

One of the biggest storylines is the elder Bretts resisting the movies, as their kids accept that this is the way of the future. You want Charles to succeed, yet know that ultimately he's going to fail -- or else accept that movies are here to stay, and that he better get involved.

But it's not perfect. The writers seem to have made it up as they went along, causing a previously unknown sister (the rather flat Perdita) to pop up in one episode, when she had never been mentioned before. Two supporting characters vanish with little explanation and are never referred to again, and one adorable character dies for... no reason, really. He just does.

Rodway and Murray are the stars here. Charles and Lydia are strong-willed actors both, which leads to some arguments, and yet Rodway and Murray bring across how much they love and depend on each other -- even due to past transgressions, such as an affair that produced a child.

The supporting actors vary in strength: Lang is languidly brilliant as the sardonic, talented Martha, but Yelland is stiff, and Winter's Thomas is just a naively twerpy Communist. The servant actors are excellent, though, and so are Charles' ancient-but-still feisty parents.

"The Bretts" has a lot of dangly threads and awkwardly dropped characters, but this sprawling soapy drama is loads of fun. Long live the stage!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Britts Bretts is British drama at it's best Sept. 5 2011
By Realeller - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
Having an extensive DVD library of all things BBC offers on PBS, I was delighted to find The Bretts, which I didn't possess. It's tremendously entertaining for anyone who wishes to time travel back to the days of Britain in the 1920s when live theatre was in it's prime. The period costumes are dazzeling to say the least. The actors who play a family of stage actors in the series are all terrific and the scripts are somewhat juicy at times. It's such a shame that Masterpiece Theatre has turned off the lights and given the last performance, but luckily, I can watch The Bretts whenever I want. It's a winner.
5.0 out of 5 stars Cast sparkles. April 14 2014
By Jon Wynne - Published on Amazon.com
Brimming with wit and roaring Twenties flair, The Bretts: The Complete Collection arrives on DVD featuring all 19 episodes from series 1 and 2 of this Masterpiece Theatre hit. Broadcast on PBS and ITV in the late 1980s, this classic series co-created by Upstairs, Downstairs writer Rosemary Anne Sisson follows Britain’s leading theatrical family as they navigate their complicated personal and professional lives. Hilarity, tragedy, and slapstick comedy ensue as the family attempts to adapt to their rapidly changing world. Norman Rodway, Barbara Murray and David Yelland provide pitch-perfect performances, collected in this value-priced 6-disc collection.

The Bretts have ruled the London stage since the 1880s. Patriarch Charles (Rodway) is a matinee idol and a womanizer. His wife, Lydia (Murray) is a glamorous star of musical comedies. Their five children include actors and a radical playwright, and their dramatic household is further enlivened by loyal but gossipy servants.

Now it’s the late 1920s, and times are changing. As talking pictures loom and Hollywood calls, the family buys a West End theatre to manage. The Bretts is a glimpse into the lives of a theatrical family whose most dramatic moments often occur at home.

Jon Ted Wynne Review:
Watching THE BRETTS: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION coincided with a recent trip to London where I had the extraordinary pleasure of meeting a friend at the Garrick Club, London’s most exclusive Arts Club.

Referenced repeatedly in THE BRETTS, the club is a celebration of theatre artists. It is this atmosphere, this ode, this great homage to all British actors that is at the heart and centre of the brilliantly conceived series THE BRETTS.

Who are the Bretts? They are a theatrical family who must adapt to changing times (the series is set during the transition period when cinemas began to replace live theatre as the public’s number one entertainment preference). There is father Charles (the great Norman Rodway) and his gorgeous and manipulative wife, Lydia (the ageless Barbara Murray). They have five children in the family business, all of whom have larger-than-life personalities and genuine, if varied, talents.

The thrust of the series is to take a successful acting family (rather like the Barrymores, one easily imagines) and use their lives, loves and careers as the foundation upon which to tell the story of England in the twenties and the beginning of the 1930s from the perspective of the privileged few.

The wit of the dialogue is astounding and the performances—all grand and appropriately theatrical—are pitch-perfect.

The show is packed with drama, romance, tragedy, hilarity and historical interest. While the upper-crust Bretts might be a bit of a stretch for those whose idea of a family drama is “The Sopranos”, open-minded viewers will eat this show up like a multi-course gourmet meal.

Anyone with experience in the theatre world, especially at the professional level, will howl at the spot-on characterizations. The egos, oh those wonderful, annoying, compelling and hilarious egos! THE BRETTS is a love letter to a long ago time when the acting profession at its most successful was just beginning to achieve a level of social respectability it hadn’t had before.

The series is so good that at the end you feel sad that it is ended. But then who better than the Bretts to know the truth of the old adage, “leave ‘em wanting more!”

The whole cast sparkles in this gem of a series. Bravo to THE BRETTS: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION!
5.0 out of 5 stars The Bretts Aug. 31 2013
By Carol - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
Really am enjoying this series. I appreciate all the character development of the supporting characters. This really enhances the plot.

I recomment this series. I also learned a lot about what goes on "behind the scenes" to make a stage play.
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