This Sunday night PBS will premiere the British drama, The Making of a Lady, starring Lydia Wilson as Emily Fox Seaton. “The Making of a Lady” is based on a book written by Francis Hodgson Burnett (Little Lord Fauntleroy, A Little Princess, and The Secret Garden). Emily is an independent woman with a good family background, but she is penniless and must earn her living. The Making of a Lady was originally broadcasted on ITV, in the UK.
Based on the novel by celebrated writer Frances Hodgson Burnett (The Secret Garden, A Little Princess), THE MAKING OF A LADY is the story of the educated but penniless Emily Fox Seaton (“South Riding,” “Any Human Heart”). During her duties as a lady’s companion for Lady Maria (Joanna Lumley, “Absolutely Fabulous,” “Marple”), she meets her employer’s wealthy widower nephew, Lord James Walderhurst (Linus Roache, Titanic, Batman Begins). Accepting his practical, if unromantic, marriage proposal, Emily finds solace in the company of Walderhurst’s nephew Alec Osborn (James D’Arcy, Cloud Atlas, Hitchcock) and his glamorous wife, Hester (Hasina Haque), after Lord James leaves to rejoin his regiment. But all is not what it seems as an increasingly contented Emily has no inkling her life is actually in danger. While Walderhurst risks his life overseas, Emily, alone with the Osborns, seems powerless to avoid the threat that begins to encircle her and begins to fear for her life.
Adapted for the screen by Kate Brooke (“Mr. Selfridge,” “The Forsyte Saga”) and directed by Richard Curson Smith (“Will Self’s The Minor Character,” “Consenting Adults”) THE MAKING OF A LADY is executive produced by Stevie Lee for Runaway Fridge TV and produced by Jo Willett (“Coming Up,” “Bertie and Elizabeth”).
“The Making of a Lady” begins by showing us the independence of Emily as well as her education and practicality. She is often employed by the wealthy to act as housekeeper. She lands a position in the household of Lady Maria Byrne, and just when she has hopes of being promoted to her personal secretary, she is in fact, let go. While in Lady Maria’s employ, Emily meets Lord James Walderhurst, the son of the house. He is in the market for a wife but no lady has as yet tempted him to the alter. Until he meets Emily.
Lord Walderhurst proposes a marriage of convenience and Emily, being practical and penniless, accepts. This was a switch from the stories I had read where the heroine always holds out for love. In those stories, you were always introduced to female characters who had married for comfort, but you don’t get to look inside homes like that. Here was a wonderful window into Emily’s life as she moves into the big house and marries Lord James.
Things are not made very comfortable for Emily at first, not for lack of James trying, but his butler and housekeeper are very protective of the Master of the house. They don’t accept Emily, no matter how hard she tries to befriend them.
As Emily and James’ relationship grows into love, James is called away to India to rejoin his regiment in their time of great need. Emily invites her good friend, Jane (Sarah Ridgeway), to come and act as her lady’s maid, keeping her company during the lonely time ahead. Also appearing on the scene are James’ cousin, Captain Alec Osborn and his new wife, Hester. Alec is the family black sheep, and instantly you do not want to trust him. But Emily liked them when she met them at her wedding and in spite of warnings from both Lady Maria and James, she invites them to stay with her for a while after James has left.
Trouble begins almost immediately. Eventually Emily’s very life becomes endangered and even her friend Jane seems to have fallen under some kind of spell, and she becomes testy with Emily.
“The Making of a Lady” has all the charm and romance of the Jane Austen movies, and the danger and intrigue of “Rebecca”. I liked watching Emily and James grow closer together. I really cared about them. I felt pity for Hester and loathing for Alec, and I really liked the butler Mr. Litton (Malcolm Storry), who proved his loyalty time and again, while being a grumpy old man.
“The Making of a Lady” airs Sunday night (Feb. 9th) at 10 – 11:30PM Eastern, right after “Downton Abbey”. It’s well worth staying tuned in to PBS.
Photos by Runaway Fridge TV: