Lillie (1978)
Review by Igraine

Written by David Butler & John Gorrie
Directed by John Gorrie, Christopher Hodson & Tony Wharmby
Starring Francesca Annis, Anton Rodgers, Dennis Hill, Peter Egan, Jennie Linden


Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format
My Advice: Rent it

"They say, what they say, let them say," is the motto from a stained glass window in Lillie Langtry's Red House, built for her by the Prince of Wales, around the turn of the nineteenth century. Lillie (Annis) was a country girl, most likely never to be anything spectacular, yet she became one of the first international celebrities. She escaped the Jersey Islands by marrying a man she didn't love and came to notoriety in London after a young artist did a sketch of her. She grew to become one of London's PB's (Professional Beauties). She was the toast of London society, lover to the aforementioned Prince of Wales (Hill), and actress on the British and American stages. She balked at the idea of a woman's suitable place in society and carved out her own niche in this world.

All in all, this was a typical Masterpiece Theater production. The quality was drastically different from interior shots to exterior shots. It was obvious which scenes were shot on a sound stage and which were shot on location. The quality of acting, however, was good. Annis gave a very consistent performance as Lillie, since the series takes her from age 15 to her death in 1929. Each of the other supporting cast members helped bring her story to life. The writing quality was as good as one could expect for a Masterpiece Theater production; very slow at first, then it moves along quite well. Nothing in her life seemed to have been left out.

The real highlights of the series were the design elements. The costumes were a feast for the eyes. Every part of them, all the way down to the finest detail was splendid. The sets were just right for the period. However, if you watched closely you could catch things like a wall waivering when a door was shut. If you were at Lillie's home, it felt cozy, and if you were at a ball it felt as if you were being swept up in a waltz.

The special features were very disappointing and practically non-existent. Even though one of the DVD's special features is "Web Links", they don't include anything of historical significance. These links, which aren't DVD-ROM links, take you to the production company's site and so forth. I got online after watching this series and discovered a wealth of information and historical photos of the real Lillie. It would have been nice for these archives to have been on the DVD in some form or fashion--not even a featurette but just some text screens would have been nice. The slide show is only still shots from the production and the cast bios are text-on-screen "grocery lists."

Overall, it was interesting to watch this series based upon a real person, but the special features made it a real disappointment. It didn't serve such a fascinating person as Lillie Langtry justice. This series is definitely not worth owning, but you might want to rent it if you are home with the flu.

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