In 1999, American filmmaker Robert Altman joined forces with British screenwriter Julian Fellowes to write the screenplay for his new film, Gosford Park. The two met through actor Bob Balaban, who plays Morris Weissman in the feature film. It is with Gosford Park that Julian Fellowes begins his exploration of the aristocracy and more generally of English society, its refinement but also its glaring social inequalities. In England in 1932, the spectator follows a family of aristocrats who come together to organize a hunting party. The master of the house Sir William McCordle is found murdered and all those who have approached him near or far become suspects. Inspector Thompson is leading the investigation.

TO?? Originally, Downton Abbey was to be a spin-off of Robert Altman’s film but Julian Fellowes finally preferred to project himself a few years before this intrigue in 1912. In the cast, we find Maggie Smith, who plays the irrepressible Violet Crawley in the series. In 2002, Julian Fellowes won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay with Gosford Park.

If the plot of Gosford Park is fictional, Robert Altman and Julian Fellowes have however chosen to insert some elements representative of the time in order to allow the viewer to really immerse themselves in the atmosphere of the film. For example, the character of Ivor Novello, the actor played by Jeremy Northam, is not a creation of the screenplay but a well-known figure in the seventh art. Robert Altman wanted to pay tribute to him by including him in Gosford Park. Disappeared in 1951 at the age of 58, Ivor Novello is considered one of the greatest actors and composers of his time. After a career in theater, the comedian starred in 1927 in two silent films directed by a certain Alfred Hitchcock, The Belly and Downhill.Â

In Gosford Park, Kristin Scott Thomas plays Lady Sylvia McCordle. She is the wife of Sir William McCordle, the murdered master of the house, and embodies the haughty and cold face of the aristocracy of the 1930s. Each of her outfits is intended to blow away his entourage. To achieve this, the actress has put the small dishes in the big ones. Throughout the film, she wears the jewelry created by Mademoiselle Chanel in 1932. During the dinner scene, she notably wears a “Fontaine” necklace and earrings, set in of 550 diamonds. She also has a “Cosmos” bracelet around her neck, which has no less than 850 diamonds. Due to the rarity of these jewels, armed guards were present during the filming to prevent them from being robbed.

To show the class inequalities within British society, Robert Altman made a point of working in depth on the characters of servants present in the film. The filmmaker has therefore recruited a retired chef as well as a cook and a housekeeper to help the actors to get into their respective characters as well as possible. These three people were employed as coaches throughout the shoot.

Another important detail: unlike the aristocratic characters, the actors who played the servants were not made up. Only lipstick was allowed on the set. Robert Altman and his screenwriter Julian Fellowes wanted to show British society in its most real and sometimes cruel way, without trying to make it elegant or fantasize about it.

The director himself told it in the Gosford Park DVD audio commentary. He would have increased the use of the “f-word” in the script, so that the children would not see it. In the United States, the excessive use of this word can lead to a film being classified “Rated R” (forbidden to the less than 17 years old except if they are accompanied by a adult). This was the case for Gosford Park. Robert Altman felt that his children would not like the film and decided to dissuade them from seeing it before they were of the required age. We do not know if he won his bet but it deserves to be very daring.

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