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To the Manor Born - The Complete Series
To the Manor Born - The Complete Series
Actors: Penelope Keith, Peter Bowles
Director: Gareth Gwenlan
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Television, Mystery & Suspense
NR     2004     10hr 0min

Follow the hilarious misadventures of the uppercrust but impoverished Audrey Forbes-Hamilton (Penelope Keith), once Lady of Grantley Manor, and Richard Devere, the mysterious "common" millionaire who buys her ancestral Est...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Penelope Keith, Peter Bowles
Director: Gareth Gwenlan
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Television, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Comedy, Love & Romance, Comedy, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: BBC Warner
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 06/15/2004
Original Release Date: 03/25/1982
Theatrical Release Date: 03/25/1982
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 10hr 0min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 4
SwapaDVD Credits: 4
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 8
Edition: Box set
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Some are born great, some achieve greatness...
FrKurt Messick | Bloomington, IN USA | 08/04/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"'To the Manor Born' is one of the better Brit-coms, witty and intelligent without being over-the-top or inaccessible. It has an oh-so-British tone to it, deliberately so, as it looks with grace and humour at the clash of cultures in modern Britain, the clash between tradition and modernity (finding out that neither is always what it seems), as well as the clash between social classes. All of this is done in such a light-hearted manor, er, manner, that one scarcely realises the biting and insightful satire that runs alongside the comedic situations.

The series begins as Audrey fforbes-Hamilton, a straight-backed, upper-crust woman of breeding who revels in her situation, is celebrating the funeral of her husband (yes, celebrating). Meanwhile, Richard Devere, wealthy (read, nouveau riche) financial officer heading a multinational conglomerate of food stores, arrives in the village in search of a classic gentleman's period home in the English countryside. As Audrey's husband was not one to keep up with the bills, she discovers that she is in fact bankrupt, and is forced to sell the manor. Richard Devere buys it at auction; Audrey is a surprising twist retains the estate's hunting lodge down the road, and the stage is set for the tensions between new homeowner and historical lady of the manor.

Supplementing the main characters are Audrey's best friend Marjorie, who variously has designs on Richard Devere, but these are almost always thwarted; Richard's mother, Mrs. Pu (Poluviska, actually, but the name is reduced for ease by Audrey); Ned, the traditional groundskeeper who helps keep the traditions alive with Audrey; and finally, Brabinger, the quintessential English butler, who relocates to the old lodge with his mistress Audrey, and always has a few suprises up his sleeve.

There are twenty-one episodes in all, filmed and broadcast over a two-year period in 1979-1981. These run from the start of Audrey's losing the manor through to her regaining the manor, along with the hand of Richard in marriage, but not by the means often expected throughout the series. Throughout the episodes, Audrey is constantly introduced to 'ordinary life', from having to rely on the National Health for her doctor rather than private-pay, personal service, to having difficulties in shopping in supermarkets (Devere's, as it turns out) and not being able to entertain as she once did, or go on holiday (this makes for perhaps the best episode of the lot, save for the first and final episodes). Meanwhile, Devere gets lessons in being lord of the manor by the ever-present Audrey, who counsels him on everything from horse-purchasing to community responsbilities. Despite his wealth, Audrey says, 'he is still at the bottom of it all a grocer.' This is a biting commentary -- the upper-class disdain for the working class is an undercurrent here, and the entitled/en-nobled folk in Parliament used to insult both Ted Heath and Margaret Thatcher, who were both children of shopkeepers, by using the term 'grocer' to describe them.

From the threadbare carpets to the when-we-were-in-India knick-knacks to the church clock that never worked properly, this is a wonderfully crafted comedy trip through a slice of British culture that is both past and future. These are not 'issues' episodes -- 'To the Manor Born' educates by stealth. One might be completely unaware of having been taught ways of acting and being. Grantley Manor is a perfect backdrop (shot in a town with the very English-sounding name of Cricket St. Thomas), and the actors are perfectly selected. Penelope Keith as Audrey fforbes-Hamilton has the kind of mannerisms and deadpan delivery befitting a displaced socialite; Peter Bowles has the blustering presence as a self-assured businessman flustered in his new environment. Old Ned (played by MIchael Bilton) and Brabinger (John Rudling) are perfected cast in both physical type and acting ability. Angela Thorne as Marjorie Frobisher, the life-long friend of Audrey, always in her shadow, is great as the 'straight man' against whom Audrey's humour unfolds.

The DVD release contains special features including bits about Penelope Keith and Peter Bowles, as well as excerpts from the late-90s radio broadcasts on BBC2.

This is a perfect show, certain to win the heart of any Anglophile."
It doen't get much better.....
Dianne Foster | USA | 09/04/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Many years ago, I caught the tail-end of one of the latter episodes of TO THE MANOR BORN on PBS and liked what I saw, which was enough to spur me to buy this series on DVD when it became available. I'm happy I did, it is more than worth the price. The two lead actors, Penelope Keith and Peter Bowles have appeared in many other BBC productions (Rumpole, Good Neighbors). I believe they are married in "real" life, and thus a commedic team ala Lucy and Desi or George and Gracie, though not as zany. Audrey Forbes-Hamilton (Keith) is a sophisticated snob and Richard Devere (Bowles) a self made immigrant whom Audrey deems not in her league, let alone worthy of Grantleigh Estate, her old ancestral home.

In the opening episode, the newly widowed Audrey is relishing the thought of being on her own without the husband she did not particularly care for. We learn in a later episode that the Forbes-Hamilton family has intermarried for generations and this might explain some of the peculiar behavior of Audrey and her Uncle who plays an important role in the last few episodes. Audrey soon discovers her now deceased husband kept a few secrets from her, such as the debt the estate had incurred using the "old" methods of managing an estate (keeping hedgerows for example). Devere buys Grantleigh at an auction, outbidding Audrey, who had secured a goodly amount from her relatives for the purpose of keeeping the estate "in the family".

After losing her home, we soon discover Audrey has taken up residence along with the ancient family butler Brabinger in the "lodge", a building on the estate just up the road from the manor house, where the hired help once lived. As Richard's new neighbor, Audrey continues to offer advice on how Grantleigh should be managed according to the rules of 'Noblesse Oblige.'

Fans of `Waiting for God' will recognize the actor who plays Audrey's "fill-in" butler as the man who played Basil Makepeace (Makepiece?) on the "Waiting for God" series. He "fills in" when Audrey's own butler is away visiting relatives, although from his appearance it seems he was probably pretty sick and they kept the role open for him. The GOD series was made in the early 1990s when Thatcherite changes were already in place, giving Diana Trent somethig to bash. (For those who may not remember -- Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan shared similar political positions and their legacies are similar:). MANOR was created in the 1980s and in many ways seems to be an attempt to understand and appreciate that not all business people are bad (just some of them) while taking pot shots at the British class system. Is it a coincidence that the "commoner" Devere (a miscreant in Audrey's eyes) has made his fortune as a grocer? Given Margaret Thatcher's origins, this allusion must have had a special appeal in the 1980s. By the end of the series, Audrey has learned a few things from Richard and `All's Well that Ends Well."

I highly recommend this series. I found it to be one of the best BBC/PBS series I've watched recently, and I am a huge BBC/PBS fan.
One Of The Greatest British Comedies Of All Time
Simon Davis | 08/08/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

""To The Manor Born", is definately in my top 5 all-time favourite British comedies from any decade and I feel is the greatest piece of work ever accomplished by talented British actress Penelope Keith so far. As British as British can be, it is filled with marvellous characters, excellent writing, a near perfect scenerio for the talents involved and just enough commentary on the British Class System for all of us to see a little bit of ourselves in some of the situations that abound in this terrific series. Penelope Keith is the heart and soul of this production and never has there been a more perfect blending of an actresses' personality and screen image with that of a created character.

Produced between 1979 and 1981 "To The Manor Born", was unique in that the series provided self contained episodes with separate storylines that however developed the characters right up to the conclusion of the series when there was an actual final concluding story developed for the series to conclude on. In this way the series is like an extended "mini-series" and can be either enjoyed as individual episodes or as a longer viewing experience. "To The Manor Born", relates the story of recently widowed Audrey Fforbes-Hamilton, the blue blooded owner of Grantleigh Manor which has been in her late husband's family for 400 years. After the funeral Audrey, thinking all her birthdays have come at once suddenly is brought down to earth when she is informed that her late husband Martin was hoplessly in debt and that to cover the debts of the estate she has to sell the Manor. What makes a terrible situation like this even worse is that at the auction the ancestral home is purchased by none other than a certain Richard De Vere who turns out to Audrey's horror to be not only "trade", but shock of all shocks not even British! What develops over many episodes is the highly amusing sparring between Audrey, who moves down the drive to the old lodge intent on keeping an eye on De Vere's plans for the estate, and Richard who is determined to move up in the world to the sphere of "Landed Gentry". The two have many hilarious battles over the course of the series whether it be disputing Richard's proper role as "Lord of the Manor", fighting over who should run the annual Hunt Ball, trying not to loose face while purchasing a new horse or trying to upgrade the estate by removing the ancient hedgerows. "Saving face" is another theme which features in many episodes as the now cash strapped Audrey attempts to keep Richard in his proper place by pretending that "nothing has really changed" by such means as supposedly still taking her annual holiday to Spain while never actually leaving the estate or working out the right timing for writing cheques that are guaranteed to bounce! Naturally as the series develops the hate relationship between this oddly matched couple slowly turns to affection and then love at the nicely worked out conclusion.

The many hilarious situations in this brilliant series are hugely aided by some of the best writing and actors to be assembled in any one British comedy in any decade. The subtle digs at the firmly entrenced British Class System will have you splitting your sides with laughter and Penelope Keith is wonderful portraying a character down on her luck who will not buge one inch for this "upstart grocer' who has invaded her secure world at Grantleigh Manor. Peter Bowles playing Richard has a difficult role as the straight man of the piece but does wonderfully up against the colourful Audrey portraying a man of humble background determined to climb the social ladder. "To The Manor Born",abounds with other terrific characters as well. Angela Thorne a well known face on British television plays Audrey's best friend and fellow conspirator against Richard, Margery Frobisher. Daphne Heard playing the delightful "Mrs. Poo", Richard's mother steals every scene she is in with her wonderful comic playing. The actors playing the various domestics on the program also add spark to the proceedings with special mention going to John Rudling as the very proper Brabinger, Audrey's manservant and especially Michael Bilton as old Ned, the estate handyman.

If like myself you appreciate well written comedy then you cannot go past "To The Manor Born". The best way to purchase this great series is with the VHS boxed set which contains all the episodes uncut and in order. It also has the special treat of including the rarely seen 1979 Christmas episode which is not normally included in reruns and which is very funny indeed involving Audrey and Richard in a competition to provide the best Nativity Crib for the Parish Church. I highly recommend you spend some time enjoying this wonderful series which is as fresh today as it was when it was first aired in the early 1980s. Enjoy Audrey Fforbes-Hamilton down on her luck, battling the upstart grocer in the classic "To The Manor Born"."
Wonderful series, a true gem
Gwen Kramer | Sunny and not-so-sunny California | 03/30/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"My family bought this series because we enjoyed Penelope Keith so much as Margot Ledbetter in Good Neighbors. I must say that though I enjoyed Good Neighbors, I liked this series much better.Penelope Keith plays Audrey fforbes-Hamilton, a new widow whose family has owned Grantleigh Estate for 400 years. Much to yher snobbish dismay, she is forced to auction the house to cover her late husband's death. The manor is bought by Richard DeVere (Peter Bowles). He is charming and well intentioned but he is (gasp!) in trade and (double gasp!) of Eastern European descent. He naturally makes many a faux pas trying to settle into his new home. He and Audrey are attracted to one another but they are both too set in their ways. He is too blue collar, she is too blue blood.Every episode in the series involves one of Audrey's plots. Either to win Richard, control him, snub him or put him in his place. To make money, to wrangle her way back into the manor, to run the Girl Guides or to save the town's railway station. She is aptly described by another character as a female bossy boots. And a very amusing one, I must add. Richard is usually caught unprepared by the Audrey onslaught but he wins a few battles himself. It's all great fun.While it is easy to make a big deal of the two very talented lead actors, the supporting cast is also very good. The slippery vicar; Audrey's mousy best friend Marjory; the grumpy shop keeper; and Richard's mother "Mrs. Pooh" are all great character actors and greatly add to the overall series.Unlike many sit-coms, To the Manor Born has something of a linear plot line. (Though not so much of one that you cannot watch an episode on it's own) And it has an actual ending. A very nice one too.The humor style is quite British so if you are not a fan of Brit-coms, you probably won't like it. If you feel you will like the series, I encourage you to buy the complete set rather than piece meal. Partly because of the linear plot line and partly because you will be hungry for more. This is a great series for snow days and when you are under the weather. It is suitable for children and very amusing for adults."