Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|To Serve Them All My Days |
Actors: John Duttine, Frank Middlemass, Alan MacNaughton, Patricia Lawrence, Neil Stacy
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Television
After barely surviving the trenches of World War I, an embittered young soldier takes a teaching post at Bamfylde, an elite boarding school in the uplands of West Devon. It is an unlikely job for a Welsh miner?s son withou... more »
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Heartwarming And Inspiring
John D. Cofield | 06/10/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"To Serve Them All My Days is a BBC production originally shown on Masterpiece Theater in the early 1980s. I saw it then and admired the wonderful acting, the lovely settings, and the excellent story. I am so glad it is finally available on DVD.The story revolves around young David Powlett-Jones, a shell shocked and wounded veteran of World War I who is hired to teach history at Bamfylde School in the last days of the war. David is from a Welsh coal mining family, and he has strong socialist convictions as well as a large chip on his shoulder about the priviledged youths and men he now finds himself among. This is a subtext that runs throughout the series, but the primary story deals with David's growing self confidence and abilities. There is also a romantic subtext, with David being involved with three women, a wife who dies tragically, a brief fling with another woman, and finally a second wife who is both upper class and a Labour politician, thus combining the two disparate elements in David's life.John Duttine is wonderful as the star of the series, but there is an excellent supporting cast led hy Frank Middlemass and Alan MacNaughton. Another nice aspect is the depiction of Bamfylde School itself, giving us Americans a pretty good idea of life in a British public school."
Excellent adaptation of the R.F. Delderfield novel
Gary M. Greenbaum | Fairfax, VA USA | 01/12/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Those who saw this 13-episode miniseries in 1984 or read the Delderfield book won't be disappointed in the adaptation, finally released on DVD.
David Powlett-Jones, invalided from World War I by shell-shock and a leg injury, is encouraged to take up a career as a schoolmaster. He is hired by the headmaster of a boys boarding school in Southwestern England, and under the gentle encouragement of that headmaster, Algy Herries, finds he has quite a knack for teaching. His leftist (for their time) political views shake up the school, but he is quickly accepted.
The series covers the period between near the end of World War I to the start of World War II, and in that rapidly changing world, we see David evolve and gain confidence in himself and what he believes in. Perhaps this is best brought out in the relationships he has with three women, his first wife, Beth, who is tragically killed, Julia Derbyshire, with whom he has a romance, and his second wife, Christine, a would-be Labour politician. All recognize his genius and encourage him, and it is with their help that he finds fulfillment.
This was definitely a low budget affair (you see the same boys over and over again, even though over twenty years transpires!), with few outside scenes, and when the school catches on fire, the effects are minimal. But it doesn't matter. The acting is spectacular. John Duttine is spectacular as David. Frank Middlemass, who is probably the most familiar name to American audiences due to his part in "As Time Goes By", also excels as Herries. Look for an excellent small part as the disciplinarian Cordwainer by longtime British character actor, John Welsh. Again, though, the British showed their knack of putting together a large cast using actors, few of whom have been heard of beyond their shores.
There are few extras on the DVDs. A text biography of Delderfield, the lyrics to the Bamfylde school song (custom written, though it sounds like a hymn), an explanation that the school scenes were filmed using a school in Dorset, as well as the students there. That's the sole disappointment. Though the series was filmed cheaply, more extras on the DVD wouldn't have cost much.
Excellent. Highly recommended."
The Best of British Drama
Richard Pain | Tulsa, OK United States | 03/10/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Simply put, TSTAMD is 11 hours of riveting drama, being without a doubt one of the best mini-series ever produced by the BBC. I first saw it on TV in 1980/81, and have been waiting ever since for it to be released either on tape or DVD. And now it's here, and well worth the wait. The acting is superb. The story is always interesting. Such is the exceptional level of production that you actually feel like you are really there; the characters and story being so well portrayed. The DVD picture quality is superb; however the sound is only average by today's standards but quite acceptable. If you love fine acting, deep character development and a great story this is a must see.BUY 'TO SERVE THEM ALL MY DAYS' TODAY!"
E. Eccher | Boston, MA | 10/29/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Like others who have commented here, I was quite taken with this mini-series when I saw it on PBS in 1984. Seeing that it had become available on DVD recently, I revisited it, wondering if my fond memories from 20 years ago would prove accurate or had taken on an unrealistic glow over time. Not to fear: I found the show's quality *surpassed* my memory of it. The series scarcely ever strikes a false note, and is bursting with poignant, funny, compelling and honest moments and characterizations.
The writing is very sharp, often surpassing the source material. I read the book after my first viewing 20 years ago -- Andrew Davies' script really improves upon Delderfield's portraits of the women in David Powlett-Jones's life, especially Christine Forster. I thought the direction was very strong as well, with pacing that moves along, yet lets us linger over important moments in ways that 21st century television rarely does. But the acting trumps all -- what a remarkable cast, always note-perfect.
The story follows David Powlett-Jones, a shell-shocked veteran of WWI. As we learn in the first of 13 episodes, David was the youngest son of a Welsh coal-miner. Unlike his three older brothers, two of whom died in a mining accident along with their father, David was "kept out of the pit" to attend the local grammar school. At age 18, instead of heading to Oxford as planned, he was shipped to France, where he spent three years fighting in "the Great War." His arrival at Bamfylde school in what appears to be early 1918 is part of a recovery program prescribed by an army neurologist: a closed community in a rural setting to help mend both the physical and the mental wounds David endured in the war.
At first David is skeptical that someone of his limited formal education, working class roots, and Socialist political leanings really belongs at Bamfylde, a public school where the boys "have an unconscious assumption of privilege." But the gentle yet insistent persuasion of headmaster Algy Herries convinces him to give it a try. His first day in the classroom provides an immediate challenge as the schoolboys test his mettle. But despite David's outwardly shy and soft-spoken ways, he soon shows that he can be as tough as any situation demands.
The series follows the intertwining of David's personal and professional growth, and the recurring conflicts between these two facets of his life. Along the way, there are loves, friendships, triumphs, and tragedy. Through it all, John Duttine is a marvel of sensitive and compelling acting, as are many of his cast-mates.
Be forewarned that the series was produced in 1980 on videotape and with a limited budget (reportedly less than $2 million -- in comparison, "The Blue and the Gray," a 1982 Civil War saga about 2/3 as long, cost between $16 and $18 million). Hence, the production often has the look of a filmed play, with few outdoor scenes and no special effects. But what it lacks in "gloss," it more than makes up for in substance.
I highly recommend this series to anyone who enjoys quality drama.