On the evening of December 11, 1936, England's King Edward VIII formally broadcast his farewell to a nation. Torn between duty and love, he had decided to follow his heart. A powerful fairytale made all the more compelling... more » because it actually happened, EDWARD & MRS. SIMPSON captures the unforgettable romance that develops between the Prince of Wales and an extraordinary American woman named Wallis Simpson. That she is already married and believed to have had previous affairs ruffles more than a few feathers. The scandal heats up when the Prince becomes King and declares his intention to marry his mistress, who has since divorced and become quite available. A critically acclaimed British mini-series from 1978 finally available on DVD, EDWARD & MRS. SIMPSON features seven episodes shot in sumptuous period detail and stars Edward Fox (Gandhi, A Passage to India) and Cynthia Harris (Mad About You, Three Men and a Baby). DVD Features: "Wallis Simpson" Episode From A&E's Award-Winning Series BIOGRAPHY; Interactive Menus; Scene Selection« less
Yvonne L. from CLEARFIELD, UT Reviewed on 8/13/2009...
The only thing that would have made it better is close captioning.
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Was SHE worth giving up a crown?
F. Behrens | Keene, NH USA | 02/25/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
""The King of England and the woman for whom he gave up a throne" has nearly passed into legend, as has the much re-recorded abdication speech give by Edward VIII in which he explained in his own voice (kings by tradition had no right to express personal opinions in public) that all he wanted was to be with the woman he loved. Whether or not she was a scheming Lady Macbeth who wanted to be a queen will never really be known, but it makes an interesting challenge for an actress who plays the part of the American, twice-divorced Mrs. Simpson.
I was delighted to learn that A&E has restored the 1978 mini-series, "Edward & Mrs. Simpson" in a boxed set of two DVDs (AAE 71753). In seven episodes of 50 minutes each, it tells the tale of how Edward (Edward Fox) first runs into Wallis Simpson (Cynthia Harris), becomes obsessed with her, drives all of the higher-ups in the British government half mad seeking ways to satisfy their master and at the same time stopping a marriage which could not constitutionally exist.
As scripted, Simpson is no sympathetic character but a woman used to getting what she wants, even if it is the next King of England. Unhappily, Edward (who is called David throughout the series) is shown to be a spoiled brat who often puts his pleasures before his duties; and by the time one might really feel sorry for him, some can only say, "What did you expect?" and "You got what you thoroughly deserved."
As fine as Fox and Harris are as actors, there is none of that special "chemistry" needed to convince us that these two were (or at least that he was) so madly obsessed with each other. And while there is much talk about how fascinating Wallis was to all who met her, the viewer hardly sees anything matching that description.
But what a pleasure it is to see consummate actors do their stuff, especially supported by such British stars as Nigel Hawthorne, Peggy Ashcroft (as the outraged Queen Mary), John Shrapnel, David Waller (as the long-suffering Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin), Patricia Hodge (from the Rumpole series), and too many others to mention here.
A final irony is found in the bonus feature, "Wallis Simpson" from A&E's Biography series, when we are told that Simpson was carrying on another affair all through her stalking of Edward! It would be interesting to know how this would have changed the script if this information were known back then.
In sum, although I think that just under six hours is far too long to carry this story and keep things sparking (150 minutes would have been about right), I can still recommend this set for the acting, the period décor, and the discussions it is bound to stimulate among the viewers.
Engrossing Story, Excellent Production, Fine Acting
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 02/25/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This production, in my view, is one of the glories of Masterpiece Theater. The acting is excellent, from the leads to the extras. The story is fascinating, especially if you like peeking at the lives of royalty and the upper crust. Every pound Thames Television put into the show is visible; the settings are authentic or look it; the costumes appear bespoke, as they say; and everyone's manners are immaculate, even if what they do isn't.
It's the story of the affair between Edward, Prince of Wales, later Edward VIII, and Wallis Warfield Simpson, an American twice-married divorcee. It starts just before he meets her and ends shortly after he abdicates the British throne to marry "the woman I love." He became the Duke of Windsor and she his Duchess. It was probably the biggest story of its time. The program runs for six 60 minute installments. Because of the style, the acting and the story of these two people, who are so self-indulgent and so obtuse (on his part) and so calculating and brittle (on her part), it never seems boring.
Edward, played by Edward Fox, is a man of great charm and handsome appearance, a man girls swoon over and men wish to be like. He's also privileged, unselfconsciously selfish and not really too bright. He's a man who seems most comfortable with older women, women who can cosset and coo over him. His mistresses have all been older and married. Edward Fox, a fine actor, is wonderful in the part. (For those who might not recognize his name, he was the Jackal in The Day of the Jackal). Wallis, played by Cynthia Harris, is a woman who can seem hard and even scheming, but who also has some vulnerability about her that makes her at least somewhat sympathetic.
Among the fine cast is Nigel Hawthorne as Walter Monckton, one of Edward's loyal but realistic counsellors; Cherie Lunghi as Lady Thelma Furness, a mistress Edward casts off by simply telling his switchboard not to accept anymore of her calls; David Waller as Stanley Baldwin, the shrewd prime minister; and Jessie Mathews as Wallis' Aunt Bessie Merryman, all pink and plump and powdered...and keen-eyed. (Mathews in the Thirties was the toast of the London stage, singing and dancing in a number of musicals. She introduced Rodgers and Hart's "Dancing on the Ceiling.")
If you like Masterpiece Theater or similar shows, I think you'll like this program very much. The DVD picture is very good. Unfortunately, there is only one extra, A&E's Biography of Wallis Simpson. Not even any cast bios."
Good, but very wordy
John D. Cofield | 10/27/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Edward and Mrs Simpson" is a dramatization of the Abdication Crisis of 1936. The first parts, which deal with Edward's meeting Wallis Simpson and falling in love with her, are well done, highly dramatic but staying close to the real events. Things get a bit tedious towards the end when the show focusses more on the negotiations between the King, the Prime Minister, and the other Parliament and Commonwealth leaders than on the two principal characters. Even so, "Edward and Mrs Simpson" is well worth the money."
Still holds the field
constant viewer | Florida, USA | 09/21/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This outstanding British TV-film, originally broadcast in 1978, was dramatized from Frances Donaldson's magisterial 1974 biography of the duke of Windsor. Of all the biographies written about this sad, complex man, Donaldson's dominates the field, as the duke's official biographer admitted in his preface. The 1978 film outstrips any yet made about the duke and duchess, especially two lamentable TV films: "The Woman I Love" (1972), with Richard Chamberlain as Edward VIII/ duke of Windsor trying to act royal opposite a most unconvincing Faye Dunaway as Mrs Simpson, and "The Woman He Loved" (1988), with Antony Edwards mumbling incomprehensibly opposite an even less convincing Jane Seymour (in the worst old-age makeup ever inflicted on a TV audience).
"Edward and Mrs Simpson," in contrast, is impeccably cast and acted from start to finish. I imagine the existing Royal Family's displeasure with yet another TV film about their most famous black sheep may have been all that kept this film from receiving the public awards it deserved.
Cynthia Harris is the most believable Wallis Simpson on film--an American woman mystified by the intricacies of life in Britain in the 1930's, when an island kingdom struggled to preserve the ghosts of Empire. As prince of Wales/Edward VIII/duke of Windsor, Edward Fox flawlessly combines brittle arrogance with the fatal misunderstandings of the realities of his position that doomed Edward's reign. Even lesser roles are superb: Nigel Hawthorne, best remembered for his turn as Edward VIII's mad ancestor George III, marvellously captures the difficult position in which the king's advisor Walter Monckton found himself in 1936. Amanda Reiss as duchess of York (then Queen Elizabeth, finally the late Queen Mother), bears an uncanny physical resemblance to the real duchess and conveys that lady's apprehension and fury as she grasps the implications of the crisis with which Edward's love for Mrs Simpson confronted his brother and frail heir-presumptive the duke of York (later George VI, father of Elizabeth II).
In addition to the excellent acting, the film realistically portrays British life in the 1930's and the role the nation's outlook played in ending Edward's reign. Costumes, sets, cars, even cigarettes without filters (a point often overlooked in period films set before the 1950's)--all these combine to re-create a society now long vanished. Understanding just how that society functioned is vital to comprehending how it could have come about that a king, regardless of his popularity as prince of Wales, could find himself left with no choice but to abandon throne and people because his prospective wife was unacceptable to an Establishment of whose strength and influence Edward had somehow managed to keep himself almost entirely ignorant.
Perhaps nothing sums up this fundamental conundrum better than the director's inspired choice to accompany the film's credits with a popular song from Edward VIII's youth:
"I've danced with a boy, who danced with a girl, who danced with the Prince of Wales! It was simply grand--he said, 'Topping band!' and she said, 'Delightful, sir'....""