Sunday, July 01, 2007

Happy Birthday to the Great Jean Marsh

I just loved the show Upstairs, Downstairs. Richard Marson, in his book about the show, called it "one of the most famous television series ever made." It was created by Jean Marsh and Eileen Atkins; Marsh also had a starring role as Rose Buck, one of the maids in the Bellamy household who was relegated to "downstairs." The Bellamys were a wealthy English family around the turn of the century.

The division between the "upstairs" elite and the "downstairs" servants was where the show derived its wonderful tension--from the notion that two classes could be divided in one household in such a regimented and traditional way. It was notable that the downstairs people, despite their frugal way of life and their lack of future possibilites, were generally happier than the upstairs people, which I suppose was meant to be an irony of the show.

Rose in particular was a wonderful character, and Jean Marsh invested her with quiet dignity. She was a role model for the younger, lowlier maids, and she had great admiration for the house butler, Mr. Hudson, who was a sort of father figure to all of the downstairs people. Mr. Hudson was strict, moral, judgmental, and entirely class conscious, as was Mrs. Bridges, the cook.

If you haven't seen Upstairs, Downstairs, I highly recommend that you check it out; there are box sets available and I'm sure it can be ordered on Netflix. Once you start, you won't want to stop.

I know that Jean Marsh has played other memorable roles, but I will always think of her as Rose, the plucky maid in the Bellamy household who won our hearts with both her vulnerability and her strength.


Anonymous said...

I also send Jean my fondest regards for her birthday. Not only a fabulous actress and writer, but a lovely person too. I know, I knew her back in the early 60's! I had known Jon Pertwee for 2-3 years and when I met Jean at The Garrick Theatre, one day I vaguelly recalled the name and asked her if it was her. 'Yes, Jon and I were married.' I was flabbergasted. Jon had met this Swedish girl (not sure if they had married at this time) and I was shocked that he had dumped this stunning girl before me - what the hell was this Swedish girl like then! Jean laughed at my outburst. She was indeed very angry at Jon, she still loved him, but she had learned to carry on with life. They did talk when they met but there was a sense of terseness in the air all the time. Jean had been a dancer and still tried to get into the lineup to cover for sickies, she was well regarded as a dancer. I got to be very fond of her, she was a nice person to be with.

Julia Buckley said...

How wonderful that you know Jean! She is one of those few people that I would love to meet in person and I feel I wouldn't be disappointed. :)

And isn't it funny, when marriages break up, and we think, "How could that person possibly leave their wonderful spouse?" I do that all the time.