The Young Visiters - 2003. Lord Bernard Clark
More information and links from IMDB
BBC page about The Young Visiters
Read samples from the book ( written by 9 year old Daisy Ashford) online at stonesoup.com
On the Set
Daily Express Saturday, December 20 - 26, 2003
Daily Mail Weekend, December, 2003
The Box: If only I wasn't an actor...; The Young Visiters, BBC1, 6pm, Boxing Day.
Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England); 12/21/2003
HUGH Laurie plays a man racked with misery in The Young Visiters, and it's a state with which he is surprisingly familiar.
For while he may be one of our most successful actors, he still has serious doubts about it being the profession for him.
In fact, he plays down his talents considerably as shown by the explanation he gives for landing a starring role in new movie The Flight Of The Phoenix.
'It was clearly a typing error on the part of the film-makers,' he says. 'But when I turned up on set and fitted the character's clothes, I got the job.'
Of course in reality Hugh was hand-picked to star alongside Dennis Quaid in the James Stewart re-make. But, nevertheless, he claims to keep a list of all the other jobs he would prefer to do.
'The numbers have dwindled a bit over the years, but there are still things I could do if I gave up acting -being a cocktail pianist still has a certain appeal!'
But, before he can have a tinkle on the keys, Hugh is starring in one of the BBC's big guns for the Christmas season.
The Young Visiters, based on a Victorian novel by nine-year-old Daisy Ashford, has a starry cast which also includes Jim Broadbent and Bill Nighy.
Hugh, 44, plays Lord Bernard Clark, a man of wealth and good looks but who is lonely and miserable in his massive castle. Enter young minx Ethel Monticue (Lyndsey Marshal), brought to his castle by Alfred Salteena (Jim Broadbent). Salteena wants her for himself but Clark falls instantly in love with Ethel.
Hugh enjoyed showing off his prowess at piano-playing and rowing while making The Young Visiters. He was a Cambridge Blue in his university days, rowing in the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race, but he got more than he bargained for when he offered to take the crew and camera out.
'It was very hard work rowing with eight additional crew members aboard -I ended up pulling about two-and-a-half tons. That was a very long afternoon but, you know, I'm happy to serve!'
Jim Broadbent, meanwhile, was not to be outdone and was keen to show off his horseriding skills. He had to gallop, badly, behind the Queen's carriage.
'I was very keen to do the horseriding because I had ridden a lot as a boy,' says the Oscar-winner. 'I had to look like I couldn't ride but when the cameras were off I made the horse trot back just to show off that I could ride.
'Sadly, I don't think anybody noticed the difference!'
Jim and Hugh compete for Ethel's hand in marriage in the film but Hugh struggles to recall being in a similar situation in real life.
He talks vaguely about things being more 'orderly' when it came to winning the affections of his wife Jo, by whom he has three children, Charlie, 15, Bill, 13, and Rebecca, 10.
But mention of Jo does remind him that the profession he's in isn't necessarily the right one for him.
'She thinks performers are slightly -what's the word? -sick. She thinks there is something wrong with people who would want to get up and make a spectacle of themselves.
'And maybe she is right. She is about so many things.'
But there's no doubt Hugh has made rather a success of his profession. From his early days as Stephen Fry's comedy partner, through Blackadder and movies such as Maybe Baby and Stuart Little -which premieres on BBC1 on Christmas Day -he's had few duds.
But there was Fortysomething earlier this year, the ITV comedy drama yanked from its primetime spot after just one episode.
It's hardly one to celebrate, although Hugh, nice guy that he is, won't criticise ITV for their decision to pull it.
'They presumably know their business and felt it was right to do what they did,' says Hugh. 'It was disappointing but you move on and hope to do better next time.'
ACTING UP: Big bums, dead birds and Bill Nighy; M Celebs' Deirdre O'Brien becomes a frock star for a day on the set of the BBC's new Christmas drama The Young Visiters.(Features)
Sunday Mirror (London, England); 12/14/2003
Byline: Deirdre O'Brien
It's 6am at Syon House in Middlesex, and the stately home is bathed in sunlight. The car park, however, is full of lorries, Edwardian ladies, American Indians, admirals and African tribal chiefs.
It's not a fancy dress party, but the set of the BBC drama The Young Visiters (sic). Written in 1919 by Daisy Ashcroft, then only eight years old, the classic romance tells the story of Ethel Monticue, a young woman who aspires to join polite society. And M Celebs has been invited along to experience being an extra in a costume drama.
I'm ushered into make-up and introduced to Karen, whose job it is to deal with a face that clearly got up at 4am. `Don't worry, we'll sort out those bags,' she says. She applies carmine stain to my lips (the Edwardians didn't have lip gloss), but won't let me have any mascara: `Not suitable for the period.' My first appearance on national TV and I'm not allowed mascara. The horror.
But it's about to get worse, as after a session with the heated rollers, my hair is transformed into a mass of snaky curls. It's a bit Anita Dobson, a bit Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Karen pins it up, adds a few Joan Collins-style hair pieces, and ushers me into the wardrobe van.
Wardrobe mistress Pat hands me a hideous pair of cream cotton stockings and a set of garters. Authentically Edwardian, it is not a good look. Next, she bears down on me with a cushion-shaped object. `This is your bum pad,' she says, strapping it on. `That's no good, you need a bigger one, your bottom isn't big enough,' she sighs, becoming my friend forever.
With all suitable underpinnings in place, Pat laces me into a green velvet and silk frock and hands me my headdress - a stuffed bird with horrible, cold, dead, staring eyes. It gives me the creeps.
`Ooh, lovely, it matches your eyes,' says Charlotte, the costume designer. Er, thanks, I think.
Now, it's off to the catering wagon, where I spot Love Actually star Bill Nighy in modern-day dress, chatting to Hugh Laurie and tucking into a bacon sarnie. It looks delicious, but I daren't risk it. Ketchup stains just aren't Edwardian.
`You do have to be careful - that's why wardrobe are so strict,' says Paul, a professional extra. `In Henry VIII with Ray Winstone, there was a scene where Anne Boleyn was on her way to the gallows and you could clearly see an extra wearing a digital watch. They had to reshoot the whole thing.'
It's time to board the bus up to Syon House. I grab a seat next to Dele Aurosile, a London musician, who is in full African tribal dress. `This bone necklace is digging into my skin,' he moans, although he tells me he's excited about meeting Bill Nighy again, as he played one of his backing vocalists in Love Actually.
At the house, I have time for a quick chat with Nighy, who's thoroughly enjoying himself playing the Earl of Clincham. `This is brilliant fun - you get to camp it up outrageously.'
I also accost Jim Broadbent, playing Alfred Salteena, `an elderly man of 42', but he's called away for filming, and doesn't have time to chat.
Inside Syon House, where the party scene is being filmed, it's opulence itself - all polished parquet floors, chandeliers, oil paintings and enormous mirrors. I'm introduced to Kristian Antonelli, my partner for the day. Kristian's a professional extra, and was last at Syon House appearing in Byron with Jonny Lee Miller. In fact, you can see Kristian milling around in the background of most of the costume dramas made in the past few years.
`Extras are the lowest of the low - we're like moving furniture really,' he sighs. `The money's not great, but you do get to meet some interesting people. Dustin Hoffman's a nice bloke, Johnny Depp is cool - I had a few good chats with him on JM Barrie's Neverland. It depends on the shoot though - if it's a big production, you don't get to mix with the stars as much.'
So is it a perk of the job, getting to meet gorgeous actresses? Kristian looks shocked. `You're kidding, you can't breathe on the actresses. The make-up girls, maybe,' he chuckles, saucily.
One of the make-up team suddenly appears, powders my nose and adjusts the dead bird. It's time for our moment of glory.
Muttering `Rhubarb and custard', I sweep through the room on Kristian's arm, hot on Hugh Laurie's heels. Well, at least I hope I'm sweeping - not cannoning into the furniture is taking all my concentration.
`Ethel, I am charmed,' breathes Bill Nighy, bending over Lindsey Marshal, the beautiful young actress playing the lead, and managing to make the four words sound thoroughly obscene.
We repeat the scene three more times, and the director shouts `cut'. As the cast move on to the next scene, I notice Lindsey's dress is much nicer than mine. `That's because she's a lead,' says Kristian. `It will have been especially chosen to reflect the light and attract attention. Remember, we extras are just moving furniture.'
Look out for Deirdre in The Young Visiters on BBC1 over Christmas
The Young Visiters.(Movie Review)
Variety; 11/1/2004; Lowry, Brian
(MOVIE; BBC AMERICA, WED. NOV. 3, 8 P.M.)
Although based on the writings of a child (9-year-old Daisy Ashford, to be precise), "The Young Visiters" is a family film but not really a children's story. That's a delicate high-wire act, and director David Yates (whose credits include the BBC thriller "State of Play") and writer Patrick Barlow have deftly tiptoed through it, yielding a warm and surprisingly unsentimental production that has "evergreen" written all over it.
I confess to having been previously unaware of the precocious Ashford, whose late-19th century novel is much beloved in her native England. In it, she tells the somewhat disjointed story of Alfred Salteena (producer and star Jim Broadbent), who falls for the lovely Ethel Monticue (Lyndsey Marshal). Alfred then miscalculates badly by seeking to leverage his relationship with the wealthy Lord Bernard Clark (Hugh Laurie, star of Fox's upcoming series "House") to woo her.
Alas, this ranks high on the list of dimwitted ideas, since the social-climbing Ethel has visions of grand balls in Bernard's mansion, and Bernard quickly sets his sights on her as well. So poor Alfred gets dispatched to the Crystal Palace, where he hopes the Earl of Clincham (an amusingly haughty Bill Nighy) can teach him the art of nobility.
Attempting to capture the childlike tone of Ashford's writing (down to various misspellings, from the title to a sign that directs Alfred toward the "Prince of Whales"), the east turns in exaggerated performances that require a little getting used to. Broadbent's Alfred walks through the world with a Stan Laurel look on his face and annoying Forrest Gump voice, blissfully unaware that his not-so-carefully laid plans risk going awry.
What emerges, however, is simple yet elegant, an adult fable told through a child's eyes. That includes every aspect of the meticulous production, from the costumes to the sumptuous settings to Nicholas Hooper's lovely score.
Perhaps reflecting the desire to be associated with such an undertaking, Yates also has the benefit of working with a topnotch cast. Marshal in particular shines as Ethel, who could easily have come across far less charitably than she does.
If nothing else, "The Young Visiters" highlights the breadth of BBC America's menu, representing the sort of movie that rarely finds much tube traction in the U.S. Let's only hope that in these age-conscious times, this notion of tapping into the fertile imagination of 9-year-old authors doesn't take root on this side of the Pond.
LAST NIGHT'S TELEVISION: The return of vintage Hardy; THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE V ITV1 THE YOUNG VISITERS V BBC1.(Features)
The Independent (London, England); 12/29/2003;
Byline: THOMAS SUTCLIFFE
Innuendo was a good deal more conspicuous in The Young Visiters (BBC1, Boxing Day), which was a little odd since the original story was written by a nine-year-old girl, and is famous for its guileless innocence. The insinuations in this television adaptation (including one very gamey Carry On gag about a ballroom) had been added by Patrick Barlow, and they were the least successful element in what turned out to be a triumph of style over content.
Deprived of the misspellings, which are a large part of the book's charm for adults, Barlow had created a world of surreal simplicity, in which Alfred Salteena's hopeless love for Ethel Monticue, a social climber he meets on a train, played out like a dream. Jim Broadbent drew on his apprenticeship with the National Theatre of Brent for his portrayal of Mr Salteena as a wide-eyed simpleton, and Hugh Laurie played Lord Bernard Clark, who stole Ethel's affections while Salteena was being polished up in the Earl of Clincham's finishing school.
It was beautifully executed (and beautifully designed, too, including a first-class dining compartment that Cecil Beaton would have died for), but I suspect it only worked for those who knew and loved the book, and so could appreciate the way that original details had been looked after: for example, the Prince of Wales's "small but costly crown", here perched on Simon Russell Beale's head like an opulent golf ball. It wasn't really a dramatisation, in fact, more a loving act of illustration, and one in which you occasionally felt a little impatience at the speed at which the pages were being turned. Perhaps now they could turn their attention to the comic character Broadbent was born to play, and who drifted spectrally through his performance here. One day, I hope he will give us Mr Pooter (Diary of a Noboby), with a cast and a production such as The Young Visiters. I can't see how it could fail.
Outside of election-time politics and nonsense, there's just not enough that is truly surreal on television. And there's virtually nothing that is surreal and sweet, a strange concoction almost no one can dream up.
But back in 1890, a young, clearly precocious 9-year-old girl named Daisy Ashford wrote a "novel" for her ailing mother called "The Young Visiters" (the title being one of many misspellings), which was discovered 29 years later and turned from the free-form whimsy of a child's imagination into a real book. It became an instant success and has never, in its run as a British classic, been out of print.
Now the BBC has made a lovely, thoroughly engaging and, yes, surreal movie out of "The Young Visiters," which BBC America will air on Wednesday (and if we don't have a clear winner in the presidential race by then, it will only add to the decidedly strange atmosphere likely to invade your house when you watch this).
First off, it should be said that you really do need to be in the mood for "The Young Visiters." If you can imagine "Alice In Wonderland" played with a dash less madness and a pinch more childlike naivete, then you can get your head around the brilliance of this adaption. It's not every day that a 9-year- old pens a tale of love, hope and sorrow (not to mention class warfare) and makes it enchanting for both adults and children.
The beauty of "The Young Visiters" spreads itself everywhere. Academy Award-winner Jim Broadbent ("Iris," "Moulin Rouge") and Hugh Laurie (the "Black Adder" series, "Stuart Little" and Fox's forthcoming "House") are perfectly cast as the oddball outsiders who fall hopelessly in love with the young Ethel Monticue (Lyndsey Marshal, "The Hours," "The Gathering Storm"), who uses her wily feminine charm to achieve her dream of mingling with lords and ladies.
But the real success of this adaption belongs to two people: writer and actor Patrick Barlow ("Shakespeare in Love," "Notting Hill") who resists the temptation to modernize or correct in any way this wonderful story; and director David Yates ("State of Play"), who trusts that the inherent silliness of a 9-year-old's world view will mix joyfully with her perception of adult life. It's in this funny and touching combination where you'll find the real heart of "The Young Visiters." It's quirky for adults and fanciful high drama for children.
Mostly though, it's daunting to pull off. But as soon as you get a glimpse of Broadbent, channeling a sad clown or silent film star Buster Keaton (influences that he later said were natural to the role), the tone presents itself simply and perfectly.
What little Daisy Ashford dreamed up and put on paper is the tale of sad Alfred Salteena, who lives in dreary East Dulwich, outside of London. He doesn't have much going on. No real plans. No love. Not much happiness. On the train one day, he overhears Ethel Monticue's mother needling her to get out and meet someone in high society. Stunned by her beauty, Alfred pretends to know dukes and duchesses and invites Ethel to come visit and mingle with them.
Pressed to act, he sends a letter to equally lonely Lord Bernard Clark (Laurie), who has the estate, money and life that Ethel so desperately wants, but also has no friends. He barely remembers Alfred (who likes to be called Alf), but invites them both up anyway and falls immediately for Ethel. In turn, Ethel is put off by Alf's inability to understand manners or the spoils of the high life.
Fearing Ethel won't marry him unless he's got lineage, Alf seeks the counsel of Lord Bernard who, sensing an opening (though feeling bad about it), sends Alf off to the Crystal Palace to meet the Earl of Clincham (Bill Nighy, "Love Actually" and "State of Play"). Now, Nighy is a fabulous actor, as are Laurie and Broadbent, so you get three very accomplished vets bringing out the best of this material by having an obviously high time being the embodiment of a young girl's make-believe mind.
As Laurie says in the notes to the film: "(Ashford) has included details that no adult writer would think to observe and in other instances there are points which she has completely missed. It is that wonderful thing that adults can't really fake. A child's work has completely different elements and emphasis to that of an adult."
There are a lot of silly, sweet and wonderful moments in "The Young Visiters." For adults, watching great actors say the lines of a 9-year-old who, while impressively mature, nevertheless misuses words and meanings in her quest to write like a grown-up, is charming and funny from beginning to end. For children, "The Young Visiters" creates a wholly believable adult world, part "Willy Wonka" without the candy and "Alice in Wonderland" without the, um, mind-altering parts.
What's ultimately astonishing is all the underlying elements Daisy Ashford got right, not only about society and status, but about the relationships between men and women. There's a strange sadness here, mixed in with the quirkiness, a knowing beyond her years that's captured utterly by everyone involved in this surreal adaptation.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
'Visiters' is grand peek into child's mind
Posted: Oct. 30, 2004
Please note: quoting the source of the show, there are a number of on-purpose misspellings in this story.
Written by a 9-year-old novelist in 1890,"The Young Visiters" - little Daisy Ashford was better at plotting than spelling - is an unusual choice for a full-dress treatment with A-list stars.
But, wonder of wonders, this British production with Jim Broadbent ("Moulin Rouge," "Iris") and Hugh Laurie ("Stuart Little," Fox's forthcoming "House"), which makes its U.S. premiere on the BBC America channel, is so funny, tender, playful and eccentrically charming that watching it might make you wonder what kind of screenplay fodder your own kids have tucked away in their sock drawers.
The book is a beloved oddity of English literature, published in 1919, misspellings and all,and never out of print since.
From her first few pages, which introduce Alfred Salteena, "an elderly man of 42," Ethel Monticue, his fetching 17-year-old houseguest, and "a quear shaped parcel" that comes in the mail - Daisy's voice is precocious but innocent, clearly influenced by her elders yet very much her own.
In the book, Ethel simply shows up at Mr. Salteena's breakfast table, an alarmingly un-Victorian circumstance that somehow must be explained in the screenplay. Writer Patrick Barlow and director David Yates invent a meeting on a train, complete with a proper chaperon, that makes the breakfast a bit more plausible.
That taken care of, "the quear shaped parcel" makes its entrance, and a potent package it is. It contains a large top hat for Mr. S. (Broadbent) and an invitation to him "and one of your young ladies, whichever is prettiest in the face" to visit the manor house of Bernard Clark (Laurie), a handsome, rich but unaccountably lonely young nobleman.
Thus begins a suspenseful romantic triangle, with both Alfred and Bernard pursuing the flirtatious Ethel ( Lyndsay Marshal, "The Hours"), the elderly Mr. Salteena via a crash course in social climbing and the young lord by treating himself and the object of his affection to - talk about un-Victorian! - a stay in a grand hotel.
"Grand" is one of Daisy's favorite words - "The hall was very big and hung round with guns and mats and ancesters giving it a gloomy but a grand air," she writes of Bernard's digs - but she likes "costly" even better. Throughout, she displays an avid materialism that, if you replace all the velvet with Spandex and the carriages with Lexuses, seems downright 21st century.
The young author is also fond of colors, from dark purple and cherry red to the lighter tones she calls "yellaw" and "mouve." Costume designer Caroline Noble has a field day with Daisy's descriptions, outfitting Ethel in a dozen gorgeous gowns and frocks and the men in silk dressing gowns that are positively, as the novelist would say, "sumpshious."
Yates suggests the child's-eye view in some marvelous ways: serving ice cream and jelly at cocktail parties, having adults bounce up and down on enormous beds, letting a delighted Ethel race down Bernard's grand hall as if she were on a playground instead of in a mansion.
Better still, the silliness is all done with a straight face, a la Gilbert & Sullivan. When an excited Alfred, having just met Ethel, gets a little skip in his walk at the train station, the soberly dressed strangers behind him echo the skip a beat later. When he enrolls in upper-class boot camp to win Ethel's hand, he becomes a 6-foot-tall marionette, jerked this way and that by merciless etiquette coaches.
Broadbent borrows just enough from Charlie Chaplin's Tramp to make Alfred touching, while adding an eager awkwardness and managing to appear as guileless as a 9-year-old himself. Laurie's Bernard is like a small boy with a very big allowance, desperate to impress girls but seeming as likely to pull a frog out of his pocket as a 10-pound note.
This is heady company for the less experienced Marshal, but she doesn't miss a trick. From the moment her character insists that the handsome Bernard call her by her first name, which she coquettishly draws out to about four syllables, Ethel is giddy, petulant, vain, childish and utterly adorable.
The BBC America channel is available on satellite and digital cable systems. If you don't get it, bribe someone who does to make a tape for you. It's worth it.