Mr. Selfridge

| March 13, 2013

Mr. Selfridge will premier on MASTERPIECE CLASSIC beginning Sunday, March 31st. It is an adaptation by Andrew Davies (Pride and Prejudice, Bleak House, Bridget Jones Diary, Little Dorrit, and on and on) and stars Ari Gold himself, Jeremy Piven.

If you lived at Downtown Abbey, chances are you shopped at Selfridge’s. Harry Gordon Selfridge was a charismatic American who, in his twenty-five years working at Marshall Field’s in Chicago, rose from lowly stockboy to a partner in the business which his visionary skills had helped to create. At the turn of the twentieth century he brought his own American dream to London’s Oxford Street where, in 1909, with a massive burst of publicity, Harry opened Selfridge’s, England’s first truly modern built-for-purpose department store. Designed to promote shopping as a sensual and pleasurable experience, six acres of floor space offered what he called “everything that enters into the affairs of daily life,” as well as thrilling new luxuries—from ice-cream soda to signature perfumes. This magical emporium also featured Otis elevators, a bank, a rooftop garden with an ice-skating rink, and a restaurant complete with orchestra—all catering to customers from Anna Pavlova to Noel Coward. The store was “a theatre, with the curtain going up at nine o’clock.” Yet the real drama happened off the shop floor, where Mr. Selfridge navigated an extravagant world of mistresses, opulent mansions, racehorses, and an insatiable addiction to gambling. While his gloriously  iconic store still stands, the man himself would ultimately come crashing down.

Fancy window displays, cosmetic counters, merchandise you can touch, and other marketing breakthroughs had to start somewhere, and they sprang from the genius of Chicago native Selfridge, who combined guile, taste, boldness, the poise of a swindler, and the seductive charm of a Casanova – all qualities which spelled success as much as they spelled trouble.

Mr. Selfridge marks the first television role for Jeremy Piven since his portrayal of movie agent Ari Gold in the hit series Entourage. Now, the three-time Emmy winner tackles another power player in the world of glitz: Henry Gordon Selfridge, father of the renowned London department store that bears his name and which opened to astonishment and some disdain in 1909.

Whatever the latest sensation, Mr. Selfridge hitches his star to it. Truly, in his personal life as in his business, he is addicted to the sensational – which creates exciting complications for all concerned.

Mr. Selfridge is adapted from the novel “Shopping, Seduction & Mr. Selfridge,” written by Lindy Woodhead but adapted by Andrew Davies. The cast includes Zoe Tapper (Stage Beauty) as Ellen Love, showgirl, temptress and the sexy “face of Selfridge’s.” Frances O’Connor (Madame Bovary) as Rose, Harry’s loyal but independent wife. Gregory Fitoussi (Spiral) as the mercurial Henri LeClair, window designer extraordinaire. And Aisling Loftus (Case Histories) as spunky shop girl Agnes Towler, who gets the lucky break of her life thanks to a chance encounter with Harry Selfridge.

Mr. Selfridge premiers Sunday, March 31, 2013 on MASTERPIECE CLASSIC on PBS. Check your local listings for showtimes.

About the Author:

Del Harvey is a co-founder of Film Monthly. He is an independent filmmaker, film director, screenwriter, and film teacher, currently living in Chicago.
Filed in: Television

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