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It’s 1927 and the Bretts have purchased a West End theatre. Charles, the lecherous patriarch, finds himself overwhelmed by bills and correspondence. Once his wife Lydia learns that Charles has hired an attractive secretary, her fury could have serious consequences for the family business.
This British Masterpiece miniseries centers around the Brett family, the darlings of London theater, circa 1920s. But the real stories are the fortunes and failures of the famous - or infamous - Bretts, that famous theatrical family whose public triumphs and behind-the-scenes traumas are the stuff of legend.
The series was directed by Ronnie Wilson, David Reynolds, Bill Hays, and John Bruce. The two-disc collection includes the series’ original eight episodes and features excellent performances by actors Barbara Murray, Norman Rodway, and George Winter, among others.
An episode breakdown is provided below. For more information, visit the Acorn site here.
Episode 1: The King Shall Not Die
It’s 1927 and the Bretts have purchased a West End theatre. Charles, the patriarch, finds himself overwhelmed by bills and correspondence. When his wife Lydia learns that Charles has hired an attractive secretary, her fury could have serious consequences for the family business.
Episode 2: Driving Ambition
The Bretts purchase a new motorcar, with disastrous results. A visit from a vagabond friend of Charles’s might solve their automobile problems. Meanwhile, there’s high drama at the theatre when Charles tries to install his son as the lead in a play.
Episode 3: Vagabonds and Thieves
Thomas—Charles and Lydia’s son—writes a stunningly successful new play, but Charles is feeling jealous. When a theatre owner expresses interest in mounting a production of Thomas’s next play, Charles jumps on the opportunity to offer his son a few strategic edits.
Episode 4: Full House
Following an illness, Charles’s parents come to stay with the family. Thomas, annoyed at having to give up his room, packs up and moves into the theatre. Meanwhile, Charles and Lydia’s actress daughter Martha is intrigued by the theatre’s new manager.
Episode 5: Moving Pictures
The family is shocked and appalled when their son, Edwin, goes against his theatrical roots and appears in a silent film. Charles’s feelings on the matter soften when he’s offered a screen test. During the commotion, Sutton quietly contemplates his own career change.
Episode 6: Broadway, Here I Come
Gerard, Lydia’s former flame and a successful Broadway composer comes to visit, much to Charles’s chagrin. Gerard, though, seems much more interested in another member of the household. Lydia contemplates a return to the bright lights of Broadway.
Episode 7: Revenge is Sweet
Offended by a negative review of his latest play, Edwin takes drastic measures against a local theatre critic. The journalist retaliates by publishing unflattering stories about the Bretts, but Charles receives a helpful tip from an unexpected source.
Episode 8: Get Me to the Church on Time
Charles and Lydia’s daughter Martha is in trouble with the law following her arrest at a political rally. Edwin finds himself besotted with her friend, the lovely Lady Diana Lucas. Meanwhile, Martha is having romantic troubles of her own.
Episode 9: The Actress and the Bishop
After her political adventures landed her in jail, Martha is injured and forced to withdraw from her current role. She’s not the only Brett with legal troubles: Charles lands in court facing libel charges stemming from a bawdy tale about an actress and a bishop.
Episode 10: Forbidden Fruit Part One
Thomas, newly interested in socialism, visits Germany with a friend. His choice of traveling companion, however, raises some eyebrows at home. The playwright returns to London with a very unconventional souvenir.
Episode 11: Forbidden Fruit Part Two
Distraught over her sudden and tragic loss, Martha begins using cocaine to help cope with the pain. Edwin finds himself involved with three women at once, leading Sutton to ask the budding Casanova for romantic advice.
Episode 12: All Right on the Night
Charles and Lydia’s wedding anniversary is coming up, but Lydia has become deeply mistrustful of her husband, suspecting that Charles is having an affair. While fretting about Charles’s trustworthiness, Lydia launches a secret campaign of her own.
Episode 13: Grand Finale
Disaster strikes the theatre when a fire causes extensive damage. The Bretts plan a Christmas pantomime of Cinderella in order to shore up their bank accounts—and add a little seasonal cheer to a dreary holiday.
Episode 1: Home and Away, Part One
Charles, frazzled and exhausted, is told that he needs a vacation, and so the family travels to Edwin’s villa in the south of France. The Bretts’ younger daughter, Perdita, takes advantage of her family’s absence and the empty house.
Episode 2: Home and Away, Part Two
As Charles’s health worsens, he’s forced to consider selling the theatre. He’s not the only Brett having career difficulty—Edwin’s film career stalls after his contract is suspended. Meanwhile, Fergus, chauffer Hegarty’s nephew, comes to visit.
Episode 3: A House Divided
Hegarty learns the true reason for Fergus’s visit—the young man is on the run after witnessing a murder. Martha suffers a violent attack at the theatre, and Charles runs into trouble with the actors’ union.
Episode 4: The Luck of the Irish
Martha’s new politician boyfriend pressures her to accompany him on the campaign trail. At home, Fergus is still frightened of the thugs he saw committing a murder. Lydia persuades Charles to try something new—playing Romeo opposite her in a radio broadcast.
Episode 5: I’ve Got You under My Skin
Tragedy strikes the Bretts’ servants, and head butler Sutton can’t stop blaming himself. Charles and Lydia’s stage careers are both declining, as former theatergoers discover the thrill of “talkies.” Edwin comes up with a business proposal that angers his father, but may save the family.
Episode 6: The Golden Dustman
Edwin’s relationship is threatened by the amount of time he spends with his glamorous co-star. His sister Martha finds herself forced her to make a choice about her future. Meanwhile, Charles mulls over an offer to star in a film.
Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly, a film teacher, a writer and a film critic in Chicago.
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