Friday, October 7, 2011

When I Discovered Colin Firth

I’ve always felt somewhat good about the fact that I was a Colin Firth fan before he became well known in America.  I was a Colin Firth fan even before he starred in what is, for me, the definitive film version of Pride and Prejudice.  I became a Colin Firth fan way back in the 1987 when the PBS Masterpiece Theater series aired Lost Empires.

I remember watching Alistair Cooke introduce each episode and explaining that if the novel/film had been set in America it might have been called “Lost Palaces” because this was a story of vaudeville  in Britain and every small town had an Empire Theatre, just like every town in America had a Palace Theater.  But of course it was also a play on words because it was a film looking back on the days when the British Empire was not yet in decline – pre World War I. 

Firth played Richard Herncastle, a young man who loses his parents and is left with only one living relative, his uncle Nick who is a very successful vaudeville magician.  Richard joins the act and travels the music hall circuit.  Lawrence Olivier was in the film, playing a sad, washed up comedian.

I’ve always been fascinated with “back stage” stories that show the good and bad about theater life.  Richard isn’t interested in a vaudeville career, he wants to be an artist. But he meets a lot of interesting people.  

Lost Empires is being released on DVD.  I’d like to see it again.  Maybe someone will give it to me for Christmas …