Michelle Dockery, who plays Lady Mary Crawley, and Downton Abbey's creator, Julian Fellowes.
No redblooded man in the civilized world who has ever viewed Downton Abbey on TV has not come away from the viewing screen madly in love with Lady Mary Crawley (and I am sure that many women feel the same way). This ravishing creature is played by an equally-ravishing actress named Michelle Dockery, who was in Los Angeles this past weekend for the Golden Globes, where she was nominated for best actress in a TV drama. (Only to lose to Claire Danes, who won for the popular drama, Homeland.). Nevertheless, our affection for this exquisite, determined, strong-willed British woman is not lessened. In fact, it is probably strengthened as we felt her anguish at losing. There is very little in this world that can stand in the way of Lady Mary when she sets her mind to it. Just ask Matthew, her feckless husband in the drama. It is like opposing a force of nature. And having been married to several such strong-willed woman, I speak from some experience.
Gareth Neame,Miichelle Dockery, Julian Fellowes, Nigel Lythgoe, Bob Peirce, Sharon Harroun Peirce.
I was privileged to attend a small press luncheon on Saturday at the excellent Culina Restaurant of the Four Seasons Hotel, arranged by that equally attractive and strong-willed British PR woman Caroline Graham, acting for the Chairman of BritWeek, Bob Peirce, former British Consul General here and now head of a this non-profit organization, of which more anon. The luncheon honored Julian Fellowes, creator of the hit PBS Masterpeice Classic, Downton Abbey, and Gareth Neame, executive producer of the show, just beginning its third season here. It also was nominated for a Golden Globe (as was Maggie Smith, who did win). The luncheon also was the occasion to share some exciting news about BritWeek 2013. But I was there to worship at the feet of Lady Mary, played by young Michelle, who appeared in a cloud of fairy dust out of the hotel entrance (accompanied by her genial manager, Sandra Chang.)
My friend, Lord Freddie Windsor, with Lady Fellowes, who served as Lady-in-waiting to
Freddie's mother, HRH Princes Beatrice of Kent.
Michelle Dockery sitting across the table from me at lunch.
I craftfully arranged with Caroline to be seated at the same table, across from the actress, who smiled gently and seemed accommodating to everyone who came by to greet her. Peirce had told me that when he finished his term as Consul here, he and wife Sharon Harroun so enjoyed their stay that they decided to relocate to the Hancock Park area, not far from their prior official residence. Bob greeted the 40 guests and then introduced the brilliant creator of Downton, Julian Fellowes, who was accompanied by his attractive, tall, turbaned wife, Lady Emma Joy Kitchener, story editor on the series. (She is the great grand niece of Lord Kitchener of Khartoum, hero of the Boer War, a character in my screenplay, The War Horses (not the same as Spielberg's) about that war -- which detailed how the African war was actually won on a ranch in the American West when the British cavalry remounted their force with American cow ponies. True story.) Julian is a Conservative Life Peer in the House of Lords, and won the Oscar for his screenplay of Gosford Park.
Bob Peirce, Chairman of BritWeek, and his charming wife, Sharon Haroun Peirce, also a
founder of the event.
The witty scribe told of how he originally got the idea for Downton when he read a book about all of the American heiresses who had come to Britain at the end of the last century and married financially-needy Lords. Thus, Cora, Countess of Grantham, was born from being Cora Levinson, daughter of the indominable Martha Levinson, played this season by Shirley MacLaine. I know that we all enjoyed Shirl's two-episode appearance as she arrived for Lady Mary's wedding, creating much chaos in her wake as she collides with Maggie Smith, the Dowager Countess Lady Violet.
Fellowes then expounded on the unprecedented success of Downton Abbey in every corner of the globe. (The actor who plays the butler was on Charlie Rose with the cast this week and told of riding a bicycle through Cambodia when he encountered a native woman who stopped him by uttering the name of his TV character, Mr. Carson.) Fellowes concluded by saying that he was thrilled to be here today because "we all grew up on American films, and I have been mad about them all my life." Exec Producer Gareth Neame then spoke abut the universal appeal of the show and introduce Michelle, mentioning that she was also a jazz singer!
Wow. A jazz singer. There was my opening. I later introduced myself to Ms. Dockery and mentioned that I had produced a rather celebrated jazz-blues movie, Lady Sings The Blues. Her eyes lit up and she said, "I have watched it many times on video and loved Diana Ross in it." My day was complete... my rare 100-year-old sacred jade Buddha around my neck was working its magic again. And I am convinced that this beautiful young actress is destined to be an international movie star of the first magnitude. So be it.
TV host-star Nigel Lythgoe (American Idol) was also there, and later told me a bit about BritWeek. "We started it in 2007, Bob and I, to highlight the creative fusion between the United Kingdom and California. Our mission is to create greater awareness of the many ways in which we both can work closely together and further this relationship to advance business, the arts and philanthropy in both of these thriving areas of the world."
He further explained that each Spring BritWeek hosts a program of events which promotes British creativity, innovation and excellence in California across multiple categories: film and television, music, art, fashion design, retail, sport, philanthropy, business and more. The events -- this year beginning April 23rd and ending May 5th -- take place throughout greater L.A, Orange County, and San Francisco. They attract support from thousands of people, including international celebrities, as well as business and political leaders. As long as Lady Mary is included, I am aboard and will be reporting on many of these activities for Huffington in coming months.
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