Tag Archive | BBC

The Lady Vanishes: Thrilling

Growing up, and having a love of mysteries, the story of The Lady Vanishes was always somewhere in the corner of my mind as something I wanted to watch. A few years ago I was thrilled to find the Alfred Hitchcock version on Netflix, but as there was no proper context to what was going on and the heroine seemed situated at the hotel for a very, very long time, I gave up on it, certain there was a thrilling tale in there somewhere but that I just didn’t have the patience to watch it through.

As I was certain the newer, 2013 version by the BBC would be faster paced, I decided to give it a try, and watched it twice because it was so enjoyable. Now I’m plowing through the book by Ethel Lina White and loving that even more! Want to read all her stuff now.

The BBC’s The Lady Vanishes stars Tuppence Middleton as Iris Carr, a young, wealthy orphan who spends her days partying and traveling with her friends. In this version, too, there is time at the hotel before the mystery on the train ride home begins, and it is so because that’s how White wrote it. The group is vacationing somewhere in Eastern Europe and happen to upset a couple of spinster sisters and a Reverend and his wife that are also from England. As someone who has lived and traveled abroad, it is somewhat disconcerting to find either yourself or your countrymen behaving badly elsewhere. We like to think we can be taken as individuals, but all too often our behavior is lumped in with all Americans, or wherever you come from, even if it’s just big city vs. little city. At any rate, Iris soon tires of her friends, sends them off ahead of her, and that is where the real story begins.

Although the movie was very exciting, there wasn’t as much background for some of the minor characters that I would have like to see and I’m happy to report that the book has a lot more on them, including explaining some actions that can’t be fully grasped by watching the movie. I say this in especial consideration of the two spinster sisters. After hearing their side in full, I am very sympathetic to their point of view not to interfere, wrong as it may have been.

Middleton did a great job playing Iris and was Iris rather than having to stretch to act as her at all. Too, Tom Hughes was very suited to play Max Hare, Iris’s helper and romantic interest, and Alex Jennings made a great professor, though the movie never really gets into his fear of hysterical females, which is quite amusing in the book. One wants to know just what he’s experienced with his students at Cambridge. The only false step in casting was perhaps making the possible villains too obvious, but then the book makes them rather obvious as well, though from Iris’s standpoint.

As to the vanishing lady, the story is simply better if you know nothing about the mystery or where it’s going, at least the first time watching. I found the film riveting a second time as I like train settings as well as movies set in the 30s and 40s, and really even if you know the truth you do wonder if Iris is really going mad. It’s fun to imagine what one would do in such a situation, how you would convince doubters to your point of view and all that. It’s funny also to think that often we don’t care about helping strangers until suddenly we do and find we will move heaven and earth if necessary. Sometimes we do act as God’s hands in saving others, even if the rest of the time we’re rather selfish.

High recommendations on both the film and the book (originally called The Wheel Spins), but I haven’t yet read the ending of the book and am curious to see if the film changed the ending. Sometimes screenwriters change the ending for no apparent reason and it irks me to no end.

Sales Tips from The Paradise — Part One



My latest obsession on Netflix has been a BBC series inspired by Èmile Zola’s book, The Ladies Paradise.  The TV series is a little more charming than the book, but both delve into the good and evil of buying and selling, particularly when it comes to department stores.  The BBC series is set somewhere in the Victorian Era at a time when sales and department stores are a novelty.  It is easy to see, however, that the frenzy of shopping we all experience stepping into a Tesco or Walmart is not too far in the future.

What I enjoy most about the series are the ideas of both the owner of The Paradise (Mr. Moray, a ladies’ man played by Emun Elliot) and his newest shop girl, Denise (Joanna Vanderham) have for selling and moving stock.  Denise pours out idea after idea, and Moray is willing to put every one into action, giving her full reign, and calling her his “little champion.”  A match made on Wall Street if there ever was one.  Love and business come together seamlessly in this fine production.


Here are some selling tips from Season One of The Paradise:

Successful businessmen take risks.

Mr. Moray is intent on conquering the city with his department store, and he is willing to risk everything to do so.  His advisor, Dudley (Matthew McNulty), is more hesitant, more practical, saying they shouldn’t put the store itself in jeopardy.  Mr. Moray says that their city is “littered with men who stood still,” men who shrank from the possibility of greatness because they didn’t want to take a risk.  “Men who slow down, men who take their time, they come second.  I won’t do that,” Moray says when Dudley cautions him against taking gamble with a large one-day sale at The Paradise.  Moray’s willingness to risk everything is why he’s such a successful businessman and ladies’ man.  Ever wonder why the “nice” guy or girl doesn’t get the person of their interest?  Faint heart never won fair lady (or gentlemen).

The customers won’t come to you.

Advertisement.  A sale.  A special, a contest, a promotion.  Customers must be enticed to buy, to want things they really don’t need — one of the “sins” of big business.  In the series and book, a woman’s desire for buying is connected with her lust for love and to be admired.  In love and in business, it is the brightly colored prancing peacock who gets all the attention.  Successful selling requires some flash, and a willingness to show the best of what one has.  Even the plainest of girls can be transformed with stylish clothes, well-cut hair, and a bit of makeup.

At a later point in the season, Denise tells her uncle that if he can’t sell dresses, he should sell neckties.  People are more willing to part with a small amount of money than a large sum, much like a woman may be willing to try conversation over coffee before embarking on a nerve-wracking first date with a dinner and a show.

Bend, don’t break.

Without customers, business cannot be conducted.  Thus the saying, “the customer is always right.”  Anyone working in retail knows that isn’t true.  Nevertheless, doing well in business often means taking small and sometimes large losses to keep customers happy, to keep them coming back.  At The Paradise, Mr. Moray must “bend” to those with money who are considered his betters.  In order to court their investment, he must submit to some of their demands, to compromise.  Part of the success of Kohls department store chain has been their policy that a customer can return almost anything at almost any time.  Yes, unscrupulous customers often taken advantage of this, yet it is a policy that keeps them and others coming back time after time, as do the various discounts and sales.

Investors require proof.

Cold feet in love and cold feet in business.  Reluctance in both can often be remedied with proof, proof that things can turn out for the best, proof that the risk is worth it.  In the series, Mr. Moray courts Katherine Glendenning (Elaine Cassidy) for love, and her father for his money.  Mr. Glendenning (Patrick Malahide) is hesitant both to invest in The Paradise, and to give Katherine’s hand to Moray in marriage.  “Haste is the enemy of love,” he tells his headstrong daughter, all while Moray looks upon both with calculating eyes.  Moray, we quickly find, is fine with waiting in love, but not in business.  Thus, he puts all his efforts into wowing Glendenning the banker with a huge sale at the store, a risk that turns out to be a success.  He also gives Katherine the teasing hope that more time will ease his reluctance to marry.

Loyalty goes both ways.

As a businessman (or a lover), if you expect loyalty from your employees, you should give them your loyalty in return.  A great boss is distinguished by his or her willingness to give their employees the benefit of the doubt when conflicts arise.  When a shop boy is accused of an indiscretion, Moray takes the time to find out the full story before condemning him.  He understands that a well-run business relies not only upon customer loyalty, but also upon the morale of the employees.

A great boss will also know the strengths of their employees and put them to good use, much like Moray continually seeks out new ideas from the veritable light bulb, Denise, and spends time flattering the middle aged Miss Audrey (Sarah Lancashire) who runs the women’s clothing department.  Miss Audrey is herself a born flatterer, a born saleswoman.

Business is Business.

At the end of the day, business is business, and only has a fleeting comparison with real love, but the dance of both, the game of both, can be very similar.  Both involve desire.  What makes Mr. Moray a great businessman makes him a terrifying suitor, a threat to all women.  As a businessman alone, he would make a terrible husband, much like a successful courtesan would make a terrible wife.

The strength of the series, however, is that it shows if one truly cares for and about people, one can be successful both in business and in love.  Customers (and ladies) can be won with time and care.  Moray isn’t a ruthless businessman with no scruples, because he knows he would put himself out of business.  Likewise, he is willing to court Katherine Glendenning, but won’t commit to her until he is ready for marriage.  Denise is a good saleswoman because she genuinely believes in the products and the future of The Paradise, and sees that both can be a benefit to the customers.

The series portrays the dangers of business and falling prey to consumerism, but it also shows the positive side, something we see far too little of in a day and age where the biased ruling of an elite government is held up as the only way the common man can have a chance.  In business, we are not victims needing to be saved by our “betters,” but equals in our striving for success.  A good sale is satisfactory on both ends, where both parties get what they desire in an amiable way that hinges not on their social strata so much as their being able to deliver as promised.  One ingenuity against another.

(To be continued in Part Two)

TV Shows I Wish Were Book Series — Ripper Street

Ripper StreetThe BBC’s Ripper Street is much what one would expect: It’s gory, shocking, and not for the faint of heart or the squeamish.  But then, that’s police work in general, even today.  We may not have open sewers running down our streets, but we are plagued with much of the same problems police had to deal with more than a century ago when the most famous of serial killers leapt onto the headlines.

Taking place shortly after Jack the Ripper’s murder spree, Ripper Street is set in WhiteChapel, London, in the late 1800s, and shows a city plagued with disease, violence, and immorality.  Our heroes are smart, worldly characters, who much like officers today, go where the average man would fear to tread.  They are by no means perfect, but admirable in the risks that they take for their fellow citizens.  The detective team is as follows: Detective Inspector Edmund Reid (Matthew Macfadyen), Detective Sergeant Bennett Drake (Jerome Flynn), and an American who specializes in autopsies, Captain Homer Jackson (Adam Rothenberg).

The refreshing part of the show is that it uses actual detection with the detectives using what they know about their surroundings and the time and neighborhood in which they live to solve crimes.  It’s interesting to see how the burgeoning field of forensics plays a role in weeding out suspects, and how the Ripper murders have opened wide the possibilities of human deviancy.

Why Ripper Street would make a good book series:  It rings of authenticity.  Many a time I have tried to read mysteries set in Victorian London only to be disappointed at the lack of detail and attention to the time period.  The detectives in Ripper Street, although obviously modern, do not feel out of place in the story.  Their cynicism is matched by compassion and their practicality comes from experiences with the people and world around them.  They are not modern to express modern views only.  Like Syfy’s Haven, the Whitechapel setting begs to be penned in written description — smells, sights, and sounds more pungent than what we encounter today.  Ripper Street is a show that could only be enhanced by novels digging into the details of both the crimes and the community in which it is set.