Somehow I just can’t get enough of “the 20th century’s greatest love story,” which is apparently what Madonna called the romance of the man who was on his way to being king and his American girlfriend.
You probably already know the story about how the future king of England fell in love with the already-divorced-American who was still married to her second husband. Despite which film-maker’s version of the story you accept, it’s fact that Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David Windsor became Edward VIII with the death of his father and eleven months later abdicated his throne in order to be able to marry Wallis Simpson. His brother Bertie became George VI and was the father of Britain’s current monarch, Elizabeth II.
I was excited when Netflix finally had Madonna’s film, W/E, available for streaming. I missed it in the theater (perhaps because it was here and gone in a box-office failure flash), but really wanted to see it. Madonna chose to tell Wallis and Edward’s romance as a story-in-a-story with a modern-day heroine providing opportunity for flashbacks to a companion story about the Windsors. It was only somewhat successful, as reviewed here and here, but I loved the costume drama elements and it piqued my appetite for more about Wally and David.
When the Netflix gods found out I was interested in Wallis and David’s story, they started sending me suggested movies as companion pieces to W/E, and from there comes today’s Sunday Review post. I got hooked on watching a seven-part imagination of the lives of Wallis, David, and the people around them. Whoever wrote these scripts wasn’t quite as sure about “the 20th century’s greatest love story.”
As this article from The Guardian states,
If you want a less sugar-coated take on it all, try Edward and Mrs Simpson, the classic Thames TV series from 1978. The seven-parter offers a fascinating look at an extraordinary chapter in British history. Even if we do know how it all ended, it still makes for compelling drama. Love? Barely mentioned. Ambition, duty, jealousy, selfishness? Got them in droves.
Once I started watching the hour-long segments, I couldn’t stop, and they increased my understanding of a situation that I knew only as a person fascinated with human behavior and its historical impact. Armed with my greater knowledge, I fully intend to watch W/E again, and last night I watched The King’s Speech (also available on Netflix) again.
In The King’s Speech, we see Colin Firth’s take on Bertie and the struggle to become king (while having a speech impediment) in the wake of his brother’s romantic tidal wave. Firth won a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of George VI.
And then there’s Hyde Park on Hudson, the newest entry into the Bertie-on-film category. This film brings George VI and Queen Elizabeth to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Hyde Park in New York state, where the two discuss the United States’s possible support of Britain in World War II. (That’s a simplified version of the issue, but you get the point.) The story’s not really about Bertie, but is written cleverly and is reminiscent of Downton Abbey and the social clashes between American and British ways in the early 20th century. Although not well-reviewed, I fully enjoyed it and so did my viewing partners. This photo is the only one I could find that showed the main cast, because the film is a tour-de-force for Bill Murray as Roosevelt, although he was denied an Oscar nomination AGAIN.
If you are intrigued by this story, I encourage you to put these movies in your instant queue and settle down for a historical love fest. And, if you’re desperate for even more, here are IMDb’s lists of portrayals of Edward VIII and George VI in film versions. Ahhhh… Thank goodness I’m retired.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to revel in the charms of Maggie Smith and the rest of the rascals at Downton Abbey. Just in case you were wondering, it wasn’t just in English country homes where dinner jackets were considered to be inappropriate for a formal evening. You’ll find the bit about the wearing of a dinner jacket over tails to be part of the wry humor of Hyde Park on Hudson, too.
P.S. The theme song for Edward and Mrs. Simpson is a popular tune from 1927 and you will not be able to get it out of your head. I’m just warning you.