Today, it is again time for a film review, and so we would like to present you Gosford Park by Robert Altman and Julian Fellowes. The film was nominated for 7 Oscars. It is an entertaining murder mystery with an excellent cast which a study of the British class system in the 1930’s with all its intricacies, problems and infidelities. As you likely have guessed, we will focus on the 1930′s period clothing worn by the male actors.
The plot of this movie was written by Julian Fellowes who is an expert in 19. and 20. Century country house society in England. He is also the mastermind behind the story of the hugely popular TV series Downton Abbey.
Interestingly, in the opening scene we can spot a yellow Rolls Royce just like in out of our last movie! It belongs to Lady Trentham, a snobbish and often sarcastic member of the British upper class. She is fabulously personified by Maggie Smith, a Downton Abbey alumni, who acts with superb wit and utterly personifies the derision of her class. Of course, her newly hired Scottish maid Mary Maceachran (Kelly MacDonald, also
known from Boardwalk Empire) must wait in the pouring rain for her mistress to enter the car before she can hop on. I found that to be a very characteristic scene of the movie as
well as the upper class system in Britain at the time – everything evolved around the few masters.
The mansion, as well as its guests, are filled with expectations, jealousy, lust and fear. For the most part, Mary indirectly guides us through these intricacies of the system, by observing and questioning the people she meets.
The Gosford Park Characters
Gosford Park is set on an English countryside estate during a shooting weekend in November 1932. It is hosted by the Sir William McCordle (Michael Gambon) a prosperous factory owner and his wife Lady Sylvia (Kristin Scott Thomas). He seems to be a rather strange fellow who is interested only in guns, his dog but foremost in his affairs with all kinds of women, including almost the entire household staff. Lady Sylvia, on the other hand, has sensed these infidelities and she seems always open to an affair herself whenever the opportunity arises.
The guests include the aforementioned Lady Trentham, a number of upper class snobs as well as a socially isolated and suffering bourgeoise redhead without a maid and just one evening gown in”green”. “Such a difficult colour” Lady Trentham remarks sharply and disrespectfully.
Moreover, the Hollywood actor and vocal entertainer Ivor Novello (Jeremy Northam) as well as his “funny little American” producer friend (Bob Balaban) are among the guests.
Within the mix of emotions and personal desires, there are many motives for murder and just after the affair of Sir William with house maid Elsie (played by Emily Watson) is revealed at the dinner table, he is discovered stabbed in the library.
While the amateurish inspector (personified by pipe-smoking Stephen Fry) disregards even the most obvious clues revealed by his constable, hardly anyone shows any signs of sincere grief. When Lady
Sylvia is asked whether she wants “some company” just after her husband was stabbed, she sighs “I suppose life must go on” while her companion removes her dress. In the following, quite a few people in the house fear their secrets may be revealed while others show their relief over Sir William’s death for various reasons.
Throughout the plot, both upstairs and downstairs, the nature of the characters are revealed slowly, but never entirely exhibited, and consequently we learn something new in every scene until the very end.
Gosford Park Locations
Although it seems that all the filming took place in one house as well as its surroundings, the movie was in fact filmed in multiple locations. Apparently, the staircase, dining room, drawing room and some exterior scenes were filmed at Wrotham Park. The scenes in the upstairs bedrooms were shot at Syon House and the movie’s opening sequence as well as the hunt was taken at Hall Barn. The downstairs area, on the other hand, was filmed on a set and for various other locations the crew went to Shepperton Studios.
Gosford Park & the Clothes
Set in the 30′s and blessed with a huge cast, Gosford Park has quite a few beautiful clothes and accessories to enjoy. Let’s look a little more closely at the male attire:
In the beginning we can see an interesting variation of the Polo Coat worn by Lord Stockbridge (Charles Dance). It is a light camel 6 x3 knee-length overcoat with Ulster lapels and collars, patch pockets with flaps. Also, the coat has a nicely inverted pleated back as well as a full belt. The brown Homburg hat goes very well with his ensemble.
Tweed Jackets and Suits
As you can imagine, there are numerous tweed suits and coats featured in this movie. I particularly liked the Norfolk shooting outfits we can see when they are out and about. If you observe the pictures closely, you will notice all kinds of details apart from the beautiful cloth colors. There are lots of interesting pleats, plus fours, colored shooting socks and most importantly, high armholes. When shooting you really want small armholes so you can move comfortably.
Take a look at the gentleman in his three piece, brown and beige shepherd’s check tweed suit. I think it suits him very well. It is worn with
a tweed cap, a checked shirt with a flimsy collar, and a tie. Note, he wears his bottom waistcoat button undone.
Or look at this wonderful color combination of a reddish brown tweed suit, with a lovat green knit vest, matching tie, and soft (slightly too large) turndown collar. I particularly like the patch chest pocket with an inverted pleat. Something like this is only to be found in bespoke garments nowadays. Surprisingly, his coat features 4 sleeve buttons instead of the usual, more informal two buttons (sometimes even one or none) for country wear.
Sir William wears a nice Norfolk Outfit for shooting. The lapels are very small and slim and we find the typical decoration on the front and back as well as a permanently attached belt. He combined it with a tattersall check shirt, plaid tie and brownish-yellow corduroy vest with grey piping! Just like the other chap he also wears his bottom waistcoat button unfastened. Instead of wearing
a tweed cap, he opted for a soft, mid brown felt hat.
The Americans do not wear the typical tweed suits but rather heavy worsted fabrics. The American producer is seen in single breasted, black and beige houndstooth suit with a red overplaid, light shirt and orange- red ascot. When in his room, we see him wearing his paisley dressing gown. His valet is mostly seen in a classic stroller suit with black bowler.
Ivor Novello on the other hand wears a shadow striped, single breasted three piece suit with elegant peaked lapels. Typical for the thirties, the lapels are rather short and wide providing with a distinctive vintage look. He wears this suit with a striped shirt and a patterned tie.
Gosford Park Clothes Maintenance
Interestingly, we can also see the maids and valets working on their masters’ clothes on several occasions in the movie. In one scene, we see how a valet is ironing, in the other we see the butler inspecting the detachable collars for flaws or how they polish shoes.
Also, the livery is rather well done. The footmen, valets and the butler wear morning coats with striped trousers during the day and in the evening, we see beautiful black tailcoats, with velvet collar, silver buttons, and a diagonally mid-grey and charcoal striped waistcoat which is buttoned rather high and features silver buttons as well.
Gosford Park White Tie Evening Attire
In the evening, the ladies wear their evening gowns and jewels, while the gentlemen dress in their proper white tie outfits. Everyone of them wears a stiff fronted shirt with a stiff, detachable wing collar and studs. The white Marcella cotton vests are all single breasted though some have a shawl collar lapel, whereas others went with the pointed ones. Also, the taller men have 4 waistcoat buttons whereas shorter men only have 3. Note, when the gentlemen sit down for dinner, the shirt front curves up heavily.
Altogether, I can highly recommend Gosford Park because of its compelling story, its sharp analysis of the English class system at the time, as well as the clothes, jewelry and simply the whole English Country lifestyle. Imagine how you would dress for such a weekend!