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Program Title
Wingless Bird

Episode number:
1 2 3

Original broadcast date

Cast Characters
Edward Atterton Charles Farrier
Julian Wadham Reginald Farrier
Amanda Royle Elaine Dawson Porter
Elspet Gray Grace Farrier
Moira Redmond Nessy Forrester
Daniel Casey Robbie Felton
Dinsdale Landen Colonel Farrier
Michelle Charles Jessie Conway
Frank Grimes Arthur Conway
Anne Reid Alice Conway
Claire Skinner Agnes Conway

Executive Producer: Keith Richardson
Producer: Ray Marshall
Director: David Wheatley

WINGLESS BIRD/Episode 1/Intro by Russell Baker

It's Christmas Eve, 1913. Europe is on the verge of the great cataclysm that we call World War One. But in this last year of what nowadays seems like a golden age, few people sense that the world is about to come crashing down.

England is still a country of rigid class distinctions. The gentry don't consort with shopkeepers and shopkeepers don't consort with what they think of as the lower classes.

"The Wingless Bird" is the story of three families who are penned up behind these social barriers -- and of the one person who reaches across them all. This is Agnes Conway. She works in her father's candy-and-tobacco shop…runs it actually. And has a younger sister, Jessie. The Conway family lives over the shop. There are decidedly unpleasant things going on up there. Being middle-class is not the life of dull contentment it's cracked up to be. The Wingless Bird, First Episode.

WINGLESS BIRD/Episode 1/Extro by Russell Baker

The reason for the English prejudice against shopkeepers is a mystery best left for historians and sociologists to argue about, but it's a fact of British culture. Margaret Thatcher had the longest run of any Prime Minister this century…and was one of the most influential.

This didn't save her from elegant sneers about being a shopkeeper's daughter. Like Agnes in tonight's show, Mrs. Thatcher had grown up living over her father's shop.

In 1913, with England's rigid class structure, it's natural for the Farriers to dismiss Agnes as "a shopgirl" and not realize how vulgar it makes them sound. The upper-class distaste for shopkeepers goes far back into European history. At the dawn of modern economics, the shopkeeping classes embodied the rising power of capitalism. And it was capitalism that was taking power from the aristocracy.

People accustomed to sitting on the top of the heap often speak ill of the upstarts who will eventually replace them.

For Masterpiece Theatre, I'm Russell Baker. Goodnight.

Episode number: 1 2 3

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