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All the King's Men
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All the King's Men      TV-14, V, S, L
Airing Monday, March 18, 2002, on PBS
(Check local listings.)

Aired previously February and November 2000

There is something especially moving about this film. A fine script and Masterpiece Theatre's trademark luminous acting (Maggie Smith plays Alexandra, the queen mother) give the story real sand. And the truth behind the tale gives it heart.

      -- Christian Science Monitor

According to one of the most puzzling legends of the First World War, a rag-bag assemblage of servants, grooms and gardeners from the Royal Family's Norfolk Estate, advanced into battle at Gallipoli on August 12, 1915. It was said that a strange mist, a "golden cloud," descended onto the battlefield, covering the men and drawing them in as if God himself was wrapping them up and taking them from the terror that awaited. It was the last that was ever seen of the Sandringham Company and the mystery of its disappearance has survived to this day.

An all-star cast portrays this most poignant and unsettling event. Commanded by the Estate Manager, Captain Frank Beck (David Jason), they were just ordinary men, drawn from the staff of the King's private residence. They left an idyllic rural existence for the fatally ill-prepared campaign and their deaths brought the horrors of the war to the heart of the establishment -- and to the Royal Family itself. After the war a Special Envoy was sent to discover what fate had befallen the Company. But the truth was never fully revealed.

For 80 years, the fate of this vanished battalion has been the subject of fear and uncertainty. All the King's Men lifts the veil of secrecy, uncovering the true fate of these brave men.

Adapted by Alma Cullen from a novel by co-producer Nigel McCrery, All the King's Men is an elegy as much as it is a film. It mourns a paradise lost that's pastoral, a Crown benignly patriarchal, a yeomanry gung-ho loyal, a class system basically feudal, and an innocence impossibly rustic... there is honor in these two hours. And although the fashion nowadays is to beat up on the whole idea of utopia, they also remind us that we dream our perfect republics in both directions, left and right, in the always radiant future or the impossibly nostalgic past.

      -- John Leonard in New York Magazine

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