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Bertie & Elizabeth

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Bertie and Elizabeth
updated 6.15.2002

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I played the young princess Elizabeth and I had a great time filming it! I was my first film and it was the best thing I have ever done! I really enjoyed watching it at the premiere and thought that it was wonderful! Thank you so much to all the team who helped!

Naomi Martin

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I found Bertie and Elizabeth almost too fast paced for the amount of time it covered, but the program provided a good summary, increasing my knowledge about George VI and the late Queen Mother. As I shared in the "remembering" process after the Queen Mother's death, I am glad that I had gained from Bertie and Elizabeth at least a little knowledge about her early life to ponder, and not just media reports of her current life. Thanks.

Luke Walbert
Saint Paul, MN

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I am a huge British Royal fan. I have read and studied the 20th century royals quite extensively. I must say that Bertie and Elizabeth was an outstanding production! I absolutely loved it. All of the stories that I have read and all of the pictures that I have seen came to life in broadcast. This piece is a great addition to English history. Bravo!

Gina Lunsford
The Woodlands, TX

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
This was spectacular! One of the best presentations I can remember. Thank you, OETA, for broadcasting the episode. I loved it!

Jim Brand
Forest Park, OK

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
The passing of HRH Princess Margaret brings the story of the royal family into focus once again. Perhaps a documentary about the two royal sisters, in this year of the Queen's Jubilee, would be appropriate, although the Queen Mother's delicate health might be an issue. Surely there has been enough drama in the late Princess Margaret's life to make a fascinating story, since she was once only one heartbeat away from the throne herself. What a Queen she'd have made!

Her story would be much better than that limpid tale, Bertie and Elizabeth, a poorly-done production. It moved slowly, was not well-directed, and showed indifference to historical accuracy. The oxygen mask used on George V was modern in design. In 1936, they were dome-shaped and much larger. HM Queen Mary never wore her hair down on her neck; she always had a tight marcelle or finger-wave, and kept her hair high on her head. She also spoke with a German accent, and both moved and spoke with extreme dignity and a regal air. She would never use vernacular or familiarity.

Eileen Atkins is a fine actress in a role she was totally unsuited for. HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother has also maintained the royal distance from others, sometimes including members of her family. Showing her as "warm and fuzzy" was a stupid error.

HM King Edward VIII was arrogant and lazy, but never clever, neither in speech nor action. To portray him as a sharp-tongued playboy wasn't very smart. I doubt the "confrontation" with the King over the Duchess' title ever happened. He was simply informed of the King's decision by a Minister of The Crown, dramatic "license" notwithstanding.

What could have been an interesting tale was turned into a poor soap opera by careless writing. I'd be interested in your response.

Quentin Rinehart
Tacoma, WA

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I realize this is probably not a Royal endorsed production, but I must say I was so impressed. I realize that it showed only a portion of the true reality, but I was soundly impressed by the portrayal of both Bertie and Elizabeth. I never had much admiration for royalty (being American, I suppose) but I have now changed my mind. I was also very impressed with the portrayal of Bertie and David's father. It was pleasure to see the Royals as a family and dedicated to the good of their people and country (with the exception of David). I was truly charmed by the devotion to duty of Bertie and Elizabeth and ended the evening by including the family in my prayers---God Bless the Queen!

Paula Barbee
Mt. Morris, MI

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
In his closing comments, Russell Baker stated that King George VI died of lung cancer. In fact, I think he had surgery for lung cancer a year or so before his death and died in his sleep from a heart attack. Sometime earlier he had had surgery to improve circulation in his legs. Obviously, his long history of heavy smoking led to both arteriosclerosis and lung cancer leading to his early death. It seems strange that Russell didn't get this right.

I was a student nurse in London in the early 1950s. February 6th was damp and miserable and matched our feelings as news of his death spread. Many of us went to the lying-in-state. It was moving to see the production Bertie and Elizabeth.

Joy Johnston
Comox, BC

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
Bertie and Elizabeth is one of the finer dramas I have seen about the royal family, though the portrayal of Queen Mary left something to be desired. On the whole, though, this was a top-notch film.

Timothy Stein
Chest Springs, PA

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
Not being an Anglophile has nothing to do with the case. The British royals do not make for good theater. It's not their fault they are so uninteresting; that comes with the territory of being hopelessly dull unless we return to the Diana days. Bertie and Elizabeth, I'm guessing, has been, so to speak, waiting in the wings until another "good" war came along. Good wars are wars that make money.

Don Zook-Slagel
Waldoboro, ME

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
Bertie and Elizabeth provided the most pleasant evening of entertainment that my wife and I have had in 10 years. Thank you and all those in Masterpiece Theatre that made it possible. Every ounce of energy that you spent was well invested.

Dr. Ted Downing
Professor of Social Development at the University of Arizona
Tucson, AZ

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
The scenery in Bertie and Elizabeth was spectacular -- it really seemed as if it had been filmed on the royal estates themselves, although some of the rooms, notably the ones in Buckingham Palace, did look slightly smaller than the pictures I have seen of them (or was I overestimating the grandness of the rooms?).

I also liked the costumes, mostly. They seemed very true to what I have seen of pictures of the English Royal Family. However, Queen Mary's outfits seemed slightly more eclectic than I have seen in photos. Queen Mary's hats, especially, seemed to have more of a costume designer's touch, rather than that of historical fidelity.

But the main criticism I have of this admirable try at royal biography (and one could really sense that everyone involved was trying, very hard to do a good job) -- was this: it was too episodic, without enough continuity. (Maybe what I really want is a four-episode mini-series, instead of just a single Masterpiece Theatre episode.) I proudly admit to being fascinated by all things royal -- but still, important details were left out.

For instance, I have read that Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon turned down Prince Albert's proposal of marriage at least two times before accepting it -- she loved him, but wasn't sure she could cope with the royal lifestyle. (This is, as I understand it, the chief reason for the much later break-up of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson: although deeply in love, Lady Sarah just could not adjust to the rigors of royal life.) Showing these earlier proposals by Prince Albert would have added a suspenseful tension (and historical accuracy) that the TV movie, in the proposal scene at least, was missing.

Also, as any picture of the young Elizabeth (wife of Albert) shows, she wore her hair with bangs for many years. The bangs on the actress playing the Duchess were wispy at best., although she did look the part in other ways -- in some scenes to an astonishingly accurate degree.

The actors did a very credible job, with dialogue that tried hard to be true to life, but came across too often as "too pat" and threadbare. Trying to condense 50 years of a relationship into two hours is difficult, I'll grant, but stilted dialogue and quick scenes -- which, having made their point, were followed (with very little sense of continuity) by other quick scenes -- did not add to any sense of reality.

Missing was Princess Elizabeth's insistence on entering the armed services, although she had been told she was "already serving" in a very important way; scenes of father and daughter going "over the (red) boxes," containing official papers; the King and Queen visiting an army area, where they saw their elder daughter, in coveralls, dutifully changing a tire; and the King's amazement that his daughter Elizabeth should fall in love with almost the first man she had ever known. The King's reading of his letter to Princess Elizabeth -- which Royal Governess Marion Crawford said he did write -- was a nice touch, but one could miss the meaning if one were not watching every move and weighing every word, as I was.

No word was made of the Duke of Kent, or his wife Marina, or maybe their parts were so small I didn't notice them. I was glad, however, to see Lady Furness portrayed. She is so often left out of other TV versions of this story. And her first name was left out: It is "Thelma" -- a name that is totally unfashionable, now, but who knows? Using the name "Thelma" in Bertie and Elizabeth may have caused a youth interest in the name.

Of course, many of the above criticisms are very minor. I really enjoyed Bertie and Elizabeth --- and hope to be able to buy a copy. Despite what was left out, this was an admirable production, and I compliment the obvious dedication of all who worked on it. Would I watch it again on TV? A definite, unequivocal YES!

Esther Nash
Little Neck, NY

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I don't like to fog up at a teleplay. My deep pride took hold. I'm proud of this Monarchy, proud of its great service, duty, and love for its nation. I'm proud of this wonderful 101-year-old Monarch. This dear, grand, wonderful, real Lady. I'm proud of the cast and crew and the writer. I'm very proud of you for airing it for us. I feel privileged for having been able to view it. Thank you for giving us something to take with us.

C.J. Henry
Silverwood, CA

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
Russell Baker said tonight that King George's death was the first official mentioning of lung cancer. King George deserves no kudos for smoking, but James I (for whom Jamestown was named) wrote the first Anti-smoking pamphlet called "The Blast." In it, he claimed that tobacco was "obviously a harmful substance... yellowing the teeth, fowling [sic] the bresth [sic] and filling the lungs with soot."

Catherine Rankin
Cedarcrest Farms, AL

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I sincerely enjoyed the production of Bertie and Elizabeth. It was not until nearly 35 years after my graduation from King George VI Public School, that I realised what exactly King George's life was really all about. The viewing of the portrayal of the royal lives and times was much too current when I was a child to have studied it as history! We all knew that His Royal Highness was very honourable and we were proud of our brand new school.

Carol Mak
London, ON

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I found this film well done and ultimately very moving. I'm glad to finally see a dramatization of these events that doesn't cast David and Wallis's relationship as a great romance in which the King "gave up his throne for the woman he loved." David (Edward VIII) was a very frivolous and selfish man, and his abdication was the ultimate act of betrayal to his younger brother. In addition, as a German appeaser, he was a dangerous figure. One could say that Wallis did everyone a great favor by forcing Edward VIII's abdication, for had he still been king when the war broke out, there would have been a German sympathizer on the throne who may well have been ready to make a compromise with Hitler and allowed German occupation.

My one quibble with the film was the depiction of Montgomery, which seemed overly simplistic. If a representative hero needed to be shown, I'd have preferred more of Churchill and less of Montgomery (who had far more faults than qualities).

But on the whole, an excellent, informative, and entertaining program.

Jon Miller
New York, NY

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I am a long-time fan of Masterpiece Theatre and looked forward to seeing Bertie and Elizabeth. I'm sorry to say that this is the first time I ever saw such a poor quality show. First, it covered far too long a timeline to squeeze into an hour and a half. The jumps from event to event were poorly done and confusing, and a lot was inaccurate. I particularly noticed the first contact with Roosevelt, followed by Bertie complaining that Roosevelt didn't answer his calls, with Elizabeth making the remark that only a big bomb would get our (America's) attention. Then the story jumped to Pearl Harbor. Lend-Lease was never mentioned -- it took place well before Pearl Harbor -- and Roosevelt and Churchill were in frequent contact with each other during that time. Roosevelt took a considerable political risk making that deal and it helped keep the British alive until we entered the war officially. Altogether, acting, period costumes, etc. were first-rate, but they should have made a mini-series out of it to do justice to a fascinating story.

Lori Robinson
San Antonio, TX

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I am very disappointed in the production of Bertie and Elizabeth as being far below your usual standards. It was so contrived, plastic, and far from any true facts. But then it tied in with the error-filled review The Wall Street Journal carried. When it comes to British Royals, you certainly paint a rosy and false picture.

Geo. Jones
Phoenix, AZ

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
Bertie and Elizabeth was absolutely superb! Excellent production of a great story, very touching and accurate. Far better than A Piece of Cake shown years ago. Juliet Aubrey made the Queen Mother's role come alive. Bring her back for more -- it's great to see a lovely actress who can act with depth, clarity, and sensuality!

Chris Clark
Peachtree City, GA

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