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The Forsyte Saga
updated 4.17.2007

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I've read many viewers' comments about The Forsyte Saga and would like to add a few of my own. Having read and re-read the book many times, I must agree with those who feel Gina McKee is unsuitable for the role. Excellent actress that she is, she is not Irene as portrayed in the novels -- so beautiful that it is understandable how a man, otherwise sensible like Soames, can be obsessed with her. That is the only flaw I can find in the production, but it is one that rather spoiled the experience for me. Do the producers think that nobody watching has read the book?

To the several people who would like to see the story continue, it does. The Forsyte Saga is followed by not one but six more novels. Fleur, Michael and the rest figure in these as well. John Galsworthy's books are wonderful; the last three are surprisingly on point with current events in the Middle East.

For those who do not know, John Galsworthy received the Nobel Prize for this series of novels.

Jean Leatherwood
Baltimore, MD

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
As a passionate fan of the original version of The Forsyte Saga, I approached the new one with some trepidation. I avoided the first run on PBS last year, but decided to check it out during the re-telecast.

Without making head-to-head comparisons with the original cast, I will say that, for the most part, the current cast does very well. Only Gina McKee fails utterly to make something of Irene. This is a fascinating, enigmatic character with whom the reader/viewer has a love/hate relationship throughout the first half of the saga. (She recedes in importance in the second half while Soames continues to dominate.) Irene is a difficult character to bring off and without a truly beautiful, charismatic or sexually magnetic woman in the role, no matter how good the actress, it is an exercise in futility. This is a woman who brings four men to her feet by just being there. Ms. McKee, with her long horsy face, angular body and flat voice would seem to be the wrong choice at the outset; but if she had any chance of success, she was totally undone by the makeup and costume departments. She is dressed and coiffed most unflatteringly. Surely they could have made her look softer and more feminine. (In some profile long-shots, with the awful hats she is made to wear, she looks disturbingly like Margaret Hamilton in The Wizard of Oz.) Where is Gillian Anderson when you need her!

Linda Rein
New York, NY

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I absolutely loved The Forsyte Saga Series I and II. Although my feelings were so mixed at the end of Series II. With such great love for one another I was certain Fleur and Jon were meant to be. And then they end up living separate lives! This can't be the end of the sweetest (though admittedly, inappropriate) relationship. Let there be a Series III!

Carley Bartlett

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
My public television station ran the entire Forsyte Saga series in one evening. I was immediately drawn in and found myself unable to turn off the set, even after watching for four hours. The same thing occurred with the next four. The Forsyte family, their power, the intellect, the restrictions of Victorian life, the first heartfelt glimpse of Young Jolyon, the determination and over-powering nature of Soames, and the magnificent porcelain beauty and gravitas of Gina McKee's "Irene." Her grace, beauty and riveting energy for all that is passionate in life is only just out of reach for those who are cold, calculating and forceful. Her deep passion is unlocked so easily by those with a compassionate soul and willing, caring heart. All that makes this series leave an indelible impression in one's mind and romantic heart. Stunning, magnetic, riveting... I simply wish I could experience it again this evening.

M. Lewstion

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I just must congratulate the producers and Masterpiece Theatre on both series of The Forsyte Saga. The performances are superb. Lewis' portrayal really elicits your hate and pity and McKee's is one of delicacy and threads of steel. I found Fleur appropriately infuriating for her youth. In short, all performances were believable and successful.

I read Sita Williams' interview and she said that there will not be a third series. Please impress upon her the need for what could surely be the final installment of the saga!

Any drama where an actor with ginger hair and fair lashes can exude sex appeal deserves a good wrapping up.


Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
For the African Americans who had to make their ethnicity known, it wasn't necessary. People of all races watch PBS. I ran across the re-airing of The Forsyte Saga marathon in September 2006 and was captivated from the beginning. I couldn't stay awake to watch the entire series, so I rented it and couldn't stop watching Part 1 and 2 until the end.

I agree with many other viewers regarding Irene. I could not understand why she was thought to be beautiful. I thought she was cold, heartless, selfish and without integrity. Soames was mistreated by her and other family members without reason. He didn't deserve what Irene and the hypocritical Jolyon did to him. I couldn't understand why June hated him so much when Irene was the one who betrayed her. I thought Fleur and Jon were torn apart by the hypocritical Jolyon who left his wife for the nanny and then married his cousin Soames' wife, Irene. Poor Fleur ended up married to a man she did not love and Jon, it seemed, could not forget Fleur. I'm sorry Soames never had a wife who really loved him.

I wish there was a continuation of the saga, if only to complete Fleur and Jon's story. I loved the show and would like the story to continue with Fleur and Jon. It ended so sadly for them what with Fleur marrying a man she didn't love and Jon still loving Fleur who he could not have...

Sheila Hopkins
Brooklyn, NY

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I agree with Bruce Witkov from Chicago on a previous post -- we need better writing, dialogue and characters. This Forsyte Saga is just ok -- the direction doesn't let you get really involved. It is rather shallow, and we need to use the English language in all its effectiveness. These are educated characters. The writing of the older TV series drew you in more, was deeper and more fascinating.

I can't see Gina McKee as Irene at all; why did they think of her? She's extremely tall, straight as a board, with a boyish face -- looks like a high fashion model's figure. The original Irene, Nyree Dawn Porter, was the opposite -- womanly, curvy, soft, feminine, seductive -- attracting all men, which is what the book portrays. To have a boyish looking Irene is the height of ridiculousness because what is her function in the book? Also I remember a great performance from Kenneth More as young Jolyon and the personalities of all the older relatives were delightfully and interestingly delineated.

I wish some of the enthusiastic viewers of the current series would watch the one from the 1960s and see what they think. At my job we used to watch it and come in the next day, full of discussion. It had such an effect on the audience. If you can, please watch the older series and let us know what you think. The actor who plays Soames here is good, but I'll never forget Eric Porter. I'll never ever forget the whole thing, though it's been many years since I've seen it.

Ellen Jones
New York, NY

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