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4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 18 October 2007
This 1978 Granada production tells the life story of the legendery actress and beauty, Lillie Langtry. The only girl in a family of 6 brothers, Lily was a tomboy who failed to hold men in awe as was expected in the 1800's society. Marriage to the dashing Edward Langtry (Anton Rodgers) proves a disappointment as his financial situation fails to live up to his boasts. Lily (BAFTA winner Francesca Annis) has her picture sketched by a friend of her Bohemium chum Oscar Wilde (Peter Egan) - and is unexpectedly launched as a P.B. - Professional Beauty - when her glorious red hair and creamy complexion become favourites with the public who like to buy postcards of the society women of the time.

As portrait painters line up to draw "The Jersey Lily", Lily comes to the noticed of Bertie, The Prince of Wales (Denis Lill). The scenes where Lily and her husband are gently guided into the Prince's society whilst she is vetted for her suitability for the mistress role are fascinating to see - the double standards of the time being breathtaking. When a journalist prints a story of Lily's friendship with the Prince he is sued for libel - and convicted - despite members of the all male jury being fully aware that Mrs Langtry is holidaying with the Prince at that very moment!

Turning to the stage, Lily proves a competent actress and is soon being feted in America where men fall over themselves for her charm and good looks. Now estranged from her husband, Lily longs for divorce, but the increasingly alchoholic Edward has no intention of giving up his "meal ticket".

Her affair with a foreign prince results in the birth of a child whom Lily gives to her parents to raise and refers to as her "niece". The possible scandal of having a child which is clearly not her husbands gives Edward Langtry a chance to obtain more financial benefit from his wife, but as his health deteriorates, so does the threat he poses for Lily.

With beau's by the score, a second ill-chosen marriage, a violent society lover and touching scenes with the now King Edward VII - and his remarkably understanding wife Alexandra - Lillie gives us a glimpse at a bygone age where double standards ruled the echelons of society and the affairs of a Monarch were approved of and regarded as his right. Indeed, history tells us that on his death bed the King was attended by his wife -and his favourite mistress, Lily Langtry.

The costumes are stunning, the attention to detail of the ball scenes, race course meetings, riding in the parks of London are faultless and this 1978 production is a must for fans of costume drama. Firm favourites such as Stephanie Cole and Annette Crosbie appear in the cast, but the leading roles are faultlessly played and Francesca Annis was a worthy winner of the Best Actress BAFTA for her glittering Lily Langtry.
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VINE VOICEon 14 July 2004
First shown in 1978, this television classic makes a welcome addition for DVD collectors. Having read the true story of Lillie Langtry, this version tries very hard to be true to as it was during the Victorian/Edwardian era. Lillie Langtry, born in Jersey, marries a rather backward and selfish Irishman who neglects her throughout the early years of their marriage. Finding themselves in London Lillie finds her niche within Victorian upper middle class society as it was. She becomes a model, then an actress, but makes her name as mistress to Bertie Prince of Wales and later King Edward VII (admirably played by Denis Lill). Overall, its a fine series to watch, spread over four discs. Picture is rather soft, perhaps shot in soft focus to enhance its period detail which is rather good taking into account the set designs and locations used. A fine supporting cast including Peter Egan (Oscar Wilde) Anton Rogers (Edward Langtry), and Jennie Linden (Lady Cornwallis-West) admirably support the lovely Francesca Annis as Lillie. If you like good old fashioned television series depicting British Society History, then you should give this a try. Can be bought for a great price too.
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on 8 February 2010
I have throughly enjoyed watching this great period drama that I hadn't seen for over 30 years. Franscesa Annis is superb in the lead role and Peter Egan is an excellent foil as her long term friend Oscar Wilde. For those of you brought up on hte great TV period dramas of the 1970s this is one to get to relive long lost memories.
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"Lillie" is a half-forgotten classic from the golden age of the British television miniseries that starred Francesca Annis as Lillie Langtry, a turn of the 20th century society beauty - professional beauty, as they called them, although they weren't supposed to be professional at all. The DVD has been remastered from its TV incarnation, however, as the series is rather old, there are a few odd moments that resisted clarification. But the production, by Granada for London Weekend Television, is at least as sumptuous as any treatment of the material by the British Broadcasting Corporation might have been. The costumes and carriages are accurate; filming was done on location; and the thirteen episode entertainment utilizes a cast of over 1,000, including live musicians at the numerous balls.

The drama traces the rise of the beauteous Jersey clergyman's daughter, through London society - where she caught a number of royal eyes--to become one of the first famous, independent - and infamous - women of the twentieth century. The gorgeous Annis, who was a British TV star from her teenage years, carries the production in a BAFTA-winning performance, appearing in most scenes, from youth to old age. She may be best remembered from the British TV series Reckless [DVD] [2007] and Cranford Collection Box Set [DVD], but she's actually played Langtry twice, as well as playing Madame Bovary, and Jackie Kennedy Onassis, for British TV. She is ably assisted here by Peter Egan as Oscar Wilde; Anton Rodgers as her first husband, Edward Langtry; and Denis Lill, playing the Prince of Wales, to briefly sit the English throne as Edward VII. Each of these men show up on several episodes, must age along with the star, and have dramatic character arcs. Jennie Linden also does well as Langtry's close friend, Mrs. Patsy Cornwallis-West.

Lillie was first taken up by London society for her extraordinary beauty, and was painted by James Whistler and John Everett Millais, among others. She was lionized by Wilde, Walt Whitman, George Bernard Shaw, and Judge Roy Bean of Texas, who, as viewers who remember an old Paul Newman movie, The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean - Paul Newman [DVD], will know, named his town "Langtry," after her.

The young beauty scandalized London society by a string of affairs with royals: Prince Edward, who was called Bertie - while she always remained on good terms with his wife Alexandra -- and Prince Louis of Battenberg, among others; and turned down Leopold of Belgium and Price Rudolf of Austria (who was, famously, later to kill himself and his mistress at Mayerling). She was also collecting spectacular jewels all the way. But she still needed more money. So she was the first `professional beauty' to pose for paid celebrity endorsements. And she went into business for herself, buying numerous properties; meanwhile she had to pay the alcoholic Langtry, who refused to give her a divorce, to keep his distance. She went on the stage, becoming an immensely popular actress, if not one of the most prestigious, and toured America many times. She had her own racing stable.

Lillie bore one daughter, illegitimately, to Prince Louis of Battenberg. He unfortunately was a cousin of the Royal Family, and a career naval officer. The Prince of Wales did not think it advisable to let him marry Lillie; so she was forced to have her daughter in secret, and misrepresent the girl to herself, and the disapproving world. Whether because of resentment at this treatment, or simply as a result of the pendulum of character's swinging from one generation to the next, the daughter, Jeanne Marie, appears to have grown up an extremely conventional woman. She refused to see her mother for nigh on twenty years; nor would she let the woman know her grandchildren. There can be no doubt that Jeanne Marie caused her mother great pain: as Shakespeare says in "King Lear," "How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child."

Meanwhile, Price Louis, the girl's father, was to rise very high indeed in the British Navy, to Admiralty rank. But anti-German prejudice in World War I forced him to resign. However, his youngest son by the German princess whom he married would also have a highly-successful naval career. Lord Louis Mountbatten would be given many titles and honors; he was a friend of the royal family's, as well as a relation. He was also an uncle to Prince Philip, the current-day consort of Queen Elizabeth II, and was instrumental in making that marriage. He was an outstanding figure; so much so, unhappily, that he was assassinated by the Irish Republican Army at the age of 79.

The series is quite engrossing, a seductive telling of the life of a famed seductress. A series of thirteen episodes requires more of a commitment than perhaps we are accustomed to make today (some of us may wonder how we ever did it back then); but its length allows the viewer to immerse him- or herself in an immensely pleasurable experience.
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on 23 March 2009
Classic TV drama, well made and entertaining, well worth the money. I would recommend this to anybody who likes historical drama.
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on 26 July 2010
This is such a well-made drama series. The acting is faultless, from a highly respectable cast. The costumes, the dialogue and the settings are evocative of the period. It really is first-rate, and highly compelling.

Francesca Annis richly deserved her award for the title role, and those of you who have only seen Anton Rogers play affable middle-class professionals in series such as Fresh Fields will be pleasantly surprised by his intelligent portrayal of the unsympathetic Mr Langtry.

My only small criticism is that it felt rushed at the end. The final episode takes us from the death of the King in 1910 to Lillie's own demise in the mid-1920s, via the Great War, yet more turbulence in Lillie's colourful private life, her first "moving picture", and the impact of her fading beauty and diminishing fame. Too many storylines and threads were packed in; I felt that an additional episode was required.
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on 2 December 2010
This is a very good production of the 1978 TV Series. It was full length and not cut about as some of those Discs are. The Sound, Clarity etc was very good.It was much enjoyed by the family and brought back memories of the original series on TV. When I saw it advertised on Amazon I had no hesitation in buying as I was quite certain that the produce would be first class like all the previous items I have bought on that Network. It was delivered to me well within the times stated in the advert. Well packaged.
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on 30 April 2014
This dramatization of Lillie Langtry's life may not be wholly accurate - we don't really know who was the father of her daughter Jeanne-Marie for example, hence four stars - but it is superbly acted by a terrific cast. Outstanding is Francesca Annis in the title role, who gives a spirited, moving and wholly convincing portrayal of the young girl who became a king's mistress, and possessed of talent and wit turned misfortunes to triumphs; also Peter Egan as Oscar Wilde, whose superb delivery of the lines he's given in the script are almost worthy of Wilde himself; finally Anton Rodgers as Lillie's estranged husband, a weak and pathetic 'gentleman' who had not the good sense to see that his wife was goinhg to triumph and outshine him sans effort, her beauty capitivating all she met, and it Rodger's moving portrayal of this naive and foolish man, finally descending to insanity, that must leave viewers gasping at the sad fact that society extolled her beauty whilst condemning him to be a cuckold many times over whilst, ironically, it was his surname perchance that became the name of an American city. Subtle and persuasive, amusing and well-directed, this DVD set will give great viewing pleasure even to those who know nothing of royal high-jinks, poetry, acting, horseracing, yachting, and fin-de-siecle morality. Just enjoy the ride.
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on 4 April 2011
Brilliant! I enjoyed this series when it first came on TV, but have enjoyed it even more this second time around.
All Actors even better than I remembered in their different roles.
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on 13 September 2010
I saw the series Lillie on tv a number of years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. I have not been able to purchase the series until now. Since my purchase I have watched it twice. I love the character Oscar Wilde and Lillie is played superbly. I highly recommend this DVD.
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