UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS was a UK television period drama series that ran from 1971-1975 and was revived as a mini-series from 2010-2012. Both incarnations of the series was created by Jean Marsh and Dame Eileen Atkins along with John Hawkesworth and John Whitney, through Hawkesworth's Sagitta Productions, Ltd.
The original incarnation was an ITV production, (produced through the auspices of LWT, London Weekend Television, London's ITV affiliate) while the 2010 continuation was a BBC production.
It was shown in the United States on PBS as a mainstay of the long-running dramatic anthology series, Masterpiece Theater. Later, the 2010 continuation was also shown under the show's successor, Masterpiece Classics. again on PBS. Upstairs, Downstairs won numerous awards, both in the UK and the US, and was widely popular.
Notably in the US, Upstairs, Downstairs had won eight Emmy awards. The series won the Best Drama Emmy three times in 1974. 1975, and 1977 and earned an award for outstanding limited series in 1976; while Jean Marsh won an Emmy for Outstanding lead actress for her role of house parlor maid, Rose; and Gordon Jackson won for Outstanding Single performance by an actor for the episode, "The Beastly Hun". In 1975, it won a Golden Globe Award for Best TV Series Drama.
The show focused on the lives of the aristocratic Bellamy family (the Holland family in the 2010 continuation) and their servants who lived and worked together at 165 Eaton Place, a townhouse in London's fashionable and wealthy Belgravia area. The two shows span the time between the turn of the 20th Century through just before World War II.
Starring in both incarnations was Marsh who played pragmatic servant, Rose Buck. Rose was originally the head house parlor maid who would later became a lady's maid during the original show's run. In the continuation, after leaving domestic service, she later opened a domestic servant agency in Belgravia, and was later brought back into service as the housekeeper in the newly appointed Holland household.
The series was conceived by Marsh and Atkins after the two friends had watched The Forsyte Saga, and were dismayed at the lack of servants in that story. They saw all the finery and glamor of the costumes; and the upstairs family in that story and yet, the people who helped get them to look their finest and took care of the day to day workings of the house were not even shown.
As a result of that, they produced an idea which was originally slated to be a comedy called Behind the Green Baize Door, featuring Marsh and Atkins as two maids serving a family in a country house during the Victorian era; but the comedic elements were soon dropped, although there were many instances of light comedy in many episodes of the original series.
After several working titles (ie: Two Little Maids in Town; The Servant's Hall and That House in Eaton Square) and some other tweaks, it became the show that is remembered to this day. Right before the first episode was shot, it was slated to be called 165 Eaton Place named after the address of the house, but was later renamed Upstairs, Downstairs.
The title was taken from the third line in the children's nursery rhyme, "Goosy, Goosy, Gander". The second line was later used for the original series final episode, "Whither Shall I Wander?"
Eileen Atkins was originally slated to play the role of Sarah Moffat, Rose's assistant house parlor maid, but wasn't available, due to her portraying Queen Victoria in a stage play at that time.
As a result, actress Pauline Collins took on the role of the mischievous but quite lovable Sarah. Atkins later joined the continuation for the first season, playing Maud, Lady Holland, the mother of the later owner of 165 Eaton Place.
The series was also notable that six episodes of the first series (first season in US English) were filmed in black and white, due to a technician's strike which paralyzed LWT and the other subsidiaries which at that time was known as the Independent Broadcasting Authority, now known as ITV.
It wouldn't be until the seventh episode, Magic Casements, when they would be filmed in color, although the first episode On Trial, would be redone in color (the original black and white episode which featured Sarah leaving out the front door, would be considered the lost pilot of the series).
Episode directors of the show were Bill Bain; Brian Parker; Lionel Harris; Cyril Coke; Christopher Hodson; Joan Kemp-Welch; Derek Bennett; James Ormerod; Raymond Menmuir; and Simon Langton (the real life son of David Langton, who played Richard Bellamy). Writers of the various episodes, besides series producer John Hawkesworth (who also wrote the novelizations of the first two series; Mollie Hartwick would write the final three), included Fay Weldon; script supervisor, Alfred Shaughnessy (father of Days of Our Lives and The Nanny actor, Charles Shaughnessy); John Harrison; Anthony Skene; Julian Bond; Rosemary Anne Sisson; Terrence Brady and Charlotte Bingham; and Jeremy Paul.
1970s original series
The Bellamys, the original residents of 165 Eaton Place, was headed by Richard Bellamy (David Langton), the younger son of a country parson from Norfolk, a Member of Parliament serving South London. He was a Conservative who was a bit more independent in his thinking and also a bit more liberal than many of his Tory fellows. He would later became a member of the House of Lords as the Viscount Bellamy of Haversham (Haversham being the nearest major town nearest his birthplace in Norfolk) and his first wife, Lady Marjorie Helen Sybil Talbot-Carey Bellamy (Rachel Gurney), whose parents, Lord and Lady Southwold, were very powerful and extremely influential members of the Tory party (Lord Southwold, as the Duke of Westminster, owned the entire area of Eaton Place, including 165, where the Bellamys lived rent-free). Lady Mabel Southwold was played by veteran actress Cathleen Nesbitt (who had played William Windom's on-screen mother, Agatha Morley on the US comedy series, The Farmer's Daughter).
Lady Marjorie was a status conscious woman, who, despite that and her privileged upbringing, had a nurturing and kind-hearted nature toward those she cared about. This showed in the treatment of her servants. Although Lady Marjorie and Richard were very much in love, they did often have differences in opinions, due to his being more liberal in his thinking, which often led him to have some crises of conscience, especially involving his duties as an M.P and as a member of the Tory party.
After Lady Marjorie's tragic death aboard the RMS Titanic (which also killed her brother, Hugo, and his new wife, a woman named Marian Worsley), Richard, after a respectable time of mourning, married a woman named Virginia Hamilton Bellamy (Hannah Gordon), from Inverness, Scotland, who had just lost her husband, Charles, and oldest son, Michael, in World War I.
Virginia had been introduced by his daughter in-law, Hazel Forrest Bellamy and at first, the two often clashed. However they did fall deeply in love and married at the end of the fourth series. Richard became stepfather to Virginia's two younger children, Alice and William.
Richard and Marjorie had two children of their own, James (Simon Williams), an impetuous military officer who had an unfortunate taste for women who were not from his societal status, who was favored by his mother; and Elizabeth (Nicola Pagett), his younger sister, who was very rebellious (because she was really very shy and was not interested in being a woman of wealth and position) and was favored by her father.
Nicola Pagett (who played Elizabeth) left the series after the second year due to being excluded from doing a proposed Upstairs, Downstairs movie. The proposed movie was never filmed. Her being written off was explained with Elizabeth having met and married an American named Dana Wallace, an attorney, and she and Lucy emigrated to New York to live with her new husband.
Elizabeth's place in the house was taken by Miss Georgina Worsley (Lesley-Anne Down) who was the step-niece of Richard's first wife, Lady Marjorie (Georgina's mother, Marian, married Lord Hugo Southwold, Marjorie's brother), and lived there through the remainder of the series, until she was married in the final episode to Lord Robert, the Marquis of Stockbridge (Anthony Andrews).
Downstairs was the domain of the servants. Most of the action downstairs took place in and around an area called the Servants Hall, which included the pantry, the kitchen, the scullery and most of the rooms below the house.
The household staff originally comprised of Angus Hudson (Gordon Jackson), the butler; Kate Bridges (Angela Baddeley, the sister of Hermione Baddeley, who, at that time, played vulgar and drunk housekeeper, Mrs. Naugatuck on the US comedy series Maude), the cook; Emily (Evin Crowley), the scullery/kitchen maid; Alfred Harris (George Innes), the footman; Maude Roberts (Patsy Smart), the Lady's Maid; Mr. Pearce (Brian Osborne), the original chauffeur/coachman; and the two house parlor maids Sarah and Rose.
Sarah would later became the nursery maid (taking care of Lucy, the Bellamy's first and only grandchild) until she married Pearce's successor as chauffeur, a man named Thomas Watkins (John Alderton, the real life husband of Pauline Collins) who had once served as man servant to Elizabeth's first husband, Lawrence Kirbridge (Ian Ogilvy); and the two left service altogether (and for their own spin-off show, Thomas and Sarah).
Emily committed suicide during the first season over a tragic love affair that left her brokenhearted, and she was subsequently replaced by a slow-witted but exceedingly honest girl named Ruby Finch (Jenny Tomasin), as kitchen maid; Miss Roberts survived the sinking of the Titanic, but was so ravaged with grief over the death of Lady Marjorie that she was eventually placed in an asylum (Her role as Lady's maid was subsequently taken over by Rose).
Daisy Peel (Jacqueline Tong) became under house parlor maid long after Sarah left (after various maids named Joan, Mary, and notably Alice) and was later made head house parlor maid; the ebulliently cheerful (and sometimes cheeky) Edward Barnes (Christopher Beeny) became the new footman after Alfred left the house with his lover, a German baron who was revealed to be a spy As time wore on, Daisy and Edward, who later also became the new chauffeur, fell in love and were subsequently married.
In the first series, Elizabeth came back to her family after a time of studying abroad in Dresden, Germany (she attended Frau Beck's Finishing School), and already showed her rebellious streak after she bolted from a fancy ball in which she was to be presented to the King and Queen (for this she was scolded by Rose).
She later had romantic feelings for a German Baron named Klaus von Rimmer, an acquaintance from her Dresden days, who was really a spy who wanted to use her father for political favors. He was, in fact, proven to be a spy, and he left London, taking the footman, Alfred with him.
In the third series, Alfred had returned, after being fired by von Rimmer's new wife, and he terrorized the downstairs after it was revealed that he had murdered his subsequent employer. He held Edward at knifepoint, until the police disarmed him, arrested him, and after being found guilty of murder, was hanged.
She then openly rebelled against her family until she was married to Lawrence Kirbridge, a poet she had met while on her own. It was a match which her mother did not approve of.
She then had a child with his much-older publisher, Sir Edwin Partridge, bringing more scandal to the family after Lawrence schemed to have him have relations with Elizabeth. As a result of this, the marriage was irretrievably sundered. Kirbridge (who was implied to be gay) was named the father of the child, was sent away to Europe and was never spoken of again. The child was named Lucy Kirbridge.
She later had an unhappy affair with an Armenian man named Julius Karekin, who only used her to get into high society and then threw her away (after giving her the deed to her house), until she found lasting happiness with an American lawyer named Dana Wallace, and she and Lucy emigrated from London to New York, where they lived for the remainder of the series.
James, a military officer, who originally held the rank of Captain, and later known as Major, had a much worse time of it than his sister, what with everything he tried not working out. After an unwise affair with under house parlor maid Sarah, in which he fathered a son who was still born, he met Hazel Forrest (Meg Wynn Owen), who had been hired as Richard's secretary. She fell in love with James and they married, but the marriage sundered because of Hazel's middle-class background; the servants (most especially Hudson) not taking to Hazel being Mistress of the House; and a miscarriage of their child (James' second). Hazel died in 1918 due to the Influenza epidemic. James never remarried after that.
Another recurring role was that of Lady Prudence Fairfax (Joan Benham), a frivolous and gossipy, but caring and compassionate woman who was Lady Marjorie's oldest and best friend. After her friend's death, she remained a close family friend. The widowed Prudence (who had a married daughter named Agatha) was seen through all five series of the show, although she did not appear in every episode. She maintained a close friendship with Richard, even though he remarried Virginia.
The original series ended when James committed suicide after losing his fortune in the Stock Crash of 1929, and the house was sold and the furnishings were auctioned off. Mr. Hudson and Mrs. Bridges were married, and moved to Hastings to run a guest house, taking Ruby with them; Edward and Daisy were hired as butler and housemaid for the new Lord and Lady Stockbridge; Rose was retained by Lord and Lady Bellamy as their maid and as nanny to the children, when they moved to Dorset; and the series ended when Rose walked through the now empty halls and rooms of 165 and remembering all the events that happened.
During the series' five seasons, four major characters died in various ways or another. The first death was the first kitchen maid, Emily, who had hanged herself after having her heart broken; the second major death was Lady Marjorie, as she perished aboard the Titanic when it sank; the third major death was James' wife, Hazel, who perished from the Spanish Flu, and in the last season, James himself commits suicide when he shoots himself in a hotel room in Maidenhead, after he loses his fortune in the stock market crash of 1929.
The continuation began when Rose opens up an agency for hiring domestic servants in Belgravia, after retiring from service, and she met Welsh-born Lady Agnes Towyn Holland (Keeley Hawes), who was, along with her husband Sir Hallam Holland (Ed Stoppard), a diplomat for the UK Foreign Office, moving into 165 Eaton Place (Hallam had inherited the house), and they were intent on making it a showplace once again.
Rose was convinced to be brought back into service as the senior servant, her title was that of head housekeeper; along with a new crew of servants, consisting mainly of Clarice Thackeray (Anne Reid), the cook; Warwick Pritchard (Adrian Scarborough), the butler, who was a recovering alcoholic; Rachel Perlmutter (Helen Bradbury) the house parlor maid, who after her death from asthma, her daughter, Lotte was taken in by Lord Hallam and Lady Agnes; Amanjit Singh (Art Malik), Maud, Lady Holland's secretary; Harry Spargo (Neil Jackson), the chauffeur; his wife, Beryl (Laura Haddock), another house parlor maid; and footman Johnny Proude (Nico Mirallegro).
Also living upstairs with Lord Hallam and Lady Agnes was Maud, Lady Holland (Eileen Atkins), Hallam's mother who caused a lot of friction between herself and Lady Agnes but always meant well; Lady Holland's younger half-sister, Dr. Blanche Mottershead (Alex Kingston) who moved in after Maud's death and got along far better with Lady Agnes than Maud ever did; Lady Persephone Towyn (Claire Foy), called "Persie", Lady Agnes's duplicitous and troublemaking sister, who was a fascist, had an affair with her brother in-law and then committed suicide after shooting Beryl on the eve of her marriage to Harry; Pamela Holland (Sarah Gordy), Hallam's sister who has Down's syndrome; as well as Hallam's friend, the Duke of Kent (Blake Ritson), who visited his friend frequently, and was similar to the Lady Prudence character from the original in that he was a familiar presence in the house.
While the original ran for five seasons; the continuation only ran for two seasons, mainly due to Jean Marsh's continuing health issues. The continuation mainly didn't last due to the fact that Rose was reduced to two cameos in the second and final season and she was considered to be the only real tangible connection to both incarnations of the show.
Much of the second season dealt with the struggles of the residents, both above and below stairs, as World War II was looming. Agnes was dealing with having given birth to her second child, Veronica; not to mention dealing with her scheming sister, and trying to do her best in running the household. She had a good support system from her husband's aunt, Blanche, with whom she felt more comfortable than her late mother in-law.
She was also dealing with the fallout from discovering that Persie had an affair with Hallam (and the fact that she was a Nazi spy), and that caused husband and wife to separate, with the children going with her family in Wales, while she and Blanche helped out in London during the war. When Persie's duplicity was revealed, she accidentally shot Beryl with Hallam's service revolver, and then she threw herself off the landing committing suicide.
Meanwhile, downstairs, the two senior members of the staff, Mr. Pritchard and Mrs. Thackeray were constantly arguing about who was in charge, in lieu of Rose, who was in a sanitarium recovering from having tuberculosis. Eunice McCabe (Ami Metcalfe) was also included in the cast. She was, at first, strictly a kitchen maid, but then was named a lady's maid when Rose took ill, then later dividing her time between the kitchen and the nursery. She was a bit stupid at times, much like Ruby had been in the original, but she was quite lovable. Johnny went into the military, and he had fallen for the sweet Eunice.
The series ended when Mr. Pritchard heard the air raid sirens and ushered Lady Agnes and Blanche into the shelter. It took Rose, who was convalescing in a sanitarium, to straighten out the domestic squabbling, and told Pritchard and Mrs. Thackeray that they were BOTH equals in the domestic hierarchy and were BOTH in charge. Rose was later revealed that she had been released from the Sanitarium with a clean bill of health and she became the children's nanny (much like she had been with William and Alice in the original) back in Wales, while Agnes and Blanche remained in London.
Spin-offs and similar series
An Americanized version of the show, called Beacon Hill, ran for one season in 1975 on the CBS television network. It was produced by Beryl Vertue, who had helped Jean Marsh originally get Upstairs, Downstairs on television. The show was very similar in format as the upper class family, the Lassiters, lived upstairs; while the servants remained below stairs.
There were significant differences in both series. The show was set in Boston instead of London; the time was the early 1920's and the eve of Prohibition; the area was Louisburg Square in the Beacon Hill neighborhood (hence the title) instead of Eaton Place in Belgravia, and the families, both above and below stairs, were of Irish ancestry.
Another more recent ITV series, the UK-US jointly produced Downton Abbey, was also inspired by Upstairs, Downstairs, in that the basic premise was the same, the adventures and interactions of a wealthy family and their numerous servants. The difference between the two shows was that the Chatelaine (or Lady of the house) was an American born woman who was married into the British aristocracy in order to save the estate. Because Downton Abbey's first season was being shown at the same time as the new Upstairs, Downstairs, and was on its way to becoming highly popular, Upstairs, Downstairs seemed more quaint and antiquated, and thus, wasn't as popular.
There was a slated spin-off series, where Hudson and the former Mrs. Bridges and Ruby were moving to a guest house in the southeast of England and their adventures after their lives in Eaton Place, but plans for that show were scrapped due to the unexpected death of actress Angela Baddeley (Mrs. Bridges).
The only direct spin-off from the show was called Thomas and Sarah, which starred John Alderton and Pauline Collins as the mischievous former servants as they try to make do in life outside of service as owners of a garage, but at the end realized that they should have stayed in service, where they were safer.
Several members of the show's cast went on to wider fame later on in their careers. Besides Gordon Jackson, David Langton; Joan Benham; Rachel Gurney and Angela Baddeley (established performers all), the most notable alumna of the show was Lesley-Anne Down, who played the pivotal role of Miss Georgina Worsley.
Lesley-Anne later played troubled socialite Olivia Richards on the US Soap opera, Sunset Beach, during the entire run of the series; but she became much better known as the determined Jacqueline Marone Knight, the former wife of Massimo Marone (Joseph Mascolo); the mother of Nick Marone (Jack Wagner), and an enemy (later friend) of Stephanie Forrester (Susan Flannery), on the long running series, The Bold and the Beautiful.
Emmy winner Jean Marsh (Rose) played a regular role in the first two seasons of the US sitcom, 9 to 5 (which was based on the Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton movie of the same name), which also starred Rita Moreno; Valerie Curtin and Rachel Dennison (Dolly Parton's sister). Jean played the crisp and efficient administrative assistant (and troublemaking spy for Franklin Hart) Roz Keith, the role played in the movie version by the late Elizabeth Wilson. After her role ended (the series had been retooled many times), Jean would return to England and later reunited with her old friend/writing partner, Dame Eileen Atkins, in creating another successful dramatic series called The House of Eliott.
Anthony Andrews (Robert, the Marquis of Stockbridge) played in the series, Brideshead Revisited; the late Jenny Tomasin (Ruby Finch) was later seen on the BBC's long-running soap opera, EastEnders; Christopher Beeny (Edward Barnes) went on to perform in the UK situation comedy, The Last of the Summer Wine (episodes which are still seen today in the US); and Gordon Jackson (Mr. Hudson) continued to work in British TV, most notably on the UK drama series, The Professionals, until his death in 2000.
Spoofs and Parodies
On the Children's television show, Sesame Street, during the segment called Monsterpiece Theater, which was itself a parody of Masterpiece Theater, Upstairs, Downstairs was spoofed as it showed Grover Monster going up and down a staircase until he was so exhausted that he fainted in a heap. It was one of the rarities that a specific Masterpiece Theater production was spoofed; the other one was I, Claudius which was spoofed as Me, Claudius.
- DAVID LANGTON -- Richard Bellamy
- RACHEL GURNEY -- Lady Marjorie Bellamy
- SIMON WILLIAMS -- James Bellamy
- NICOLA PAGETT -- Elizabeth Bellamy Kirbridge
- JOAN BENHAM -- Lady Prudence Fairfax
- LESLEY-ANNE DOWN -- Georgina Worsley
- GORDON JACKSON -- Angus Hudson
- ANGELA BADDELEY -- Kate Bridges
- JEAN MARSH -- Rose Buck
- GEORGE INNES --Alfred Harris
- CHRISTOPHER BEENY -- Edward Barnes
- EVIN CROWLEY -- Emily
- PAULINE COLLINS -- Sarah Moffat
- PATSY SMART -- Maude Roberts
- JENNY TOMASIN -- Ruby Finch
- JACQUELINE TONG -- Daisy Peel
- HANNAH GORDON -- Virginia Hamilton Bellamy
- ANTHONY ANDREWS-- Robert, the Marquis of Stockbridge
- DONALD BURTON-- Julius Karekin
2010 Continuation cast
- JEAN MARSH -- Rose Buck
- KEELEY HAWES -- Lady Agnes Holland
- ED STOPPARD -- Sir Hallam Holland
- EILEEN ATKINS -- Maud, Lady Holland
- CLAIRE FOYE -- Lady Persie Towyn
- ALEX KINGSTON -- Dr. Blanche Mottershead
- SARAH GORDY -- Pamela Holland
- BLAKE RITSON -- The Duke of Kent
- ADRIAN SCARBOROUGH -- Warwick Pritchard
- ANNE REID -- Clarice Thackeray
- AMI METCALFE -- Eunice McCabe
- NEIL JACKSON -- Harry Spargo
- LAURA HADDOCK -- Beryl Spargo
- NICO MIRALLEGRO -- Johnny Proude
- HELEN BRADBURY -- Rachel Perlmutter
- ART MALIK -- Amanjit Singh