Julian Fellowes did not want to write Downton Abbey. He had been there and done that and didn’t think that lightening could strike twice in the same place. He had already won an Oscar statuette for best screenwriter for Gosford Park, another British drama named for a big house. Directed by Robert Altman, that film became a box office hit and was nominated for numerous awards in both Britain and America and became Altman’s second most successful film after MASH.
Happily, Fellowes changed his mind and Downton Abbey gained fans all over the world, and lasted six seasons.
Julian Fellowes had been born in Cairo and lived in America for 10 years as a writer and actor before retuning to Britain. He had also written a series of romantic novels under the pseudonym Rebecca Grenville. Fellowes aristocratic father told him: “If you have the misfortune to be born into a generation which must earn its living, you might as well do something amusing.”
I enjoy reading biographies and autobiographies of authors. Another British writer who wrote to support herself and her daughter is Agatha Christie.
When forced to work for a living she turned to the imaginary world of her childhood and to her experiences traveling with her second husband, anthropologist Max Mallowan. Their travels together provided exotic locations for some of her murder mysteries. Others also helped us to understand life in the sleepy English village of St. Mary Mead and to follow the exploits of her eccentric Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot.
We may have pushed their tea into Boston Harbor in 1773 but we Americans remain fascinated with the literature and drama that originates in the British Isles.