Thursday, December 3, 2020

Inspiration for PBS show to screen

When the revelation of “Downton Abbey’s” impending demise broke shortly after the series’ grande dame, Maggie Smith, announced she’d be leaving the show, it came like a one-two punch for heartbroken fans.

However, good news for “Downton” devotees young and old lies right here in the PSUC community!

Take heart, for a “Downton Abbey” road less traveled will soon be accessible on campus.

Barely traveled, actually, for even among hardcore “Downton” fanatics it’s a little-known fact that obscure British author Isabel Colegate’s 1980 novel “The Shooting Party” inspired “Downton” creator Julian Fellowes to hatch and then turn loose his runaway franchise.

On Saturday, May 9 at 7:30 p.m., you can see an ultra-rare presentation of the 1985 film adaptation of “The Shooting Party” at the Newman Center, 90 Broad St., across from the parking lot of PSUC’s Myers Fine Arts building.

“The Shooting Party” chronicles a day in the lives of members of the landed gentry and their servants shortly before the outbreak of World War I.

The novel’s central character, Sir Randolph Nettleby, divides his time between leading a game-shooting orgy around his estate and hosting an indoor gathering of friends and acquaintances that include a number of his daughter’s suitors.

Colegate divided her time among depictions of blossoming love, examining the fading status of the proverbial country gentleman and suggestions of clashing political perspectives at such a crucial historical crossroad.

“Downton Abbey” shares not only “The Shooting Party’s” timeline but many of its themes. Lo and behold, there’s even a character named Carson occupying both universes in question.

In short, there’s enough parallel intrigue to amaze everyone from diehard “Downton” cultists right down to the dabblers in the mix.

Regardless, lovers of fine cinema are in for a treat what with roundly lush production values embracing an impeccable cast of vintage British favorites, including late greats James Mason and John Gielgud as Nettleby and anti-shooting party activist Cornelius Cardew, respectively.

Attendees of May 9th’s Newman Center screening of “The Shooting Party” are encouraged to go the distance in full period costume, per the legacy of “Downton”-related parties thrown elsewhere.

The film will be shown not on DVD but in the good ol’ fashioned reel-to-reel format, specifically on 16mm celluloid.

Admission is free and open to all, with donations welcome to help defray operation costs. More info is available at serious_61@yahoo.com.

Andy MacDougall
PSUC Alum
Class of ’84

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