The BBC reeled with surprise that a ghastly young popularist ITV company could produce a massive, award-winning
period drama, and was amazed that they had the audacity to try in the first place! They were quick to employ the talents of
UD's producer, John Hawkesworth, to produce a period drama of their own.
The Duchess Of Duke Street told the tale of Louisa Trotter (played by Gemma Jones, upper picture), the larger-than-life
owner and hostess of the Bentinck Hotel in London. The series' whole premise was based on the real-life Rosa Lewis and the exclusive
Cavendish hotel, which in the early part of the 1900s had become a meeting place for statesmen, artists and aristocrats – in fact
just about anybody who was a name in society. John Hawkesworth actually knew Lewis personally: "She was a real old dictator.
She was a terrible snob – she would only have people she liked in the hotel, and she used to throw people out. It was a unique,
zany kind of place, and when I knew her she was well into her 70s and still spoke with a strong cockney accent, and used the strongest
language you can imagine."
Hawkesworth took across from ITV many of the talents involved that had made UpDown such a success – writers Jeremy Paul,
Rosemary Anne Sisson, and directors Bill Bain, Raymond Menmuir, Cyril Coke and Simon Langton. The series even sported a theme
written by Alexander Faris who, of course, had also written the theme to UD. There were many familiar faces amongst the
acting ensemble – nearly 30 actors who had been in Upstairs, Downstairs appeared in The Duchess Of Duke Street
over its 31 episodes.
The most recognisable faces from UpDown included:
Anthony Andrews (Robert Stockbridge) appeared as Marcus Carrington in Lottie's Boy.
John Quayle (Bunny Newbury) played Lord Elleston, a character accused of rigging a horse race, in A Matter Of Honour.
Joan Benham (Lady Prudence) played a small part of a lady at an art exhibition in The Outsiders.
Donald Burton (Julius Karekin) played Louisa's alcoholic husband, Augustus, in the early episodes of Duchess.
Richard Vernon (Major "Cocky"-Danby) played the grace-and-favour major-domo at the hotel, Major Smith-Barton, through the whole
run of Duchess.
The 21-year-old Lesley-Anne Down found Upstairs, Downstairs the first rung on the ladder to fame which
would later see her go on to star in the mega-soap Dallas. Her earlier career was rather less well paid and she had resorted
to posing for a syndicated set of tasteful topless photographs in 1975. In the UK they were published in Mayfair, which
informed us: "Daughter of a caretaker, she was born in Putney, south London, and began her career at the age of ten by enrolling
for a modelling course. Two years later she was one of the country's top child fashion models and soon appearing in a succession
of films, like That Smashing Bird I Used to Know, All The Right Noises and Scallawag [sic]. Her failure
to get a part in That'll Be The Day left her open for the role in her favourite TV series, Upstairs, Downstairs.
'It was fantastic,' she said. 'I never missed an episode.' A willowy five feet seven, 33-22-33, Lesley shares
a King's Road flat and spends what spare time she has very unaristocratically – swimming and watching football." The magazine
added: "Although this Mayfair is Lesley's first unclothed photographic sequence, she received an offer to strip when she was
only 14 for a sexy film." Ahem!!!
In 1981, Lesley-Anne Down appeared in Unity, a BBC2 play about the true-life story of Unity Mitford,
a wealthy British woman who travelled to Germany as part of a delegation representing Oswald Mosley's British Union Of Fascists.
She became obsessed with meeting Hitler, and used her charms to become counted amongst his closest friends. It has even been speculated
that she became pregnant by Hitler and, back in Britain, bore his child. Lesley-Anne is pictured above with Ernst Jacobi as Hitler.
A great photo of David Langton (centre) and the rest of the cast of Samuel A Taylor's The Pleasure Of His
Company pictured during its run in Dublin in 1976. On the left is Wilfrid Hyde-White and on the right is Douglas Fairbanks
Jnr. Feeding the duck is Dinah Sheridan. (Thanks to Noel King for the picture).
Upstairs, Downstairs met The Forsyte Saga in the BBC's 1977 adaptation of Tolstoy’s Anna
Karenina. Nicola Pagett played the title role opposite Eric Porter as her husband Karenin. Porter, of course, had given one
of the all-time great television performances as Soames in the BBC's classic The Forsyte Saga in 1967 – a serial which
directly inspired Upstairs, Downstairs. Newspaper the Evening News claimed: "Nicola Pagett has created the classic
Anna. She doesn't appear to be acting. She is Anna Karenina."