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! Afterwards, 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
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."
In 1977 PBS decided to combine their annual pledge drive with a special live programme to celebrate their showing of the last ever Upstairs, Downstairs episode. Many of the original cast were shipped over to Boston to contribute and others sent their greetings on film. Just some of them (from left to right): Jean Marsh (Rose), Jacqueline Tong (Daisy), Meg Wynn Owen (Hazel), Christopher Beeny (Edward), Gareth Hunt (Frederick), presenter Alistair Cooke, Rachel Gurney (Lady Marjorie), Upstairs, Downstairs director Bill Bain, and Simon Williams (James).