Pining for the West

The Forsyte Saga | July 29, 2009

I’ve been watching the re-runs of The Forsyte Saga recently and I can’t help thinking that nobody involved in the making of it seems to have thought of actually reading the book. I can’t see how they could have chosen Gina McKee to play the part of Irene otherwise.

I have really enjoyed the adaptation although for me it has been marred by the choice of an actress who is the complete opposite of the descriptions of Irene. As the whole book (trilogy) rests on Irene having a wonderful figure, a swaying walk (bum waggling in todayspeak) and yellow golden hair, it seems very strange to me that we are expected to believe that any woman with such an emaciated figure as McKee has could possibly be desired by every man that she came into contact with, which is just about what happens in the book. Irene’s figure was described as being ‘well covered’. They would suspect her of having T.B. Come to think of it, she would be perfect as a tragic heroine dying of consumption, or in something about the Irish potato famine.

I think it is really lazy casting and I feel sorry for any young unknown actresses who are overlooked in favour of well known people, even when they are completely unsuitable for the part. How is anyone supposed to get on in the profession when the same people pop up all the time just because they are a known face.

Soames was supposed to have dark hair, so Damien Lewis seems to be an odd choice for that part, given that he is a redhead but in every other aspect he is perfect as Soames, who I always had a bit of a soft spot for.
I hope he wasn’t chosen because he has red hair. Victorian novelists always gave their bad guys red hair so that people knew where they were with them straightaway. As I have red hair, I can’t help noticing things like that.

Anyway, I am just old enough to remember the original BBC version of The Forsyte Saga. I think I was about 10 years old when it was shown, and I recall the lovely Nyree Dawn Porter being very good as Irene. Although sadly I think it did her career no good as she was forever tainted by the character. The whole thing caused quite a scandal in the late 1960s, I’m quite amazed that I was allowed up to watch it.

Gina McKee would have made a better Fleur, as she has the perfect figure for a flapper.

Well, it encouraged me to re-read the books, which I hadn’t done for about 20 years and as I enjoyed that so much I’ve dug out some more Galsworthy books which I have never got around to reading. So tonight I’m starting Fraternity which I have just noticed was dedicated to J.M. Barrie – someone else that I have a soft spot for, so I’m taking that as a good omen.



  1. Hi (again) I was thinking of writing about the Forsyte Saga too on my blog. I couldn’t agree more with you regarding the casting of Irene! I just couldn’t get on with Mckee at all (nor with the character of Irene in general…) I don’t know what it is about Soames though, by rights you shouldn’t feel sorry for him (especially after his brutality) but one just does. And poor June (suposed to be Irene’s best friend – and off she goes with Bosinny!) I have this series on DVD and I’ve read the books which I’ve greatly enjoyed.Good Blog by the way!

    Comment by echostains — September 15, 2009 @ 9:26 pm

  2. Thanks for the comment. You and I are obviously as one on The Forsyte Saga. I’m quite new to this blogging lark, and hope to improve. I really like yours.

    Comment by piningforthewest — September 17, 2009 @ 8:10 pm

  3. Aw thanks Piningforthewest! Told you I’d come back didn’t I. I have bookmarked you now so I can find you again. Fairly new myself to blogging, (well a year in November) but I have become addicted. I’ve blogged nearly every day since I started: some of them very short I may add lol! Every so often the format goes huge, it may be a glitch on the theme I’m using. Also it’s helpful for me to have lots of different categories as I can hop to a different subject when another runs dry lol! Some of your recipes sound yummy, I shall have to try the choc pudding one!
    Incidently they’re re running the old Forsyte Saga at the moment (Gina McKee as Irene). Certainly not a woman’s woman is she. Its not hard to see why she has no friends when she keeps taking off with their boyfriends and fathers lol! This does seem inconsistant with her championing fallen women though…. I wonder why Galsworthy put this in? I’d really like to see the old version people talk about, the one with Nyree Dawn Porter (?) in.
    Kind Regards

    Comment by echostains — October 12, 2009 @ 12:04 pm

    • I love your blog as it is so eclectic and you certainly seem to get about a lot. I think that Irene is supposed to think that she would have been a fallen woman herself if she hadn’t been left a small income from old Jolyon and she hadn’t had the ability to give music lessons. She sees herself very much as a victim, never thinking that she was condemning Soames to a life of celibacy by refusing to sleep with him, unless he took up paying for it himself. I caught the last half hour of it on Sunday. I’m sure Gina McKee is very nice and all that but I just hate that she can’t even stand up straight. She’s all hunched shoulders. She would have been schooled in deportment as a Victorian girl. I’d love to see the old version but I don’t think they will ever show it again as it was in black and white, I think. I like black and white, though most people would probably complain about that. I’ve blogrolled you.

      Comment by piningforthewest — October 12, 2009 @ 10:27 pm

  4. Thanks1 I’m going to do the same with your blog. Mmm Irene does seem to fall on her feet a lot (with the aid of men, I might add, no wonder she can’t stand upright lol!) Perhaps Galsworthy tried to make women more sympathetic towards her by having her working with fallen women (if that was the case, he has failed dismally with me) I love the old black and white films too. It’s a recent thing though, I can now appreciate them as I’ve got older! oh dear!

    Comment by echostains — October 13, 2009 @ 11:48 pm

    • I think we all know women like Irene, but I have found that they usually get their come-uppance. Even if you have to wait 30 years or so. GGRRR.
      Kind regards,

      Comment by piningforthewest — October 15, 2009 @ 10:06 pm

      • Yes, the Blanche Ingram’s of the world have got it made! (Jane Eyre). Brains above beauty, that’s what I say lol! It’s worrying how women rely more on appearence and will go to great lengths to keep it (i.e. plastic surgery). They should be improving their minds lol! Beauty fades.

        Comment by echostains — October 16, 2009 @ 3:30 pm

  5. Or, as the great Judge Judy once said;-
    “Beauty fades, dumb is forever” heheh she puts it so succinctly doesn’t she lol!

    Comment by echostains — October 16, 2009 @ 3:32 pm

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