Gosford Park: Murder, Mayhem, and Manors

It’s a new year, which means that Masterpiece Classic is kicking off a new season of costume porn. This year, they’re getting the ball rolling with Downton Abbey. A recap of the first part of DA will be up later this week, but until that goes live, you can fill the void with Gosford Park, a movie that has quite a lot in common with DA, including a) a screenwriter (Julian Fellowes), b) similar house-themed titles, c) upstairs/downstairs-style storylines, and d) a star (Maggie Smith, who appears to basically play the same character in both GP and DA). From the sound of it, DA even has a murder mystery subplot, which I’m guessing will end up being somewhat superfluous to the actual story, just as it was in GP, but I may be wrong about that.

Normally, I’d be annoyed by two stories that are so similar, but in this case I’m fine with it because I have a particular soft spot for GP. There’s something incredibly addictive about this movie, for me. Maybe it’s the fact that I notice something new every time I watch it, because there’s so much going on in the ensemble cast, so I never get tired of watching this. And speaking of that cast, it’s fun to watch GP because it’s a veritable parade of familiar faces and “hey, look who it is!” moments. Margaret Schroeder’s Professor McGonagall’s lady’s maid! And McGonagall’s Harry Potter’s mom’s aunt! Queen Elizabeth (I and II!) is the housekeeper! And this whole thing was written by the Duke of Richmond! It kind of proves my mother’s theory that there are only about 30 British actors out there who regularly get work, so you see them all the time. Because of this movie, Love Actually, and the Harry Potter films, you can connect pretty much every single one of those actors to any other in a crazy British version of “6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon”. And you’d probably only need two or three degrees to do it.

So, we open in the pouring rain, outside an enormous brick mansion, as a car pulls around and the driver calls for a young woman just standing there getting soaked (instead of, more sensibly, standing on the porch, which I don’t think was against the rules.) The driver ropes her into helping him stretch the canopy over the front two seats of the car, and she hops to it as a butler comes out, opening a large black umbrella, and asks if they’re ready. Once he gets a yes, he calls inside to “Milady” and escorts Maggie Smith out to the car. The young woman (Mary, best known to us as Boardwalk Empire’s Margaret Schroeder) waits until her employer is in the car before getting in herself. Once everyone’s set, they head off.

It doesn’t take long for her ladyship to become a pain in the ass. She starts knocking on the window separating herself from the driver and maid. Hilariously, they ignore her for a while, but finally Mary turns to see what the problem is. Her ladyship can’t open the thermos she’s brought with her. So, the driver pulls over and Mary gets back out in the pouring rain to open the blasted thing. As she’s doing so, another car pulls up next to them and a balding, bespectacled man with an American accent politely asks if they’re ok. Mary says they’re fine, but the other man sharing the car (Jeremy Northam, seen recently here in The Tudors) recognizes Maggie Smith (and calls her the Countess of Trentham—thanks for the name, Jeremy!) and reminds her that he’s William McCordle’s cousin, Ivor Novello (who was actually a real person). Maggie retreats into the plush interior of her Rolls Royce, disgusted to be near such low-class people as these. Novello ignores her snobbery and introduces his bespectacled companion as Morris Weissman. Jewish and an American? She’s gonna love that. Weissman politely says hello and then (this is the first time I ever noticed this little moment) Novello subtly coaches him to tip his hat to the countess. Nice touch. Novello guesses they’re headed to the same place, and the countess frostily agrees. Mary, meanwhile, is still standing there, getting soaked to the skin, and nobody seems to give a crap. So you’ve got your class structure right here. Novello and Weissman give up trying to converse with this awful snob and drive off, leaving the countess to bitch at Mary for keeping the door open so long. Mary can’t help but have a brief fangirl moment and asks if that was really Ivor Novello? The countess confirms it and snaps at her to get her ass moving.

The rain has finally stopped by the time everyone pulls up at Gosford Park, a beautiful grey stone mansion. We finally learn it’s November, 1932. As Mary hops out of the car and Weissman heads inside, admiring the place, a blonde woman on a horse comes cantering up to the house in the background, hopping easily over a fence. On the house’s portico, Albus Dumbledore (the second one) is greeting guests while holding a little terrier-like dog. His painfully awkward and frumpy daughter stands beside him, looking like she’d rather be anywhere else on earth right now. Dumbledore (or, as he is in this movie, Sir William McCordle) greets the countess enthusiastically, calling her Constance, as the blonde woman hops off her horse and greets the countess with a kiss. The countess complains about William’s familiar greeting, even though he’s her niece’s husband, and then they both complain about William’s ‘vile little dog’ which seems perfectly cute to me. Countess and blondie (Sylvia, William’s wife) commiserate about how awful the journey must have been as they sweep past William and the daughter (Isobel) without so much as a glance. So now we know what that family dynamic’s like. The butler, who pretty much exudes pomposity, tells Constance’s driver to take the car around back to unload the luggage. The driver dickishly takes off, leaving Mary behind, standing there uncertainly. Seems ladies’ maids weren’t allowed to go in through the front door, so she has to chase the car all the way around the back of the house. Just in case you haven’t cottoned on by now, Mary’s new at this maid thing.

As Mary trots off, another car pulls up and a patrician pair step out and are greeted as Louisa and Raymond by William, who adds that there’s some good shooting coming. As they head into the house, Louisa pats Isobel’s stomach and comments that her tummy’s gone. Hmmm.

In the downstairs portion of the house, things are chaotic as new servants stream in, dragging trunks, as bells ring and the house staff scurries around, getting tea and dinner ready for all the guests. Helen Mirren’s there, directing traffic like a pro, but still getting lip from one doughy blonde valet who grouses that he knows what to do and where to go. As everyone moves around with purpose, one valet strolls in like he’s checking out a museum exhibit. It’s Ryan Phillippe, working a bad Scottish accent. He’s come with Weissman and Novello. Helen quickly dismisses him and moves on to Mary, who’s finally come in. Helen flags down Elsie, the head housemaid, who will be Mary’s roomie over the weekend. Helen (who’s Mrs. Wilson in this film) introduces Mary to Elsie as “Miss Trentham” and moves on to the next person. The name throws Mary, who tells Elsie that her last name’s Maceachran, not Trentham, but in this house, servants are referred to by their employer’s last name. Yep, that’s right, you want to work for the rich, you get to sacrifice your own identity. Charming. Elsie hustles Mary away to, hopefully, find some dry clothes before the poor girl catches pneumonia.

As she goes, Clive Owen strides in and asks where Lord Stockbridge’s guns should go. After getting instructions from Mrs. Wilson, he tells her that his name’s Robert Parks. The cook, passing as he says this, does a double take. After a second, Mrs. Wilson chases him down to explain the naming system and then to engage him in conversation about where he came from, which surprisingly doesn’t strike anyone as a little odd.

Before they get to their room, Mary asks to put some jewels in the safe. Before they go into the room where it’s kept, Elsie warns her that it’s in the charge of George, the first footman, who tends to be a little handsy. Mary starts to put all the jewelry in the safe (as the camera lingers briefly on some silver polish) but Elsie reminds her to pull the jewelry for that night’s dinner. Strange that Elsie knows more about being a lady’s maid than Mary does. George is played by another familiar face—Richard E. Grant, who’s been in British movies forever and still looks the same as he did a good 20 years ago, which is kind of freakish.

Upstairs, where it’s quieter, two guests we haven’t met yet—Freddie and Mabel Nesbitt—are heading down for tea. The relationship’s tense: Freddie’s walking a good yard in front of her, and Mabel’s fretting about her hair looking all right. He nags her for holding them up and she tries to calm him, but he’s quickly distracted by Isobel, whom they meet at the foot of the stairs. Freddie sends Mabel along to the drawing room by herself and pulls Isobel aside for a chat.

Once they’re behind a large potted plant, Freddie gets pretty familiar, getting in real close and putting a hand on her belly as he asks if Isobel’s spoken to her father yet. Negative. He starts to get a little creepy, reminding her that she promised, and that she’s so beautiful when she resists him. Ick. Isobel says she’ll try to speak to her father that night. Further discussion is interrupted by the arrival of George, who’s heading toward the drawing room. Isobel snaps that he shouldn’t go sneaking up on people, but Freddie says he’s nobody, and George apologizes and keeps going. Isobel and Freddie follow him into the drawing room as Raymond and Louisa (Lord and Lady Stockbridge, sister and brother-in-law of Sylvia) come down the stairs. Raymond’s complaining about having to be all social when all he wants to do is go out and shoot things, but Louisa says it’s a relief to her to sit next to someone who’s not deaf in one ear. “Sorry?” Raymond says, not having heard her. Heh.

The rest of the party’s gathered in the drawing room, chatting away and helping themselves to treats. Over at the tea table, a pretty young woman is with Tom Hollander, who is one of those actors I inexplicably love (kind of like James Frain) even though he’s made a whole career out of basically playing losers and villains. He pops up a lot too, most notably in the last two Pirates of the Caribbean movies. As the bad guy. He’s playing a loser this time around, getting advice from his wife to “just let it come naturally.” We have no idea what “it” is yet. She warns him not to steer the conversation, since it makes him seem desperate. Tom hisses that he is desperate, but his wife’s already gone. William, meanwhile, is introducing Raymond to Weissman.

Down below, Mrs. Wilson introduces Robert Parks to Elsie and asks her to show him around the crazy maze that the below-stairs portions of these big country houses always were. Like Elsie doesn’t already have her hands full with Mary. Parks will be sharing with Weissman’s valet. As they all head upstairs (watched by Ryan Philippe), Mary admits this is her first house party. Elsie asks how she ended up as a countess’s lady’s maid with so little experience and Mary explains that the countess wanted to train her from scratch. Elsie guesses that the countess was just cheap and didn’t want a more expensive maid with actual experience.

On the bedroom floor, Mary remarks on how cold it is and one of the other ladies’ maids tells her she should remember to pack her woolies when she comes to Gosford. Elsie ushers Mary into their shared bedroom.

Back in the drawing room, William and Louisa are feeding his little dog pastries. William remarks that he plans to head to the library and leaves. There, he finds Derek Jacobi, who is playing his valet, Probert. Probert apologizes and says he just came in for the newspaper. William hands off the dog (Pip) which Probert distastefully accepts.

A few seconds later, Louisa wanders in, asking who the “funny little American” is. William says he’s a friend of Ivor’s from Hollywood and Ivor asked if it would be OK if brought him along. He pours them both a drink and Louisa says she really shouldn’t, but he insists, and she flirtily says he’s such a bad influence (calling him “Bill”) and saying she may just start misbehaving. William chuckles as Probert makes himself scarce. Talk turns to Raymond, and Louisa mentions he only tends to feel safe “with his own kind.” William leans in for a kiss, which she rebuffs, still flirtily. There’s something very strange about seeing the actor who plays Dumbledore hit on the actress who plays Lily Potter.

In the servants’ rooms, Mary’s finally changing into a dry uniform while Elsie smokes. Mary notices a poster of Novello and Greta Garbo on the wall and excitedly says she met him on the way there. Elsie’s pretty blasé about that. Mary says it must be thrilling to Lady Sylvia to have a film star in the family, but Elsie knows better, because Sylvia and the rest of her family are dyed-in-the-wool snobs. The father was an earl, who had a title but no money. William, a self-made man, had plenty of money, but no pedigree, so Sylvia and the others look down on him. Mary asks what Sylvia’s like to work for, and Elsie says she sucks, but William’s ok.

In the drawing room, nervous little Mabel Nesbitt’s sitting at a table with Ivor and the countess. Ivor’s sweet and introduces herself, and Mabel, of course, gets all fluttery and fangirly, just like Mary did, and says she knows who he is, of course. She introduces herself as the countess looks on in disgust that anyone should deign to actually touch this man. Ivor offers Mabel a cigarette, but she says she doesn’t smoke. She must be the only person over the age of 13 at the time who didn’t.

Belowstairs, Elsie proves to be just as snotty as her employers as she remarks that Mrs. Nesbitt only brought one dress with her, claiming her husband rushed her while she was packing. It’s a crappy dress, too—store bought, with machine-made lace. The horror! Mrs. Nesbitt is also the only female guest lacking a ladies’ maid, so Elsie has to wait on her (which explains how she knows so much about those duties). Elsie shares a little background about another servant, Dorothy, the still-room maid, who has the crappiest job, because she answers to both the cook and the housekeeper, who hate each other. Elsie and Mary head into the laundry room, where the other maids and valets are busily ironing gowns and starching collars and shining shoes for their employers’ dinner. Remember that this was still a time when there were very specific uniforms for every hour of the day—you couldn’t wear tweeds to breakfast, for instance, and you dressed up for dinner.

Mabel’s starting to ease up and is excitedly asking Ivor what Greta Garbo was really like. He says she was lovely and that she’s coming to stay with him next month. Mabel’s head almost explodes when she hears that, but then the countess intervenes to ease her boredom by messing with Ivor. She asks him how long he plans to keep making films, and he answers that he’ll keep doing them as long as people watch them. So she pulls out the big bitch guns and reminds him that his last film, The Lodger, was a huge flop. Mabel looks indignant but says nothing to defend her idol. There’s not much she can say—the countess is right. The film, an early Hitchcock, didn’t do well. It was remade in 1932 and did much better.

In the laundry room, the servants throw their snobbery around over Mabel’s cheap dress as Probert comes in and complains about the dog leaving mud and hairs all over William’s waistcoat. Lavinia’s (she’s the one married to Tom Hollander, and is another sister of Sylvia’s) maid says Lavinia says a woman without a maid has lost her self-respect. Come again? I’m not even going to try and understand that logic. While she and Elsie chat, Parks eyes Mary and asks her what her name is—her real name. She introduces herself and Parks kind of balks at the long last name. They have a little moment over the ironing boards.

Raymond’s gotten bored with the company and is distracting himself with a magazine when Sylvia comes over and sits just a little too close to him. He warns her off, as Louisa slinks back into the room, appearing to rebutton her blouse. Sylvia and Raymond chat about that year’s shooting as Pip trots in. Tom Hollander makes a beeline for the dog, scoops him up, and starts feeding him a treat from the table, just like William had done, but apparently William’s the only person allowed to do that, because he comes in and shouts at Tom to put the dog down. Everyone in the room pauses to stare for a moment, then Sylvia gets right back to her conversation with Raymond, complaining about what a crappy shot her husband is.

Weissman’s valet, who finally introduces himself as Henry Denton, wanders into the busy but orderly kitchen, and the cook asks what’s up. Mrs. Wilson comes in and tries to take control of the situation, but she’s on the cook’s turf and the cook isn’t about to let her forget it. The cook’s played by Eileen Atkins, who’s awesome, and whom I especially love after seeing her in Cranford. Denton’s just dropped by to tell everyone that Weissman’s a vegetarian. The cook (Mrs. Croft) is astonished that a guy who doesn’t eat meat has come to a country house for a shooting party, but Denton says Weissman doesn’t plan to shoot, he just wants to walk out with the guns and get a bit of air. This was pretty unheard of in the 1930’s, and Mrs. Croft is astonished, but nothing fazes Mrs. Wilson, who just tells Croft to deal with it and sends Denton away.

Tea is still happening upstairs, and Ivor’s apologizing to Sylvia for not making it clear that Weissman didn’t shoot, which is apparently pissing off William for some reason. Sylvia says it’s no biggie, William’s just being a baby. She’s actually quite friendly to him, which doesn’t sit well with Raymond, who asks Ivor to remind him how he and William are related. Ivor says their mothers were first cousins, and those mothers were also teachers, which means–gasp!–they worked for a living, unlike Raymond’s mother, who was a society hostess for a living, like Sylvia and Louisa. While this is going on, the camera spins over to the tea table, so we can see Isobel sitting there alone, miserably and awkwardly jamming treats into her face. Ivor abandons Raymond, who exchanges an awkward glance with his wife, who’s sitting nearby with a magazine, possibly the same one he was fiddling with earlier. Constance, meanwhile, is talking to Mabel about how very hard it is for her to have to break in this new maid. Mabel uncomfortably says she doesn’t have a lady’s maid and can’t really relate. The countess blinks at her for a second but is quickly rescued by Sylvia, while Freddie comes over and drags Mabel away, scolding her for telling the countess she doesn’t have a maid. What was she supposed to do, lie? Whatever, we know that Freddie’s a dick.

Denton arrives in the laundry room with Weissman’s and Novello’s shoes, which need polishing. He watches one of the Gosford servants polishing another guest’s footwear for a few moments, like he doesn’t really know what he’s supposed to do, and then moves to get started, getting some tips from the other servant as he does so. The other servant quickly asks about Hollywood and how he got there. Denton’s not all that interested in chatting, but the other servant talks enough for both of them.

One of the ladies’ maids gossips about how the countess will no doubt have her begging bowl out while she’s there for the weekend. One of the other maids cattily remarks that she won’t be bothering Lavinia. Mary asks why not and Elsie tells her that Lady Lavinia Meredith is broke, because her husband, Tom Hollander, is broke. His valet, the lippy doughy guy from earlier, has a lot of attitude about that, for some reason, but Lady Lavinia’s maid is more generous and says that Commander Meredith has just been “unfortunate.” That’s a nice way to say “loser” isn’t it? Lavinia’s maid remarks that the other two sisters fell on their feet, and Elsie gets into really juicy gossip by saying that their father was determined to have William for one of the girls, and William could have had his pick (guess he picked wrong, judging from that scene in the library. And so did Stockbridge, which is a little strange.). The whole family, including the countess, is leeching money off William, and Elsie thinks it’s totally gross. And it is, but that’s how things worked. William got social cachet and his wife’s family got money. That’s the trade-off. Mary asks Parks what Stockbridge is like, and he says his lordship thinks he’s God Almighty, just like the rest of them do.

Denton wanders into the dining room, where the footmen are putting the finishing touches on a beautifully laid out table, and asks some questions about the layout. George, the first footman, comes in and asks Denton what the hell he’s doing there. Denton says he’s just looking around, so George sends him away before Jennings, the butler, arrives. After Denton leaves, George and the other footman remark that there’s something a little off about him, and it’s more than just the lousy accent.

Jennings comes in and asks about two guests that haven’t shown up—Mr. Blond and Lord Rupert Standish (the title indicates he’s the younger son of either a Duke or a Marquess). Sylvia said not to wait for them, so they’re off the dinner table for the night. Jennings assigns the other footman (Arthur, Ivor’s fanboy) to Mr. Blond as stand-in valet, which disappoints Arthur, because he was hoping to take care of Ivor. George calls him on his possible gay crush on Ivor and goes off to attend to Freddie Nesbitt.

In her room, the countess is getting ready and remarking on what a mixed bunch they have there. She tells Mary that Weissman produces the Charlie Chan mysteries and thinks it’s at least novel to have a film star staying there. She can’t imagine why Freddie brought Mabel, though, because they all hate her because they think she’s common. Poor Mabel. Apparently Freddie’s only there because Isobel asked him at the last minute.

The countess whinily calls Mary over to help her with some jewelry and asks what the gossip is belowstairs. Mary plays dumb for a second, but then her curiosity gets the better of her and she asks if it’s true that William could have had his pick of either Sylvia or Louisa? The countess smiles cunningly and asks what Mary would say if she told her they cut cards for him? I’m really surprised she would feed the servants’ gossip mill like that, especially with something involving her own family, but maybe she doesn’t care so long as it doesn’t involve her.

Sylvia arrives at her husband’s room, boredly remarking that she heard he wanted to see her. He wants to know who he’ll be sitting next to at dinner and hears he’ll be flanked by the countess and Lavinia, the two highest-ranking ladies there, who get put next to the host according to the table’s complicated order of precedence. The two highest ranking men sat next to the hostess. If you’re wondering why Lavinia, the wife of Commander Meredith, would outrank the wife of a Lord, it’s because Lavinia, by marrying a man without a title, retained her rank as an earl’s daughter, whereas Louisa took the rank of her husband, Lord Stockbridge, which was a rung lower. Told you it was complicated.

William whines about not being beside Louisa and they have a spat over William acting like a peasant but complaining about people looking down on him.

Back in Constance’s room, she tells Mary that she’ll breakfast in bed the following morning, and then get up and go right to the tweeds. Mary shows her the shirt she brought but learns it’s all wrong. The countess tells her to wash and dry the one she wore that day so she can wear it again with the tweeds. As Mary gathers up the shirt in question, Constance wonders aloud why they bother to do these things, because she actually hates shooting.

William and Sylvia’s spat is over and William’s moved on to the subject of the countess, asking his wife if she’s asked for more money yet. Apparently she’s been complaining to Raymond that her allowance isn’t big enough, so William’s waiting for her to lean on him next. He’s cuddling the dog again, probably getting more hair and crap on his waistcoat, and I’m sure Probert, who’s still in the room with them, is having a small aneurism right now. William vindictively says he has half a mind to stop the countess’s allowance entirely. Sylvia’s surprised, since she thought the allowance was for Constance’s lifetime, but apparently not. Sylvia goes to leave, but first William asks her to make sure he’s not left alone with Commander Meredith (whose first name is Antony), since William’s planning on pulling out of Meredith’s scheme and doesn’t want to cause a scene. On Louisa’s advice, he’s waiting a week or so before pulling the rug out from under his brother-in-law. At the mention of her sister’s name, Sylvia leaves in a snit, meanly kicking the dog as she goes. Pip dashes out into the hall, where he’s intercepted by Elsie. William comes out to fetch him, thanks her, and then kindly brushes the dog hair off her boobs. And by “kindly” I mean “grossly.”

Elsie heads right to the Nesbitts’ room, where there’s a loud fight going on. Mabel’s tearfully calling her husband a liar, which gets him pretty pissed off. Elsie steps in just before things can get violent. Mabel sends him downstairs, but before he goes, he gets one last nasty jab in by telling Elsie to “try and make [Mabel] look respectable.” What does Isobel see in this asshole? Mabel’s face crumples again, and Elsie silently hands her a handkerchief. Mabel thanks her sweetly as Elsie gets started on her hair and looks like she feels sorry for her.

The guests have re-gathered in the drawing room for pre-dinner cocktails, and this is one of those moments where I always pause and boggle at the awesome dresses the women are all wearing. I covet every last one. Geraldine Somerville, who plays Louisa, looks better in gold than anyone I’ve seen since Grace Kelly. I unpause and Isobel steps in in a terrible ruffled getup that totally spoils the pretty. This poor girl. Maybe she liked Freddie just because he was the only guy who gave her the time of day.

Ivor heads right for the piano and starts playing something nice and light and lounge-y—perfect for the cocktail hour. He’s soon joined by Weissman, who asks if he really intends to provide free entertainment? Ivor reminds his friend that that’s how Weissman got his invitation. Sylvia comes wandering over and compliments the song, which is a Novello original. That makes sense–he got his start as a composer. Freddie, meanwhile, compliments Isobel on the awful dress. In comes poor Mabel, in a greenish dress that gives Isobel’s a run for its money, ugly-wise. She greets Sylvia and compliments her on her dress, and Sylvia just says “yes,” and wanders off. Wow. Bitch. Weissman asks Ivor how he can stand to put up with these awful people, and Ivor says he makes his living impersonating them.

Still wandering around where he shouldn’t be is Denton, and now he’s making his way into the drawing room, where an aghast Jennings asks what the hell he’s doing. Weissman joins them and Denton says he just wanted to make sure Weissman had everything he needed. Weissman says he does and sends Denton away. Downstairs, George is enjoying a pre-dinner cigarette as Mrs. Croft and one of the other kitchen maids breezes past him, ready to sit down to their own hastily consumed meal. The upstairs servants (Jennings, the footmen, the valets and ladies’ maids, etc.) gather in a separate dining room from the kitchen staff for dinner, which is presided over by Jennings and Mrs. Wilson and has its own table of precedence that places Mary on Jennings’s right, as the maid of the highest-ranking female guest.

The servants tuck in, and Denton pipes up, wondering how many people at the table had parents who were in service? Quite a few of them, unsurprisingly. One of those who doesn’t volunteer info is Parks, so Denton calls him out. Turns out Parks was an orphan from birth, so his parents didn’t have any effect on his choice of profession. Everyone at the table pauses in horror at this news, but then quickly goes back to their dinner.

As everyone eats, Sylvia wanders down to what is, I’m sure, fairly unfamiliar territory. Mrs. Croft awesomely refuses to meet her eye and acknowledge she’s there, so Sylvia busts into the upstairs staff’s dinner to tell Mrs. Wilson that she’s just learned Weissman’s a veggie and she doesn’t know what to do. Mrs. Wilson reassures her they have it all under control, because Denton warned them earlier. Sylvia asks who Denton is, and when he introduces himself, she gets a fluttery and girly and couldn’t be more obvious. She thanks him for his efficiency and leaves and George snarks that Denton’s all set, now.

Upstairs, the guests have settled down to dinner. Constance tries to ask William for a word after dinner, but he rebuffs her while focusing on feeding the dog (which is in his lap) bits of his dinner. She sniffs that he’ll make the dog sick. Meanwhile, Meredith tells his seatmate, Isobel, that he’s going into business with her father. Oh dear. It’s some scheme to provide Sudanese soldiers with shoes. Ok, whatever. Mabel’s seated next to Ivor, which must have made her wildest dreams come true, and explaining that she’s the daughter of a glove factory owner. Ivor, of course, doesn’t judge her at all for that, but now we know why the others think she’s common. Freddie the Dick breaks in and shuts her up, telling her she’s boring Ivor to death. Ivor hurries to reassure her that she’s not, but the damage is done. Weissman’s explaining to someone that he’s there to do research, since there’s going to be a hunt in his next film.

Downstairs, Mary comes out the back door with a cup of tea for the countess’s chauffeur. She passes Bertha, one of the kitchen maids, and Elsie, who are both out there for a smoke, and hands over the tea to the grateful driver, who’s keeping himself occupied by rebuilding the car’s engine. Whatever keeps you busy, I guess. A sporty little vehicle pulls up and discharges two young men, one of whom recognizes Elsie. He tells her they’ve got bags and guns and things but no valet, so she promises to take care of it. These would be the missing guests—Blond and Rupert Standish. Blond pauses for a moment to get a light for his cigarette from Bertha, who eyes him as he bends over.

At the dinner table, Isobel’s telling Meredith that William thinks the British Empire’s finished. Tony can’t believe that’s true, but Freddie pipes up that the Empire was finished after the first world war, which is kind of true, but I hate Freddie, so, shut the hell up, Freddie! He says the war changed everything, and William chimes in with this comment: “Empire Leicester Square,” which I would really like to understand. I’ve listened to every commentary on this DVD and none of them explain that, so if someone else can, I’d be eternally grateful. I know there’s a movie theater called the Empire on Leicester Square, but was that around in the early ‘30’s? Is that what he’s referring to? Because if so, that line was total nonsense.

Lavinia pipes up and says she doesn’t care what’s changed, she just doesn’t want her son to go through what all the other men at the table had to. This gives Sylvia the perfect opportunity to mention that William didn’t actually do anything during the war except profit off of it. Raymond, meanwhile (and, presumably, Meredith) acquitted himself well on the field of battle. Raymond doesn’t play the game and remains modest, so the conversation steers to less turbulent waters.

Elsie comes in inconspicuously to tell Jennings that Blond and Standish have arrived. William notices her and does this sort of nod/eye-thing at her while Jennings goes and tells Sylvia that the boys have arrived. She tells him they’re too late for dinner and they’ll have a tray in the billiard room instead. Isobel perks up at the mention of Standish’s name and asks if she should go say hello, but Sylvia coolly tells her to stay put. Poor Isobel looks crestfallen.

In the billiard room, Blond is obnoxiously schooling Standish on the facts of life. Which in this case are: you’ve got expensive tastes but no money. You need to marry someone with money, like Isobel. Yeah, she’s ugly, but she’s rich. And her daddy’ll come around because you’ve got aristocratic connections, just like her mom. And why does Blond care? Because he’s a sponger, that’s why. He’s one of those friends who lives off of richer friends, and needs those friends to stay rich, because God forbid he get a job or anything.

Dinner’s done, and William sends the ladies off to the drawing room so the men can enjoy their manly cigars and brandy without their wives and aunts and daughters in attendance. Hilariously, Jennings offers everyone a cigar except for Freddie, who has to chase him down and ask for one. Heh.

In the kitchen, where the scullery maids are busy washing up from the extensive dinner, Bertha’s collecting all the knives and laying them out on a table to count them. While she and Mrs. Croft lay them out, Bertha shares the gossip about Parks growing up in an orphanage. Mrs. Croft doesn’t get what the big deal is.

Over their cigars and brandy, Freddie starts pressing Meredith on this Africa scheme he has going on with William. He says he’s an expert at African currencies and could certainly help out.

Back in the kitchen, Bertha and Mrs. Croft have finished their knife count, which was only necessary because one’s missing—a silver carving knife. It’s not in the kitchen, so Bertha figures it just went into the wrong drawer in the silver pantry. Mrs. Croft, out of nowhere, asks Bertha how old he thinks Parks is. Bertha guesses early 30’s and asks why, but Croft says there’s no reason before she heads for bed.

Upstairs, Sylvia’s concluding her own bedtime rituals of putting on cold cream and moisturizing gloves and bitching about her guests to her ladies’ maid. She sends the maid (Lewis) off to make some hot chocolate, but once the woman’s gone she changes her mind and heads into the hall to find her. She finds Denton instead and tells him that she wants hot milk with sugar instead, and then she observes that he has his hands in his pockets, which was a no-no. They flirt for a bit, and she basically invites him to come sleep with her after he fetches her milk.

Denton passes Meredith’s valet (the bitchy Barnes) on his way downstairs, and we get a moment of Meredith shouting about how he knew William would pull some crap this weekend, and by the way, the room sucks!

In a, presumably, less distasteful room, Weissman’s contemplatively trimming his fingernails when Denton joins him. Weissman says he wants Denton to come along on the shoot the following day. He also chats a bit about this film he’s working on—Una Merkel turned down the role they offered her since the part’s too small, so someone wants rewrites, but Weissman’s not keen. Weissman sits on the edge of the bed and asks Denton if he’ll be seeing him later. Denton doesn’t think they should risk it and goes to leave, but Weissman calls him back and tells him to take the laundry down, or the others will think he doesn’t care. Denton snippily grabs the laundry and stalks off.

In the servants’ rooms, Mary goes up and down stairs and down corridors, clearly lost. Denton emerges from her room, at which point she realizes she’s totally in the wrong section (male and female servants were housed separately from each other.) He drags her into the room when they hear someone coming, supposedly so she doesn’t get into trouble. Also so he can try to rape her. Seriously—he offers her a drink (which she refuses), and when she tries to escape, he throws her down on the bed, ignoring her screams for a while. He finally gets off of her about a second before Parks comes in and asks what’s going on. Mary quickly explains she was just waiting until the coast was clear, so Parks checks for her and then sends her on her way. By the way, while he was assaulting Mary, we saw that the back of Denton’s trousers had “Fox Film” written on the label.

Once Mary’s gone, Parks gives his roommate a long, suspicious look. He does accept a drink from the guy, though. Denton starts asking all kinds of questions, like whether Parks thinks William would be good to work for (answer: no) and how long he’s been a valet. Parks says he moved up from being a footman seven years before, and he used to work for an earl before moving on to Stockbridge. Denton notices a photograph of a young woman next to Parks’s bed and learns it’s Parks’s late mother. Denton asks what happened to her, but all Parks will say is that she was a factory worker who got pregnant, had Parks, and died. Denton wraps up and takes off to keep his date with Sylvia.

Mary apparently found the right stairs at last, because now she’s with Elsie, who’s telling her that the situation with Denton is just something that comes with the territory. Mary says that there’s something strange about Denton. She, too, has picked up on the accent issues (which isn’t surprising, since she’s actually Scottish, unlike the other servants). Mary asks about Mabel Nesbitt and Elsie says she’s nice enough, but Elsie feels sorry for her, since she made a bad match. Never works, says Elsie, when a man like that marries beneath him. Mary misunderstands and thinks the Nesbitts married for love, but that wasn’t the case. Freddie, like Rupert, was a younger son and married Mabel for her money, but there was a lot less of it than he thought, and once it ran out, he was left high and dry with a wife he hated. Poor Mabel. Freddie’s lost his job now and wants Isobel to put the screws to William to get him another one.

While she’s talking, Mary suddenly realizes she never washed the countess’s shirt. She grabs it and runs down to the laundry room to do it, passing Denton awkwardly on the stairs as she goes. Downstairs, all is quiet and dark, and only Mrs. Croft emerges to ask Mary what she’s up to. Mary explains and continues. In the darkened laundry room, she turns on a light, startling two people in flagrante off in a corner or the room. The man scuttles off, but we see that the woman’s Bertha, who quickly rearranges her dress. Mary hears something and calls out, so Bertha emerges, exuding attitude and asking what Mary’s doing there. Mary explains again and Bertha lights a cigarette and tells Mary she should have knocked. On the laundry room door. What a strange house this is.

Exhausted, Mary heads back upstairs, but she’s caught by Mrs. Wilson, who asks if it would be cool to give the countess jam instead of marmalade the next day, since they’re out of the homemade marmalade. Apparently not. Before the relative merits of homemade vs. store-bought spreads can be further discussed, William comes stomping in out of nowhere to give Mrs. Wilson instruction for the following day.

Upstairs, Denton and his glass of milk finally arrive at Sylvia’s room, where he lets himself in. And that’s the end of day one.

Early the next morning, the gameskeeper’s giving the beaters and loaders last-minute instructions while the dogs frolic excitedly and William and his male guests emerge for their day of shooting. Or, in Weissman’s and Ivor’s case, their day of sitting and watching. As they head out, Mary arrives in Constance’s room with the breakfast tray. The countess moans over the bought marmalade and tells Mary she’ll go with the other shirt after all, so Mary stayed up late washing that damn shirt the night before for nothing.

Belowstairs, the male servants are shocked to learn that Denton’s going shooting, because that’s just not what a valet did. They pile on for a little before being called off by Probert, who apologizes to Denton. As soon as Denton clears the room, Barnes comments that Denton clearly has something to hide. “We all have something to hide,” says Probert, as the camera lovingly lingers on a bottle of polish in front of him clearly marked “poison.”

Elsie heads upstairs to Isobel’s room to help her change into her tweeds, and Isobel whinily tells Elsie that William’s refusing to give Freddie a job for some mysterious reason relating to the reason why Freddie was sacked from his last job. Isobel freaks that Freddie might tell her father, presumably, about their relationship, and she asks Elsie to speak to William on Freddie’s behalf. Elsie doesn’t really give an answer to that.

Outside, the guns shoot away, bringing dead birds raining on Weissman, Ivor, and Denton, which I find kind of funny in a horrible way. William’s a totally crap shot. While he’s focused on the sky, someone else shoots low and nicks him in the ear. William freaks out, as any reasonable person would at very nearly being shot in the head, and tells his loader to find the gameskeeper and figure out whose shot that was.

Back at the house, most of the ladies are gathered in Sylvia’s bedroom, where Lavinia is lamenting the lousy situation she and her husband are in. Sylvia’s no help, and so is Louisa. Isobel comes in to tell them that the cars are ready to take them to lunch, and Sylvia sneers at Isobel’s outfit, even though she’s the one who picked it out. And it’s not actually that bad, so Sylvia’s just a crappy bitch of a mother. She grabs an entire animal to wrap around her neck (seriously—it’s not even like a stole, it’s just a carcass, it’s got feet and everything. It’s awful.) She and the countess snark about the inappropriate outfit Mabel’s probably wearing, and Lavinia, easily the most human member of this family, says Mabel looks fine, and don’t be such snobs. They depart, leaving Mary alone in the room.

On the servants’ bedroom level, Mrs. Wilson swings by Parks’s room to, allegedly, make her routine inspection. He’s lounging on the bed, reading and smoking a cigarette, which she quickly asks him to put out. She makes conversation, asking how he’s settling in with Stockbridge, and then she notices the photo next to his bed. She takes a deep breath and says she hopes he’s finding everything he needs for his lordship, and that she hopes they haven’t forgotten anything. He observes that she doesn’t seem like the type to forget anything, and she says that’s true before retreating.

Lunch is being held in a stone gazebo out on the grounds. The guns walk up to it, but Ivor and Weissman have hitched a ride on the truck carrying all the birds’ carcasses. While Jennings pours Bloody Marys (and licks up the drips), the cars with the ladies arrive and William hurries to tell them all about how he was just shot. Meredith immediately starts in on his wife, asking her why she can’t get her sisters to help them out, and she argues that she’s been trying, but they really don’t give a crap. Rupert has apparently taken Blond’s advice to heart, because he’s falling all over himself being quite the gentleman to Isobel.

At the house, the servants take advantage of the absence of the upstairs folk to chill out and have some lukewarm baths. Elsie really obnoxiously jumps the queue and busts in on Mary, who you’ll remember was very nearly assaulted not too long ago, so she’s a bit jumpy. Elsie reassures her there are no men about, because they’d be sacked on the spot if they were found in the women’s areas of the house. They engage in a little gossip, and then Mary confides that she suspects Sir William was the man with Bertha in the laundry room the previous night. Elsie says, a little too confidently, that it wasn’t him.

Back at the picnic, William’s helping himself to a Bloody Mary while Meredith harangues him about this business opportunity. William breaks the news that he is, in fact, withdrawing his support, and Meredith pathetically grabs his arm and actually begs him to reconsider, but William drops the glass he’s holding, and everyone at the table stops chattering and turns to stare at the scene that’s being made. Lavinia looks like she wants to disappear through the ground. It’s up to Sylvia to break the tension by putting on a record that she says she borrowed from her maid, Lewis. The hum of conversation recommences and a couple of footmen scurry to clear up the broken glass and spilled Bloody Mary.

In the bathroom of confidences, Mary tells Elsie the choice bit of gossip about Sylvia and Louisa cutting cards for William. That catches Elsie’s attention, but then she realizes it’s kind of pathetic how they almost entirely live their lives through their employers.

Later, Mary’s helping the countess get ready for dinner and being grilled on the situation between Meredith and William. Mary tells her what she knows about the business arrangement falling through, and says that Barnes told her Meredith wanted to leave right away, but Lavinia managed to persuade him to stay one more day, to make less of a big deal. I think it’s a little too late for that, Lavinia, but I applaud your attempts to keep the family peace.

The gossip session’s interrupted by the arrival of Sylvia, who’s come to warn her aunt not to hit William up for money that night, since he’s in a crappy mood. Oh, and by the way, he’s talking about stopping the countess’s allowance. The countess blanches, because she thought it was for life, but nothing like that’s ever for life unless it’s down on paper and signed by about eighteen witnesses, is it? Sylvia sweeps out and the countess warns Mary not to repeat a word of what she’s just heard.

It’s a very quiet, subdued table at dinner. Lavinia gamely attempts some conversation, and she gets a nice assist from Lord Stockbridge as Elsie serves him some gravy. Stockbridge asks Meredith if they really have to go back to London so soon, and Meredith, who’s over keeping up appearances, says they do, because when one’s ruined there’s so much to do. The last bit is directed right at William, who just replies, “yes, there is, isn’t there?” I like Meredith and all, but, heh. Lavinia slams down her wineglass and gives up. Her food is untouched in front of her. Sylvia’s looking at her husband like she wants to kill him, for some reason. I’d say it was because he was refusing to help her sister’s husband, except she’s never seemed all that concerned about it before. The countess suggests a game of bridge after dinner, and she’s got a few takers, but Louisa demurs, saying she’s gone off cards because she was never very lucky with them.

Sylvia, as always trying to save an awkward situation, asks about the movie Weissman’s planning to make. It’s your typical whodunit—lots of guests for the weekend, everyone’s a suspect, you know the drill. The countess asks who the murderer is, but Weissman doesn’t want to spoil the surprise. “Oh, but none of us will see it,” she says. Ha! I swear, Maggie Smith is never better than when she’s playing a snob. I can’t wait to see her basically reprise this role in Downton Abbey. Even Sylvia cracks up.

Weissman goes on to say that he wanted to do some research, and Ivor was nice enough to arrange the invitation to Gosford. One of the guests asks if William’s interested in films, and Sylvia decides to pick a fight by snorting and saying that’s not likely. William snaps that she doesn’t have a clue what he’s interested in, and she shrills that she knows he’s interested in money and fiddling with his guns, and that’s about all. Elsie, who’s now hovering over William, then momentarily loses it, straightens up, and says:

“Now that’s not fair, Billy’s–” At that point, she realizes what she just did and freezes. Honestly, she might as well have just taken a dump in the middle of the table, judging from the responses she gets. Jeremy Blond snorts, Sylvia’s eyebrows hit the ceiling, and everyone else just looks super uncomfortable. Although Lavinia’s probably glad the attention’s been diverted from her husband, for once. Elsie takes a second, then runs out of the room, hustling past the kitchen staff belowstairs. William rises, throws down his napkin and stalks out of the room.

Elsie, in tears, runs upstairs, where she breezes past Mary, who asks what happened and just gets a door slammed in her face as an answer.

Sylvia leads the ladies into the sitting room, saying it’s no big deal, because she knew about the affair the whole time. The countess gathers up her bridge players so they can start their game.

Several of the servants, including a few of the valets and maids, gather in the dining room, where the footmen are clearing up, to gossip about what happened. Lavinia’s maid tells Mary what went down, and Lewis speculates that Elsie will be out on the street by morning. Jennings comes in to break up the party, orders George to follow him into the drawing room to help with coffee service, and, for no reason, tells poor Dorothy that he’s especially surprised at her. She scurries off like a kicked puppy.

In the drawing room, the bridge game gets underway, and Sylvia asks Ivor to play something cheery. As Ivor approaches the piano, Weissman mentions he has to be in London the following day. Ivor, evidently eager to just get the hell out of this totally uncomfortable place, offers to give him a lift. He launches into a song, and I really must say, Jeremy Northam has a great voice. And Louisa has a great dress—dark red velvet, with a draped back. Awesome. I think it’s number one on my list of dresses from this movie I wish I owned.

The countess bitches about the music, but the servants start to gather near the drawing room to listen, starting with Lewis and Probert, who’s nervous about getting caught. Mary and Parks are in the nearby billiard room, and Parks is amazed and completely disgusted by the idea that Elsie would ever let William touch her. They join Lavinia’s maid, and as the two women listen dreamily to the music, Parks backs off and quietly departs.

Freddie Nesbitt craps out at the bridge table and excuses himself. He starts to head upstairs, then doubles back and makes his way to points unknown.

As Ivor launches into another song, Meredith leaves the drawing room too, despite his wife’s entreaties to stay. He stumbles on some of the servants gathered in the adjoining dining room, and they all try to make it look like they’re doing something. He tells them to carry on as he breezes through the room.

William’s in his study, where Mrs. Wilson finds him. She’s brought him a cup of coffee, but he’s in a foul mood and knocks it right out of her hand and asks for a whiskey instead.

A couple of maids are dancing the Charleston to the more upbeat song Ivor’s now singing. Most of the upstairs guests are bored, except for Mabel, of course, who’s delighted.

Mrs. Wilson hands William his whiskey, and he takes a sip and grimaces.

In the servants’ quarters, Denton knocks on Elsie’s door and offers her a drink and some company. She asks him to give her a second, grabs a towel, and takes off.

Ivor launches into another song, sweetly inviting Mabel to sit beside him. The countess bitches passive aggressively again, of course. George takes off, ostensibly to get more cream, but really to have a smoke.

Downstairs, the whole kitchen staff has gathered on the stairs to listen to Ivor play. Mrs. Wilson comes upon them and scolds poor, poor Dorothy, telling her to get back to work. Mrs. Croft breaks in and reminds Mrs. Wilson that Dorothy’s under her jurisdiction as well, and she can damn well stay where she is and listen to a bit of music if she likes. Powerless against the manor house servant social structures they all live under, Mrs. Wilson can do nothing and just returns to her room.

Weissman startles one of the maids hanging around in a corridor near the drawing room and asks her where the telephone is. She points him in the right direction.

Denton waits outside Elsie’s room, sipping from the bottle of whiskey he’s brought with him.

Ivor finishes his most recent song, but when the bridge players start to applaud, the countess shuts them down, afraid Ivor will just keep going on and on if they encourage him. But Ivor does continue, moving on to a rather Gilbert and Sullivan-esque comic song.

Elsie returns to her room at last and basically tells Denton to piss off already. She bids him good night and slams the bedroom door in his face. Well done.

Elsewhere, someone wearing a valet’s uniform (we only see them from the knees down) emerges from the house and starts to put on some muddy overshoes. He reaches a gloved hand into a fire bucket somewhere and retrieves the missing silver carving knife and continues to stalk through the house, finally making it to William’s study, where William appears to be asleep. The assailant stabs William in the chest and pushes the body forward onto the desk.

In the drawing room, most of the ladies are getting bored with Ivor’s playing. Louisa makes some meaningless conversation with Sylvia, while out in the hallway Weissman tries to put his call through to California, which must have been a huge pain in the ass back then, when telephones were still in their relative infancy. Freddie suddenly returns to the drawing room, and Mabel immediately asks him where he was. The others ignore them, and Sylvia starts fretting over how they’re going to get William to join them, which he should, as host. Louisa offers to go fetch him, and Sylvia’s all for that. As she leaves, George returns from the longest cream run in history. Jennings calls him on it immediately.

Parks shows up in the billiard room and hands Mary the countess’s hot water bottle, which he thoughtfully filled up for her “before the rush starts.” Meredith returns to the drawing room as well, but like Freddie, he doesn’t tell his wife where he was.

Louisa glides into the study, where William’s slumped over the desk, ostensibly asleep. She kicks the dog off the desk (why does everyone hate this poor little dog? It seems cute and fairly well behaved to me) and whines for William to wake up.

The crowd in the drawing room is suddenly startled by Louisa screaming in the study. They all race in that direction, naturally; Sylvia and Stockbridge are the first to arrive. William’s slumped over the desk, quite dead. Stockbridge immediately takes command of the situation, as befits a war hero, and calls for Jennings. Lavinia takes one look at what’s happened and faints dead away. Meredith and her maid, who’s arrived with a crew of servants who heard the screams too, attend to her, while Stockbridge tells Jennings to keep everyone out of the study. He guides Sylvia and Louisa out and goes to the telephone, where he hangs up on Weissman’s call and rings the police. Parks and Mary, standing nearby, watch the scene in fascination. Actually, he looks pretty calm about the whole thing. Also, the cover on Lord Stockbridge’s hot water bottle, which Parks is holding, has a big gold S with a crown over it embroidered on it, which I find kind of hilarious.

The guests move back into the drawing room, where Sylvia, stunned, drops onto a sofa. Isobel goes to her, and Lavinia starts to come to in the background.

Outside, a car marked “police” pulls up and a fedora-ed and trenchcoated Stephen Fry steps out, lights a pipe, and prepares to get to work.

Back inside, Weissman’s back on his call (just a quick question—was he so involved in his call earlier that he somehow didn’t hear Louisa screaming her head off just one room away? Because he seemed annoyed and clueless when Stockbridge grabbed the phone from him. Or did he just put it down to strange English people doing strange English things?) and discussing the movie and how he doesn’t want it to be just another whodunit, he wants it to be genuine, with English accents and everything. Jennings breezes past him to let Stephen Fry and his accompanying policeman in. The policeman is introduced as Constable Dexter. Before Fry can introduce himself, Sylvia arrives, cool as a cucumber, and tells him she’s got everyone gathered in the red drawing room, except for Weissman, who’s “just an American staying with [them].” Heh. Sylvia takes control, telling Fry that she’ll introduce everyone, and then they’ll all go to bed and he can do his policing. This whole time, Fry keeps trying to introduce himself but gets steamrolled by Sylvia. His name’s Inspector Thompson, just so you know. He recognizes the countess because he apparently served with her husband in the war, and he also recognizes Ivor. Sylvia briefly interrupts the introductions to ask Jennings to remove the dog and fetch Probert. Jennings takes the dog downstairs, where he hands the poor thing off to Dorothy and asks for Probert.  Probert’s a little terrified, but off he goes, walking past the assembled staff, all of whom are out of their beds and drinking tea and waiting for news. Once Probert’s gone, Elsie asks what she should do and Jennings tells her she can stick around until the police release her, presumably sometime tomorrow. As Elsie heads back upstairs, she passes Mrs. Wilson, who tells her to remain in her room until she leaves. Elsie hisses that she’s not contagious. Denton’s lurking around, and as soon as Jennings dismisses the servants, he pulls him aside and says, in an American accent, that he has a confession to make.

As Probert arrives upstairs, he passes Weissman, who’s saying (about the Charlie Chan film) that it’s pretty clear the valet did it, because he has access. Probert loses another five or so years off his life when he hears that.

In the study, William’s still slumped over at the desk, and Probert immediately starts to weep when he sees him. He asks if he can make William a little more comfortable (uh, Probert? He’s dead. You can’t make a dead person more comfortable. Not sure what he was going for there.) Dexter advises against it, but Thompson says go ahead. Probert pulls William into a sitting position and reveals the giant knife sticking out of his chest. Dexter hurries over and remarks on the fact that there’s almost no blood around the stab wound. Probert looks like he’s going to be sick.

In her bedroom, Louisa’s weeping and dramatically rolling around on her bed, sobbing about how nobody liked William, while her increasingly irate husband urges her to get a hold of herself. When she fails to do so, he gets up and leaves.

Sylvia’s pulling off her hairpiece and eyelashes as Lewis begs her to let her help with the dress. Sylvia impatiently says she can manage and sends Lewis off. She lies back and closes her eyes for just a second, but then opens them and it looks like she’s just starting to realize that her husband’s actually dead and gone. Before she can contemplate that too long, there’s a knock on the door and Denton comes in. He says, first in the American accent but then moving back to Scottish, that he was wondering if she might want company. She hesitates for about a second before saying that life goes on and flipping over so he can start unhooking her dress. Charming.

In their dark room plastered with matinee idols, Mary tells Elsie she’s sorry about how things worked out. Elsie tells her to feel sorry for Dorothy, whose workload has just trebled with Elsie out of commission. We get a nice little point of etiquette mention: unmarried girls couldn’t have breakfast in bed, as the countess did. FYI.

The following morning, the coroner finally carts the body away, while down in the kitchens Bertha fills the staff in on Denton’s details: he’s actually an actor who was just pretending to be a valet to research a role in the upcoming Charlie Chan flick. Mrs. Croft cracks that the joke was on Sylvia, which I’m sure delights her.

Thompson comes in, trailed by Dexter, to speak with Mrs. Croft. She leaves Dorothy in charge and takes them into her office for a chat.

In the countess’s room, the countess is bemoaning the fact that the countryside’s getting more dangerous than Piccadilly, which I don’t think has ever been that dangerous at all, but that just shows you how narrow her point of reference really is. Mary wonders why the murderer should have used one of the knives from the silver pantry, and the countess thinks he just forgot to bring one. She’s under the impression the murderer was some random burglar, even though nothing was stolen and the house is kind of out in the middle of nowhere. The countess reminds Mary that the knife had been missing since the first night, so she figures William had it and when the burglar came in, it was right there on the desk, easily reachable. This woman’s not so good with logic, is she? Why would William have the knife? And why would he have it on his desk in the study?

Whatever. The countess asks if any of the other ladies are getting up for breakfast, and upon learning that Lavinia might be, she tells Mary to come back to help her get dressed, because she doesn’t want to miss anything.

Elsie, dressed in some rather cute civvies, is with Isobel in Izzy’s room for some girl chat. Isobel tells Elsie that when she returned to her room the night before, she found a note on her dressing table. She hands the note over. It’s from Freddie, naturally, warning her that if he doesn’t get a final offer soon he’ll spill the beans on their affair to William. Elsie rolls her eyes, calls Freddie an idiot, and brightsides that at least he’s off Isobel’s back, now, because there’s nobody to tell.

In Mrs. Croft’s room, Thompson notices a picture of a baby on the bedside table and asks after the kid. Mrs. Croft shortly says the baby’s dead and Thompson looks uncomfortable as she snatches the picture back and lovingly returns it to its spot on the table. Thompson starts with the questioning, mentioning that nobody has served William as long as Croft has.

Back in Isobel’s room, Elsie quietly says she should go, and that she might not see Isobel again. Isobel awkwardly asks if Elsie’s in any “difficulty.” Elsie mentions she is now homeless and jobless, but she’s also not pregnant, which is what Isobel was really asking. Isobel says Elsie was much cleverer than she was. Elsie tells her to buck up and leaves.

In the laundry room, Mary wonders aloud what Sylvia will do now. Lavinia’s maid says that, in Sylvia’s place, she’d go live in London. Parks says he wouldn’t, because he grew up there and hates it. Mary asks him if he never gets homesick, and he shortly says one doesn’t get homesick if you’ve never had a home. He then quickly changes the subject to Denton and how he’s an actor, which is news to Mary.

Weissman’s on the phone again (how late does his contact in California stay up? Wouldn’t it be the middle of the night there?) bitching about how someone wants Clara Bow to be in the movie, which Weissman’s not keen on at all.

The Merediths head down for breakfast, and as Barnes passes them, Meredith foolishly says to his wife that William’s death may have saved him from ruin. Lavinia scolds him for saying so, and Barnes listens with interest.

The Merediths arrive in the dining room, where Rupert and Jeremy, Ivor, Stockbridge, and Freddie are already gathered. The countess is at the buffet, selecting food. The countess snipes to Lavinia that the inspector won’t let anyone leave until the following day, at least, so they’ll have to listen to Weissman shout down the telephone for another whole day. Ivor mildly says that Weissman’s having some trouble with the picture. Isobel comes in, and Rupert hurries over to her, fawning away; she’s followed by Weissman, who tries to give Jennings a breakfast order like he’s a waiter. Jennings tells him the eggs and coffee are on the sideboard. Stockbridge fills Weissman in on the rule that an Englishman is never waited on at breakfast. Weissman’s surprised and murmurs that he’ll make a note of that as the countess gives Stockbridge a look like, “can you believe these uncultured people?”

Denton, now dressed in civvies as well, comes in next and bids everyone good morning. Only Ivor, who obviously was in on the deception (along with William, which was mentioned earlier) returns the greeting. Denton tells Jennings he’d like some coffee, and Jennings says shortly that it’s right over there.

Pipe in mouth, Thompson pokes his head in and asks if Sylvia will be down soon. The countess informs him that Sylvia usually eats in her room, then goes out for a ride. Thompson’s certain she wouldn’t do so that morning, but the hysterical “…” response he gets from everyone at the table answers that for him. Deprived of Sylvia, he asks to speak to the countess instead.

Outside, Bertha and one of the other kitchen maids are trooping back with some of the birds that were shot the previous day, gossiping, as per usual, as Parks, who’s feeding little Pip some treats, listens in. Bertha reports that William didn’t die from the stabbing, he was poisoned, which explains the lack of blood at the stabbing site. “Trust Sir William to be murdered twice,” the nameless kitchen maid giggles.

Jennings is polishing silver with the two footman and telling them confidently that William wasn’t murdered in cold blood. Like the countess, he thinks someone broke in and William surprised him and got stabbed. George, however, has a working brain and says that’s pretty unlikely, since most ruffians aren’t too keen on poisoning people and then stabbing the bodies, because usually they’re in a hurry to get away. Jennings asks just what he’s suggesting and George states the totally obvious: it looks a lot like William was killed deliberately. Probert, who’s hanging around listening, looks uncomfortable at the implication. George says it’ll be tough on anyone who has secrets to hide, and Jennings’s eyes flicker momentarily to the side. It’s funny how the servants are starting to parrot the employers’ belief that a burglar did the deed, but I guess it makes sense when you consider the alternative: if it wasn’t some random robber who did it, then it was one of the people in the house, a coworker, or an employer, or one of the people preparing and serving your dinner. It’s less panic inducing to just make yourself believe it was a random act of violence.

Kitchens. Mrs. Croft frets about having to do extra meals and gets started. One of the kitchen maids wonders why anyone would want to kill William. Croft says he made more than a few enemies in his day. Bertha asks if she knows that from her days working in one of William’s factories before the war. Croft indignantly corrects her and says she was not a factory worker, she was a cook in one of his factories. It might not sound like much, but it was actually a big distinction. Significantly, she mentions that he had two factories in Twickenham, and two in Isleworth, where the orphanage where Parks grew up was located. All the factories were full of girls, so, as Croft says, you can imagine what happened to some of them. Someone wonders why the girls didn’t complain, like they had a union rep or someone they could go to as young, poor factory workers in Edwardian England. Bertha wonders what happened to the girls who ended up pregnant and Croft says William would arrange to have it adopted, and if you wanted to keep it, you lost your job.

Thompson’s grilling the guests in the study, which seems like a strange and horribly morbid choice. He couldn’t have found any other rooms in this giant house to question people other than the one where the body was found? He’s sent for Mary to clear up a little matter about the dispute over the countess’s allowance. He really stupidly questions Mary in front of her employer, and because she’s not a moron, Mary says she doesn’t know anything about the allowance or any dispute between William and the countess. Meanwhile, Dexter tries to draw Thompson’s attention to the mud that’s been tracked in and the broken coffee cup in the corner. Thompson’s reply? They have people to clean these things up. Yeah, that was his response to evidence.

See, this is the one thing that’s always bugged me about Gosford Park. I love this movie, but this character is so jarring and out of place. Everyone else seems so realistic, and the flow of the movie’s so beautiful to this point, and then suddenly they threw in this horrible, annoyingly cliché character of the stupid police inspector with the smart policeman sidekick who’s the only one who notices things. This is a character straight out of the ridiculous movies (like, say, the Charlie Chan films) from the 20’s and 30’s but it doesn’t jibe now, and jamming him into the film interrupted the flow, and was pointless and annoying. It was also a shameful waste of Stephen Fry. This is the guy who played Jeeves, people! He doesn’t even serve in the film’s dénouement. They should have kept Dexter and ditched him, and everything would have been ok.

Ok, rant over. In the laundry room, Dorothy’s laboring over a sewing machine, making black armbands for the outside staff to wear. Jennings comes in and worries about her straining her eyes and apologizes for her having so much extra work to do. He compliments her on her reliability (sexy!) and goes to leave, but she quickly asks him if he’s spoken to the police. He hasn’t. She nervously asks if they’ll be talking to all the servants, but he doubts it. Before he leaves at last, she tells him that she’d say anything he wants her to; all he has to do is ask. He looks surprised, and then a little disturbed by the offer.

Sylvia, dressed glamorously in black, is having her own meeting with the inspector, still in the room where her husband was killed. We know that doesn’t bother her, but Thompson doesn’t really know that, does he? He fusses over a cup of tea for her as she watches him boredly, looking annoyed as he babbles about milk and sugar.

Looks like a meeting’s been called belowstairs. Mary and Parks join the others so Jennings can give an update. Denton’s now a guest, not a servant, which’ll require some shifting around of duties. Arthur, the footman with a crush on Ivor, will now be dressing Mr. Weissman. He says he’s happy to dress Ivor too, but Jennings thinks it’ll be too much for him, so Parks volunteers. Jennings says they’ll leave Denton to dress himself and they all chuckle.

Barnes, whose utter hatred of his own employer is still a mystery to me, has gone to Thompson to report Meredith’s comment about William’s death saving his investment. Thompson’s such an idiot he doesn’t really understand what the comment means, so Dexter explains it to him, as Thompson starts fiddling with the stopper from the whiskey decanter. Dexter manages to tell him, after he’s played with it for about five minutes, that they haven’t dusted that for fingerprints yet. Sigh. Thompson asks about the low shot that almost killed William the day before but Barnes doesn’t know much about that, since he wasn’t there. Thompson asks Barnes to fetch Meredith, and now Barnes starts to worry about getting into trouble with Meredith. Dick.

Downstairs, Elsie cautiously emerges from her room and gets George’s attention. As he kindly hands her his cigarette, she begs him to go to the library and grab her something to read, since she’s starting to go a little stir crazy upstairs. While she’s there, Denton comes wandering down and promptly gets a blast of attitude from Barnes, and then from George and Parks. Elsie tells him that the servants are afraid he’ll repeat things to the other guests. He swears he won’t and tries to hit on her, but has no more luck than he did the night before.

George heads upstairs, passing Isobel and Freddie in the hallway. Isobel’s whining about how she can’t help Freddie anymore, since her father’s dead and her mother wouldn’t pay a cent to help her out. Freddie ickily hugs her and says he didn’t want to do all this, really, all he wanted was a job. To appease him, Isobel promises to write him a check after dinner. She pulls away from him and heads down.

Meredith comes up, fresh from his q&a with Thompson, and meets up with Stockbridge. Stockbridge observes that Meredith seems a little worse for wear. Meredith says they kept going on about the low shot, and he kept denying he had anything to do with it. Stockbridge warns him to be a little less greedy next time—seems Meredith was the one who fired that shot, and Stockbridge saw all. He excuses it as an accident, though, saying it must be difficult for someone as short as Meredith to gauge the height of the birds. Heee! It’s mean, but funny. I kind of like Stockbridge. I heard that the role of Meredith was originally written as an army colonel or something like that, but after they cast the somewhat diminutive Hollander they changed it to a naval Commander. Presumably that’s when this line was added as well.

Later, Jennings finds Barnes downstairs and asks him where Meredith has disappeared to. Seems he never made it down to dinner. Barnes doesn’t know and doesn’t care.

Meredith is, at this moment, tucked up in the pantry, eating jam straight out of the jar and scaring the hell out of Dorothy, who stumbles on him sitting there in the dark. He apologizes for startling her and she suggests he try the strawberry jam instead (he’s eating raspberry, which I would personally prefer). She asks if he’s ok and he admits he feels a little bruised after his questioning. I get the feeling this jam snacking is a childhood behavior he’s retreating to. It seems like something a little kid would do. He settles down with his jar of strawberry jam and wonders aloud why some people get it all and others just get left with shit no matter what they do. He asks if she believes in luck, and she responds that she believes in love, and that if you can love someone, even if they don’t love you back, it’s all worth it. She stops herself short, realizing she’s speaking out of turn, and apologizes. He tells her not to be sorry, that it’s a good answer, then puts his jam aside and heads back upstairs.

Ivor’s at the piano again, playing dreamily. He smiles a little as Denton asks Jennings for a bourbon, which they don’t have. He goes for whiskey instead. Mabel comes in, still wearing that horrible green dress, the countess once again gets a bridge table going, and Rupert tries hitting on Isobel, which is pretty awful. Because she hasn’t been a passive aggressive bitch for about five minutes, the countess comments, just loud enough for Mabel to hear, that Mabel’s clever to travel light, and why should one wear a different dress every evening, since they’re not in a fashion parade. Mabel turns and snaps that they aren’t, and she wouldn’t want to be. As she stalks off, the countess raises an eyebrow and mildly says, “difficult color, green.” HA! I actually heard that Maggie Smith improvised that line, which makes it even funnier to me.

Isobel manages to wriggle away from Rupert and departs to write Freddie his check. Mabel, meanwhile, joins Ivor at the piano and comments that the song he’s playing used to make her cry. Denton settles down on the sofa next to Sylvia, who refuses to acknowledge him and starts turning the pages of the fashion magazine she’s reading more vehemently. Mabel turns away from Ivor just long enough to see Isobel hand Freddie the check in the adjoining room. Her face hardens just a little.

Denton pushes his luck with Sylvia and tells her that her guests sleep in much more comfortable beds than her servants. Sylvia continues to ignore him. Freddie comes back in and Mabel makes a beeline for him, demanding he tell her what Isobel gave him. She threatens to scream the house down if he doesn’t tell her, so he pulls out the check, tears it up, and tells her to buy a new frock with it. Prick.

Meredith comes sweeping in and goes directly to his wife, who’s playing bridge, and plants a hell of a kiss on her as the countess looks away, perturbed. Louisa goes from asking Ivor to play something more cheerful to mothering over Meredith, telling him he’s missed dinner, but they can arrange a tray for him. All this business is interrupted by George upsetting a cup of hot coffee right in Denton’s lap. Hee! Denton shouts that George did that on purpose, as the other guests giggle and George mildly offers to bring Denton a towel. Denton claps a pillow over his scalded crotch and runs out, and the countess, who’s now sitting down with a newspaper, starts to laugh. Her laugh right here is hysterical. You really have to hear it to appreciate it, and sadly I wasn’t able to find a clip of it.

The staff has gathered downstairs, where Dexter is regaling them with stories, Croft and one of the valets are fussing with the radio, and Probert’s starching William’s collars. Bertha asks why he’s bothering, and he says he wants to make sure everything is done properly before it goes. Poor Probert, he’s in a tight spot, isn’t he? He’s got to go find another job now. I wonder what the protocol was for servants after their employer died. How long did they have before they were sent away?

Arthur comes in to report on the Denton Coffee Incident of 1932, and everyone laughs. Mrs. Wilson joins them and asks Dexter how long they’ll have to keep everyone in the house. Dexter starts to say that they haven’t spoken to all the servants yet, but then Thompson the idiot arrives and tells her that he’s not interested in the servants, he only wants to talk to the people who had a real connection to the dead man. That’s irony, people, did you hear it? Fell like an anvil, that one. Anyway, he says everyone can leave the next day. He promises that he’ll ferret out whoever did the killing. Then he leaves in the wrong direction and has to be corrected by Dexter. Sigh again.

Later, George comes downstairs and tries the door to the laundry, only to find it locked. He tries another one and finds Jeremy Blond in there, getting dressed after another fling with Bertha, so there’s that mystery solved, in case you still cared about the identity of the mystery guy Bertha was banging that first night. Blond clears out, and George teases Bertha, kind of like a brother. She giggles and tells him about the coitus interruptus from the first night. George promises not to tell on her and they both clear out.

Way upstairs, Elsie’s packing while Mary reads in bed. Mary asks if Elsie thinks William was in love with her. Elsie doesn’t think so, and she wasn’t in love with him, it was all just a bit of fun, and he liked to talk to Elsie because he was sick of Sylvia and their whole snooty lot. She remembers that William used to tell her she could be anything she wanted, as long as she wanted it enough. She’s not sorry, because it’s time for a change, and she’s going to go forth and seize the day. Mary thinks about that for a moment, then puts her book aside, grabs her robe, and leaves.

She goes right to Parks’s room, surprising him, as you can imagine. He tells her she’d better go back to her room, but she ignores that and says, as if to convince herself, that he couldn’t have disliked William enough to kill him. It’s kind of ballsy of her to come into the room of someone she suspects of murder, isn’t it? Tearily, she says he’d have to hate him to do something like that, and Parks asks if a man can’t hate his own father? Yes, that’s right, Parks was one of those factory girls’ babies. He only found out about his parentage when he and a group of buddies broke into the warden’s office at the orphanage and looked up their files. In it, he found the photograph of his mother, his birth certificate, and the admission form, signed by William, which he takes as conclusive proof that William was his father. Uh, ok. His mother allegedly died. Mary asks if this is why Parks took the job with Stockbridge, to poison William? Parks says he didn’t poison him, but he did do the stabbing. A little desperately, Mary babbles that this means he didn’t kill him, but that he must have known that William was dead when he stabbed him, because nobody could stab a corpse and not know it. Parks points out that she doesn’t have much knowledge in that area, and yes, actually, you can. Mary wonders who murdered William, then, but Parks neither knows nor cares. Then he grabs her and kisses her. I’m not sure what I was supposed to feel there, but these two have zero chemistry, and Mary’s not keen, so she just leaves.

In the bowels of the house, Mrs. Wilson comes out of her room when she hears someone drunkenly singing. She goes into the staff dining room and finds Jennings there, drunk as can be. She fetches Dorothy and together they get him into his bed. Wilson tells Dorothy to take his trousers off, and Dorothy, of course, is horrified at the very idea. Wilson takes no nonsense, though, so Dorothy gingerly approaches the buttons.

Early the following morning, a young maid lights the fire in Denton’s room and accidentally wakes him. She apologizes, and he asks why everyone keeps treating him like the other snobbish guests when he was one of them just a couple of days ago. She tells him he can’t have it both ways and scurries off.

Croft’s sitting on her bed, contemplatively smoking a cigarette, when Bertha comes in to tell her that everyone’s leaving after breakfast. Dexter will be off as well, as soon as he’s spoken to Jennings. She’s glad to hear it. Bertha observes that Mrs. Croft’s voice sounds a little funny and Croft says it’s just the cigarettes. After seeing the whole movie, I thought it was supposed to be because she’d been crying, which would make a bit of sense. Later, I learned they filmed this scene on a day when Eileen Atkins had a cold, so that’s actually what happened to her voice and they shot the scene anyway, adding in the bit about her voice. Bertha asks if Croft told the police what she knew about the factory girls, and Croft didn’t, because she thinks William got what he deserved. Bertha says she can’t stop thinking about the girls who got knocked up, and Croft saucily says she’s not surprised, the way Bertha carries on. Heh. Bertha says it’ll never happen to her, and even if it did, she’d never give up her child just to hold onto a job.

Dexter arrives at Jennings’s room, and Jennings looks like he’s got the worst hangover ever. I wonder what he thought when he woke up with no pants on? Dexter says they’ll be handling the case from the station going forward. Jennings asks if they’ve traced the poison, but they haven’t, because the house is lousy with the stuff. Dexter starts sifting through the shelves in Jennings’s room and finds some poisonous silver polish, which he adds to the collection of poisons he’s got in a box on the table. He comments that nobody in the house has a police record, except Jennings, who was arrested for refusing to fight in the war. Dexter holds up the bottle of polish and says “Perhaps the butler did it.” Heh. Nice Jeeves reference in a movie with Stephen Fry, folks. Dexter asks if Jennings’s employers know about his record. Jennings refuses to answer and Dexter sweeps out, saying, in a slightly disgusted voice, that not everyone’s cut out to be a soldier. Jennings takes a swig from a flask, then, looking at himself in the mirror, he salutes, and his face crumbles. Don’t feel too bad, Jennings. Refusing to fight in a horribly planned, poorly carried out war is probably the only reason you can stand there and salute yourself at all. Someone in your position would have been cannon fodder for sure.

The Merediths are heading out, followed by the Nesbitts. Freddie frets about what he’s going to do, but Mabel breezily tells him not to be so worried all the time. Freddie catches up with Meredith and starts pushing him about a job now, because remember, he knows everything about the Sudan.

Blond and Rupert come down next, with Blond asking Rupert if he got around to proposing to Isobel, whose father was just murdered. Born romantic, that one. Rupert says no, and Blond says that’s probably a good thing, because he heard that Isobel probably wouldn’t be getting any of her own money anytime soon anyway. This whole conversation is overheard by Isobel herself, who’s lurking at the bottom of the stairs. When they see her, Blond takes off like a coward and Isobel tells Rupert not to leave anything behind, since she’s sure her mother will sell the house now. She takes off, and Rupert runs after her.

Out front. Weissman is telling Denton and Ivor that someone else is taking over the studio, and that someone wants to give him all kinds of freedom on the new picture. Jennings, who has managed to pull himself together, is there as well, and Denton claps him on the back as a farewell. The look Jennings gives him in return is priceless.

Blond and Standish get into Standish’s nifty little car, and Blond dickishly, breezily says that that was a painless visit. Was this guy in the same house as everyone else? Rupert wearily says it wasn’t, actually, and they speed off, narrowly missing running Denton down.

Elsie and Mary come around, talking about something mysterious. Weissman asks if Elsie needs a ride, and she accepts, climbing into the backseat with Denton and telling him to keep his hands to himself. He grumbles that Brits have no sense of humor, which is a dumb stereotype if ever there was one. She cuttingly says they do if there’s something funny. Mary tucks Elsie’s bag in with her, and now we see that Elsie’s taking William’s dog Pip with her. Awww. At least someone else in that house didn’t hate him.

Up in her room, the countess is counting out tips and complaining about how expensive house parties are now. They had to leave tips? Interesting. She asks Mary what happened to Elsie and Mary says Elsie’s gone. The countess says it’s too bad, since it was nice having at least one person in the house who was sorry William’s dead. Someone besides Louisa, I guess.

Sylvia comes in, fresh from her ride, and observes that everyone’s gone, apart from the countess and the Stockbridges. She invites her aunt to stay for lunch but the countess says she has to be off. The countess asks what Sylvia will do with the house, but Sylvia’s not sure. She wonders if she wants the bother, and then considers closing it up and thinking about it later, when her head’s clear. Mrs. Wilson can manage until then, and she’ll probably take the opportunity to oust Mrs. Croft. The two women wonder why the cook and housekeeper hate each other so much, but all Sylvia knows is it stems from when they were both workers in one of William’s factories, and Mrs. Croft was senior then, since she was a cook and Mrs. Wilson just a lowly worker. The countess wonders if there was ever a Mr. Wilson and Sylvia figures there must have been, because Mrs. Wilson’s name used to be Parks or Parker or something like that. Ah ha!  Mary looks up when she hears the name and her jaw drops.

Once she’s done with the countess, Mary hurries down to Mrs. Wilson’s room. She closes the door behind her and bluntly asks why Mrs. Wilson did it. Yes, Wilson was our poisoner, and Mary’s such a genius she figured it out. Mary asks how Mrs. Wilson how she knew who Parks was, was it the photograph? Strangely, Mrs. Wilson tries to act like she wasn’t Parks’s mother here, even though Mary clearly knows that, and says she remembers his mother tucking the photograph into the baby’s blanket before handing him over. Wilson says that the mother was promised the baby would be adopted by a good family, a blatant lie that she and the others chose to believe. Instead, the babies were being dumped in an orphanage. Wilson’s sister never forgave her for giving the baby up. Mary’s surprised to hear about this sister, and since she’s already figured everything else out, Wilson gives up the goods: Croft is her sister. Croft, too, had a baby, but she refused to hand him over, so she lost her job, and then the baby died anyway of scarlet fever. Wilson persuaded William to take Croft back, and Croft never forgave her for that. Why not? Was she happy being broke? I’m guessing she wasn’t having much luck finding work elsewhere if she had to go back to work for William. What’s there to forgive here?

Mary asks how Wilson knew Parks planned to harm William and Wilson says it’s because she, essentially, is a mindreader. She always knows what other people want or plan to do. Ok. Mary asks if Croft plans to reveal herself to Parks, but Wilson doesn’t think it’ll serve any purpose. She’s right about that. She did what she did to protect him, because you can’t nail someone for stabbing a corpse. Wilson’s life doesn’t really matter to her. She shouldn’t really worry about getting caught anyway, with Thompson on the case. George arrives to tell Mary that the countess is leaving. Wilson coolly tells Mary she should go, and Mary obeys, with one last, sad look at her.

Out front, Sylvia and the Stockbridges emerge. Louisa offers assistance, should Sylvia need it, and Mary starts to load some of the countess’s bags into the car.

Downstairs again, Mrs. Wilson thanks Bertha for her help the previous evening, and Bertha says it was no big deal, because she’d kill for Mr. Jennings if she had to. Mrs. Wilson has no response to that, so she just goes into her room and closes the door. Croft, hovering nearby, observes this and is the only one to hear the wrenching sobs coming from inside a moment later. She slips inside and flatly urges her sister not to cry, because the others will hear her. Wilson claps a hand across her mouth and tries to regain control. Croft softens and says Wilson did what she thought was best for her child at the time. Wilson sobs that she’s lost him forever now. Croft pats her on the back and gently says that, at least Wilson’s son’s alive, which is what really matters. Wilson falls into her sister’s arms.

In the driveway, Parks approaches Mary and says goodbye. Still no chemistry at all. The Stockbridges take off and Mary goes to help the countess into her car. The countess frets about the idea of having to testify if there’s a trial. She’s distressed by the idea of being responsible for someone’s life. Mary parrots Mrs. Wilson’s line about it not serving any purpose anyway, and they drive off. Sylvia waves them off, then goes inside, followed by Jennings, who closes the door. The car retreats into the distance, and for the first time in the movie, the sun’s shining.

18 thoughts on “Gosford Park: Murder, Mayhem, and Manors

  1. The movie would have ended differently if Altman and Fellowes had kept only the Dexter character. And that would have defeated the purpose of their ending in allowing the murderer(s) to get away. Fry was annoying, but I understand why they kept his character around. Also, Fry’s incompetence and unwillingness to consider the servants as suspects is another example of the class bigotry featured in this movie.

  2. [“Wilson persuaded William to take Croft back, and Croft never forgave her for that. Why not? Was she happy being broke? I’m guessing she wasn’t having much luck finding work elsewhere if she had to go back to work for William. What’s there to forgive here?”]

    The damage to her pride.

  3. [“In the driveway, Parks approaches Mary and says goodbye. Still no chemistry at all.”]

    I thought they had chemistry. It was subtle, but I thought the chemistry was there.

  4. [He says the war changed everything, and William chimes in with this comment: “Empire Leicester Square,” which I would really like to understand. I’ve listened to every commentary on this DVD and none of them explain that, so if someone else can, I’d be eternally grateful. I know there’s a movie theater called the Empire on Leicester Square, but was that around in the early ‘30’s? Is that what he’s referring to? Because if so, that line was total nonsense.]

    The old Empire live theater was “finished” just like the British empire was “finished”; it was torn down in the late 1920s and a cinema under the same name took its place.

  5. How on earth did Mary the maid figure out that Richard Parks is the ‘stabber’? What was her deduction algorithm? Was there any clue in Elsie saying ‘carpe diem” that I missed?

    1. I believe her algorithm was ‘the script says so.’ Honestly, there’s no real way she could have figured it out, but then, this particular film couldn’t seem to decide whether it wanted to be realistic or a bit farcical.

  6. Thanks for ur response. “The script says so’ – yeah, I thought so too. Just because only once R. Parks told Mary that he was going to surprise her is not enough of a clue to solve this mystery for even Sherlock Holmes, let alone Mary the ‘new’ maid. This is the only particular gripe I have about this film. Otherwise, it is an outstanding movie.

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