Saturday, April 2, 2016

Tessa Arlen's "Death Sits Down to Dinner"

Tessa Arlen, the daughter of a British diplomat, had lived in or visited her parents in Singapore, Cairo, Berlin, the Persian Gulf, Beijing, Delhi and Warsaw by the time she was sixteen. She came to the U.S. in 1980 and worked as an H.R. recruiter for the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee for the 1984 Olympic Games, where she interviewed her future husband for a job. She lives in Bainbridge Island, Washington.

Here Arlen dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Death Sits Down to Dinner:
This is the tale of a murder at a fashionable English dinner party to celebrate the birthday of Winston Churchill a year before WW1. It touches on the anxiety and paranoia of a country on the edge of war, the differences in class, in race and social dependence that is in the financial dependence of women.

For Winston Churchill the English actor Robert Hardy immediately springs to mind, as he was in The Wilderness Years. He did a splendid job of portraying Churchill in the 1920s which is just a little later than the book which is set in 1913. Hardy looks like Churchill, he sounds like him and he played the part with all the wit, charm and the stupendous ego that are such hallmarks of Churchill’s rather overwhelming personality and complex nature.

Edith Jackson, our amateur sleuth Lady Montfort’s ‘Watson’, should be played by Emily Watson the way she played Elsie the housemaid in Gosford Park. Emily Watson displays the same sang froid that I imagine Edith Jackson has. Both characters are intelligent and aware of what is going on around them, and are self-contained and not given to showing their emotions. There is a big exception in Watson’s role in Gosford when she completely throws in the towel and is of course fired because of her emotional outburst. Mrs. Jackson would never have behaved this way: she prides herself on her self-discipline!

Julia Ormond as she was in Smilla’s Sense of Snow for Clementine Talbot the Countess of Montfort, our amateur sleuth. I imagine that Clementine has the beautiful skin, dark hair and large expressive eyes as Ormond. Though Clementine is a little more charming and playful than Ormond’s Smilla -- behind Clementine’s beautiful serene face there is a brain ticking away ... and nothing escapes her notice.

Hermione Kingsley absolutely must be played Phyllida Law as she was in The Winter Guest. Phyllida Law (who is by the way Emma Thompson’s mother) plays strong, quirky, elderly characters and can be extremely amusing especially when she is being imperious and commanding.
Visit Tessa Arlen's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Tessa Arlen & Daphne.

The Page 69 Test: Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman.

My Book, The Movie: Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman.

The Page 69 Test: Death Sits Down to Dinner.

--Marshal Zeringue