Lady Jane (1986)
Broughton Castle provides an elegant and imposing Tudor backdrop for director Trevor Nunn's first major screen production, Lady Jane.
The castle, disguised as a London house beside the Thames, is Lady Jane Grey's family home in the film.
And although other castles and houses are also featured, Broughton is the setting for some of the most dramatic and significant scenes early in the film.
The Oak Room, virtually stripped bare of furniture and carpet, is transformed into the room where Lady Jane is first told by her parents that she is to marry Guildford Dudley.
Later, Jane and Guilford have their first stormy encounter in the Ladies Garden.
There are also glimpses of the exterior of the castle, for example, when the young sickly King Edward VI, visits Jane and collapses as he leaves.
The film's British premiere, was held last week in London, but work at the castle – the home of Lord and Lady Saye and Sele – was carried out over 18 months ago, in autumn 1984.
"The crew were actually here for two weeks, but the interesting thing was that half the time was spent building the set," said Lady Saye and Sele.
The attention to detail was so precise that even the banks of the moat – playing the River Thames – were covered in hardboard, moss and green sawdust to create the impression of slimy, muddy water, she said.
The carved stone fireplace in the Oak Room, although it dated from the correct period, was re-built to provide a more simple setting.
"The whole place was filled with the smell of roast beef, which was fed to the dogs used in the hunting scenes," said Lady Saye and Sele.
The crew changed the face of the castle in other ways as well – the gravel in the driveway and garden was replaced by a layer of plastic sheeting topped with turf.
But the scaffolding which had been erected to carry out reconstruction work on the building – remained on the 16th century building.
Lady Saye and Sele pointed out that though the castle was virutally turned upside down by the crew, they left very little damage.
"We did have fun. I really did enjoy it – it is so interesting to see the problems from both sides," she said.
Helena Bonham Carter, the beautiful young actress who plays the title role in ''Lady Jane,'' has a physical presence that's quite startling. First seen in the flat, constricting costumes of the Reformation, she stands in a crabbed, gnomish posture, her head bowed and her wide-set features contorted by a scowl. But later on, as the character's early sternness disappears, Miss Bonham literally and figuratively lets her hair down. She appears by firelight, on horseback and in various bucolic settings, romping with the handsome blond nobleman she loves. One begins to have the uncomfortable suspicion that this could have been a role for Brooke Shields.
Actually, for the most part ''Lady Jane'' is a handsome, dignified British costume drama of the sort that has long been out of fashion, with a distinguished director (Trevor Nunn, of the Royal Shakespeare Company) and a very fine cast. It is at its best when most traditional, in the long expository sections that help provide historical background for the story. Lady Jane Grey, the 15-year-old great-niece of Henry VIII, was brought to the throne in 1553 by the scheming John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, who also arranged Lady Jane's marriage to his 17-year-old son, Lord Guilford. This plot, devised as Edward VI, Henry's 15-year-old son, was dying of consumption, was designed to guarantee a Protestant monarchy and keep Edward's Roman Catholic half sister, Mary, from the throne. Mary's popular support proved greater than Northumberland had imagined, though, and she ascended the throne as Mary I only nine days after Lady Jane's rule had begun. Lady Jane and her husband were imprisoned and executed the following year.
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The excerpt from the 1986 New York Times article is copyright The New York Times. The images are from Lady Saye's private collection apart from publicity stills of the movie reproduced from The Banbury Guardian, 5 June 1986