An Evelyn Waugh novel was transformed into a series in the early 1980s and became the mini-series of the Fall season: Brideshead Revisited.
Based on the 1945 novel, the 11 part series was based on the unique friendship of Charles Ryder, played by Jeremy Irons and Sebastian Flyte, played by Anthony Andrews.
The series was initially conceived as a six part drama, and Michael Lindsay-Hogg was hired as director in 1979 to start photography and film on the island of Gozo, Malta which was to be the location for the story’s sequences in Morocco, Mexico and South America.
But a four month strike at ITV delayed production and when the strike was over, Lindsay-Hogg couldn’t work on the production and director Charles Sturridge took over, and negotiated to keep many of the main actors involved including Jeremy Irons and Laurence Olivier.
Irons ended up shooting this series and the film The French Lieutenant’s Woman at the same time, doing double duty as both productions were affected by delays.
The story follows the friendship of Ryder and Flyte before and during World War 1, and the scandals, mistresses, secrets, gay relationships, and financial stresses that affect Flyte’s lofty family, the Marchmains.
Ryder is Flyte’s saviour, trying to keep him alive and keep his lifestyle a secret, while still being loyal to Flyte’s mother and sister who are devout Catholics and to the father, who lives with his mistress in Italy, yet trying to maintain their own secret lives. The series ends at the end of WWI, with the numerous consequences of financial ruin, secrets and lies.
After almost a year of filming the series debuted in October 1981 on ITV, CBC in Canada and PBS in the United States and soon became the Sunday night obseession.
Nominated for multiple BAFTA, Emmy and Golden Globe Awards, the series won seven BAFTAs, including best actor for Anthony Andrews, was nominated for nine Emmys with a supporting actor win for Laurence Olivier as Lord Marchmain and three Golden Globe nominations with a win for Andrews for best actor in a mini series.
The series once again cemented the fascination with historical family dramas by television viewers.