The Making of a Lady (2012) – Plot, Cast, and Review
But not nearly as many are familiar with Burnett’s novel The Making of a Marchioness and its’ sequel, The Methods of Lady Walderhurst. ITV adapted the former as a television film named The Making of a Lady.
THE MAKING OF A LADY PLOT
The Making of a Lady stars Lydia Wilson as the impoverished but genteel young woman, Emily Fox-Seton.
Orphaned at a young age, she has been forced to make her own way in the world. Gifted an education by her relatives, her options remain few. She has difficulty maintaining steady employment to pay her rooming fare at a run-down but respectable boarding house.
After being let go from her temporary job as a secretary to Lady Maria Byrne, she receives an unexpected offer from the Lady’s nephew, the older Lord James Walderhurst.
In need of an heir, the older Marquess proposes a marriage of convenience. With few options, the penniless Emily accepts his unromantic marriage proposal despite wanting to marry for love. Walderhurst soon introduces her as the mistress of his country home, where a less-than-hospitable staff meets her.
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Just as Emily and Walderhurst begin to grow closer, he decides to re-enlist in his old regiment and return to India. He instructs his dour but trusted butler, Mr. Litton, to look out for his new wife.
Shortly after his departure, Walderhurst’s cousin Alec Osborne and his Indian-born wife Hester arrive with a letter from the Marquess requesting they also keep an eye on Emily.
Despite prior inferences from her new husband and Lady Byrne about Alec’s character, Emily is thrilled to have some pleasant, young relatives around to keep her company and moves them into the house.
But strange things begin occurring, and Alec’s behavior becomes erratic. Is he a threat, or is Emily imagining things?
THE MAKING OF A LADY REVIEW
The Making of a Lady left me with mixed feelings. The film tried to tackle too many things in its short 90 minutes run time. I thought I was watching a period romance for the first thirty minutes. Then the film switches gears in the second half to become a gothic mystery.
Also, this is a slower-paced film. The little action that occurs happens quickly and is confined to the last thirty minutes of the film.
Kate Brooke (the screenwriter) and Richard Curson Smith (the director) would have better served the story by building up the tension before coming to the climax at the end.
Another complaint is that the character development could have been stronger, especially since the main characters were very much a product of their time in history.
Both Emily and Lord Walderhurst are polite, reticent characters who show only brief glimpses of their emotions and speak of them even less. This is true of the training of the gentry and aristocrats of that day.
Perhaps, more screen time would have allowed their characters to become better known by themselves and the audience.
Although the film does lack the depth and development it needs, I still enjoyed The Making of a Lady and the story of Emily Fox-Seton. Emily’s growth from a submissive, orphaned woman to a wife who embraces her husband’s relatives and manages his household is subtly inspiring.
When she thinks she is in danger, she takes decisive action and fights for her safety instead of making excuses.
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The country setting, cinematography, and Emily’s costumes are all gorgeous and without flaws. In fact, I was downright drooling over her burgundy dinner dress.
THE MAKING OF A LADY CAST
The main actors were also perfectly cast. Lydia Wilson is great as the quiet, practical Miss Fox-Seton who grows into her title. And I can’t think of a better fit for Lord James Walderhurst than veteran actor Linus Roache.
British television regular Joanna Lumley shines in her small role as Walderhurst’s snobby aunt, Lady Byrne (not Lady Maria Bayne like in the novel).
The rest of the full cast includes James D’Arcy as Captain Alec Osborn, Hasina Haque as Hester Osborn, Malcolm Storry as Mr. Litton, Souad Faress as Ameerah, Lucy Gape as Lady Agatha Slade, and Maggie Fox as Mrs. Parke.
Overall, The Making of a Lady might have been better served were it aired as a mini-series. This would allow time to develop both the characters, their relationships with each other, and the combination of the romance and mystery genres.
But for what it is, The Making of a Lady is very well-done.
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Content Note: TV-PG/TV-14. There is a brief scene implying assault on a maid and a sensual scene between man and wife. The movie also has racism in it – so be aware. Otherwise, there is nothing overly objectionable onscreen.
Where to Watch: Stream The Making of a Lady movie on PBS Masterpiece Amazon Channel or buy it digitally on Amazon or on DVD.
Featured image credit: Fremantle Media/Runaway Fridge Productions/ITV/PBS