Winner 1999

ExxonMobil Masterpiece Theatre: A Rather English Marriage

Wall to Wall Television, Ltd., BBC, Carlton Television, WGBH-TV, Boston

In this bittersweet tale of friendship, class struggle and old age, Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay portray two widowed war veterans coming to terms with the deaths of their wives. Reggie Conyngham-Jervis (Finney), an upper crust ex-fighter pilot, and Roy Southgate (Courtenay), a retiring former milkman, find themselves on the same day in the same hospital where both of their wives have just passed away. Though at opposite ends of the social spectrum, the grief felt by the two men is the start of an odd and touching friendship. The chemistry of a real-life friendship between the two actors (who have starred together on stage, in television productions and in films) shines through in the bumpy relationship between Reggie and Roy. Joanna Lumley plays Liz Franks, the glamorous owner of a boutique, whom Reggie quickly begins to woo. Writer Andrew Davies (inspired by his wife’s laughter while she was reading the novel by Angela Lambert) has brought this rather English marriage, yet universally appealing tale, to brilliant life on the screen. Executive producers Alex Graham (for Wall to Wall Television), David Thompson (for the BBC), Rebecca Eaton (for WGBH) and producer Jo Willett have made the odd-couple pairing of Reggie and Roy immensely watchable. Director Paul Seed swings the emotional pendulum to its extremes, making the film both intensely sad and raucously funny. A Rather English Marriage is global television at its best, and for this reason is deserving of the Peabody Award.