Posted by: Jim E | February 26, 2012

Mrs. Palfrey…David McCullough…And Me…At The Claremont…Oh, And Rachmaninoff Too…

Some time ago I viewed an interview of one of my favorite authors, David McCullough…(John Adams, Truman, etc.)…anyway, he was asked his favorite movie…he had a rough time with that…he went back to how old movies made an impression on him…he named a few…”Sense and Sensibility”…”Harvey”, with Jimmy Stewart…”Treasure of the Sierra Madre”…”Advise and Consent”…and others…but he brought up one that he had just seen…”Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont”…an independent English film…with Joan Plowright…right away when he described the film…and knowing how much I like his writing…I knew then I would buy it…and I did…it is as he described it…simple, beautifully performed, beautifully written…funny but certainly a drama too…let me share some of that movie with you…

I suppose I would agree, this was a “comedic drama”, as someone described it…I laughed and I cried at I think the appropriate points…and with my hearing being what it is…seeing it twice is probably important for me…but I think also for everyone else…this wasn’t the sort of fare that wins Oscars today…and no explosions, no racing cars or trucks, no superheroes, no cars running off cliffs, no gunfire, no killing, no people flying through the air…or jumping off one building to another…in fact there are no action scenes…hold on, there is one…Mrs. Palfrey falls on the sidewalk and skins her knee in one scene, this allows her to met Ludovic Meyer, who becomes her friend…so this film has a “story” to it…and great acting by actors who have been in the business for years…and new comers who did a wonderful job…its a story with a strong script, excellent acting and some sumptuous English scenery…at the New Forest Palace grounds near the Abbey at Beaulieu…unbelievably beautiful…

Mrs. Palfrey comes to London from Scotland after her husband dies…she, now in her mid 70’s, “has always been someone’s daughter, someone’s wife, and someone’s mother.”…now she wants to live life for herself, and does it well, with the help of Ludo (Ludovic)…she read about the Claremont Hotel in a magazine…but she is surprised by the condition of the hotel…and it just wasn’t what she had planned on…but she makes the most of it…meeting the “rest” of the tenants as time goes by…everyone from the quirky staff to the residents…the bellhop is a portly and sonorous balding man who mumbles more that he speaks…and the residents range from overly-nosy to irritatingly grumpy…but they all want to know why Mrs. Palfrey’s grandson, Desmond, doesn’t come to see her…one of the reasons she moved to London…the residents are wonderful British actors…all of them make her stay memorable, for her and for us…

All but abandoned by her family at the Claremont…Mrs. Palfrey strikes up a friendship with a young writer…one day as she took a walk to mail a letter and go to the library…hurrying home to miss the impending rain storm, she stumbles and falls outside a Ludo’s basement apartment…the 26 year old man with the odd name of Ludovic, helps Mrs. Palfrey and in return asks that she help him write a really great novel…he wants to use her years and experience to aid in his telling the story…she agrees and he walks her back to the Claremont…and wouldn’t you know all the residents immediately believe this is the elusive Desmond…Mrs. Palfrey allows this deception to continue and even invites Ludo over for dinner at the Claremont posing as her grandson…everyone is taken with her “grandson” and their friendship grows…

These two newly found friends discover they have a lot more in common with each other than they do with other people their own age…Ludo inadvertently leads Mrs. Palfrey through her past and Mrs. Palfrey inadvertently leads Ludovic to his future…the story builds on itself, and reaches deep into the characters and pulls out a fantastic end of life/beginning of life set of circumstances…the story builds scene after scene moving us deeper into their lives…we see Mrs. Palfrey’s love of her dead husband, Arthur, and the beginnings of Ludo’s relationship with a beautiful young lady thanks to a recommendation by Mrs. Palfrey…that recommendation came, in a moving scene, when Ludo asked Mrs. Palfrey what her favorite movie was…and it was “Brief Encounter”, a 1945 British movie…a movie filled with Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto Number 2…music that fit that film…

Ludo, also asked her favorite song…”For All We Know”, was her answer…and in a wonderful scene he sings that song…a moving moment in the film…(at the end of the movie, Rosemary Clooney sings “For All We Know”)…the record company originally wanted $50,000, which would have been a budget buster on this independent film…after seeing the finished film, they threw the song in for $5,000…speaking of the end of the film…I will not rob you of that pleasant trip yourself…but toward the end after Ludovic and Gwendolyn, “two ridiculous names” meet in a funny and quirky situation, at a video store, both reaching for “Brief Encounter”…they take Mrs. Palfrey to Beaulieu Castle and grounds, both historic and beautiful…just seeing it on film is emotional, powerful…as they visit, Mrs. Palfrey gives this bit of advice to Gwen, “Always remember to make the most of every moment. It is the single most important lesson of my life.”…Oh, yes, I would agree…

As I just slipped into my 70’s…not without notice by the way…I do see the end as closer than the beginning…and in this time of my life I want to make the most of every moment…not with trips around the world…not to Disney World…not even to downtown Little Rock…but just life itself…I don’t want to hide life behind all the glitz of this world…but I want to see the wonder like I did last night…a clear sky with a sliver of the moon…and Venus just off to the lower left of the moon…so clear…so bright, close, against the moon…it is one of the wonders I never want to take for granted and therefore, miss…and today, the blue sky and the cherry blossoms just outside my window…and before all of this is gone I want to make the most of it…and as Mrs. Palfrey said to Ludo, “Lucky for me, to have tripped into your life.”…that goes for me too…have a great week…

Hey, why not get “Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont”…you will enjoy it too…let me leave you with Steve Tyrell, and “For All We Know”…16 – For All We Know


  1. Hi Jim,
    This looks like a wonderful movie. I’m definitely going to buy it. Thank you so much for the recommendation. I don’t like getting movies without a recommendation for a friend. This one looks like a great one.
    Take care,

    • Julie…I really enjoyed the movie…and Judie too…can’t tell what everyone else will like…but I think this is a good one…I get so tired of the kind of movies that are made today…and when a movie comes out that has a good story (because most movies today don’t have a story to them) but this one does and builds upon the characters…I think you will like it…have a great week…Jim E

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