To The Manor Born's Peter Bowles
Tea Time Tidbit for the week of October 3, 2016
Bowles with Penelope Keith
It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Peter Bowles playing Richard DeVere in To The Manor Born, which returns to our Afternoon Tea schedule on Fridays at 1pm. Originally, though, the writer of the series intended for the inheritor of Grantleigh Manor to be a wealthy American. He even had someone in mind for the part; Canadian actor and popular British television presenter Bernard Braden. In fact in 1976, three years before the television series aired, a radio pilot was made with Braden and Penelope Keith.
The radio pilot was never broadcast. Instead the BBC decided to turn the show into a television series. The show’s producer also decided to make the DeVere character eastern European and the role was offered to Peter Bowles. It was Bowles who reportedly came up with the idea to make DeVere Czechoslovakian, fashioning his character on media mogul and Member of Parliament Robert Maxwell, who was originally from Czechoslovakia.
To The Manor Born, with Penelope Keith
Bowles had jumped at the chance to be in a series with Penelope Keith, as a few years earlier he’d turned down the opportunity to playing Jerry in The Good Life (Good Neighbors), as he was committed to a stage show. This time 'round Bowles again had a scheduling conflict - he was starring in Rumpole the Bailey on a competing network. Not wanting to give up the DeVere role, Bowles managed to work his schedule so that he rehearsed Rumpole in the morning and To The Manor Born in the afternoon.
Bowles as Richard DeVere
Just as Good Neighbors had changed the lives of its four stars – Richard Briars, Felicity Kendall, Penelope Keith and Paul Eddington – To The Manor Born did the same for Bowles. He became instantly recognizable and since then has become one of England’s best loved television stars. To The Manor Born aired in the UK from 1979 to 1981, with a one off "25th Wedding Anniversary" Special in 2007. Bowles and Keith, however, were reunited before then, when in 1987 Bowles played Keith’s husband in a sitcom called Executive Stress, a role that had previously been played by Geoffrey Palmer.
In January we’ll get to see Bowles as the Duke of Wellington in the new Masterpiece series, Victoria. To hear what Bowles has to say about his role and his thoughts on the comparisons that have been made to the series and to Downton Abbey, click here.
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