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The Merry Widower 

Linda is trapped in a loveless marriage, and her in-laws refuse to let her to spend her pregnancy with her family. Polly's wedding to Boy Dougdale dissolves into disaster as Lady Montdore ... See full summary »


Donald McWhinnie


Nancy Mitford (novels), Simon Raven




Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Judi Dench ... Sadie
Michael Aldridge ... Uncle Matt
Vivian Pickles ... Lady Montdore
Richard Hurndall ... Lord Montdore
Michael Williams ... Davey Warbeck
John Moffatt ... Lord Merlin
Rosalyn Landor ... Polly
Diana Fairfax ... Emily Warbeck
Job Stewart Job Stewart ... Boy Dougdale
Isabelle Amyes Isabelle Amyes ... Fanny
Lucy Gutteridge ... Linda
Anthony Head ... Tony Kroesig
Rebecca Saire ... Victoria
Yolande Palfrey Yolande Palfrey ... Jassy
Christopher Scoular Christopher Scoular ... Alfred


Linda is trapped in a loveless marriage, and her in-laws refuse to let her to spend her pregnancy with her family. Polly's wedding to Boy Dougdale dissolves into disaster as Lady Montdore faces her estate's title falling into the hands of an unknown heir. Written by Anonymous

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User Reviews

Not so merry love
28 June 2018 | by TheLittleSongbirdSee all my reviews

Nancy Mitford's 'Love in a Cold Climate' and 'Pursuit of Love' have become two of my favourite books, with their colourful characters, rich stories and perfect mix of humour and pathos.

There are two TV versions (this and a later one from 2001), that adapt both stories into one, and there is no doubt in my mind which is the better of the two. The 2001 adaptation, despite top notch production values and some good performances, was too short, too rushed, tried to tell too much in a short space of time, layered characters like Cedric had very little to them as a result of the condensation and what there was of humour was not frothy or light-hearted enough and the darker parts coming across as cold emotionally.

While adaptations do deserve to be judged on their own merits, as an adaptation this 'Love in a Cold Climate' scores far more highly, being not only true in detail to the books (yes even with telling two stories in one) but also capturing much more of the spirit and atmosphere of them. The storytelling took its time to develop without being too slow and it had a longer length to work from, yet it is never less than compelling. The adaptation told two stories concurrently but unlike the 2001 version captured the spirit and understood the two different tones of the two stories, being more light-hearted at first and then much darker later.

The fourth episode "The Merry Widower" has a more serious edge than the light-heartedness before, treating it sensitively and never in a way that is dreary.

For all this talk about how they fare as an adaptation, "The Merry Widower" and 'Love in a Cold Climate' overall succeeds as a standalone. The good news is, it succeeds brilliantly. One might argue that it has a 80s period drama look (yes it has been criticised for being "dated"), to me it was a really beautiful-looking adaptation that had some very sumptuous interiors, locations and scenery, elegant and colourful costumes and an atmosphere that was rich in detail and charmingly cosy. Music is appropriately understated, and the direction keeps the narrative moving at a smooth but steady pace.

"The Merry Widower" and 'Love in a Cold Climate' in general is superbly written too, both script and story. The story takes more time to tell, but never feels over-stretched and is always engrossing, the different emotions for each scene always present but never lost. There is an adept balance of humour and pathos, and both dimensions are of high quality, the light-heartedness endearing. The humour is genuinely entertaining, often hilarious, and never dealt with in a heavy manner, the frothy parts are charming but never mushy and the moments that are darker and have more pathos have a real emotional thrust.

Characters are colourful and interesting in personality, layered and easy to like. Great acting helps, and you certainly get that from quite frankly wonderful performances from Judi Dench, Michael Aldridge (definitive), Michael Williams, Vivian Pickles (a is a real gorgon here), ones that rank among their best. Michael Cochrane benefits from Cedric being much better written and the central trio of Fanny, Polly and Linda are far more consistent and all three characters interesting (in the recent version only Rosamund Pike as Fanny worked, whereas all three did here, in this episode especially Linda).

Overall, brilliant once again. 10/10 Bethany Cox

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19 November 1980 (UK) See more »

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