Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Enchanted April


"To Those who Appreciate Wistaria and Sunshine.
Small mediaeval Italian Castle on the shores of the
          Mediterranean to be Let Furnished 
                      for the month of April.
                  Necessary servants remain.
                                     Z., Box 1000, The Times."


And thus did Mrs. Wilkins and Mrs. Arbuthnot reply to the above advertisement and rent San Salvatore for the month of April, escaping their miserable lives in London. Along with a Mrs. Fisher and Lady Caroline Dester they awoke one April morning in Paradise.


"Such beauty; and she there to see it.
Such beauty; and she alive to feel it.
Her face was bathed in light.
Lovely scents came up to the window and caressed her.
A tiny breeze gently lifted her hair
How beautiful.
Not to have died before this
to have been allowed to see, breathe, feel this."

from The Enchanted April
by Elizabeth von Armin


My 1924 copy of The Enchanted April reads: "By the Author of "Elizabeth and Her German Garden." Now we know that both books, and others, were written by Elizabeth von Armin. 


I reread this book every April and watch the gorgeous movie. Perhaps it should be required reading for all engaged couples and at every wedding anniversary.


Mrs. Wilkins' husband, Mellersh, "a solicitor, encouraged thrift, except that branch of it which got into his food. He did not call that thrift, he called it bad housekeeping." 

When Mrs. Wilkins' and Mrs. Arbuthnot's husbands arrived at San Salvatore, Mr. Wilkins was impressed that his Lotty had made the acquaintance of wealthy Lady Caroline.


Mellersh is played by one of my favorite actors, Alfred Molina:



Lotty Wilkins is played by Josie Lawrence, who unlike Lotty is obviously noticed at parties:


Mrs. Wilkins is "the kind of person who is not noticed at parties. Her clothes, infested by thrift, made her practically invisible. Her face was non-arresting; her conversation was reluctant, she was shy."

Rose Arbuthnot is played by Miranda Richardson:


Mrs. Arbuthnot's husband Frederick is played by the incomparable Jim Broadbent:


"Frederick had been the kind of husband whose wife betakes herself early to the feet of God."


Clearly, Frederick has been besotted with Lady Caroline. Rose is, by all accounts, a neglected wife. But at San Salvatore the madonna-like beauty of Rose attracts Mr. Briggs, their landlord.

Mr. Briggs is played by Michael Kitchen, the star of "Foyle's War":


He finds something in Rose Arbuthnot that Mr. Arbuthnot has not seen.


"…the more Mr. Briggs thought Rose charming the more charming she became."


Rose became quite captivating, as husband Frederick soon realized.



And there is reluctant femme fatale Lady Caroline, played by beautiful Polly Walker:


Lady Caroline is at San Salvatore to be left alone, or so she thinks, to sleep, not to be called upon to give orders to the servants in her fluid Italian. 

"I haven't come here to housekeep, and I won't."

She was tired of her mother telling her what to do, tired of men grasping at her, tired of silly women being jealous of her.

"She didn't want their tiresome men."


And then there is autocratic Mrs. Fisher, played by indomitable Dame Joan Plowright:


Plowright, once married to Laurence Olivier, plays the role of Mrs. Fisher with all the determination in those dark brown eyes that appear almost black. Stubborn, proud, insistent on her own way, but Lotty Wilkins senses her vulnerability.


Lotty "sees" Mrs. Fisher's hidden needs, Lady Caroline's, Mr. Briggs', the Arbuthnots'. She even finally sees her husband Mellersh's, because she believes the best of everyone. 

San Salvatore causes her to "see" it all, in the magic of "The Enchanted April."


"The View from Mrs. Wilkins's Bedroom
After a Water-Colour by the Hon. Lady Mallet"