Episode 17 screenshots posted. --ceej 14 Dec 2003
Updated with information about the new American boxed set, plus more about the remake. --ceej, 3 March 2003

The Forsyte Saga

promo shot of Soames, Irene, and Young Jolyon In early 1967 the BBC aired a 26-episode costume drama called The Forsyte Saga. On Sunday nights, when the Saga was on, social life stopped. Dinner parties were scheduled around it, and vespers at some churches was moved to allow churchgoers to watch. When the show was aired in the US on PBS, it was just as much of a success. The public's appetite for more costume drama inspired Masterpiece Theater. It was nothing more than high-class soap, but it was well-acted high-class soap.

The series was aired often in the US during the 70s, especially on the smaller UHF PBS stations. But most Americans haven't seen it since the 60s.

IMDB: Forsyte Saga, 1967


The cast is aging and in many cases dead, though the younger stars are now in their middle age.

Eric Porter, Soames
Lots more information elsewhere on this site.

Nyree Dawn Porter, Irene
No relation to Eric. Nyree Dawn Porter obit in the Guardian UK. Times obituary. If she hadn't been married already, Eric Porter said, he would have proposed. Nyree made a lovely Irene, very much the blonde goddess Galsworthy described. Viewers are often split in reaction to the character, however: do you blame Irene for the mess her marriage with Soames made of the Forsyte family? Or do you blame Soames?

Kenneth More, Young Jolyon
1914-1982. A bit of an aging heart-throb film actor at the time of the series. Fan page associated with a theater he founded.

Fleur vamping Jon Joseph O'Conor, Old Jolyon
Obit, 2001., He outlived all of his only slightly younger co-stars, though he played one of the oldest of the original Forsyte family. "[...] [S]o often, he was cast older than he was. Kenneth More, who played his son in The Forsyte Saga, was actually two years older than O'Conor, to their shared amusement."

Margaret Tyzack, Winifred
I can find very little information online about Tyzack. She had two high-profile roles in the 70s, as a Russian scientist in a brief part in 2001: a space odyssey, and as Claudius's mother Antonia in the wonderful BBC miniseries I, Claudius. She seems to be (have been?), like Eric Porter, primarily a stage actress.

Susan Hampshire, Fleur
An interview that mentions a bit about how the series was produced.

Overall synopsis

Irene and Philip Bosinney, promo shot If spoilers matter to you, you'll want to skip this synopsis.

In 1879, the Forsytes are a middle-class English family at their height. The ten Forsyte siblings are elderly, but still healthy, and most definitely wealthy. Their children are in their adulthood. Young Jolyon, son of family patriarch old Jolyon, is in his thirties. He's married, has a daughter June, and is having an affair with her governess. James's son is Soames, whom Jolyon dislikes. Soames falls in love with Irene, a penniless music teacher. She does not love him, but marries him anyway. Young Jolyon breaks with his family, runs off with the governess, and tries to become a painter. In 1886, in an attempt to save his marriage, Soames hires June's fiance, an architect, to build a house for Irene. Irene and the architect have an affair. Soames, in a jealous rage, rapes Irene. The architect dies in an accident. Irene leaves Soames. The family ruptures over the affair: the Jolyons against the Jameses, the Nicholases, the Rogers, and everybody else.

In 1899, Soames finally seeks to divorce Irene, but finds a lack of recent evidence to use against her in court. He sees her, and his love is reawakened. So is her loathing. She has an affair with no-longer-young Jolyon. They have a son, Jon Forsyte. Soames remarries and has a daughter, Fleur Forsyte.

In 1920, Jon and Fleur meet and, over the objections of both sets of parents, fall in love. Their affair is cut short, however, when Jolyon tells Jon all about Irene's marriage to Soames. Jolyon dies of a heart attack immediately after the confession. Jon flees to America, loving mother in tow. Fleur marries young baronet Michael Mont. They have a socialite London sort of marriage, with socialite sort of problems. Fleur is always watched over by her father, Soames, now gray and much like his father James before him. In 1926, Jon returns from America and encounters Fleur. She maneuvers him into a brief affair. He ends the affair. Stricken, Fleur accidentally starts a fire in her father's house. Soames saves Fleur, at the cost of his own life.


The title music is by Eric Coates, the opening movement 'Halcyon Days' of his Three Elizabeths Suite. Amazon has it.

Differences from the novels

The episode guide links each hour to the matching chapters in the novels, where they exist. The first three episodes dramatize some of the backstory for The man of property, paying special attention to Young Jolyon's affair with his daughter's governess, Soames' courtship of Irene, and the early marriage of Winifred and Monty Dartie. The remainder of the series tracks Galsworthy's six novels, with occasional omissions and inventions.

The modern adaptation, being filmed as I type in August 2001, claims to avoid the pitfall of the older series, which was said to drag in the middle. And it does indeed drag through most of the second trilogy, only picking up its earlier power in the last couple of episodes. Galsworthy's novels dragged through the second trilogy, only really living when the storyline immersed himself in Soames's point of view. The series drags even more with Soames separated from Irene.

This early review of the new adaptation touches on the differences among that, the 1967 version, and Galsworthy's novels.

[See Ceej's commentary on the novels, in progress.]

Getting The Forsyte Saga yourself

Irene, Cousin Holly, and
	Jon's wife Americans at last have a convenient way to watch the series! BBC America has released a DVD set of all 26 episodes, complete with deleted scenes, outtakes, interviews, and other fun stuff. Amazon has it.

That DVD set is Region 1 encoded, so if you're in the UK and don't have a region-switching DVD player, your only option is the VHS videotapes in PAL format. You can order them from Amazon UK by following these links:

volume 1: episodes 1-4
volume 2: episodes 5-8
volume 3: episodes 9-11
volume 4: episodes 12-14
volume 5: episodes 15-17
volume 6: episodes 18-20
volume 7: episodes 21-23
volume 8: episodes 24-26

Complete cast list

Color promotional shot of Irene and Young Jolyon The stars:
Eric Porter .... Soames Forsyte
Nyree Dawn Porter .... Irene Heron
Kenneth More .... Jolyon 'Jo' Forsyte
Susan Hampshire .... Fleur Mont
John Welsh .... Uncle James Forsyte
Joseph O'Conor .... Old Jolyon Forsyte
Margaret Tyzack .... Winifred Dartie

The early family:
Terence Alexander .... Monty Dartie
John Barcroft .... George Forsyte
June Barry .... June Forsyte
John Baskcomb .... Uncle Timothy Forsyte
John Bennett .... Phillip Bosinney
A. J. Brown .... Uncle Roger Forsyte
Jonathan Burn .... Val Dartie
Fay Compton .... Aunt Ann Forsyte
Ursula Howells .... Frances Forsyte
Lana Morris .... Helene Hilmer/Forsyte
Suzanne Neve .... Holly Forsyte/Dartie
Nora Nicholson .... Aunt Juley Forsyte
Dalia Penn .... Annette Lamotte/Forsyte
Kynaston Reeves .... Uncle Nicholas Forsyte
Fanny Rowe .... Emily Forsyte
Nora Swinburne .... Aunt Hester Forsyte
George Woodbridge .... Uncle Swithin Forsyte
Michael York .... Jolyon 'Jolly' Forsyte

The family in the 20s:
Richard Armour .... Jack Cardigan
Christopher Benjamin .... Prosper Profond
Caroline Blakiston .... Marjorie Ferrar
Anne De Vigier .... Imogen Cardigan
Karin Fernald .... Anne Wilmot
Hal Hamilton .... Francis Wilmot
Martin Jarvis .... Jolyon "Jon" Forsyte
Sarah Harter .... Francie Forsyte
Cyril Luckham .... Sir Lawrence Mont
Nicholas Pennell .... Michael Mont

Eric Porter | The Forsyte Saga | Hands of the Ripper | Kaleidoscope | Ceej's site