CHARLES & DIANA:
A ROYAL LOVE STORY
As it premiered three days before The Royal Romance of Charles and Diana, I have opted to review Charles & Diana: A Royal Love Story first.
We all can look back on such television films as CBS Network's Charles & Diana: A Royal Love Story and its ABC rival, The Royal Romance of Charles and Diana, with a hint of bemusement at how innocent the public was, accepting the Archbishop of Canterbury's assertion that "this is the stuff of which fairy tales are made". Released a year after His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales married then-Lady Diana Spencer, A Royal Love Story went deep into creating the mythology of 'obscure yet titled lady captures the heart of a future king', feeding perhaps a public fascination with both the power of love and the power of monarch.
Now in retrospect this tale of "the marriage of the century" looks almost ghoulish in how it presented a fairy tale that ended up as a horror film. A Royal Love Story even has moments that, in hindsight, look cartoonishly awful, not that the actual production didn't do that already. A Royal Love Story is surprisingly flat, with some actors pretty embarrassed to be there and nothing that suggests that it is either royal or a love story.
Lady Diana Spencer (Caroline Bliss), daughter of Earl Spencer (Charles Gray), is fascinated by Charles, Prince of Wales (David Robb). For the moment, Charles is more involved with her sister Sarah (Susan Skipper) but she essentially rejects him.
Charles is slightly despondent at not having a wife, knowing the pressures the future Princess of Wales will have adds an extra burden to his loneliness. He is also devastated by the assassination of his great-uncle Lord Louis Mountbatten (David Langton), who is his 'honorary grandfather'. Diana comes, hesitantly at first, then they fall in love.
This delights Charles' grandmother Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother (Mona Washbourne) and pleases Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (Margaret Tyzack). With some help from Charles' friends, Andrew Parker-Bowles (Jeremy Clyde) and his wife, Camilla (Jo Ross), the two lovebirds spend time together as Diana navigates her new life as first fiancee and later future Queen of Great Britain.
With the span of nearly forty years, A Royal Love Story isn't even good as kitsch entertainment. The story drags as neither Diana or Charles appear to have anything to motivate what is supposed to be said 'royal love story'.
Instead, we see some almost disturbing moments. The opening title sequence for example juxtaposes Lady Diana running after Charles, perhaps literally, with a royal hunting party. It seems as I said almost ghoulish given what happened in the end to start out this way. However, I do not know if director James Goldstone and/or screenwriter John McGreevey intended to send out some kind of subtext.
We also have the very unfortunate plot development of the Parker-Bowles being good friends and nurturers to this fairy tale romance. Again it's not fair adding what we know now to what no one outside this circle knew then, but I wouldn't blame anyone from laughing if they were to see Camilla Parker-Bowles giving comfort and romantic advise to a lovelorn Diana.
The scenes of their supposed love affair are stilted and almost boring, not helped by the lead performances. Either The Prince of Wales has a very curious tone or David Robb was directed to try and sound like James Mason. Leaving apart the Mason-like speaking Robb did, his Prince Charles didn't have any actual emotion. Bliss, to her credit, looks like Diana, Princess of Wales. However, sometimes she was unintentionally hilarious, as when attempting to show a mix of shock and horror when photographers tricked her into posing where her skirt didn't cover her bare legs. When she has her 'breakdown' at the hounding press, she was equally if unintentionally hilarious.
Robb and Bliss, even with their best efforts, have no connection.
Washbourne, in her penultimate role, was miscast as The Queen Mother. For some reason she came across as a washerwoman rather than a jolly regal lady. Christopher Lee looked simply embarrassed to be there as Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. To be fair he had very limited screen-time, but in the few scenes he was in, Lee looked so ill at ease, as if he knew it was all for some quick cash and hoped to appear as little as possible to avoid damaging his reputation.
Gray sounds as if he was going to do the Time Warp and Rod Taylor as Charles' aide really had nothing to do. Again, in fairness they had little material to work with, so one cannot put all the blame on them. Hopefully they all made enough out of this snoozefest.
Charles & Diana: A Royal Love Story is more A Royal Slog.