Denis Granger on the origins of Brideshead Revisited

The idea of Brideshead, did that come from Sir Denis?

No, I went to Denis and said, “I want to do this novel.”


Actually, it had been suggested to me by one of the directors on Country Matters, Donald McWhinnie, who was a great old BBC hand, and he directed The Four Beauties. And just casually one day, he said, “Have you thought about doing Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited? And it was a very long time since I’d read it. I read it immediately after the war. A male cousin had given it to me, saying, “You’ll love this,” and I had. So I went back to it and I thought… I thought it was marvellous. And I went to Denis, I think it was, and said, “I think I like to this next.” And it was agreed to do it all on film. And of course it was very highly experimental for the day because nothing like it of that scale had ever been done all on film except Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, which was just a year before, but with nothing like the production values. There we were with foreign locations, scenes of… hunting scenes, scenes on Atlantic liners… I mean, in very grand houses… I mean, it was enormously spectacular … I don’t think anybody had quite worked out how it should be done. And of course we were making it. I mean, we started off to do six hours and ended up making 11!


Yes! It was started off as a six-hour project, but we got hopelessly out of phase mainly because we weren’t able to time it – none of us had done film on this scale before. And we should have been controlled like a feature film is controlled, like the way with production guarantors … and guarantees of how much you will shoot a day and so on like that. And we went into it quite blithely, not realising that it would, in fact, expand like this. I mean, we should have been tied down in terms of episodes and in terms of filming, but we weren’t, and in their wisdom had failed to do that. I mean, you know, if that had been a film production, we would have accountants on the set. You know, a feature film is a very strictly controlled affair. But we were just out. I remember David Plowright , who was managing director sending these rather plaintive… they were telexes in those days, “Do you ever intend to come home to base?”

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