Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Elizabeth McGovern

If I had been told a couple of months ago that I would enjoy watching a British TV series about the happenings of a noble English family and their servants in the early part of the 20th century, I would have dismissed the idea out of hand.  But, after hearing about how good Downton Abbey was ad nauseum, I watched the first episode and was immediately hooked.  I’ve now watched the entire first three seasons, and anxiously await more episodes to become available.

The only American actor in Downton Abbey’s fine ensemble cast is Elizabeth McGovern, who plays Cora Crawley, the Duchess of Grantham, with aplomb.  However, the first time I saw Ms. McGovern as Cora I felt a sudden, inexplicable pain in my stomach.  At first I didn’t understand the nature of the pain, nor the reason I felt it.  After a bit of research, it all made sense.

A cursory look at Elizabeth McGovern’s IMDb page reminded me that her second major role was that of Jeannine Pratt, in 1980’s multiple-Oscar winning “Ordinary People”, starring Donald Sutherland, Mary Tyler Moore, Timothy Hutton and Judd Hirsch.  Even though Ms. McGovern was 19 years old at the time, she played a highschool student, a year or two younger.  And there it was, plain as day, the cause of my pain.

You see, even though I share my birth year (1961) with Elizabeth McGovern, it did not bother me to see her playing her Ladyship the Duchess, clearly a woman of a certain age.  What bothered me was that Ms. McGovern managed to go from teenager to grandmother, all during my adulthood!  For I was in my sophomore year at Babson College when I saw “Ordinary People”.

Realizing that I have been an adult during Ms. McGovern’s entire transformation from Jeannine Pratt to Cora Crawley viscerally brought home the fact that I have been around for a long time.  It was not simply a matter of noting that a woman my age was now playing older roles.  It was getting coldcocked by the fact that, as an adult, I have witnessed the nascent stages of an actress’s career, and am now witnessing the same career’s denouement.

Time seems going by at a pace as artificially accelerated as it is in those time-lapse videos of flowers blooming.  I could use some slow motion.  And now.