Manor House Mystery
Gosford Park (2001)
Gosford Park continues where the series “Upstairs, Downstairs” had gone in the 1970s with a focus on both the rich upperclass and its supporting staff, the many butlers, cooks, and footmen of a grand English estate, all within the context of a murder mystery. In this case, however, even more emphasis is placed on the serving class, for it is only through them that the audience learns details about the characters “above stairs.”
Although outdoor scenes and some above-stairs scenes for Gosford Park were filmed on location at Wrotham Park in Hertfordshire and Syon House near London, the below-stairs scenes were shot on sound stages. The archive contains watercolor set renderings of the servants’ spaces by Robert Altman’s son, Stephen Altman, who served as Production Designer for the film.
A faxed letter from screenwriter Julian Fellowes to Bob Balaban (actor and co-writer of Gosford Park) was also forwarded to Robert Altman. In it, Fellowes describes his idea for the opening of the film, including a detailed account of chauffeured cars depositing guests at the entrance to the manor house, after which the cameras surprisingly follow staff into the servants’ halls. Fellowes’s interest in pre-war country estates has continued with his current production of Downton Abbey for the BBC and PBS.