Gratuitous Costume Drama Blogging: The Gruff

Lieutenant Hornblower climbs the rigging with a sword raised high

Ioan Gruffudd as Horatio Hornblower

Will ye no’ come back again?
Will ye no’ come back again?
More missed in breeches ye canno’ be
Will Gruff no’ come back again?

Dammit, Hollywood is still pretty much wasting him (although I hope he’s enjoying the creature comforts). All those later books after Horatio made post-captain and really started to be the John McClane of the day – he’s so much more the right age now! Moar broadsides and cutting-outs, me hearties! Plz?

I was listening to somebody on the radio a few weeks ago talking about the Hornblower series and Gruffudd taking on this breakout role, and how his nervousness about Not Fucking It Up was very real and that part of Hornblower’s character was not requiring any acting from the Gruff at all. It worked very well.

Ioan Gruffudd stands on a windswept clifftop with his back to the crashing sea, wearing Regency period costume

Ioan Gruffudd as Jeremy Poldark in Poldark (1996)

Apparently he was less well received in the 1996 version of Poldark, which I’m not very sorry to have missed, despite my abundance of Gruff-love.

In 1996 an adaptation of “The Stranger From the Sea” in a controversial production by HTV, using a completely new cast featuring John Bowe as Ross Poldark and Mel Martin as Demelza. Fans protested and over 50 members of the Poldark Appreciation Society picketed HTV’s headquarters in Bristol wearing 18th century costumes.[3] The pilot was not a success and no further episodes were made. [source]

These days they’d do that protest as a flashmob. In my mind.

Ross and Demelza in a tender moment from Poldark

Angharad Rees (Demelza) & Robin Ellis (Ross)

I still love the seventies Poldark, because part of me wanted to be Demelza as played by Angharad Rees, although I secretly wanted her to tell the brooding Ross to just get on with it and sod off with Elizabeth then. Tall, dark, handsome and utterly irritating.

I’m not really sure who would have been good enough for her though, unless Hornblower happened to be passing by.

Addendum: If you’ve never read either the Hornblower or the Poldark novels, I recommend giving both series a try.  Hornblower commits more derring-do and mayhem than can possibly be good for a chap, but he’s never truly confident of his own skills as a leader.  Poldark is full of star-crossed lovers and simmering generational feuds.  Both authors  (C.S. Forester and Winston Graham respectively) were meticulous in researching historical details for the communities in which their characters lived.

There’s a reason both series, both as books and as TV, are cult classics.  They’re just that good.

Categories: arts & entertainment, history

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6 replies

  1. For the Compleat Period Gruff, I should have included:
    Phillip Bosinney in The Forsyte Saga

    Lancelot in King Arthur

    William Wilberforce in Amazing Grace

    I may have missed a few.

  2. *happy sigh*

    I was a Hornblower fan from way back in early teen-hood, the Gruff most definitely did not disappoint.

  3. There was a bit of discussion of Forester’s inspirations for Hornblower, which seems to have been a combination of various adventurous seafaring men, but Thomas Cochrane is one hell of a character. I suspect given Hornblower a more humble family origin is a nod to Nelson and Cook, although there’s not that much else particularly similar except the intellect.

  4. I can’t think of anything coherent to write, when so much beauty is before me. Sigh.
    I have all the Poldark novels. Every now and then, when we are having a cleanout, my husband suggests that we should get rid of them. Wretched man.

  5. Man, I miss the Hornblower series. :/

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