Creator Julian Fellowes reveals what lies behind this little-known yet pivotal period in American history, sumptuously depicted in his new series.
Whereas Downton Abbey will return to the cinema next March, for his 2nd film, the creator Julian Fellowes unveils this evening, on HBO (and tomorrow in France on OCS), his new series: The Gilded Age. Once again, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Gosford Park embarks on a great historical drama. A beautiful series in costumes, which transports us to New York in 1880.
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An unknown period “and little told on television or in the cinema until now”, believes the creator for Première, before returning to the origins of the project: “I have been interested in this period in particular for a very long time. I started by discovering a book about the Vanderbilt family and the daughter, Consuelo, who was one of the most famous “dollar princesses”. I didn’t really understand then what the phenomenon of Gilded Age… Then I read about Jay Gould, Andrew Carnegie, and all those people. It infused me. Until I said to myself that there was the potential to make a series of it. But initially, I wanted to do something around the Vanderbilts specifically. Except that it would have been too limited, too constraining. Because it would have been necessary to remain in a pure historical truth. As a result, I invented characters, families of Gilded Age.”
But what is this Gilded Age, literally The golden age from America ? Julian Fellowes, a history buff, recounts and analyzes:
“I believe this is a major moment in American history, since this is where the nation became a country in its own right and broke away from its European roots. America took the reins of its own destiny. Because you have to realize that before the Civil War, the Aristocracy in New York was made up of European immigrants. Scots or Dutch, who came with the customs of Europe. But these new rich Americans have arrived with new visions, new desires.”
Thus, from the 1870s, with a country to be rebuilt and driven by an industrial boom (that of the railways in particular), America experienced a period of economic prosperity, which was accompanied by vast social and cultural changes:
“It’s a bit like the American Renaissance”, summarizes the creator about this Gilded Age. “They wanted to build palaces, museums, in their own way… Not just by copying what was being done in Paris or London. These great industrialists, who were also monstrous in certain respects, it must be said, built this modern American society, a unique mix. And this is the soil from which the dominating America of the 20th century was forged, this confidence necessary to reign over the Western world 30 years later…”