Duchess Duke Street: Complete Collection – DVD Review

Based on the life of Rosa Lewis, the Duchess of Duke Street tells the story of a young woman who goes from learning to be a good cook to the best chef in Edwardian London, and manager of an exclusive hotel.  A treasured program from 1979-1980 Masterpiece Theater on PBS, both series of the story are available from Acorn Media in this DVD set.

Gemma Jones stars as heroine Louisa Leyton whose greatest desire was to make her way in the world as a good cook.  Taken on as an apprentice to a master chef in one of London’s great houses Louisa learned quickly and produced dishes that gained the notice of society guests, including the Prince of Wales.  This notice came with a high price, and Louisa was talked into marriage with the young butler of the house, so that the Prince could dally with a married woman. 

The interest ended when Edward became King.  The spirited Louisa realized that she would need to make her own fortune so she and her husband invested everything in the purchase of a nice but falling down hotel, the Bentick, with the ambition of turning it into an elegant place known for its fine dining.

Louisa had earned a reputation as the most sought after chef in society.  In addition to having the hotel, she worked to present dinners, and cater for London’s elite parties.  Unfortunately her husband Mr. Trotter could not adapt to being a working man again and drank and gambled away their money.  When Louisa returned from a multi week job, she discovered that her husband had cleaned out the wine cellar and had run up incredible debt with the hotel suppliers. 

Knowing that she could not continue with him, she threw Mr. Trotter out and began a plan to pay back her creditors.  Long hours and harsh work took its toll, and Louisa succumbed to exhaustion.  An accidental meeting with an old friend Charlie Tyrell, saved her life and with his help she was able to restore the hotel and her business, making the Bentick the most popular discreet hotel in London. 

Louisa’s indomitable spirits were constantly put to the test, and when World War I broke out, she took a patriotic stance to make life easier for her countrymen.  She housed soldiers without accepting pay, and kept up the spirits of everyone in her circle of friends, employees and guests.

The Duchess of Duke Street Complete Collection has both seasons of the series on 10 discs with 31 episodes of the complete U. K. broadcast.  Specials include a biography of Rosa Lewis, cast filmographies, background for the Edwardian period, and photo galleries.  In spite of the trials and tribulations that fell to her lot, Louisa soldiers on with a passion.  She set out to conquer the world of cooking, and ended up an icon for strength and good will.  Her feisty attitude served her well, and makes her one of the most memorable of the PBS miniseries heroines. 

If you are a fan of the series, you will want to own this set, if you have never seen it, treat yourself to an absolutely delicious experience, buy and watch The Duchess of Duke Street.  Be certain to add a good wine and something delectable to eat as you enjoy watching the lavish entertaining of the Edwardian days, and to bolster your spirits during the time of sobering restrictions of World War I. 

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