- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 11, 2007

Our Wallis

Many Americans, judging from the tabloids, relish gossip about the British monarchy. But only one royal scandal was created by an American. That’s why Windsor watchers in this country should be glued to their seats for the U.S. premiere of “Wallis & Edward” on BBC America tonight at 9.

After reigning for 325 days, King Edward VIII abdicated the throne in 1936 to marry the American divorcee Wallis Simpson. “Wallis & Edward” follows the star-crossed lovers from their first meeting to their eventual wedding. But don’t expect a history lesson. The British television film takes a few liberties with the facts to create a mostly engrossing drama.

The story is told firmly from the perspective of Wallis (Joely Richardson, “Nip/Tuck”). Miss Richardson has more than a passing resemblance to the Baltimore-born socialite, and is completely believable in the role. What’s less clear is why the Prince of Wales, the heir presumptive’s title when the pair met, fell so head over heels in love with her.

Stephen Campbell Moore (“The History Boys”) doesn’t look much like the prince, but he’s a fine actor. His role begins as Edward takes Wallis as his mistress while she is still married to her second husband, Ernest Simpson. Ernest doesn’t seem to mind at first — he enjoys the prestige that comes with being an intimate of the heir to the throne. Wallis obviously does as well. Her refusal to kowtow to the establishment clearly besots Edward.

“It’s the kind of thrill that makes the rest of your life disappointing,” her Aunt Bessie (Miriam Margolyes) warns. But Wallis doesn’t expect the affair to last long. In fact, she’s portrayed as rather reluctant to begin the liaison or to make it official. “Just because he’s the king doesn’t mean you have to hand over your wife,” she tells her husband when Edward insists they divorce.

The personal side of things is well told, if at times it is a bit melodramatic (and steamy). It’s not overly romanticized — it’s never clear whether Wallis truly loved the man who gave up a kingdom for her.fact.

The most moving scene is truthful, however. Mr. Moore does an admirable job with that famous radio address in which the former king tells his people, “I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as king as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love.”

Dave Moore (TV’s “The Forsyte Saga”) directs, while the script is the debut of Sarah Williams, who also wrote the upcoming feature film on Jane Austen, “Becoming Jane.” The Americans here are played by Brits with sometimes imperfect accents.

Time magazine, in naming Wallis its woman of the year for 1936, said she helped lead Britain “into a more or less hectic and ‘American’ future.” Now Americans can see dramatized the historic work of one countrywoman.

More Chris haters

Orlando Jones and Todd Bridges will be on tonight’s episode of “Everybody Hates Chris,” airing at 8 on the CW.

Mr. Jones (“Mad TV”) guest stars as Mr. Newton, a scholarly substitute teacher who makes Chris’ life miserable, while Mr. Bridges (“Diff’rent Strokes”) plays Doc’s nephew Monk in the episode.

Compiled by Kelly Jane Torrance from staff reports.

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