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Fortunes of War – #1/7 – The Balkans: September 1939 – Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson


Fortunes of War is a 1987 BBC television adaptation of Olivia Manning’s cycle of novels Fortunes of War. It stars Kenneth Branagh as Guy Pringle, lecturer in English Literature in Bucharest during the early part of the Second World War, and Emma Thompson as his wife Harriet. Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson met filming the TV series and married in real life. Other cast members included Ronald Pickup, Robert Stephens, Alan Bennett, Philip Madoc and Rupert Graves. The series stays relatively faithful to the original novels, with no notable departures from their plot.

This episode

Newlyweds Guy and Harriet Pringle arrive in Bucharest, as does the impoverished Prince Yakimov, who takes a temporary job as a journalist on a British paper to save himself from destitution. Harriet is introduced to her fellow expatriates (making friends with the middle-class Bella, who has married a local man) and to Guy’s Romanian friend and admirer Sophie. Their happy life is interrupted by the assassination of the Romanian prime minister Călinescu and Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland. Rumours fly of a German invasion of Romania and Guy, though absorbed in his work and organising social events, is encouraged by his Communism to take steps to protect the family of a Jewish student of his, Sasha Drucker, from the anti-Semitic Romanian regime.

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