Nancy Astor  (1982)

 

 

 

Director:     Richard Stroud. 

Starring:     Victoria Burgoyne (Lucy), Joe Praml (Col. Newbourne), David Riley (Hotel Manager), Lisa Harrow (Nancy Astor), Dan O'Herlihy (Chiswell 'Chillie' Langhorne), Sylvia Syms (Nanaire Langthorne), Lise Hilboldt (Brand), Pierce Brosnan (Robert 'Bob' Gould Shaw), James Fox (Waldorf Astor), Julian Glover (Lord Revelstoke), Nigel Havers (Bobby Shaw), Annabelle Lanyon (Nancy as a girl), Neil McCarthy (Reverend Neve), Lillian Silverstone (Irene), Dallas Adams (Dana Gibson), William Hope (Harry), Kathleen Byron (Edith Cunard).

3 DVD set from Masterpiece Theatre follows the story of Nancy Langhorne born in Virginia, USA who married the wealthy Waldorf Astor and became the first woman to take her seat in the British House of Commons

 

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film.

 

Episode 1.  The Langhornes of Virginia. 

A locomotive comes down the tracks.  Nancy Langhorne is leaving the south and is now in Yankee territory.  Nancy thinks about the war being over for 30 years and yet people are still fighting it.  She says the only thing she remembers about it were the many parades for the dead. 

She was born in May 1879 in Danville, Virginia.  When she was six the family moved to Richmond, Virginia.  Altogether, there were 11 children in the family.  But three of the children died before they could even walk.  Her eldest brothers were Keene and Harry.  Her eldest sister, Lizzie, is the only married Langhorne.  Sister Irene was very beautiful.  After Irene came Nancy.  She never could behave like a lady.  Then came gentle Phyllis, the kindest of them all.  The two young ones are Buck and Nora. 

Nancy's father is "Chillie" Langhorne.  The Yankees had taken all his land from him, so now father was a poker player.  On his way home, he breaks up a fight between two black men working on a railway track.  Dad breaks up the fight in a very gracious way and this impresses the railway man Colonel Davis.  He gives Chillie a job on the railway.  And within a year the two men become partners in the railway business.  At the time, they were building railroads from the Blue Ridge Mountains in Western Virginia clear to the ocean.  Chillie becomes rich again and buys a mansion in Albemarle County, Virginia.  The mansion, called the Mirador, belonged to Mrs. Bowen-Funsten. 

Irene is picked by Mr. Ward McAllister to marry him.  Mother and father head to New York City to chaperone Irene.  Lizzie is in charge of the household while mom and dad are away. 

One day the archdeacon at Ivy, named Frederick Neve, comes to the Langhorne house.  He is known as a missionary.  He tends to the white mountain people in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Nancy is so excited at the idea that she volunteers to help the missionary cause in the mountains.  As narrator, Nancy says:  "It was the beginning of my salvation.  At least, I thought it was for a while." 

Nancy goes to help the poor people of the mountains  She sees how miserable and hard their lives are. 

When mama and papa get back from New York City, Nancy is in the mountains.  Phyllis covers for Nancy by telling her father that Nancy is out on a horse ride. 

Nancy becomes very committed to helping the mountain people.  She even impresses the reverend.  Nancy comes home late for dinner and father gives her some corporal punishment.  Phyllis rushes upstairs after dad comes down stairs again and asks Nancy if she was hurt?  Nancy replies:  "I don't care, Phyl.  After what I've seen today it doesn't hurt at all."

Nancy doesn't speak much to her father because of the corporal punishment.  One day Rev. Neve explains what Nancy has been doing with the mission and why she came late to dinner.  So dad apologizes to Nancy for his temper.  Nancy is not moved by his apology.  Dad gets frustrated and says to Nancy that he is asking her for her forgiveness.  Nancy thinks about it then asks her father if he really wants her forgiveness?  Yes, he does.  The little girl says she will forgive her father on one condition: that he give financial support to the mission.  Dad gets exasperated, but his daughter is so noble in her pleas to help the poor people, that dad gives in to her. 

Irene is about to marry a Yankee.  He is the famous artist Charles Dana Gibson.  He immortalized Irene when Gibson used her as the model as the famous Gibson Girl.  She became the most fashionable lady in the country. 

And now it's Nancy's turn to search for a beau.  Mother and father force her to dress up to meet a handsome boy from one of the best society families, but when Nancy does come down to meet the fellow, she runs out of the house and away from the area.  Father now decides to send Nancy away to a boarding school where they will teach her how to be a lady. 

New York City, 1896.  In New York Nancy is teased a lot on account of her thick southern accent.  She gives as good as she gets, but it does wear her down.  One of the young ladies has been invited out to the Brakers and she loves it that Nancy doesn't even know what that is.  It's the fabulous mansion of the Vanderbilt's in Newport, Rhode Island.  Nancy one morning just travels back to her home in Virginia. 

Nancy accompanies Irene and her husband to a polo match.  She doesn't even watch the match.  She just keeps on complaining to Irene about how much she dislikes her school.  Irene tries to tell Nancy about Robert Shaw, the hero polo player for Harvard.  She is about to tell Nancy his name, and Nancy just asks why would she ever want to know the man's name?  Shaw overhears the remark and says, yes indeed, why should anyone want to know his name?  He says hello to Irene and Nancy.  Nancy says hello in a very formal way, and Shaw says that greeting was rather formal for a southern girl.  Nancy says, well next time, she will just swoon at his feet. 

Irene and Nancy get into the back of their open carriage.  Someone is delivering flowers and he shouts out for Miss Nancy Longhorne.  Nancy says that's her and the fellow presents her with the flowers, compliments of Mr. Robert Shaw.  This really impresses Nancy.  Here's a man who can stand up to her wicked mocking remarks. 

 

Episode 2.  The Gentleman from Boston. 

Nancy attends a formal dance and gets lots of attention from men.  Robert Shaw arrives with a woman.  He soon jettisons the woman and zones in on Nancy.  They go outside and play a little croquet.  Shaw is about to kiss her, when Irene calls out for her.  Nancy goes inside. 

Back home Nancy asks Irene if Shaw will ever call on her again?  She herself doubts it, since she is so different from all the women he goes with.  Irene says it's just possible that Shaw just might like Nancy because she was so different than the other ladies. 

On a train, Shaw runs into his friend Gibson.  They have a drink together and Shaw asks Gibson about Nancy.  Shaw learns that Nancy is no longer at the academy, since she talked her father out of sending her back there. 

Shaw takes Nancy to the opera.  On another occasion, Shaw takes her for a buggy ride in the park where the rich people visit with each other.  He kisses her. 

Nancy talks about marrying Robert Gould Shaw and her father damns the man for being a Yankee.  He's so mad, that it makes one wonder if he doesn't want to lose his beloved daughter to another man.  Mother sides with Nancy in the loud arguments that follow.  But mother also tells Nancy in private, that it hard on a man to lose his favorite daughter.  Nancy vociferously denies the validity of that statement, saying that her father has certainly never showed that she was his favorite.  Mother interprets this reticence as just part of father's obsession over his favorite daughter. 

Father comes into Nancy's room and says that he better get a look at her fellow.  Nancy is happy about that.

Shaw tells Nancy that she is moving a little too fast, and Nancy asks if he is backing out of what he said?  Shaw says no.  It's just that she hardly even knows who he is.  Nancy dismisses that concern.  So Shaw sets up a meeting in a public restaurant so his father can meet Nancy.  But first, Shaw talks to his father about marrying Nancy.  His father knows very well the problems of his son: drinking, carousing, womanizing.  He says he's not worried about the girl, but about his son.  Is he sure he loves her?    Shaw says yes. Nancy now arrives and Shaw introduces her as the woman he is going to marry.  This comment shocks Nancy, since she wasn't sure of Shaw's commitment to her.

Shaw comes down to Virginia to meet Nancy's family.  He talks about the fact that he was named for his first cousin who was killed in the Civil War at Fort Wagner.  [In fact, his cousin led the black 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment.]  Nancy, Phyllis and mother keep trying to change the subject, but father keeps up on the topic for awhile.  Then he takes Shaw into the living room to talk to him in private. 

Nancy and Robert marry.  They honeymoon at the White Springs Hotel.  At night in the hotel room, Robert can tell that Nancy is scared about having sex.  So, he says he will leave her alone for awhile.  He goes down to the hotel bar.  He orders a drink, but then realizes he's not formally dressed.  So he goes back to the hotel room, but finds the doors locked.  He calls for Nancy to let him in and after awhile, she lets him in.  She is in her sleeping outfit, but she goes into the bedroom and locks the doors.  She has a bed made up on the sofa for her husband.  And that's where Robert sleeps. 

The next morning Nancy comes out fully dressed, acting as if nothing had happened.  Shaw tries to talk to her but she just keeps rattling off about one thing after another.  He ends up yelling at her to stop avoiding the topic.  She is silent for about two of Robert's questions and then returns to her jabbering.  He slaps her in the face.  Then in the hotel room he slaps her again to get her to stop talking.  That really makes Nancy angry and she says she's going home. 

Robert takes her home.  He waits outside the house in the carriage.  Her father is very angry with his daughter, saying that two days does not make a marriage.  Nancy can't quite say what the real problem is, but mother soon realizes the situation.  She sends her husband out of the room, so she can speak with Nancy in private.  She then apologizes to Nancy for not telling her about what happens in a marriage.  She was just too shy to give "the talk" to Nancy. 

Robert and his father-in-law wait in the living room for the talk to be over. 

The next morning Robert walks over to his wife on the front lawn to talk with her.  She tells him that if he still wants her, she will try to be a wife to him.  Robert is silent and Nancy asks if he wants her or not.  Roberts says:  "I reckon I do."

 

Episode 3.  Mr. and Mrs. Shaw. 

Massachusetts, 1898.  Things are not happy at the Shaw household.  Robert has been drinking a lot and Nancy has been complaining about it.  Phyllis comes to visit Nancy and Robert has forgotten all about the visit.  Phyllis notices almost immediately the tension in the room between the couple.  Robert excuses himself and goes to a society bar.  There he starts flirting with the widow Mrs. Convers.  She asks for a drink.  He brings her some champagne. 

While Shaw is away, Phyllis asks Nancy what's wrong?  Nancy replies that sometimes she just wishes she was dead.  She finally blurts out that she won't go to bed with Robert and he wants that. 

Shaw gets turned down by Mrs. Convers.  She says she still sees that he loves his wife.  Shaw comes home drunk and makes a scene.  Nancy locks herself in her room.  Phyllis is still in the house and Shaw says to her that he forgot she was here.  He tells her:  "All I want is to be loved by my wife.  That's all.  And it's destroying both of us."  He cries. 

Rev. Neve stops over to see Nancy in Boston.  Nancy tells him that she has lost purpose in her life.  Rev. Neve asks what's stopping Nancy from getting involved?  She says she has first to be a good wife to her husband.  She feels so hopeless. 

Shaw tries to see his old girlfriend Lucy, but she says he can't come in.  Shaw forces his way in and sees a man inside.  The fellow asks Lucy if this is a friend of hers, and she says no.  So the guy really beats up Shaw and knocks him down the stairs.  Then Lucy steals his wallet.   

Shaw comes home drunk and the cabbie demands $24 dollars from Mrs. Shaw.  Robert says someone stole all his money.  The two at home get into a vicious argument.  He throws his drink in her face and then tells her that the biggest mistake he ever made was in taking her back. 

Nancy sends for Phyllis.  Phyllis is very supportive of her sister and says there's no law that a woman has to stay unhappy for the rest of her live.  Further, Nancy will see that father will support her.  The problem is, however, that Nancy is pregnant with Robert's child. 

Robert goes to see Mrs. Shaw in the hospital.  He says he's not drinking anymore.  Nancy says that she never hated Robert, but she just can't love him.  Robert places his flowers at the foot of her bed and says goodbye to Nancy.  He leaves without seeing the baby boy.  He asks what is the name of the child, and the nurse says:  Robert Gould Shaw III. 

It's New Year's Eve, 1899.  The Langhornes are having a formal party.  Nancy gets a call from Robert, saying that he wants a divorce.  She tells him absolutely not. 

Currently, Robert is with the widow Mrs. Convers in a hotel in South Dakota. 

Robert marries the widow and becomes a bigamist.  His father and his lawyer come to speak with Nancy.  She gives in because she doesn't want to see Bob Shaw in jail for the sake of her son.  But, she will only divorce Shaw on the basis of adultery and not incompatibility. 

Nancy waits at the railway station to take a train ride with her mother and father to Lynchburg.  They are going to a horse show.  Her parents are late and Nancy waits impatiently.  She gets worried and takes a carriage back home.  She rushes up the steps to the house and then upstairs.  Her mother has already died.  Nancy sobs over her mother's body. 

 

Episode 4.  The Passenger on the Ocean Liner. 

At home Nancy keeps a tight rein on the household budget and her father complains about it.  She gives the black servants a raise though.  Father tells Nancy that he is sending her to England.  Nancy is still a young woman and it's not right that she should have to watch after her old father.  And Phyllis is going with Nancy. 

England.  1904.  Nancy is on a typical fox hunt and she takes a toss off her horse.  Phyllis and Nancy go to a formal ball at night.  Phyllis' marriage is  now on the rocks and both women are free to have a fun time.  Nancy gets introduced to Lord John Revelstoke.  He wants to dance with Mrs. Shaw, but her dance card is already filled up. 

Revelstoke makes sure he's around where Nancy is and gets his chance to walk with her.  He says he hopes to speak with her again.  She accepts an invitation to go motoring in the country.  While walking with Nancy on the motoring trip, Revelstoke says he is in love with her.  They soon are talking about marriage.  But a newspaperman interferes in the relationship.  He goes to speak with Nancy about Revelstoke already having a long time relationship with Mrs. Grenfell.  Nancy writes Revelstoke a letter breaking off the relationship.  She returns to Virginia. 

Coming back to England for the "season", Nancy is traveling on an ocean liner.  Waldorf Astor passes by Nancy who is sea sick and she says:  "Retribution'"  Astor asks what she is saying and she just tells him to go away.  On the same liner is Nancy's father and sister Phyllis.  Astor talks a bit with Nancy at the Captain's table.  Later he tells Nancy that they will see each other again.  

In England Revelstoke tries to see Nancy, but she just walks away from him.  Asquith invites Nancy to the reception for the German Ambassador.  Nancy comes, but when she sees that Revelstoke and Mrs. Grenfell are there together, she promptly leaves the room.  Revelstoke goes after her.  He says he wants to explain himself to her.  She says he can't, because he doesn't get it.  She asks:  "What exactly are you planning to achieve in your life that I might share?  With your money and status, what are you going to do with them?"  Revelstoke leaves.  Waldorf Astor comes by and starts talking with Nancy.  He reminds her that they met on the ocean liner.  Nancy is still riled up and she says:  "Of all the people I've met since leaving Virginia, you're the one I admired most.  You seemed to have ideals, not like those sheep in there.  Obviously, I was wrong."  He says he's sorry that he disappointed her and adds later:  "You're absolutely right."

Nancy starts seeing Waldorf.  Out of the blue, he asks Mrs. Shaw if she would marry him?  She says yes.

 

Episode 5.  A House in Buckinghamshire. 

Nancy and Waldorf marry.  They will live at Cliveden, a lavish estate in Buckinghamshire on the River Thames, near Taplow.   She really takes command of the servants, and she wants Waldorf to be a politician and not fritter his life away.  Waldorf is hurt by her thinking that he's just wasting his life away.  Nancy tells Phyllis in a letter that she sees less and less of Waldorf and she's afraid he's becoming a recluse like his father.  She also tells Phyllis that she feels so alone:  "Cliveden has become as empty as my life . . ." 

The doctor tells Waldorf that he has a weak heart and can't be so physically active as he once was.  And he has to have a special diet. 

Phyllis comes to see Nancy.  Nancy tells her how bored she is and how she longs to do something important.   But Waldorf comes first and he has his serious health problems.  Phyllis says that her sister always likes to run other people's lives, but she will never be satisfied until she can run her own life. 

Nancy invites people over for a formal dinner.  There are a lot of important politicians there and politics does get discussed because there is a mixture of people from different political parties.  Waldorf gets involved by championing the cause of the less fortunate.  Later he tells his wife that he thinks he made a fool of himself:  "Talking like an upstart to men like Curzon and Balfour."  Nancy is worried that Waldorf regrets what he said, but Waldorf says he doesn't regret it."  And that's what Nancy wanted to hear. 

Nancy plays golf with Lord George Curzon, the former Viceroy of India.  She wants him to talk to other important politicians about making room for a man like Waldorf.  Later, George says that a safe seat could be found for Waldorf in the shires.  She asks him straight out if George is going to nominate Waldorf?  George says yes. 

Nancy is pregnant. 

One day she sees some suffragettes actively protesting in order to get women the right to vote in elections. 

The Astors have King Edward VII over as guest of honor at a dinner.  After dinner they play cards.  George Curzon tells Astor that hey have found a seat for him in the West Country.  It's a fine, solid Tory constituency.  This comes as a shock to Waldorf.  After the party is over, Waldorf complains to his wife that she should have at least consulted him on the matter.  He was taken completely by surprise.  Waldorf wants to pick his own area to represent.  So, Nancy helps him find one. She suggests Plymouth.  There are a lot of needy people there.  Because the constituents are poor or not well off, they usually vote Labor.  Nancy suggests that Waldorf try and take Plymouth from Labor by championing the case of the less fortunate. 

Waldorf and Nancy go take a tour of Plymouth.  They stand out like a sore thumb in their expensive car and fancy clothes.  Nancy has the car stop.  She gets out and goes right into a crowd of poor people and starts talking away to them.  She explains who she is and who her husband is, and talks about how they want to help the people of Plymouth and that they will come back in a year asking for them to vote for her husband.  Then she gets back in the car.  Waldorf is amazed at Nancy's ability to just jump into a group of strangers and start talking to them. 

General Election 1910.  Plymouth.  Waldorf starts speaking to a crowd, but he can't hold their attention for long.  Meanwhile, Nancy goes door to door speaking to people.  Most of the people say they vote Labor, but Nancy tells them if this is all Labor has done for them, then they should let her talk to them. 

On a panel of politicians, Waldorf gives a speech to the people but he keeps coughing and doesn't seem at all well.  He faints at the podium while speaking. 

Waldorf does not win the election and he feels depressed.  Nancy tells him to cheer up for they will be back at the next election and they will win then.  Nancy goes outside to let off some steam.  An aide tells Waldorf that Labor only won by 583 votes and that's a great performance for the Tory party.  When the aide comes out, Nancy introduces herself to him.  Brand is the man's name and he has known Waldorf for a very long time.  Nancy asks him why did Waldorf keep his illness a secret from her?  He says that Waldorf didn't want to let her down. 

On another day, Nancy rushes over to tell Waldorf and Brand that Asquith has been forced to call another election.  Waldorf says he already knows that.  Now Nancy meets Philip Kerr.  Kerr is going to help Waldorf with his speeches. 

Waldorf wins the election.  After the election, Nancy seems a bit lost again.  She says her husband got everything he wanted to get this year and she feels a bit superfluous.  Her son Bobby feels neglected and becomes a bit hostile towards his mother. 

Philip Kerr is a Catholic and Nancy doesn't like Catholicism or Catholics.  She says Catholicism is nothing but a spiritual dictatorship.  Kerr is lucky because he is a disillusioned Catholic.  Waldorf asks Nancy if she realizes that Philip is falling in love with her?  She says yes she does.  She hugs her husband. 

 

Episode 6.  The First Lady.

Nancy has four children now.  And she has a portrait of herself by the famous American painter John Singer Sergent. 

Nancy hears by letter from Phyllis that their sister Lizzie has died.  That indeed is bad news.  Philip is here to pay a visit but Waldorf tells his servant to let him wait for awhile.  Waldorf tells his wife that Philip is becoming a nuisance.  He's at Cliveden more than Waldorf is.  When Nancy and Waldorf come out to see Philip, he's very angry with them.  Waldorf explains that one of Nancy's sisters has just died.  Now Philip apologizes.  Waldorf asks him what he wants, and Philip says he's going to India.

When Philip leaves Nancy goes running out of the room crying.  The doctor says she has an abscess in her stomach. 

Nancy turns more and more to spiritual thought.  Phyllis and a man named Henry are wanting to get married as soon as her divorce comes through.  Phyllis talks with Nancy about spirituality for awhile.  Nancy still has to have another operation and she's afraid she might die on the operating table.  Phyllis tells her not to think like that.  Someone told her that some people think that illness is all a matter of the mind.  If you pray enough, one can get rid of an illness.  This thought intrigues Nancy. 

One day someone sends Nancy a book entitled Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science.  She shares the book with Philip and he becomes a believer too. 

Waldorf is shocked by his wife's conversion to Christian Science.  She no longer takes any medicine and Waldorf is afraid that if the children get sick, she might not let them use medicines.  Nancy says the children won't get sick.  "Besides, the Astors will always survive, even if you do happened to lose one on the Titanic every now and again."  Waldorf is shocked at this last remark.  He asks Nancy to apologize.  Nancy says he's getting awfully serious.  He says:  "John Jacob died, and I consider what you've just said to be in very bad taste."  Nancy apologizes. 

Waldorf calls from London to Cliveden to tell his wife that it's war.  WWI has just started.  Cliveden becomes a hospital for the wounded.  Nancy gives out books to the men in the hospital beds and she also talks with them. 

Billy Grenfell comes into the hospital all dressed up in his army uniform.  He has come to say goodbye to Nancy. 

Waldorf has a job of checking on waste in the army.  He is Major Waldorf Astor now. 

Philip comes to see Nancy.  Bobbie is going into the army.  Nancy gets a telegram for Phyllis.  She says she will give the telegram to her sister.  Fearing the worst, she has Brand open the envelope.  It's what Nancy feared.  Henry's dead, killed on the Somme.  Nancy takes the telegram and walks over to tell and then console Phyllis. 

Waldorf's father buys a peerage and can now be a member of the House of Lords.  Waldorf, however, is not happy about this.  He wants to remain in the House of Commons representing Plymouth and says he doesn't want the peerage passed down to him.  The old man gets really angry and says that Waldorf is now cut out of his will.  Waldorf says that's good, because this way the Astor money won't corrupt him, as it did his father.  Dad now says that he sees no reason why they should ever meet again. 

With Henry dead, Bob Brand now asks Phyllis to marry him. Nancy congratulates them, but then she gets a note.  Nancy gives the note to Waldorf and runs out of the house.  Phyllis asks where is Nancy running off to?  Waldorf informs everyone that Bobbie's friend, Billy Grenfell, was killed at Ypres, just a mile from his brother. 

Prime Minister David Lloyd George announces:  "The armistice was signed at 5 am this morning.  Hostilities are to cease on all fronts at 11 am today."  Bobbie arrives home in his army uniform. Everyone is out celebrating the end of the war.  Bobbie just did find out from Aunt Phyllis about his maternal grandfather Chillie. 

Nancy and Waldorf take a tour of Plymouth and receive a very warm reception.  Nancy sees Waldorf get a sad look on his face.  She comes over to him and finds out that her father-in-law just died.  She asks Philip:  "On the lavatory?  Well, he certainly died in the style he deserved."  She then says that man has destroyed Waldorf's career.  They want to continue representing Plymouth. 

Waldorf and Philip have a surprise for Nancy.  They want her to run to replace her husband as the representative of Plymouth. 

Nancy hasn't given her answer, but Waldorf tells someone on the telephone that someone has to become the first woman member of Parliament, and Nancy's got the courage to do it. 

Waldorf announces his replacement as Lady Astor.  Some people are very happy about it, but others boo the idea.  Nancy stands right up to her detractors.  She also says that she is definitely going to fight for the rights of women.  She's a natural at public speaking. 

Nancy wins the election. 

 

Episode 7.  Scandals. 

Nancy practices her maiden speed to Parliament with her husband.  Bobbie comes in and grabs a drink of liquor.  Nancy is furious with Bobbie for this, probably fearing that he may be too much like his father, Robert Gould Shaw II. 

When she gives her maiden speech in Parliament, she observes that it was not easy for some members of Parliament to welcome the First Lady into the House.  She speaks out against excessive drinking of alcohol and for putting restrictions on this drinking. 

Bobbie has duty tonight, but he goes out to a nightclub with his friends.  Then in the morning he drives to Cliveden where he has a big argument with his mother over his drinking.  From there he sets off for his barracks. 

Philip comes to visit Nancy and she asks him why hasn't he been around more?  He says he has written her letters.  Nancy wants to know who is the woman who Philip is hanging around?  Her name is Victoria Netherton.  He says she is just an acquaintance. 

A member of Parliament, Bottomley, has been digging into the background of Lady Astor.  And now he releases the information to the press.  The headlines are that Lady Astor is divorced.  Bobbie picks up a paper. 

Bobbie confronts his mother about calling herself a widow rather than a divorced woman.  He says his mother hates his father and wishes she had never met him.  And that's why she hates him, her son. so much, because he's a constant reminder of his father.  He now says he's glad that Bottomley has had this  information made public, "because now the whole world will know what sort of a mother I have."

Nancy speaks to her constituents about the scandal.  There was only the charge of adultery in her divorce from her first husband, and not desertion.  But when she claimed to be a widow . . .  Here she is interrupted by a man who says they don't need to hear any more and urges her to tear up her prepared speech.  This gets a big round of support and Nancy does tear it up.  Bobbie's not happy about this. 

Bobbie gets himself drunk and he's missing duty tonight.  A fellow officer orders him back to his room and tells him he must report to his commanding officer in the morning. 

Nancy and Waldorf are in Virginia and Bobbie throws a big party while they are away.  He jumps into the pond with some of his other guests.  His sister Wissie comes and gets him, telling him mother and father are home.  Nancy is very angry to see Bobbie drenched in pond water.  She says she hopes that Bobbie doesn't have the duty today, and Bobbie tells her that will never be a problem again for he has resigned his commission.  He was caught drunk on duty and decided to avoid a court-martial.  Later, Nancy smashes a framed photograph of Bobbie.

General Election, 1929, Plymouth.  A crowd of leftists give her a hard time and someone throws a bottle that smashes on the ground a little ways away from Nancy. 

Bobbie goes to see his biological father at the Claridge Hotel.  He has a lot of questions to ask his father, such as, what were the grounds on which they got a divorce?  And did father love Nancy?  To the second question, Robert answers that yes, he loved Nancy more than he has ever loved anyone, but he could never make her happy.  Bobbie gets very emotional and says thanks and goodbye to his father. 

Nancy is going on a trip to the Soviet Union with the famous writer George Bernard Shaw.  Meanwhile, Bobbie is going to have sex for pay with a gentleman in the park.  Two policemen are going to catch them in the act.

In front of the press asking her questions about her trip, Philip whispers that Bobbie has been arrested. Nancy says that it's all her fault.  She goes to see Bobbie alone in his cell.  They have arranged it so that if Bobbie leaves the country for awhile, everything will be pushed under the carpet.  But Bobbie says he will just stand for trial and go to prison.  He doesn't think what he did is wrong.  Nancy asks what did he do it for?  Bobbie replies:  "Love."  Nancy starts crying and hugs Bobbie tight. 

 

Episode 8.  Guests for the Weekend. 

H. M. Prison.  While heading to the prison, Nancy thinks about her news conference she had when she returned from seeing Stalin.  Yes, she did ask Stalin when will he stop killing people?  He said killing people is part of the process of founding a communist state. She also told him that the Russian children are too clean.  They ought to have the freedom and room to run around and get muddy.  She says in England the people eat their children.  She told Stalin that she knows a lot about children, and especially so, because she has six children of her own.

Her car pulls up to the prison.  Bobbie is released from prison and he shakes the hand of the prison guard releasing him.  Bobbie then walks over to mother's car. 

In the news conference about her Soviet trip, Nancy says that Churchill is finished and you can forget about him. 

Bobbie speaks in bitterness to his mother, but his attitude changes when she tells him to just get in the car because she's taking him home.  Then he thanks his mother for picking him up and says he's sorry.  He also tells his mother that he doesn't want to talk about his four months in jail.  Then he apologizes to her once more saying that he has let her down again.  He then explains to her that he can't face Cliveden right now and wants to be dropped at Pineapple Place.  He just wants to be on his own for awhile. 

Nancy is furious with her grown children and her husband.  She tells Waldorf that he didn't have the courage to tell her face-to-face that he and their son Bill were thinking of replacing Nancy with David in Plymouth.  She ends by saying: "Nobody is going to take Plymouth from me, Waldorf.  Ever."

Nancy gets some bad news.  Her daughter's had an accident and damaged her spine.  Nancy rushes over to the hospital.  She is very angry that Wissie is even in the hospital.  She demands that Wissie get up and Wissie can speak to her Christian Science health guide.  The radiologist finally has to tell Nancy that Wissie is almost completely paralyzed.  There's no way the young woman can just get up and go home.  Nancy is still defiant and says she is taking Wissie out of here.  The radiologist tells her that if she moves her daughter, she could cripple her for life.  When Waldorf, Bobbie and Philip come to the hospital she erupts at them for betraying her and her beliefs in Christian Science. 

Wissie recovers after a month in a cast.  Bobbie and Aunt Phyllis come to see her and she's very elated at the return of her health.  They are having a good time, until mother shows up and they all shut up fast.  Mother says Wissie is well because of Wissie's strength and her mother's prayers. 

Nancy rides a motor cycle now.  She returns home to learn that Philip is going to Germany.  He got a personal invitation from Hitler himself.  Nancy tells him to write to her everyday. 

Bobbie dances with Wissie.  She wants to know if their mother will approve of her marrying James?  Bobbie says mother ain't going to approve, but since Wissie really loves James, then don't lose him.

Nancy goes a little crazy when Wissie says she's going to marry.  She even insults her daughter's character.  Nancy's especially angry because she doesn't even know the man's name.  She cools off a bit when Bobbie tells her that she is marrying a Lord, who is a member of the House of Lords. 

Philip returns from Nazi Germany with Hitler's personal banner.  There is a bit of an argument.  Philip is too understanding of Hitler, Bob Brand says the man presents a great danger and Nancy is somewhere between the two of them.  Nancy goes too far with her comments, mocking the fact that Bob is Jewish and making the man leave the room, followed by her own husband.  Alone with Philip, Nancy agrees to meet with Philip and the German Ambassador Von Ribbentrop in her house in London.   But when Nancy meets the German, she can't stand him.  She says he's a Nazi snob.  She later tells Philip that she's getting tired of all this talk about appeasement and maybe she's getting a little tired of Philip too. 

Nancy is writing a letter to Phyllis.  It has been six months since Phyllis had been at Cliveden.  She says she can come and apologize to her for her behavior because she knows that her sister doesn't hold any grudges.

Waldorf informs Nancy that in the newspapers they are being accused of being pro-Nazi, of using Cliveden to dictate to the government.  Nancy is unaffected by the charges and tells Waldorf to throw the paper into the fire. 

Nancy takes a call.  It's about Phyllis.  She went riding in the rain and fell off her horse.  Phyllis is now on her death bed.  Nancy rushes over to see her.  She apologizes to her sister for being too proud to apologize to her.  She asks for her sister's forgiveness, but Phyllis dies before she can answer.  Nancy cries over her sister's death. 

Waldorf works to console Nancy.  Later, Nancy pays a visit to Bobbie at his new place in Kent.  He has a boyfriend but Nancy doesn't want to meet him.  Bobbie mentions that the press has been beastly toward mother because of the "pro-Nazi" claim.  He advises mother to stop sympathizing with Hitler, or she is going to become a national scapegoat  for hating the Germans.  This makes Nancy mad as hell, and she stomps off, complaining that at least she thought Bobbie might have supported her. 

Hitler now takes Czechoslovakia.  Lady Astor condemns this move by Hitler, but many in the House of Commons tell her that she herself is largely responsible for Hitler's bold move.  Nancy is crushed by this.

At home, Philip still supports appeasement, but Lady Astor has given up on the position.  She tells Philip that two of her boys are now in uniform, so how can Philip still be talking about appeasement?  Now Nancy blames Philip and his appeasement for all her political woes.  Philip heads for the United States as the British spokes person to President Roosevelt.   Nancy tells her husband that she won't miss Philip. 

Lord Astor has been named Lord Mayor of Plymouth.  He tells Nancy that they were all wrong about that Hitler fellow.  How could they ever have thought they could appease a man like that?

 

Episode 9.  The Last of the Southern Belles. 

Sections of London burn to the ground.  Plymouth is burned to the ground. 

Philip has died.  Cliveden becomes a hospital again.  And Nancy helps entertain the troops. 

Waldorf has a mini-stroke.

Nancy is starting to lose some of her memory.  She retells a tale that she has often told to the family, but she becomes angry when they say they have heard that tale many times before.  She insists that this is the first time she has told the story.  She tells her husband and sons to come down to the House of Commons and she will show them how strong her mind is.  The family does go watch her, but it's not a pretty thing to watch.  She gets off topic and starts talking about her days as a child in Virginia.  The other members of Parliament start jeering her.  Even the second lady in the House of Commons tries to get Nancy back on topic.  She looks over at Waldorf, but he can't look her in the eye.  She sits down. 

Bobbie, David and Waldorf talk about mother retiring.  Bobbie says she'll never retire, but they all feel she should retire.  When Nancy gets home she tells her husband that it's time he retired as Lord Mayor of Plymouth.  He is 66 years of age and that's enough.  Bobbie laughs at this and mother senses that the guys have been sitting around and conspiring against her.  Bobbie says mother is 66 years old too.  Nancy says yes, but certainly nobody has asked her to retire.  Waldorf says he's going to retire and he thinks mother should follow his example.  Mother says all three men are just disgusting and she 's going upstairs to read her Bible and to cleanse herself of what she has heard from the men. 

Waldorf tells Nancy that if she runs for next election, he will not support her.  Nancy walks away from him.

At a political meeting Nancy says she will not run for election because her husband does not want her to.  She has now been in the House of Commons for 25 years. 

Nancy becomes rather morose just sitting at home.  Like she told Bobbie:  "What do I have to live for now?"  She blames her husband for this situation, and she is brutal towards him.  He has to walk away from her, she's so nasty. 

Now Waldorf sleeps downstairs on a cheep bed.  Dad tries to bring all the children back for a little reunion.  Bobbie comes.  Then Michael arrives.  Dad asks Michael to ask for his mother's support on his campaign, but when Michael speaks to her it's obvious that the woman is a bit off her rocker.  She says she will deliver a speech condemning Michael. 

Bobbie encourages Michael to let mother speak on his behalf.  She's not going to sink his chances to be elected. 

Waldorf has a nurse and sits in a wheel chair now.  Waldorf becomes very ill, and yet, still Nancy won't come to him.  She says that Waldorf is simply not ill, and if he needs to see a doctor, then he doesn't need to see her.  Wissie asks her mother why does she hate papa so much?  Nancy says she doesn't hate her father, she just doesn't want to see him die.  Wissie says she just can't ignore her husband.  He needs her and she has hurt him so badly.  She has not right to stay away just because he's dying.  Mother starts crying and Wissie and her hug each other for comfort.  Nancy says she's going to need all the strength she can muster to go see Waldorf. 

Nancy does go to see Waldorf.  She tells him that she loves him.  He has her read the 91st Psalm to him.  Waldorf dies in his little bed in a little room. 

Nancy goes with Bobbie to the funeral. 

"Nancy Astor died on 2nd May 1964  As she had requested, her ashes were mingled with those of her husband and placed in a vault, wrapped in a Confederate flag."

 

 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

 

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