Hold the Dream (1986)

Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres.

Hey, it’s it’s good enough for Gaul and Caesar, it’s good enough for Barbara Taylor Bradford.

Emma Harte est omnis divisa in partes tres.

We’ve seen A Woman of Substance.  Now it’s time for the second part of the Emma Harte saga.  If Bradford is not as flashy as Danielle Steele, as giddily head-scratching as Judith Krantz or as blissfully wild as Jackie Collins, she does have a certain loopy authority and gravitas in her writing and “Hold the Dream” clings to that seriousness as tightly as possible, following the lead set by “A Woman of Substance.”  That can be construed as taste, but it can also be construed as boring.

I guess “A Woman of Substance” was a big enough hit that by the time “Hold the Dream” was made, slumming vets signed up in droves.

Jenny Seagrove gets a morning call from Granny Deborah Kerr (whose slumming days ended here, since this was her last credit, but she still has her skills fully intact, not that she needs even 10% of them).  There’s a big deal that would have the company Deborah started buying another one, and Deborah wants to make sure Jenny handles the negotiations properly.  Indeed, she’s as steely as the old lady, playing such hardball that one of the current owners snaps, “they’re all vultures.”  Jenny’s tactics put the kibosh on the takeover, but when she reports this to Deborah, it seems Deborah had set this all up, shrewd-though-poorly-dressed matron that she is.

We are introduced to a few more of Deborah’s grandchildren and relatives to get the plot started, but at the onset, they are all interchangeable, except, of course, miniseries expert Stephen Collins, who is secretly in love with Jenny.  Also around is Liam Neeson, Deborah’s oldest friend, done up here with a frightful white beard and a voice that sounds like he’s chewing rocks.

Deborah senses her time running the empire is ending and one by one, people are lining up to either screw her over or share in the spoils.  Worst of all the hangers-on is Claire Bloom, Deborah’s daughter, who is bitter that Deborah sacrificed motherhood for her career.  Deborah tries to mend fences, but Claire is unmoved.  Her son is getting divorced because he’s in love with one of another of the brood.  This is news to Claire, though she does caustically note that, “you always wanted one of the Harte girls to marry a title.”  Deborah slips into and Olivia de Havilland-style softness of speech, but it doesn’t work.  Claire is hard and unyielding.

Liam is responsible for getting Deborah to a surprise 80th birthday party, and after some reminiscing and kind words, she accuses him of being as “full of the blarney as ever.”  Liam’s grandson Stephen is there, introduced him to Fiona Fullerton, obviously an American just by the way she dresses.  Jenny is upset that her husband isn’t there, always putting his newspaper career first.  Everyone there has a plan. Dominic Jephcott, one of Deborah’s grandsons, is bent on revenge and hooked onto Nicholas Farrell, whose company was supposed to be bought before Jenny ruined the deal (and this Nicholas and his father).  Stephen is in love with Jenny, but it’s a secret.  Claire cozies up to her son Paul Geoffrey and his mistress, obviously trying to debunk whatever Deborah is hoping to get from Paul’s divorce.  However, when his wife shows up spitting mad, it creates a bit of a scene.

The dancing starts with an idiotic synthesizer or something, and when asked what dance she’ll dance, Deborah answers for everyone who has ever hated fad music, “I’m waiting for the waltzes.”  Deborah then sees Stephen mooning over Jenny and even Fiona notices it.  In fact, it’s the talk of the dance floor.

There are a cake, candles, a large cake knife and then Liam is requested to speak for all the assembled about Deborah, though it’s relatively painless.  After all, this movie has crammed more plot into the first half hour than one would think possible, so no one gets more than a few sentences at any one time.  Deborah then speaks, drawing on that well of old-style training that netted her half a dozen or so Oscar nominations (no wins, sadly).  The big surprise is that Deborah is going to cede the empire to the grandchildren so she and Liam can take a cruise around the world.  An in-law is put in charge of the whole shebang, and even he seems shocked.  Jenny gets the department stores.  “I challenge you to hold my dream,” Deborah coos.

Later on, Jenny’s husband Nigel Havers is, as he always seems to be, upset.  He feels she shouldn’t be working, just a wife and mother.  Some extremely unseemly and gross kissing ends the conversation, but Jenny refuses to let this discussion fall away to sexual interruption.  At the same time, Stephen and Fiona are going at it, but even she can tell he’s not thinking of her.  Fiona, angry at Stephen, stands up naked and asks, “what makes you keep coming back to me bed all the time, all hot and bothered and raring to go, when the one you really want is” Jenny.  Hopefully this is Fiona’s final scene, because she’s pretty darn awful.

The corn factor zooms off the charts when Deborah shows up at Liam’s and he gives her an engagement ring he had bought decades earlier, but didn’t use because he thought she was too good for him (if you remember from “A Woman of Substance,” she was a maid-turned-zillionaire, and he knows that, so it’s a rather silly idea.  She wants it.  “Are we finally engaged?” she asks.  “Let’s just say we’re engaged to be closest of companions for the rest of our lives.”  There’s an awkward kiss, if only because Deborah is very old and, under the make-up and hair, Liam is soooooo much younger.  As we’ve been waiting for the whole time, Liam clutches his arm and then his chest, the surefire cinematic hint of a heart attack.  They have just enough time to admit their love for each other before he expires and she’s left to cry her way to award nominations.  “I’m the last one,” a pale Deborah tells her granddaughters as she looks at all the headstones in the cemetery.

After feeding her twins in a silk shirt that any new mother would know not to wear, Jenny has to go take care of her third child, her husband, who announces glumly he has resigned from the company, because “I’ve never like administrative work, I’m not good at it.”  It takes not only a scene in the living room, then in the dining room, two places he can knock back the booze.  Jenny is not happy at this turn of events, but once again, Nigel placates her physically, in a joyless strangely neutered sex scene.

As second high-volume scene is next, a typical soap scene where the Paul’s jilted ex-wife shows up at the family manse, drunk, and accosts her husband and his new gal, Sara-Jane Varley, yet another member of the family.  The wife staggers out to her car (yup, her car) and gives her Medea-like portents of doom.  Just so we don’t think everyone is fond of high decibel yelling, there’s a scene out of nowhere where Deborah ruminates on the dead of her husband decades ago, staring straight ahead and almost in a catatonic whisper.  “Yes, we know, darling,” her daughter says, though Jenny sees something is very wrong.

It seems Paul’s wife had left, in her car, to do exactly what we expected her to do.  Cue the police asking questions about the body and car in the pond.  Claire calls Jenny in hysterics, and when Claire informs her that Paul is a suspect in what not may be a drowning, Jenny realizes it could be true, and in a perfect Deborah Kerr imitation (though I don’t think it’s conscious).  “There is nothing to do…just stay calm and leave everything to me,” Jenny tells her, whipping the family into their tasks and then calling the newspaper to tell them not to print anything about it.  Her family owns the newspaper, so the editor finds it an odd request since the news will be everywhere else.  Jenny is becoming a steely savvy woman with every passing (boring) scene.  She next takes on Sara-Jane, who wants to go be with Paul.  Jenny puts the kibosh on that and naturally, Sara-Jane listens.

Not impressed is Nigel, who rushes off to Jenny to scold her for threatening the editor at the newspaper he runs.  Jenny reminds him that Deborah owns the paper and has given her Power of Attorney.  That’s news to her hubby.

In NYC, cousin/son/uncle/brother/ Valentine Pelka visits with Stephen, who is building a grand edifice.  Stephen is upset Jenny has to take control, though Valentine says it’s because “she’s the strong one.”  Or has the biggest shoulder pads.  Naturally, Stephen wants to be with her, but can’t.

Jonathan and Nicholas are forever plotting, doing everything but laughing over a cauldron filled with little children to prove how evil they are.  Jenny sees them and tells one of the female cousins (if you can keep track of them, good for you, I can’t) she thinks she has one of Deborah’s “cold feelings,” puts her hand on her chin and then we know she’s about to enter smarter-than-everyone mode.  As if we haven’t the last gazillion scenes establishing Jenny as a younger Deborah, when she gets news from Texas that a family oil tanker in trouble, naturally she makes sure that “all the families are taken care of.”  When Jenny tells Deborah (who is showing her character’s slow decline by now adopting a crooked spine and a really bad wig, Deborah is at first sad, but then fiery, demanding to know what is being done about the oil spill.

On the phone with her man in Texas, Jenny pontificates, “there are only four things that are important: the injured men, their families, the wildlife and the good name” of the company.  Bravo, heroine, you have hart (or Harte, the company that must have the good name intact).  But, we’ve known that in literally every scene for longer than anyone can remember.  When she tells Nigel she has to go to Texas, he kicks up another fuss.  He accuses her of becoming her grandmother when fancy psychological terms that aren’t real (I tried looking them up).  This whopper of a scene finds Nigel admitting he hates Deborah for stuff from the first movie, horrifying Jenny by referred to her new personal as a “cold calculating carbon copy of herself.”  He almost had perfect alliteration there.  Two can play at that game, as she castigates Nigel for marrying her for the “money and power” he knew she would inherit as Deborah’s heir.

Naturally, Jenny has to go to New York City, because no one else involved in the oil spill had the smarts to figure out holding a press conference promising no danger would be a good idea.  Really, no one.

Enter James Brolin, looking fetching in his beard and tight-fitting suit.  He’s a banker involved with Stephen’s business and now Jenny’s.  He doesn’t know Stephen has the hots for her, so he goes over her assets (as a person), looking to make a move on her, much to Stephen’s discomfort.  But, this is how Stephen finds out Jenny is in town, sending her a horrid arrangement of violets.  Jenny is touched and calls Stephen to make plans.  Strangely, when she suggests getting together, he begs off.  Ten seconds later, he calls her back (he knows the phone number of where she happens to be) without any aid and decides to say yes to her invitation.  He is very standoffish, but Jenny calls him on it and he drops the facade.  “It is such a relief to be able to talk to you again,” Jenny notes.  It’s not exactly romantic, but it gives him hope.

Stephen warned Jenny about James, so she is guarded when they meet, but she tramples on him, agreeing only to discuss his offer to buy the oil company they own with Deborah.

Then it’s off to Stephen’s Connecticut fixer-upper for the weekend.  She attends wearing a head band, more shoulder pads than ever and some very fashionable boots.  “It has an air of permanence, are you planning to set down roots?” Jenny asks.  It takes a local neighbor to inform Jenny that Stephen is in love with her.  There she goes with the pensive blank look again, but decides to go with it!

She grabs the wine, a few glasses and stands by the fire so that Stephen knows what she wants.  Four hundred violins are helpful too.  He walks over to her…

She asks him to sit next to her so she ask Stephen if he’s in love with her, since they have been honest with they each other “since we were children.”  She speaks in a whisper, her way of playing coy, so grab the remote or else you’re sunk, though frankly, you know al the words to this conversation already since this scene is in virtually every romance miniseries.  They kiss and if Jenny is about as sexy as a plastic chair, Stephen knows how to play this.  Mercifully we are spared everything that happens after she unsnaps her bra.

Stephen has a rule, that he never fools around with married women, though he waits until after they have had sex to mention it.  They confess their love and mutual desire at the airport before Jenny returns to England.  Due to some heavy drinking, Nigel calls Jenny to make dinner plans and then races his sports car to meet her.  That leads to our second car accident of the movie, but Nigel survives, barely.  Stephen calls, offering to fly to London, knowing full well that Jenny can’t exactly leave her husband now, but he understands and agrees to wait.

Time for a trial!  We’ve had every necessary scene to make a miniseries except a trial, so as the second half of the miniseries starts up, Paul is on trial for perhaps having a hand in his wife’s death.  A maid exonerates Paul, who strides out of the courtroom with his mother, Claire, but not everyone is so convinced justice was perfectly served.

Assuming a “never mix, never worry” type attitude, Nigel is downing bottles of wine and painkillers when Jenny pays a hospital visit.  This near-death experience has made him sure the marriage can be saved, but just as Jenny is about to opine differently, the doctor interrupts.  The doctor is worried about Nigel’s drinking.  Frankly, I am too.  How does one get wine into a hospital?  Come on, that can’t be easy!  But, the doc tells Jenny that Nigel must stay out of any “stressful” situations and needs a shrink ASAP.  That means Jenny can’t say anything about the marriage, but that’s fine, because Stephen has come to her and all is right in  her world.  For a few minutes.  “We’ll be together eventually for the rest of our lives,” naive goon Stephen tells Jenny, who knows she can’t be with him fully until Nigel is well again.

Accosting Jenny outside her office, David Swift, the father of plotter Nicholas (and Dominic).  She prefers to avoid him but he has a convenient attack of…something and gets an invitation to her office, where he gives her some important information and has another of those attacks of…something.

Nigel, scheming on behalf of his long-dead family members, asks Deborah to return him to the position of Managing Director for her company.  By using the past as a weapon, he expects Deborah to cave.  “I never mix sentiment with business,” the matron declares, “but I’m not saying no” and agrees to think about it.

A wedding happens quickly and then it’s Christmas, where Deborah and Stephen sing a few lines, but Deborah opts to stay behind while everyone joins the carolers.  Then comes what should be a touching scene between twin granite dames, Deborah and Claire.  Claire begs for a lifetime of forgiveness and gets it, which we can only assume Deborah ain’t gonna be around much longer.

Claire gets sucked into Nigel’s plot, without knowing it, and then asks Stephen which of his hotels would be perfect for a “second honeymoon.”  He then tries to kiss Jenny and she rebuffs him.  This leads to yet another argument.  “When something’s not right, don’t be afraid to let it go,” Deborah tells a crestfallen Jenny, pushing out every syllable as if one of them will be her last.  But, for the second time in ten minutes, she keeps going despite all the clues of imminent demise.

Jenny and Stephen go to the field where they grandparents first fell in love, blah, blah, blah and then they spot Deborah.  I’m not sure how she got there, because the only car is the one Jenny and Stephen came in.  “Don’t stay too long,” Jenny warms Deborah, as it’s cold out.  “No, it’s time to go,” Deborah says.  It this where she croaks?  Nope, sorry.  Not yet.

Instead, she heads to her department store, where she remembers very little and struggles to get to her office.  Clutching a picture of her long-dead husband, she can barely walk or see and falls to the floor, which is where Jenny finds her.  Deborah goes into the kind of acting that had died about 40 years earlier as she scoops out every word, telling Jenny “you must hold my dream, but you also have to have your own.”  That phrase alone takes 12 minutes and whenever one cites the title, it’s never a good sign. Deborah’s eyes flutter and her head falls back.  NOW she’s dead.  There is still a quarter of the miniseries left, but Deborah’s part is done (and, unfortunately, a long and interesting career).  A church funeral and some time for the family at the grave are to be expected, as is Jenny, all in black, staring out from the family home as Stephen comes up beside her.

With our vet out of the picture (John Mills doesn’t count, since he doesn’t get more than a sentence at any given time), we are in the home stretch, but unfortunately, I’m having trouble caring about any of these characters.  None of them are any fun and there are just too many of them!

But there is a will reading, by lawyer John Mills (this isn’t even slumming, it must be a favor owed to someone) though the contents are no surprise.  What is a surprise are five codicils.  In the first, she leaves money and a diamond ring from his grandfather to Stephen.  Valentine is given money, a house and 35% of a Canadian newspaper.  The third codicil gives Nigel only 5%!  The other 60% is for Jenny.  Lastly, some properties originally promised elsewhere are given to her no-dialogue daughter.  That’s a problem because Dominic had been counting on selling those properties to prop up the business he has going with Nicholas.  He objects, loudly, and is then told he gets to pick two paintings instead.  Deborah also prepared for the inevitable squabbling by proving she was of sound mind.  The room erupts in childish prattle until Jenny silences the whole family.

Jenny and Papa Paul Daneman figure out that Dominic has a scam going, but they need to prove it, so Paul suggests a real estate sale.

Equally angry, Nigel and Jonathan plot.  Nigel wants to sell Dominic his shares, but not in secret.  Jonathan insists it be done with the approval of the board.

Ever wonder if love can blossom on a rocking horse?  I didn’t either, but Stephen and Jenny make out while she’s riding one in Liam’s old house, where she declares she wants to live with Stephen.  Jonathan snakes out of the real estate deal meant to expose his dirty dealings, but Nicholas picks it up, so there is still hope.  But, it’s not enough to “hang [Dominic] with.” Luckily, there is proof to be found, where they can at least “challenge” Dominic.

Nigel wants to “patch up our marriage,” with a whole bunch of conditions, but Jenny insists on divorce, even when Nigel threatens to sue for custody of the kids and move to Canada.  Papa Paul is a bit more level-headed about the situation, convinced that Nigel will go for “a settlement.”

A board meeting is called and Dominic is confronted by the whole family.  He tries to weasel out of it, even taking his cousin down with him, but Paul fires him.  “I can hire and I can fire.  And I’m firing you!” he tells Dominic.  Dominic has to be forcibly ejected from the room as he sputters threats.  That takes care of a plot that was never interesting, or, at least, at the bottom of the interest pile.

Now we have to deal with Nigel, who will not take money from Papa Paul, but will take the newspapers, the ones he feels were stolen by Deborah from his family.  “Once I’ve got that, I’ll start divorce proceedings,” Nigel tells Paul, referring to the newspaper shares.

Jenny rushes to the Concorde and Stephen (for another very unsettling sex scene) because she believes Nigel has been taken care of by her father.  However, it’s not that easy.  Since Nigel refuses to wait any longer, he takes Paul in his private plane to Nice.  Cue the phone, cue Stephen finding out bad news and steeling Jenny for it, cue Jenny uttering, “no, no, no” at the news that her husband and father were both killed when the plane crashed.  There is even some crazy thrashes and mussed hair, with Stephen unable to touch her.  In fact, “I can’t bear to be touched by anyone,” she tells her mother after the funeral.

She boots Stephen because she blames herself for their deaths.  “I have my work,” she tells Stephen, who reminds her that Deborah also told her to have a dream of her own.  “It’s a harsh world…there is no time for dreams,” she says, robotically (which isn’t that different from the way she’s acted at any other point, one of the worst-acted leads I can find in a miniseries).

It would be nice if, instead of limping along, we raced to reunite the main lovers, but no, that’s just not how it’s done here.  Fiona returns to the movie after her brief scenes at the beginning, to say goodbye to Stephen, who has decided to move back to England to be near Jenny when she inevitably remembers she needs him.  Also back is James Brolin, billed as a “special guest star,” but having lazed around his trailer for the last few hours after only two scenes.  Fiona and James have had a torrid love affair because Fiona believed James would leave her wife for her and the child they have together.  That was never James’ intention and he even questions the paternity of the child since he knows she’s been hanging out with Stephen (platonically, it turns out).

Why is this of any importance?  Because he has the hots for Jenny and their business relationship is rekindled.  He still wants her oil stocks, but eventually he does reveal who the secret buyer is.  When Jenny informs the oil company board, they are livid and offer her more money.  No, but she wants more of a say in the company and they approve her conditions.  This infuriates James, whose reputation is on the line about to lose a deal “to a slip of a girl.”  He gets blotto, so by the time she arrives in an Alexis Colby business suit, he’s ready to rape her.  They fight for a while, but she kicks him where it counts and is able to escape.  Why toss a rape scene in when we should be wrapping up?  Take a wild guess!  You don’t need me to tell you.

But, before that, Jenny does what virtually every rape victim in 1980s movies does, she takes a shower.  Not like Pia Zadora in “The Lonely Lady,” the weirdest rape-and-shower combo in all of film history.  Then a cousin comes to comfort her, seeing Jenny all bruised.  “That’s dreadful!  I’ll all a doctor,” Cousin Inept-Acting says, with about as much gusto as if she were having the post office stop mail delivery while they go on vacation.  They hug, which is the first time she’s let anyone do that since the deaths of her father and husband.

Next time we see Jenny, she’s riding a white horse back in Yorkshire where Stephen just happens to be sitting and daydreaming, the place, of course, where their parents fell in love almost two miniseries ago.    Well, if you didn’t figure out the ending two paragraphs ago, here it is: she asks him for the ring her grandmother left him, “not as a gift, but as your future wife.”  And that, my friends, ends this saga.

Never wildly interesting, “Hold the Dream” is really a lukewarm project.  “A Woman of Substance” benefitted greatly from finer acting.  This one has, well, Jenny Seagrove.  That’s not much.  Stephen Collins, with a bad British accent, does better than everyone else, but he is a pro at this sort of tripe.

Don’t go far, there’s a third coming soon.

Categories: Romance Miniseries

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