Mistral’s Daughter (1984)

Okay, folks.  I’m doing our first foray into the world of Judith Krantz.  Let’s all hold hands and jump together.  We’ll need each other’s strength. 

Judith herself introduces the novel, proving how big a literary sensation she was (and getting a chance within five seconds to list her other books).  “The place is Paris.  The time is 1925…” and then she tells us about the book.  This worries me because if we need Judith to explain her own glossy romance novel, is the miniseries so convoluted that we can’t understand on our own?  We’re not adapting Homer here.  It’s Judith Krantz, for crying out loud.

Even the credits are stupidly pretentious, with actors’ names listed “dans le role de…” as “April in Paris” is sung in French.  Judith has already told us this book not only takes place in France, but was mostly filmed there.  So, with French credits and an American song in French we’re suddenly making this a higher art form?  I say it again…it’s Judith Krantz, for crying out loud.

With one suitcase and a really awful wig, Stefanie Powers arrives in Paris in 1925, looking to be an artist’s model.  The other “artist’s models” laugh at this hick from the provinces, but Stacy Keach (as Picas…oops, Mistral), thinks she’s is beautiful and offers her a job on the spot.  He’s particularly interested in her hair, so the wig has an actual purpose.  Now Stefanie is clearly French, because her accent is a genuine French-for-so-so-actresses, but Stacy doesn’t bother with an accent, so I’m not sure where he’s from.  When he orders her to take off her kimono and finds her still in her underwear, he’s not pleased.  “Modesty and modeling do not go together…would you feel comfortable if I took off my clothes as well…something has to go, your knickers or you!” he tears into her before tossing her out, in her knickers. 

Stacy can’t afford paints, trying to barter his painting for them at the art shop, and the shop owner falls for it.  Hey, it’s France in the 1920s, every painter was a potential Picas…oops Mistral.  Luckily, as Stacy is leaving, Lee Remick walks into the shop to buy some clay, and loves the painting, buying it on the spot.

Stefanie has no money for food, only enough to buy a carnation.  Stephane Audran takes pity on her and gives her food.  Stefanie tells her story (Jewish orphan, dead father, dead mother, dead grandmother, and of course “ignorant of men,” Stephane adds).  Stephane is a former queen of the models and takes Stefanie under her wing, especially since it means knocking down the current queen of the models and Stacy down a peg.  Stephane owns a restaurant (courtesy of a rich man) and even gives Stefanie a place to live.  She’s an interesting mentor, but her humor and kindness disarm Stefanie into embracing nudity.

Just who is Lee Remick?  She’s a rich American who has come to Paris for the excitement that a whole generation of artistic ex-pats desired.  But, her uncle is concerned about her squandering her fortune.  That scene took all of three minutes, and in that time, Stefanie has become the toast of the art world, the model everyone wants, the girl every cab driver and flower seller in Paris knows.  She’s also become something of a know-it-all flirt, though always dashing home on Friday evenings to observe the Sabbath, proving she’s still a good girl.. 

As Lee’s uncle is pressuring his niece to go back to Boston, Stacy storms in, looking like a homeless Musketeer in a cape and bad wig of his own, upset that Lee bought his painting.  But, when reveals she has connections, he of course softens.  She takes his paintings to art dealer Ian Richardson, who admires the paintings, but won’t handle Stacy because though “he has developed a style, he has not yet developed a passion.” 

There is a gigantic artists ball and all of our characters are there in costume doing the Charleston and having a decadent time.  Stefanie, barely dressed as Eve, is proclaimed the new queen of models.  But, in the tumult, a fight starts and Stacy rushes to aid Stefanie, must to the chagrin of of Lee, with whom he came to the ball.  Stefanie and Stacy end up romping in a fountain in slow motion, which, in a romance miniseries, means two people have just fallen in love.  The big kiss as they are being drenched is also a clue.  As they are enjoying a glass of wine, Stacy remembers Lee, “a rich American lady who likes my paintings,” but only for a flash because he’s soon kissing Stefanie’s feet, which sends peals of rapture up and down Stefanie’s body.  Then comes the climactic clinch before Stacy carries Stefanie up the stairs and makes a non-virgin out of her.  Or so we assume, since we stop at frottage before Stacy is painting (nude) Stefanie (nude) and then more supposed lovemaking in slow motion (and with Stacy covered in paint). 

Stefanie and Stephane meet at the market, where Stephane chides Stefanie for working for free and Lee formulates a plan to get back his attention by dragging Ian to his studio.  Ian is overwhelmed by the pictures Stacy has done of Stefanie, of which there seem to be about 481, and decides to to give him a show.  Lee certainly manages to get back Stacy’s attention, leaving Stefanie suddenly the odd woman out. 

At the exhibition opening, Stacy nervously gulps down champagne as Lee attaches herself to him.  Stephane has to comfort “my little pigeon” Stefanie, aghast that everyone is looking at her nude in the paintings, but Stephane has bigger a bigger fish to hook: banker Timothy Dalton, who, naturally, only has eyes only for Stefanie.  When he wants to buy a painting, which Stefanie believes to her based on pillow talk with Stacy, Lee informs her that she actually owns all the nudes (in other words, Stacy has sold out for money and Lee has won this round).  So, Stefanie does the only thing she can: she ambles around the streets of Paris at night crying.  A bewitched Timothy luckily follows her and helps her get a taxi (they don’t seem to want to stop for her). 

At Stephane’s urging, Stefanie accepts a date with Timothy, a wealthy American with a British accent, but Stefanie is uncomfortable at both the expensive restaurant to which he takes her and the attempt he makes to hold her hand.  Heavy-drinking Stacy tries to paint another model, but he just cannot make it work.  He needs his muse back.  As for Lee, her plan has backfired as Stacy is unable to paint, in Ian’s word, “a one-day wonder” if he doesn’t start producing soon. 

On a second date, Stefanie not only compares the Jews to the Irish (Timothy is baffled by that one) and Stefanie finds out Timothy is actually married, though he and his wife are separated.  More intrigued this time, they go off to a jazz club and Stefanie does a mad Charleston as Timothy watches, all but drooling.  When “My Man” blares through a trumpet, Timothy takes advantage of the slower song to dance with Stefanie and sweetly starts kissing her (no slow motion here, so it must not be the real thing).  A now-experienced Stefanie takes Timothy home to her apartment, which is so filled with flowers he’s sent her that there is barely enough room for a bed.  He lightly brushes a daisy up and down her body in the least erotic sex scene since…well…since she got it on with Stacy covered in paint.  It must be love, because she leaves him sleeping while she goes out to buy large loaves of French bread and croissants, dressed only in a coat. 

Timothy wants to get them an apartment, but Stefanie wants her own apartment, so Timothy agrees to get her one.  “Does that mean I will be a kept woman?” she chirps.  Timothy beams that he wants to buy her everything because he loves her.  What would the rabbi say, she wonders, as they fall back into bed.

Lee goes over to Stacy’s, hoping there will be more paintings, but finds only one blank canvas after another.  Her way of trying to seduce him is just plain boring–a car ride to the country.  They end up at a charming country hotel, where Stacy calls Lee on her blatant “manipulation” of people.  Vulgar Stacy simply tells Lee to come up to his room and frigid Lee succumbs with a fire blazing a few feet away from the bed.  Sorry, I have to go back on what I said earlier.  This is the least erotic lovemaking scene so far, but luckily we aren’t included in anything further than fully-clothed kissing.

“If I’m to be the mistress of a wealthy American, I must look like one,” Stefanie tells Stephan as Monsieur Andre is ordered to cut off her famous locks (in other words, she can finally lose the horrendous wig in favor of a better bobbed wig).  Timothy loves the full flapper look on her.  Timothy buys Stefanie a massive apartment, which frightens her.  So, sappy Timothy tells her they can try it, but if she doesn’t like it, they will simply find another place.  If he seems too good to be true, it probably means he is. 

Back in the country, Stacy has a rambling speech about why he paints, what inspires him and a whole bunch of other expected cliches from a blocked artist.  Stacy goes into a bar and paints a man in an instant to prove he’s an artist.  Everyone in the tavern wants one, and Lee stands outside smiling that Stacy is finally working again, even if just sketching for free.  He’s excited once again to work, but will not go back to Paris and it’s rigid artistic rules. 

Timothy sure knows how to spoil a girl.  He outfits the apartment in high grandeur, as if she were a mobster’s moll.  She has only one request, that they spend the night together alone.  Like he’s going to say no?

On the other side of the “I have so much money, I don’t know what to do with it all, so I’ll spoil someone I love and keep them and have the power” plot, Lee buys Stacy a huge country home.  He can paint there and she’ll handle all the other details.  Her deal has a string attached: she wants to marry Stacy. 

Timothy’s lawyer arrives in Paris to tell him his wife back in the states has heard the rumors about his mistress.  “There’s nothing wrong with a man having a little fling, but when it endangers your marriage, your reputation,” it’s a problem, according to his lawyer, but Timothy is just too damn in love to care.  People this happy have everything to lose.  Cue her pregnancy news.  He’s overjoyed because he and his wife were not able to have kids. 

It’s a girl for Timothy and Stefanie!  Stefanie is only upset because Timothy would not allow the child to be named with his last name, meaning she’s illegitimate, which bothers Stefanie.  As she grows up, they are all in the park one day when some bitchy American dames chuckle about Timothy’s bastard daughter.  Stefanie is distraught, so Timothy says he’ll find a way to divorce his wife and marry her, despite being a Catholic.  So, he goes back to New York to see what his wife Alexandra Stewart will say.  It’s not going to go well since her uncle, Cardinal Michael Gough is present.  Before he leaves, he states bluntly that he will never allow the two to be split up.  Alexandra is a tough cookie.  She refuses divorce because she will not damn his soul, holy roller that she is.  Her composure quickly drops when she yells that she hopes they all “rot in hell.  IN HELL!”  He calls Stefanie with the news and tells her to come to New York (oh, and he mentions the stock market is jittery and since it’s roughly the late 20s now, we know what that means!).  Stephane sends off the kid with a reminder that Paris is her home and she belongs there. 

In the country, Stacy has become quite accustomed to the life of leisure, spitting out his wine when it’s not the right temperature.  As for Lee, now his wife, she summons Ian to tell him he’s making too much money from them and they lower his commission.  Their years of bliss burst when the stock market crashes and Lee’s money is gone. 

When Stefanie arrives in New York, there is extremely bad news.  Fully able somehow to speak English to a porter and then Timothy’s secretary on the phone, she finds out Timothy has been killed in an accident.  Since he expected to live forever, he made no arrangements for Stefanie and the kid.  “What is my position?” she asks the lawyer, who has to inform her she has none, no money, no apartment, nothing.  The British nanny offers the paltry sum she’s saved, but that will last approximately 62 seconds.  What, oh what will a talent-free uneducated Jewish mistress with a daughter and no rights do for survival?  Not to worry.  We have approximately five more hours to figure it out.

Stefanie tries to sell her jewels, but they are worthless.  “But I bought them at Chanel.”  “Where’s he now?” the jewelry salesman ask her?  When Stefanie says the word “bubkus,” the guy realizes she’s Jewish and he’s willing to help.  He offers to help get her a job as a model with a friend who sells clothing Victor Spinetti.  The woman at the store sneers at Stefanie that, “it’s really a waste of time.  Our customers want someone to show them the clothes, no compete with them.”  Thte dame purposely gives her a horrid dress, but crafty Stefanie takes her shears to it and emerges as the height of beauty.  Bianchi is enchanted and Stefanie jumps at the $40 a week salary.  She then does what she always does when she has a coin.  She buys a red flower. 

Lee wants to see a bunch of Stacy’s paintings, but he refuses to sell the ones he has.  In the dead of night, she invites Ian over, who senses the plan and offers to buy them, but Stacy has gotten the jump on them and made a bonfire of his paintings.  Lee loses it.  She roars that she has bought the house and basically him, but he yells back that he has an obligation “only to my work” and he will not be compromised.  Their screaming match is truly a hoot, because Lee goes full tilt, summoning up her vast resources and Stacy is all phony bluster. 

At a charity benefit where Stefanie is modeling, Joanna Lumley has brought not only Alexandra, who gets awfully upset hearing that French name, but also dashing Robert Urich.  This being a romance, it’s automatic that the most beautiful girl in the room and the most handsome man in the room will eventually mate.  Stefanie recognizes Alexandra, who is a few feet away insisting Victor fire her.  “She’s not what she seems,” Alexandrea sniffs.  At Joanna’s party later that night, there is a scavenger hunt for the rich and frivolous.  Robert partners with Stefanie and takes her off to a nightclub, having already arranged for all the items they need so he can spend time alone with her.  He’s a playboy publisher and though she pretends aloofness, it’s obviously she kind of likes him. 

Speaking of New York (oh, weren’t we?), Lee decides to take her personal collection of Stacy’s paintings there because New York has never seen them and “everybody wants a Mistral.”  Lee tries her best, but it’s not her fault she’s caught between moping Stacy and creepy Ian in the more boring of the two plots.  It just so happens that Robert wants to take Stefanie to see the exhibition, and boy is he in for a surprise when he finds out he’s going to see all the nudes Stacy painted of Stefanie.  The American ladies make jokes about her, of course just as Alexandra walks in.  Oops, that’s an uncomfortable moment, so Alexandra high tails it out of the gallery.  She takes her revenge by telling Victor that he must fire Stefanie or else “no respectable woman will be able to visit your establishment.”  When he fires Stefanie and asks what she will do, she says, “I will fight. That is what I know how to do!”  She’s the heroine in an epic love story.  They always find a way, the scrappy little darlings. 

Robert will not be ignored.  He shows up at Stefanie’s with a giant bouquet of flowers.  “Are you Santa Claus,” the plucky red-haired imp asks him.  He’s not at all offended by her pictures and he instantly adores her daughter.  He’s even more too-good-to-be-true than Timothy was, and even more handsome, so what secret is he hiding?  Oh come on, you’re asking the same question!  He tells her of a friend who is basically a modeling agent and an idea forms in Stefanie’s over-wigged head.  She calls the jeweler, who has sold her one good piece for $6000.  What will she do with it, as if we haven’t figured it out?  Open a modeling agency! 

President Roosevelt himself, though one of his staffers, wants Robert to go to England and interview Churchill because war clouds are gathering and it’s never too early to start propaganda.  At the same time, Stacy sees French soldiers and declares there will be no war.  “Wars are for children who like to go ‘boom!’ he says, before noticing a wall with a bunch of faded advertisements.  In a flash, he invents artistic montage.  His inner muse has been inspired once again!  Lee is suddenly not interested in his art, wanting a baby.  “It’s our great good fortune NOT to have a family,” says the selfish artist.  She only wants sex.  He only wants canvas.  Things are not looking good for them.

When Robert returns from England, he fills Stefanie in on what’s going on war-wise.  “But darling, what about my friends, my family?” she earnestly wonders, before adding flippantly, “maybe it won’t happen.”  Ah, now this is what I like!  Selfish characters with no sense of the world around them, especially since her agency has become an overnight sensation (literally).  However, even though this is glossy romance, we know how the miniseries loves World War II, methinks it ain’t gonna be good for some of our characters.  Remember, though everyone else has forgotten, our dear Stefanie is Jewish.

Things are pretty safe in New York.  Lee shows up and is told by her uncle not to go back to France because Hitler will be invading.  Her plan is to summon Stacy to America where he would have to rely on her rather than shutting her out like he does in the French countryside.  He’s not interested, tossing aside her letter and going back to his painting.  Stefanie and Joanna see a newsreel at the movies about France falling.  Now Stefanie is worried.  She thinks of her friends, listing them all by name, but funny, we’ve never seen any of them except for Stephane.  How convenient that she’s developed a conscience. 

More out of touch with the world is Stacy, who has no clue of what’s going on.  Ian tries to clue him in, but “I have nothing to with politics and neither do you,” Stacy snaps, completely oblivious.  Ian, who is also apparently Jewish, cannot leave France because of his frail mother, so life is going to suck for him sometime soon.  His mother begs him to leave her, but he won’t.  The Nazi’s pain their horrid yellow star on his gallery. By the time his mother croaks, he’s already wearing the same star on his clothing.  Hell has come to one of our leads.  Stephane tries to help him, but the Germans are spying on her and they have an awfully mean dog that shows they are serious (these are the details that pop up out of nowhere for no reason–like we need a dog to tell us the Nazis are bad?). 

Nanny turns in her notice because she must go back to England and care for her family.  Stefanie understands, but Stephanie Dunnam, Stefanie’s grown-up daughter, does not.  She’s been raised rather spoiled.  She even lies to her friends that her mother had spent time in Hollywood, romanced movie stars and movies are actually about her!  The kid is freakin’ nuts!  And what of Robert Urich?  The next time we see him, he’s suddenly in uniform. 

Stephane is arrested and the evil Nazi with the dog is at her apartment comes to search.  Ian shows up moments after the Nazis have ransacked the place, but they missed the papers she wrapped around a flower for Ian to find.  The Germans next show up at Stacy’s farm, where he’s incensed that they interrupt his work.  However, they know he’s been hiding Ian’s stash of paintings.  He warned Ian that if anyone found them, he wouldn’t be held responsible.  The only lucky detail is that the Nazi in charge of confiscation is a fan of Stacy’s.  He asks to see Stacy’s work, but Stacy is not impressed until the Major Wolf Kahler offers up a bottle of brandy.  Now that excites the most selfish character in pulp romance history.  Oh, wait, he takes it to another level when he tells the Major that if he shows him the paintings, he’d like to get some paint in return.  I know, I know, somewhere down the line this dunderhead will turn selfless, but he’s incredibly irritating at this point.  He actually goes one step further and tells his housekeeper no one can interrupt him, to lock the gates and keep everyone out.  He is incensed that she can’t get him paint on the black market and boils rabbit bones and linen for canvas.  You really have to hate a man like this.  When Ian escapes to the countryside and shows up at Stacy’s, he is refused entry, even when he bellows at the top of his lungs to be let in.  The Nazis are beginning to look kind after Stacy.  Even when he is summoned to a work camp, he refuses to go, after actually chastizing the Major for having his staff taken.

Stacy keeps topping himself and frankly, if I weren’t a person who refuses to stop in the middle of anything I started, I would be junking the remaining three hours of “Mistral’s Daughter.”  Get this one: the housekeeper comes flailing at Stacy telling him their chickens and other food have been taken and what is his reponse?  “Have they gotten into the studio?”  COME ON!!!!

He doesn’t even care that he’s led them straight to the resistance, who are ambushed and killed, except for Ian, who has left only moments earlier.  Lucky for Stacy, the Nazis recover his sheets, also informing him that his pal who worked his farm was among the dead.  Could this be his moment of catharsis?

Robert is being sent off to Europe, but he wants to marry Stefanie before he goes.  For some reason, she can’t.  She doesn’t explain why and I can’t say I know the reason myself.  We know she’s selfish too, but there must be more to it than that. 

Lee arrives back in France with food and goods that have long been impossible to get, but Stacy wants to know only if she brought him canvas and paints.  The housekeeper and Lee catch up on who has been killed, but Stacy snarls, “when you two women are finished gossiping, come to the studio.”  Lee is dazzled by his new works, but he wants a new agent, knowing full well when he refused to let Ian into his house, that made him rather unavailable. 

So, what’s the reason Stefanie turned down Robert?  Joanna Lumley wants to know, wondering if she’s still in love with Stacy, so Stefanie changes the subject to her daughter and Joanna doesn’t dig further.  She’s not selfish like the other characters, just not bright. 

Lee is pregnant, after a series of miscarriages. 

Stefanie’s Stephanie is kicked out of college yet again, for drinking with boys, the hussy!  She tells Mom she wants to be a model and turns on the tears to get her mother to agree.  On the heels of that happiness, Robert arrives unexpectedly.  He and Stefanie embrace while the daughter looks on with that smile of “I think I want him for my own.”  Stephanie shows up for a modeling gig to find the photographer is a former boyfriend and he takes her virginity. 

In France, the years have advanced and Stacy and Lee’s daugther has become as nasty a character as her father, a tiny little bitch of an Omen child (Lee should be used to that). 

Things start to come full circle when a magazine wants to hire Stefanie’s Stephanie for a modeling gig where she would wear clothes in the studios of three great artists: Picasso, Matisse and…of course…Mistral (Stacy).  She’s known about her mother’s past with him and still wants to go.  First, though, she has to dispose of her current man, whom she loves, but is not in love with.  This is a conversation that only happens in this kind of story, and thank goodness. 

Stacy Keach wears a Speedo.  Yuck.

Stephanie, apparently America’s top model, takes the assignment with the great artists, but Stacy has decided he doesn’t want to be involved, until he sees Stephanie in all her splendor.  The photo shoot starts uncomfortably, but then Stacy decides Stephanie is more beautiful than her mother, so he undoes her hair and wipes off her make-up.  He wants to talk to her alone.  “What are we going to tak about?”  “The rest of our lives,” he says. 

These two have already fallen in love.  “You make me feel alive.  You make me feel human,” Stacy says, no small trick, as we know.  The sex is apparently the stuff of mythology because they do more of the “I didn’t know it was possible” crap.  She decides to stay in Paris and becomes pregnant.  Anyway, she doesn’t want the baby because Stacy is married.  How does he respond?  Go back to an earlier episode and find out how Timothy responded because literally, word for word, they lift that speech and use it again here, I swear!  And Lee’s reaction is pretty much a carbon copy of Alexandra’s, complete with the insane idea that the errant hubby will come back to her.  Stephanie has the baby and they name it Fauve, much to the distress of Lee, who refuses to let her own daughter believe she has a sister, or a “bastard” as she teaches her to call it.  Lee gets a whopper of a scene when Stacy comes to beg for a divorce.  “I made you!” she roars imperiously and she intends to keep her creation. 

Tragedy strikes when Stephanie falls overboard during a lovely sailing trip and impales herself on the anchor, just after having promised Stacy more babies.  She is buried in a Catholic ceremony, which is odd since her mother is Jewish.  The funeral gives Stefanie and Stacy a chance to square off.  Stefanie will take her granddaughter and he will never see the kid again.  Considering he shows up a the funeral service looking like Colonel Sanders, it’s probably for the best.

Four years later (quatre ans plus tard as the onging pretentious title cards tell us), Stacy shows up at his farm, and Lee is completely forgiving and not at all surprised.  “I’ve created the only place where he can paint,” she says, though her daughter is still a pissy little thing and doesn’t want him back.

Stacy, after going through a montage of painting nature scenes, decides to go to New York and see his daughter, against everyone’s wishes.  Not everyone, because his little daughter is thrilled.  “You haven’t changed.  Well, perhaps a little older,” he says to Stefanie, who looks exactly the same as she has for the entire movie.  “You were never galant,” Stefanie snaps, declining to mention that Stacy has aged a whole damn lot.  This scene has all the dramatic heft of a down pillow, which is odd since they have to much to discuss, but somehow Stacy wins and brings his daughter home to his farm, at least for three months a year.

The child actress playing Fauve is particulary annoying, and neither Lee nor her daughter are charmed, but Stacy explains life to her, telling her that arrogance is a virtue.  The only benefit to this kid is that she speaks in fast forward, so she gets her dialogue out quickly.  While Stacy plays a game with his mates from the bar, the daugther gets into a scrap with the village children, another nasty terror kid like her mother was.  Stacy finds out she can draw has an amazingly precocious ability distinguish colors and shapes.  If this movie thinks shared love of painting can redeem this character this late, no dice! 

Another eight years slip by and now Fauve is played by Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu, still visiting for three months.  Also older is his other daughter, still obnoxious, played by Tiffany Spencer.  He detests her because she’s never appreciated his paintings.  It doesn’t help that she and her husband want money, and the husband is an obnoxious snob who refuses to work.  Lee promises that once Stacy dies (“he can’t live forever”), Tiffany will get everything because the other daugther is not legitimate. 

At a local dance, Philippine meeets suave Pierre Malet, who is smitten with another generation’s redhead.  She likes him too.  But, there’s a catch, natch.  He’s Ian’s son.  Remember Ian?  It’s okay if you don’t, because he was pretty forgetful and we haven’t seen him since he escaped the Nazis, a good 20 years earlier.  Pierre has every reason to hate Stacy, who is focused only on forcing his daughter to paint.  She doesn’t want to paint, which is just the wedge Lee was hoping for, giving the vaguest hint of a smile when she hears the news. 

Philippine and Pierre go on a field trip to an abandoned synagogue.  They both seem very moved.  Philippine tries to interest her family in her Jewish heritage, which bores the rest of the family, and annoys Stacy, likely for two reasons.  The first is that she’s not painting and the second must be his guilt from the war.  Pierre takes his new girlfriend to meet his parents.  Awkward!  He tells how Stefanie and Stacy were so in love, which Philippine did not know.  There’s more, of course, but lunch lasts only so long. 

As for Lee, she has breast cancer, terminal unfortunately. 

Another repeated conversation: Philippine goes through the “I’m not sure I’m in love” speech her mother once delivered and Pierre promises to wait for her as they suck face. 

“So, the devil has a daughter,” Stefanie whines to Robert Urich, who has literally not aged more than a few gray hair.  Then again, Stefanie hasn’t aged much.  She’s upset that Philippine wants to stay in France, and Robert’s answer to her worries is to propose marriage again.  She turns him down for the umpteenth time and he leaves, supposedly for good.  He deserved better, as an actor and as a character. 

Stacy has hit on a way he can give Philippine a third of his estate, allowed under French law, but he doesn’t want to wait until he dies, giving her paintings instead money.  Lee assumes he’ll give the kid all the best pictures, worth the most when he dies.  She picks yet another moment to remind him that she created him.  “Genius belongs to no one…it simply is,” he tries to tell her, but she is beyond reason on the subject and she vows never to let him give away his art, which she insists belongs to her.  There’s a fight a-brewin’ as we head into the final episode.

Our final time with the gang starts with Lee spilling all the beans to Philippine, about Stacy’s behavior during the war: the sheets, the pal Nazi, the Jews who came to him for help whom he ignored.  Lee Remick has a whale of a time in this conversation, dressed in pure white and oozing it all out with a bright society smile, every elegant, not stooping to the level of spineless acting pretty much everyone else displays.  Philippine rushes to Stacy to ask her father if it’s true and of course he can’t deny it, so she bolts.  Taking nothing from the house but a little briefcase with a panda bear (is she 4, 14 or 24?), she leaves France and Pierre, without telling him the real reason. 

Back to Granny Stefanie Philippine goes, still ageless except for a new hairdo.  She wants nothing to do with art anymore, but would rather work with her grandmother as an agent.  But, she doesn’t want to live with her grandmother.  She think she’s a “late developer emotionally.”  I’m not sure what that means or why it means she has to leave.

Stacy disappears after his daughter rushes out, but comes back, still wearing a kerchief around the neck all of us would like to ring.  He finally is told Lee is dying and now he gets tender.  “In our way, we did love another, once,” he says.  When?  He was always too busy with his art.  And with that, Lee dies. 

Philippine goes to her mother’s first boyfriend to find out more about her mother, because no one ever talks about her.  He sees her paintings and insists the exhibit them because they are so good.  At a party thrown for her, Philippine brings a model they call Arkansas, not exactly a great beauty, but everyone else disagrees.  Philippine takes her on a photo shoot to France where of course Pierre is still pining for her.  They still love each other enough to dive into a sweaty bedroom session.  Her mother and grandmother both went through scenes like this.  History is repeating itself ad nauseum at this point.  However, she turns down  his offer of marriage, citing bogus reasons, not able to tell him the truth. 

Stacy has locked himself in his studio, refusing to eat and coughing up enough for us to realize his end is fast approaching (having a cigarette permanently in his mouth doesn’t help either).  Tiffany is summoned, though she’s annoyed at having to go save the man who has never given her a chance.  He doesn’t treat her any better this time.  And she knows it.  When he begins to choke and call for water, she stays in her room, listening ot his howling but staying put.  He goes to paint something and collapses.  Her Regina Giddens moment works because he dies.  “At last, you bastard, you never even wanted to paint me,” she says over his corpse.  Worse yet, Tiffany finds out about his will, which infuriates her.

In the US, Robert shows up again to read Stefanie and Philippine Stacy’s will.  He leaves her his best paintings and the farm to Philippine and very little but contempt for Tiffany.  The trio goes to France to argue the fact that Tiffany is contesting the will, on the grounds that Philippine’s mother was a whore and other such slanders, called “notorious misconduct.”  Philippine wins the case.  Even her ogre of a husband leaves her, also not much of a loss.  Ian comes very close to revealing the whole truth to Philippine, who has no interest in the art her father left her, but he wants to see it.  So, into the studio one last time Philippine, Ian and the rest traipse.  Ian gets a surprise to see the masterpieces are tributes to Judaism, his repentance for what he did to Ian and the other Jews.  “He asked for fogiveness, the only way he knew,” Ian says, without rancor. 

To wrap everything up nicely, Philippine agrees to marry Pierre and become a painter.  Stefanie asks Robert to marry her and they have a big kiss to end it all.  Judith is back to close the miniseries, reading badly from cue cards and trying to vindicate her own work and then rehashing the plot twists, as if we haven’t understood them.  We get it!  It’s Judith Krantz, for crying out loud.

By the rules of the miniseries, “Mistral’s Daughter” really should be great fun.  Generations of anger and sex, great romance, great art, all of it should add up to sublime decorous amusement, but the piece has two problems that it cannot overcome.  First, it’s deadly boring.  It’s written so childishly that it never lifts itself off the ground.  The second problem is the lead character of Mistral.  He’s so amazingly ugly and unlikable, without any redeeming features that it leaves a gaping hole where a hero should be.  For the first few hours, it’s somewhat amusing because Stefanie Powers is good enough to cover, but once her character is sidelined, Stacy Keach and his disgusting Mistral have to hold it up.  That’s like asking a scorpion to spend a week at your country house.  You will constantly have a case of the creeps.  If the moral is that mere mortals can’t understand the power and genius of an artist, Krantz and company have picked the wrong vessel to prove that assumption.

Categories: Romance Miniseries

2 Comments to “Mistral’s Daughter (1984)”

  1. Loer 22 November 2016 at 2:00 pm #

    John Bratby

    (1928-1992)

    John Randall Bratby RA (19 July 1928 – 20 July 1992) was an English painter who founded the kitchen sink realism style of art that was influential in the late 1950s. He made portraits of his family and celebrities. His works were seen in television and film. Bratby was also a writer.

    Sirs:

    I am a classically trained artist, how I paint is another discussion, but for now, I am writing to ask you if you have any information regarding the great artist, John Bratby, his painting works in television and movies. I am asking about the paintings his paintings that where shown in the 1984 television mini-series adaptation of Judith Krantz’s novel “Mistral’s Daughter” about an artist. The paintings where of Stefanie Powers who portrayed Marjorie ‘Maggy’ Lunel in the series.

    I feel I should let you know, there are many artists who have asked about this paintings by “John Bratby” this is why I am writing to you to ask if there are prints of this paintings, art books, or any other source where we can either download or purchase them.

    Would you please be so kind as to relate any information at your soonest. Your anticipated cooperation is appreciated, much.

    Respectfully,

    Rita

    • Bj Kirschner 10 December 2016 at 10:07 am #

      Rita–

      I’m afraid I have no useful information for you there. I can certainly do some digging and see what I find. Have you attempted to reach Judith Krantz or her office?

      Bj


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