Four cites Soames's magic

Old Soames has done it again. Every time the BBC sees its audiences slipping, it sends for the Forsytes. The Galsworthy characters have now worked their magic for three generations of broadcasters.

The Forties production, directed by Val Gielgud, commanded a record radio audience of 25 million. In the Sixties, Donald Wilson's 26-part television production with Eric Porter, Kenneth More and Nyree Dawn Porter emptied the streets when it transferred from BBC2 to BBC1. Radio cashed in by resurrecting its old scripts and there was a time when the Forsytes were either on radio or television for nearly four years.

The latest, The Forsyte Chronicles, has just completed its 23-week run. Difficult to single out performances in this workmanlike production, but the device of casting Dirk Bogarde as Galsworthy, the narrator, was inspired. Full marks to the production team who managed to make the world beyond the green baize door once again so vivid and inviting. The essential charm of the Forsytes is that everyone is materially so secure yet emotionally unstable. We just cannot resist pressing our noses against the window. It has doubled the audience in the two drama slots, attracting more than a million listeners a week, enormous by todays standards. Next in line is a new television version because the old one was made in black and white.

Russell Twisk

Observer, 10.3.1991.