WGBH Openvault

Masterpiece Theatre; Forsyte Saga, The: Series I

The Forsyte Saga Episode 1, Tape 1 of 2

License Clip

More material is available from this program at the WGBH Archive. If you are a researcher interested in accessing the collection at WGBH, please email archive_requests@wgbh.org.

Undigitized item: Request Digitization

Untranscribed item: Request Transcription

Masterpiece Theatre
Forsyte Saga, The: Series I
Program Number


Series Description

Program premiered in 1971 with The First Churchills. Hosted by Alastair Cooke. Intended as a showcase for the best of British television drama. Spawned MYSTERY! in 1980. Current executive producer Rebecca Eaton. All promotion of program done by Frank Goodman & Associates (see below). Synopsis, cast information and producers listed by individual title. Series release date: 1971

Program Description

John Galsworthy's unforgettable novels are the basis for this opulent new presentation from ExxonMobil Masterpiece Theatre. Three decades after The Forsyte Saga first ushered in the miniseries era, this retelling combines 21st-century technology with the talents of a new generation of actors. 3201 - As the Forsytes gather to celebrate the engagement of Winifred Forsyte (Amanda Root) to dashing but penniless Montague Dartie (Ben Miles), Winifred’s cousin Young Jolyon (Rupert Graves) is absent, nursing his sick daughter, June. He is also nursing an infatuation with June’s governess, Helene (Amanda Ooms). Soon Young Jolyon elopes with Helene, sowing scandal among the upright Forsytes. Nine years later Winifred’s brother Soames (Damian Lewis), a prosperous partner in the family law firm, falls in love with beautiful but impoverished Irene Heron (Gina McKee). Irene suspects she cannot love Soames and refuses his offer of marriage. 3202 - Pressured by her stepmother to accept Soames’ proposal, Irene relents on condition that he will let her go if the marriage does not work. Hopelessly smitten, Soames agrees. Two years pass. June (Gillian Kearney) is now grown up and falls in love with architect Philip Bosinney (Ioan Gruffudd), who proposes. June’s grandfather and guardian, Old Jolyon (Corin Redgrave), insists that Bosinney earn more money before a wedding takes place. Meanwhile, Irene is miserable with Soames. Attempting to please her, he hires Bosinney to build a country mansion, Robin Hill, a job that will incidentally allow Bosinney and June to marry. Far from placated, Irene sees the new house as her prison. Also miserable is Old Jolyon, long since cut off from his son, Young Jolyon, whom he now visits out of loneliness. Young Jolyon and Helene have two children, Holly and Jolly, and live in bohemian poverty, which Old Jolyon finds an appealing contrast to Forsyte greed and snobbery. Meanwhile, Winifred and Dartie are enjoying the Forsyte life to the hilt, especially Dartie, who squanders his wife’s money in gambling and failed business ventures. 3203 - At Robin Hill, home building is underway and also over budget—a sore point with Soames who tries in vain to get Bosinney to restrain his artistic impulses. Unknown to Soames, Bosinney is infatuated with Irene, having grown cold on June. Irene initially resists but gradually melts under Bosinney’s charm. While the rest of the Forsytes gossip about the budding affair, Soames is in the dark. He finally sees the light during a family dance at which Irene and Bosinney display open affection. June, too, sees the truth. Afterward, Irene asks Soames to honor his pledge to let her out of the marriage. He refuses. Determined to ruin Bosinney for stealing his wife, Soames plans to sue him for breach of contract over the house. 3204 - As the lawsuit proceeds, Irene and Bosinney anticipate bankruptcy and discuss selling all their property. Irene still lives with Soames. One day he forces himself into her room and rapes her. When Bosinney sees Irene he rushes off in a rage to find Soames but is run over and killed by a cab outside Soames’ club. No one knows of Bosinney’s death when the court declares against him. Later the police ask Soames to identify the body. Old Jolyon breaks the news to June. Last to learn is Irene, who hears about Bosinney’s death from Young Jolyon, now living as a gentleman with a hefty income from Old Jolyon. Devastated, she returns home to find Soames shamelessly begging her to love him. 3205 - Irene abandons Soames for a destitute life as a music teacher. Meanwhile, Old Jolyon buys Robin Hill, which has never been occupied, and moves there with June, Young Jolyon, Helene, Jolly, and Holly. Five years pass and Helene has died. One evening Old Jolyon sees Irene at the opera and later again wandering the grounds at Robin Hill. Renewing their acquaintance, he invites her to give piano lessons to Holly. With June and Young Jolyon abroad, Old Jolyon and Irene see each other often. His health fails. One day in the garden he confesses his love for her; then he dies. 3206 - To the shock of the Forsytes, Old Jolyon leaves Irene a large legacy, which she learns about from Young Jolyon. Since Helene’s death he is now free to do what so many have before: fall in love with Irene, though this happens slowly. Twelve years pass; it is 1899. Soames is still obsessed with Irene and wants her to either grant him a divorce or give him an heir—a critical consideration for a Forsyte. Soames also begins to flirt with Annette (Beatriz Batarda), daughter of the proprietress of a French restaurant in London. A more serious flirtation involves Dartie, who flees to South America with a Spanish dancer, leaving debt and dishonor in his wake. Unexpectedly, Dartie and Winifred’s son, Val (Julian Ovenden), develops an attachment to one of the despised Forsytes—Holly (Amanda Ryan), who is Young Jolyon’s daughter. They keep their Romeo-Juliet romance a secret. 3207 - Soames pays a surprise visit to Irene and makes another futile attempt to win her back. She leaves for Paris to escape his harassment. Young Jolyon follows her over, but so does a private detective hired by Soames to gather evidence of infidelity. Meanwhile, Dartie returns from South America, promising to reform. Winifred forgives him. Less reconcilable to dishonor is Jolly (Christian Coulson), who is shocked to discover his sister’s attachment to Val. The two combative cousins taunt each other into enlisting in the Boer War. 3208 - Holly and June train as nurses and ship out to South Africa, where Jolly is ill with typhoid fever. Irene is with Young Jolyon at Robin Hill when they learn of Jolly’s death. Soames arrives and in a rage accuses them of adultery. Though they are in fact innocent, Irene admits to cheating on Soames, who then sues for divorce and marries Annette. Wedding bells also ring for Val and Holly, who emigrate to South Africa; and for Young Jolyon and Irene, who produce a son, Jon. Soames and Annette are also expecting, resulting in a harrowing delivery during which Annette nearly dies after Soames tells the doctor to do everything to save the baby, not the mother. Arrogantly anticipating a son, Soames can’t believe his bad luck when it’s a daughter—until he looks in little Fleur’s eyes and is hopelessly smitten.



Asset Type

Broadcast program

Media Type


Eaton, Rebecca (Producer)
Chicago: “Masterpiece Theatre; Forsyte Saga, The: Series I,” WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed December 15, 2018, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_80446CC4C4D24821B93D5A27C2B11FC2.
MLA: “Masterpiece Theatre; Forsyte Saga, The: Series I.” WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. December 15, 2018. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_80446CC4C4D24821B93D5A27C2B11FC2>.
APA: Masterpiece Theatre; Forsyte Saga, The: Series I. Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_80446CC4C4D24821B93D5A27C2B11FC2
If you have more information about this item, we want to know! Please contact us, including the URL.