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Housekeepers, maids, mystery and murder in Gosford Park

Housekeepers, maids, mystery and murder in Gosford Park

Housekeepers, maids, mystery and murder in Gosford Park

During our recent explorations on the Aurora blog of how cleaning and cleaners have been depicted on-screen, one of the recurring themes has been that of domestic staff - such as maids, housekeepers and butlers - having some of the most interesting stories to tell.

This week, we revisit that idea by looking at a film with one of the most impressive ensemble casts in recent memory: 2001's Gosford Park.

The best of British
Written by Julian Fellowes - who would go on to create Downton Abbey - and directed by the great American filmmaker Robert Altman, Gosford Park followed in the tradition of the manor house murder mysteries popularised by Agatha Christie.

Set in 1932, it follows a party of wealthy Britons, an American actor and their domestic and personal staff as they gather at the titular country estate for a shooting weekend. When Sir William McCordle, the owner of the house, is murdered after a dinner party, fingers are pointed and rumours circulate as to who could be the culprit.

The cast list reads like a 'who's who' of great British actors, with the likes of Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith, Charles Dance, Kristin Scott Thomas, Stephen Fry, Richard E. Grant and Derek Jacobi all featuring.

One of the most important characters of all is the housekeeper, Mrs Wilson, played by Helen Mirren. Emily Watson also appears in the film as the head housemaid, Elsie, while Kelly Macdonald and Clive Owen play a lady's maid and a valet, respectively.

Continuing a trend often seen in 'whodunit' stories set in the opulent surroundings of British manor houses and rural estates, the maids, housekeepers and serving staff have a key part to play in the gradual unravelling of the mystery.

Mrs Wilson proves to be a particularly important character as secrets emerge, hidden relationships are uncovered and the true identity of Sir William's murderer is revealed.

A grand success
The impressive array of acting talent on display in Gosford Park helped to ensure that the film was a major success.

Commercially, it pulled in nearly $88 million at the global box office, on a budget of less than $20 million. It was Altman's second most successful film after his 1970 comedy MASH.

However, it was in critical circles and on the awards circuit that the film really made an impact. It was released in the UK at the beginning of February 2002, and just a few weeks later it was up for eight awards at the Baftas, including Best Supporting Actress for Helen Mirren. The movie won the Best British Film award, beating the likes of Bridget Jones' Diary and the first entry in the Harry Potter franchise.

At the Academy Awards, Gosford Park was shortlisted in six categories and won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.

These accolades show that there will always be a place in the film industry for intriguing murder mysteries played out on lavish country estates, where the housekeepers, butlers and domestic staff always know more than they initially let on.

Our cleaners here at Aurora are fortunate in that they don't have any criminal antics or skulduggery to worry about while they work, so they can concentrate on ensuring your place of business looks and feels clean and professional.

Find out more about the range of cleaning services we offer.