We really don't expect this, you know. On a Wednesday, in the middle of all the Halloween gore and goofiness, we don't expect a richly crafted drama about a dying poet. But there it is, at 8 and 11:30 p.m. Oct. 29: "A Poet in New York" is one of the year's best TV films; here's the story I sent to papers:
By MIKE HUGHES
In the proper Welsh
tradition, Andrew Davies grew up savoring the words and world of
“I found that his
background was very similar to mine,” Davies said. “And I had
dreams – rather than ambitions – of being a writer.”
His ambition was to
become an English teacher, which he did. The dreams were fulfilled
much later; he became an award-winning screenwriter whose Dylan
Thomas film airs Wednesday on BBC America.
“Here was a man
who just poured his heart all over the place ... yet was suffering
all the time,” Tom Hollander said of Thomas, whom he plays in the
Now “A Poet in New
York” catches the final days, when Thomas' fame and drinking
soared, while his health crashed. “He was horribly neglected
physically,” said Hollander.
He was 39 when he
died. Davies, now 78, was older than that before he wrote the TV
screenplays -- “Sense and Sensibility,” “Vanity Fair,”
“Middlemarch,” more -- that make him a PBS favorite.
Davies grew up in
Rhiwbina, a village-looking suburb of Cardiff, Wales. In a school
competition, he recited “The Hand That Signed the Paper,” by
Thomas, “and that led me to want to read more of him.”
His own writing came
later, after six years of teaching in London. He had his first radio
play broadcast when he was 28, his first TV play at 31, his first two
TV series when he was 44 and 50.
As he reached his
60s, he began his strongest stretch. Davies won Emmys for “Little
Dorrit” and the original “House of Cards,” nominations for
“Bleak House” and “Pride and Prejudice,” praise for more.
something new last year, being the creator and showrunner of “Mr.
Selfridge.” He didn't enjoy the showrunning part, returned to a
writer's life ... and was asked to write about Thomas.
For the first time,
Davies visited Laugharne, the seaside town (seemingly the inspiration
for “Under the Milkwood”) where Davies spent his final years.
Thomas' home (shown
in the film) is still there, preserved museum-style, Davies said.
“You can go and drink in the same pub, Brown's Hotel, where he used
to drink. You can (go where his wife) Caitlin used to dance. She was
a professional dancer before she got into that whole domestic swirl
of drudgery, which she resented so much.”
Caitlin and Dylan
drank heavily and fought often. Their two sons had troubled lives,
Davies said, but their daughter “remained very fond of her father
and had happy memories of her childhood.”
As the drinking
accelerated and the finances dwindled, Thomas made his speaking trip
to Boston and New York. Davies visited those spots, too. “The
Chelsea Hotel and the White Horse Tavern look so rundown and seedy
now. And the Welsh scenes look extraordinarily beautiful and
peaceful. He had such stark contrasts in his life.”
Now “A Poet in New
York” finds both extremes. Flashbacks capture the beauty of Wales;
New York scenes catch the torment of a brilliant poet, fading from
-- “A Poet in New
York,” 8-9:30 p.m. Wednesday, BBC America; reruns at 11:30 p.m.