8 of the best British period dramas set in the 1930s

We continue our look back at the best British period dramas set in each decade of the 20th Century.

Here our guest writer Elizabeth Niedbala has some recommendations of movies and TV series set in the 1930s.

 

Atonement (1935)

Based on Ian McEwan’s 2001 novel, this Oscar-winning 2007 movie shows how good intentions can go wrong and how actions can be misconstrued.

Briony (Saoirse Ronan) misinterprets the love between her sister Cecilia (Keira Knightley) and servant Robbie (James McAvoy) as something more sinister. When she finds her cousin being raped by a male house guest (Benedict Cumberbatch), she blames Robbie, who is arrested.

This has repercussions over the years as the sisters become divided over what happened. A moving story of what happens when conclusions are jumped to and lives are torn apart.

Atonement is available on DVD on Amazon.

 

Another Country (early 1930s)

Set in an elite private boys’ school, this 1984 movie stars Colin Firth in his feature film debut alongside Rupert Everett.

Another Country focuses on the British class systems and the pressure to fin in, following gay student Guy Bennett (Everett) and his Marxist friend Tommy Judd (Firth). Both face conflict from adults and a system that works against them.

It’s a charming coming of age story about fitting in when it can compromise who you are and what you believe.

Another Country is available on DVD on Amazon.

 

Cheerful Weather for the Wedding (1932)

Adapted from Julia Strachey’s novella in 2012, this romantic comedy-drama stars Felicity Jones (The Invisible Woman), Elizabeth McGovern (Downton Abbey) and Luke Treadaway (The Hollow Crown).

On the day of her marriage, Dolly’s ex Joseph arrives. Dolly then reconsiders if she should really marry Owen and spends the rest of the day deciding.

Cheerful Weather for the Wedding is available on DVD on Amazon.

 

Gosford Park (1932)

Written by Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes, this 2001 movie received seven Academy Award nominations and nine British Academy Film Awards nominations.

A whodunit set in a manor house in the vein of Agatha Christie, it features an all-star ensemble cast, including Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, Camilla Rutherford, Tom Hollander, Eileen Atkins, Alan Bates, Derek Jacobi, Helen Mirren, Clive Owen and Emily Watson.

The McCordles are hosting a hunting party, and those gathered include the rich and their servants. When Sir William McCordle is killed, it is up to Stephen Fry’s Inspector and Ron Webster’s Constable to figure out who did it.

Gosford Park is available on DVD on Amazon.

 

Indian Summers (1932, 1935)

Set during the waning years of Britain’s rule in India, Indian Summers tackles how the British hold onto their biggest jewel while dealing with the rising opposition from the people of India.

Along with politics are multi-faceted love stories and it’s a shame the show only lasted two seasons, airing between 2015 and 2016 on Channel 4.

It starred Julie Walters (Billy Elliot), Henry Lloyd-Hughes (Parade’s End), Jemima West (Endeavour), Aysha Kala (National Live Theater: Obsession), Nikesh Patel (Midsomer Murders) and Roshan Seth (Beecham House).

Indian Summers is available on DVD on Amazon.

 

The Durrells (1935-1939)

A big favourite of ours, ITV’s The Durrells in Corfu follows Louisa Durrell and her four children as they move to Corfu, Greece.

While being confronted with culture shock and adapting to local norms, there are love triangles galore. Amongst the cosy storylines are the continued efforts of Gerry to expand his zoo and Margo dealing with the most dreaded thing of all – acne. The final season, set in 1939, deals with growing concerns of war and nationalism on the island.

Based upon Gerald Durrell’s classic trilogy of Corfu memoirs, the series starred Keeley Hawes (Mrs. Wilson), Josh O’Connor (Les Misérables), Milo Parker (Mr. Holmes), Daisy Waterstone (Testament of Youth) and Callum Woodhouse (Father Brown).

The Durrells is available on DVD on Amazon.

 

Upstairs Downstairs (1936)

A loose continuation of the classic ITV series from the 1970s, the BBC’s 2010 reboot from Call the Midwife creator Heidi Thomas picked up the story in 1936.

When a new couple moves into Eaton Place, Rose returns to help set up the household.

Lasting two seasons, it starred Jean Marsh from the original Upstairs Downstairs, Keeley Hawes (The Durrells), Ed Stoppard (Home Fires), Neil Jackson (Grantchester) and Clair Foye (The Crown).

Upstairs Downstairs is available on DVD on Amazon.

 

And Then There Were None (1939)

Agatha Christie’s classic story was adapted by the BBC in 2015.

Eight strangers are invited to a manor on a private island. The hosts are absent, and one by one the guests are murdered. Those who remain are left to solve the mystery before time runs out.

The ensemble cast featured Poldark star Aidan Turner, alongside Charles Dance, Anna Maxwell Martin, Toby Stephens, Burn Gorman, Sam Neill and Miranda Richardson.

And Then There Were None is available on DVD on Amazon.