Lace (TV series)

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Genre Drama
Written by Elliott Baker
Shirley Conran
Directed by William Hale
Starring Bess Armstrong
Brooke Adams
Arielle Dombasle
Phoebe Cates
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of episodes 2
Location(s) Granada, Andalucía, Spain
Running time approx. 225 minutes
Production company(s) Lorimar Productions
Original channel ABC
Original run February 26, 1984 (1984-02-26)  – February 27, 1984 (1984-02-27)
Followed by Lace II (1985}

Lace is an American television two-part miniseries, based on the novel of the same name by author Shirley Conran. The series aired on ABC from February 26–27, 1984. The plot concerns the search by sex symbol Lili (Phoebe Cates) for her natural mother, who surrendered her for adoption as a newborn. Lace was one of the highest-rated television movies of the 1983-84 television season.

The miniseries is infamous for the line "Which one of you bitches is my mother?" spoken by Lili, when she finally assembles the three potential candidates: Pagan Trelawney (Brooke Adams), Judy Hale (Bess Armstrong) and Maxine Pascal (Arielle Dombasle).[citation needed] It was named the best line in television history by TV Guide in its 1993 issue celebrating 40 years of television.[1]


The story opens circa 1980 at an abandoned chateau in the Swiss Alps, once a prestigious boarding school, L'Hirondelle. The internationally famous film siren Lili (Phoebe Cates) travels from there to a private meeting with the elderly Hortense Boutin (Angela Lansbury), whom Lili knows was paying money on behalf of one of the school's students to a family which adopted the student's illegitimate child. Lili is the child, now grown up.

The story then flashes back to 1960, introducing schoolgirls Pagan Trelowney (Brooke Adams), Judy Hale (Bess Armstrong), and Maxine Pascal (Arielle Dombasle). Through misadventure and romance, each finds herself entangled with a man – Pagan with Prince Abdullah of Sydon (Anthony Higgins), Judy with banker Nick Cliffe (Simon Chandler) and Maxine with ice hockey player Pierre Boursal (François Guétary). All three romances come to naught, but one of the three falls pregnant. Knowing it means ruin for the unwed mother, the three make a pact to protect her identity. All three present themselves to the local doctor, Dr Geneste (Anthony Quayle), deciding not to reveal which of them is pregnant until the last possible moment, and he agrees to assist in having the child adopted. The only clue offered, is a remark by the Doctor, when he finally discovers the identity of the mother-to-be: "Of the three of you, you are the one I least suspected." The child, Elizabeth Lace, is born on November 17, 1960. The mother's birth name is recorded as Lucinda Lace.

An attempt by the school's headmaster Monsieur Chardin (Herbert Lom) to expel the girls is thwarted when they unearth photographs of him in a homosexual tryst with the school's chauffeur, Paul (Jonathan Hyde). They blackmail Chardin into allowing them to stay, and graduating them with honors. The child is placed with a foster family. On their behalf, Maxine's aunt, Hortense Boutin (Angela Lansbury), agrees to pay money to Felix and Angelina Dersaad, a French couple who consent to raise the child. The three women, though they initially promise to retrieve the child, do not do so.

The three girls, on the verge of success in their respective careers, receive a report that the child has been killed, and previously suppressed resentment, jealousy and shame erupts into a feud between the three, and they go their separate ways. In fact, Lili survived (Felix and Angelina were gunned down by soldiers after the accident) and transforms herself into a soft-core porn actress, street-walker and finally a film sex symbol. Her ambition is extraordinary, but her drive comes from a desire to find the woman who abandoned her, and punish her for the years of suffering, first in a labour camp, and then on the streets of Paris, which Lili has endured.

Employing a private investigator, Lili tracks the payments to her adopted parents to Hortense, and through her, finds out about the three school friends and their pact. She knows one of them is her mother. Pagan Trelowney is now Lady Swann, a British aristocrat, and the wife of a famous cancer researcher who devotes her time to raising money for his charitable foundation; Judy Hale has become a respected journalist, war correspondent, and now publisher of Lace magazine; while Maxine Pascal is now the Countess de Chazalle, a French socialite, who has rebuilt her husband's estate.

Slowly, deliberately, Lili inveigles herself in the lives of the three women – promising then reneging on an exclusive interview with Judy to re-launch her magazine, offering and threatening to take away from Pagan a charity premiere of her new film to raise money for research, and seducing Maxine's son, intending to estrange him from his mother. Lili's intention is, if they do not reveal which of them is her mother, to ruin all three. At the conclusion of the first part of the two parts of the mini-series, Lili assembles the three former friends, and challenges them with the mini-series' most famous line: "Which one of you bitches is my mother?".

The second part of the mini-series is driven largely by flashbacks to the three women's young adulthood, charting their respective career successes, and returning occasionally to the present where all three are in the company of the woman who claims to be the abandoned daughter. Scenes from Lili's childhood are also seen.

At the conclusion of the second part, Lili urges each of them to expose the other as her real mother, but they remain silent. Infuriated by their distant and reluctant responses, Lili orders them to leave, but keeps the promises she had made to each of them in the first part of the mini-series. As they do, Lili presents them with irrefutable evidence of her birth – the date, the doctor's name, and all the details the women thought were secret. Later, Pagan, Judy and Maxine are having drinks in the hotel bar and discussing the matter further. Ironically however, Lili's revelation is what ultimately helps to repair their estranged friendship and they decide that, for the first time, Lili's mother is "on her own".

In the final scene of the mini-series, Lili receives a phone call from the hotel manager, telling her that her mother wants to see her. Shocked, Lili gathers her courage and rushes into the foyer of her suite. She sits down on the staircase and waits for her mother to enter. A moment later, Judy Hale comes into the room and after a tense moment of silence, beckons Lili to come closer. Lili slowly rises from the stairs, walks toward Judy and the two embrace each other.


Lace was produced by Gary Adelson, Preston Fischer, Lynn Guthrie and David Jacobs. The original music, including the title theme, was composed by Nick Bicât. It was directed by William Hale, from a script by Elliott Baker.


Video and DVD[edit]

Lace was released on home video in the UK and Germany through Warner Bros. on March 27, 1995. It was PAL format. The German release was a UK import. Both Lace and Lace II were released on DVD through the Warner Archive Collection in 2010, but Lace II was discontinued a few months later.


Lace was followed by a two-part sequel, Lace II, which aired on ABC from May 5–6, 1985.[2] The principal cast was identical to Lace, with two exceptions: Deborah Raffin replaces Bess Armstrong in the role of Judy Hale, and Michael Fitzpatrick replaced Simon Chandler as Nick Cliffe. The plot of Lace II involves Lili's search for the identity of her father. It used the marketing line "Which one of you bastards is my father?". The opening theme of the miniseries, "Tell Me No More Lies" was performed by Deniece Williams. We learn in the end that Lili's father is Prince Abdullah of Sydon, who raped Judy on her way back to school after a one-night stand with Nick Cliffe who was already engaged.

Lace II was considered a flop because it received half the audience of its predecessor.


The novel on which Lace is based, also titled Lace, was written by Shirley Conran. It was first published in the United States by Simon & Schuster on July 1, 1982. The hardcover edition ran to 604 pages.

In the book there is a fourth 'mother', named Kate, but this character is not in the miniseries. In the book, Kate is the journalist, but in the miniseries that job is given to Judy.


  1. ^ TV Guide April 17-23, 1993. 1993 pg. 96.
  2. ^ Rosenberg, Howard (May 4, 1985). "TV Review - 'Lace II': 2nd Generation Schmaltz". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-11-06. 

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