Sharpe (TV series)

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Sharpe
Sharpe (DVD box set - cover art).jpg
Series DVD artwork
Genre Historical fiction
Directed by Tom Clegg
Written by Eoghan Harris
Russell Lewis
Colin MacDonald
Charles Wood
Based on Sharpe 
by Bernard Cornwell
Starring Sean Bean
Daragh O'Malley
Music by Dominic Muldowney
John Tams
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Original channel ITV
Original run 5 May 1993  –
9 November 2008
Running time 100-140 min.
No. of episodes 16

Sharpe is a British series of television dramas starring Sean Bean as Richard Sharpe, a fictional British soldier in the Napoleonic Wars. Sharpe is the hero of a number of novels by Bernard Cornwell; most, though not all, of the episodes are based on the books. Produced by Celtic Films and Picture Palace Films for the ITV network, the series was shot mainly in Turkey and Crimea, although some filming was also done in England, Spain and Portugal.

The series originally ran from 1993 to 1997. In 2004, as part of ITV's new set of drama, ITV announced that it intended to produce new episodes of Sharpe, in co-production with BBC America, loosely based on his time in India, with Sean Bean continuing his role as Sharpe. Sharpe's Challenge is a two-part adventure; part one premiered on ITV on 23 April 2006, with part two being shown the following night. With more gore than earlier episodes, the show was broadcast by BBC America in September 2006.

At a book-signing in Bath on 11 October 2006, Bernard Cornwell revealed that there were plans by ITV to film two more episodes. Filming was supposed to start in April, but was postponed because of the resignation of ITV's chief executive, at which point production was pushed back to September. However, Sean Bean was unavailable owing to other commitments, so production was postponed once more. When asked about the stories, Cornwell said that he believed that they were producing two new stories specially for television. It was announced that filming Sharpe's Peril, produced by Celtic Film/Picture Palace, began on 3 March 2008 in India.[1][2] The first part was broadcast on ITV and UTV on 2 November 2008 with the second part shown a week later, although STV, the holders of the Northern and Central Scottish licensees of ITV, decided not to screen Sharpe's Peril.[3][4] Sharpe's Challenge and Sharpe's Peril were broadcast in the US in 2010 as part of PBS' Masterpiece Classic season.

Plot summary[edit]

At the beginning of the series, Richard Sharpe (Sean Bean) is a sergeant in the 95th Rifles serving in Portugal in 1809. When he singlehandedly saves the life of General Sir Arthur Wellesley (David Troughton in the first two films, then Hugh Fraser for the following films) from a group of French cavalrymen, Wellesley gives Sharpe a battlefield commission, appointing him a lieutenant. Sharpe is placed in charge of a detachment of the 95th Rifles: The term used for his men, 'chosen men' reflected the men's acknowledgment of marksmanship performance, rather than rank; it granted some privileges (such as avoiding certain routine duties) to the 'chosen men'. Patrick Harper (Daragh O'Malley) eventually becomes his best friend and is promoted to sergeant and later sergeant major.

Wellesley and his various spymasters, first Major Michael Hogan (Brian Cox), followed by Major Nairn (Michael Byrne), Major Mungo Monroe (Hugh Ross) and Major General Ross (James Laurenson), find Sharpe to be an extremely capable and cunning officer and give him progressively more important tasks. Despite their backing, he has to fight against the strong prejudice of aristocrats (who often owe their army positions to money and social connections rather than military skill) against a ragamuffin commoner raised from the ranks. He makes a number of dangerous enemies, such as French Major Pierre Ducos (Féodor Atkine) and Colonel Sir Henry Simmerson (Michael Cochrane), and encounters one from his prior service in India, Sergeant Obadiah Hakeswill (Pete Postlethwaite). However, Sharpe's successes gain him steady promotion. By the end of the Napoleonic Wars, at the Battle of Waterloo, he is Lieutenant-Colonel Sharpe.

Along the way, Sharpe has a number of romances. During the course of the series, he marries the Spanish guerrilla leader Teresa Moreno (Assumpta Serna), with whom he has a daughter. Teresa is killed by Hakeswill. Sharpe then marries Jane Gibbons (Abigail Cruttenden, Bean's real-life wife for less than three years), who deserts him, steals his hard-earned money, and takes a lover. He finally settles down with Lucille Castineau (Cécile Paoli), a Frenchwoman who passes away some time after Napoleon's final defeat. (However, according to the Starbuck Chronicles, another series of Cornwell books, she outlives Sharpe.)

Casting[edit]

Initially, Paul McGann was cast in the title role; however, two weeks into filming of the first episode in Ukraine, McGann injured his knee playing football and was forced to withdraw. When production started again a month later, Sean Bean took over the role. The first actor cast in Sharpe was actually Daragh O'Malley in the role of Sgt.Patrick Harper.

Author Bernard Cornwell was so impressed by Sean Bean's performances that he dedicated one of the novels, Sharpe's Battle, "to Sean Bean".

Some actors have played multiple roles in the series. Peter-Hugo Daly portrayed first Sergeant Rodd in Sharpe's Gold and then Bickerstaff, another unruly sergeant who dislikes Sharpe. Julian Fellowes played Major Warren Dunnett in Sharpe's Rifles and also the Prince Regent in Sharpe's Regiment. Tony Haygarth was "Marshal" Pot-au-Feu in Sharpe's Enemy and Sir Willoughby Parfitt in Sharpe's Justice.

Discrepancies[edit]

There are some differences between the series and the novels. For instance, in the books, Sharpe was said to be unusually tall (over 6ft), was born in Wapping in London and has dark hair. Sean Bean is shorter, blond and, being from Sheffield, he speaks with a pronounced Sheffield accent. Sharpe is revealed to have been born in Keighley to local woman, Lizzie Sharpe in Sharpe's Justice; this contradicts the books which often state his mother was a London "Cat Street whore" who died in the Gordon Riots. In novels written after the television series started airing, the issue of Sharpe's northern accent and roots is addressed by having him flee from London to Yorkshire when he is a teenager to avoid retribution for a murder of an employer over a woman.

While in the novels Sharpe commands a group of thirty riflemen, the series focuses on a much smaller group of "Chosen Men", some of whom were invented for the series. The series' creations Harris and Perkins are introduced in later novels, notably Sharpe's Battle which takes place between earlier novels. These novels also feature Cooper, despite the fact that the character had been killed off in the novel Sharpe's Rifles. Harris (the educated rifleman) and Perkins (the youngest rifleman) share characteristics with Cornwell's originals Tongue and Pendleton, and appear together with them in later novels.

In the first TV episode, Sharpe is a sergeant in the 95th Rifles in Portugal when he saves Wellesley's life. In the books, this occurs in India during the Battle of Assaye, while he is serving in the 33rd Foot. The television series also differs in the fact that Sharpe was already a commissioned officer by the time he was posted to Portugal in the novels.

Owing to actor Brian Cox's illness, his character, Major Michael Hogan, was replaced with borrowed character namesakes from numerous novels to create three more exploring officers: Major Nairn, Major Monroe, and Major General Ross; this also removed the future death of Major Hogan by disease in Sharpe's Siege. In the TV adaptation, Major General Ross catches malarial fever but recovers.

Teresa is introduced in the first film, but does not make an appearance in the books until Sharpe's Gold.

In one of the most recent episodes, Sharpe's Challenge, Sharpe states that his latest lover, Lucille, has died, something never mentioned in the books. It should also be noted that the characters of Sergeant Bickerstaff and General William Dodd are killed off in this programme. Sharpe's Challenge is a composite of the three prequels that are set in India, creating a number of inconsistencies, since the TV version is set after the events at Waterloo. Bickerstaff's counterpart in the books is Hakeswill, who is killed off in Sharpe's Enemy.

Harry Price is shot and apparently killed in Sharpe's Company, when in the book the character killed is Captain Knowles; however Price, played by a different actor, is alive and well in Sharpe's Waterloo.

List of episodes[edit]

The episodes are listed by first airing date.

No. Date Aired Episode Name Setting Date Set
1 1993 Sharpe's Rifles Retreat to Coruña 1809
2 1993 Sharpe's Eagle Battle of Talavera 1809
3 1994 Sharpe's Company Siege of Badajoz 1812
4 1994 Sharpe's Enemy Defence of Portugal 1813
5 1994 Sharpe's Honour Battle of Vitoria 1813
6 1995 Sharpe's Gold Spain 1813
7 1995 Sharpe's Battle Franco-Spanish Border 1813
8 1995 Sharpe's Sword Franco-Spanish Border 1813
9 1996 Sharpe's Regiment England 1813
10 1996 Sharpe's Siege Bordeaux 1813
11 1996 Sharpe's Mission France 1810 & 1813
12 1997 Sharpe's Revenge Toulouse 1814
13 1997 Sharpe's Justice Peace of 1814 1814
14 1997 Sharpe's Waterloo Battle of Waterloo 1815
15 2006 Sharpe's Challenge India 1803 & 1817
16 2008 Sharpe's Peril India 1818

Cast and crew[edit]

Chosen Men[edit]

  • Sean Bean as Richard Sharpe (1993–1997, 2006, 2008)
  • Daragh O'Malley as Regimental Sergeant Major Patrick Harper (1993–1997, 2006, 2008)
  • John Tams as Sergeant Daniel Hagman (1993–1997) – killed in battle in Sharpe's Waterloo.
  • Jason Salkey as Sergeant Harris (1993–1997) – killed in battle in Sharpe's Waterloo.
  • Lyndon Davies as Rifleman Ben Perkins (1993–1995) – stabbed at the hands of O'Rourke in Sharpe's Battle and dies in Harper's arms.
  • Michael Mears as Rifleman Francis Cooper (1993–1995) – disappears after Sharpe's Gold; returns to narrate Sharpe the Legend.
  • Paul Trussell as Rifleman Isaiah Tongue (1993) – disappears after Sharpe's Eagle and never returns, he may be dead or left the army to go back to England.

Supporting characters[edit]

Production team[edit]

  • Directed by: Tom Clegg
  • Produced by: Malcolm Craddock, Muir Sutherland
  • Writing credits:
  • Novels: Bernard Cornwell
  • Screenplays:
Eoghan Harris (8)
Charles Wood (3)
Russell Lewis (3)
Nigel Kneale (1)
Colin MacDonald (1)
Patrick Harbinson (1)

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ "Sharpe news". The South Essex. Retrieved 2008-02-22. 
  2. ^ "Sharpe's Peril". Compleat Sean Bean. Retrieved 2008-02-22. 
  3. ^ Missing (2006) at the Internet Movie Database Retrieved 2012-03-04
  4. ^ Vickers, Judy (1 November 2008). "Jimmy Gardner - Fighting to make an impact on screen". The Scotsman (Edinburgh). 

External links[edit]