by Shirley Conran
|Screenplay by||Elliott Baker|
|Story by||Shirley Conran|
|Directed by||William Hale|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||2|
|Location(s)||Granada, Andalucía, Spain|
|Running time||approx. 225 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Lorimar Productions|
|Original release||February 26– February 27, 1984|
|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 on 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.
Lili's line "Incidentally, which one of you bitches is my mother?", addressed to her three maternal candidates — Pagan Trelawney (Brooke Adams), Judy Hale (Bess Armstrong) and Maxine Pascal (Arielle Dombasle) — was named the best line in television history by TV Guide in its 1993 issue celebrating 40 years of television.
The story opens circa 1980 at an abandoned chateau in the Swiss Alps, once a prestigious boarding school, L'Hirondelle. 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 flashes back to 1960, introducing schoolgirls Pagan Trelowney (Brooke Adams), Judy Hale (Bess Armstrong), and Maxine Pascal (Arielle Dombasle). Each becomes 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 fail, but one of the women becomes 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), and he agrees to assist in having the child adopted. When the doctor discovers the identity of the mother-to-be, he says, "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 girls, on the verge of success in their respective careers, receive a report that the child has been killed, and they go their separate ways. In fact, Lili survived (Felix and Angelina were gunned down by soldiers after the accident), was placed in a detention camp where she spent the next ten years before finally escaping and eventually transforms herself into a film sex symbol.
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 cancer researcher; Judy Hale has become a journalist, war correspondent, and publisher of Lace magazine; while Maxine Pascal is now the Countess de Chazalle, a French socialite. Hortense insists to Lily that the child was killed. But Lily defiantly proclaims "They'll wish I was. They made their schoolgirl pact and sent me to Hell--I'll teach them what I learned there!" As she leaves, the revelation proves to be too much for Hortense to bear and she suffers a fatal heart attack and dies.
After Hortense's funeral, which Maxine, Pagan and Judy all attend and where she witnesses the extent of their estrangement from one another, Lili inveigles herself in the lives of the three women, promising each of them something of value: for Judy, an exclusive interview for her magazine; to Pagan, a very sizable donation to her cancer society charity and for Maxine, to stop dating her son. But she also intends to ruin them if they do not reveal which of them is her mother. She assembles the three and challenges them with the mini-series' most famous line: "Incidentally, 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 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. Lili, at the end of the flashbacks, again tries to force a confession from them, but they still remain silent. Infuriated, Lili orders them to leave, but says she intends to keep the promises she made them regardless. As she ascends to her bedroom, she shocks the women by revealing the full details of her birth to the trio.
Later in the hotel bar, Judy, Pagan and Maxine all confirm that Lili was telling the truth and they all humorously agree that she is better than all of them put together. That last declaration finally repairs their damaged relationship. They agree Lili must be told the truth with Judy stating that this time, Lili's real mother is on her own in doing so.
In the final scene, Lili receives a phone call from the hotel manager, telling her that her mother wants to see her. A pair of high heels can be seen walking up the stairs. Finally, Judy Hale comes into the room and beckons Lili to come closer. Lili slowly rises and walks toward Judy, and the two embrace.
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.
- Judy Hale (Bess Armstrong)
- Pagan Trelawney (Brooke Adams)
- Maxine Pascal (Arielle Dombasle)
- "Lili", born Elizabeth Lace (Phoebe Cates)
- Prince Abdullah of Sydon (Anthony Higgins)
- Aunt Hortense Boutin (Angela Lansbury)
- Nick Cliffe (Simon Chandler)
- Pierre Boursal (François Guétary)
- Selma (Honor Blackman)
- Mrs. Trelowney (June Brown)
- Detective (Jacques Maury)
- Priest (Jacques Herlin)
- Mme Chardin (Ginette Garcin)
- M. Chardin (Herbert Lom)
- Dr. Geneste (Anthony Quayle)
- Nurse (Jenny Clève)
- Angelina (Syvie Herbert)
- Félix (Féodor Atkine)
- Serge (Pierre Olaf)
- Paul (Jonathan Hyde)
- Count Charles de Chazalle (Leigh Lawson)
- Sir Christopher Swann (Nickolas Grace)
- French Hotel owner (Rachel Salik)
- Woman in Paris (Chantal Neuwirth)
- Teresa (Dominique Blanc)
- Helga "Piggy" Fassbinder (Annette Badland)
Video and DVD
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. 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", a journalist named Kate, but this character does not appear in the adaptation, in which Judy is a journalist.