Lord Emsworth Acts for the Best
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|Author||P. G. Wodehouse|
"Lord Emsworth Acts for the Best" is a short story by P. G. Wodehouse, which first appeared in the United Kingdom in the June 1926 Strand Magazine, and in the United States in the 5 June 1926 issue of Liberty. Part of the Blandings Castle canon, it features the absent-minded peer Lord Emsworth, and was included in the collection Blandings Castle and Elsewhere (1935), although the story takes place sometime between the events of Leave it to Psmith (1923) and Summer Lightning (1929).
Beach, long-serving butler at Blandings, is considering handing in his notice after 18 years, unable to bear the shame of his master Lord Emsworth's rather disreputable new beard. His Lordship himself, unaware of these ructions below stairs, is worried by a telegram from his younger son Freddie, who is back in London from America.
Visiting Freddie, Emsworth learns that the boy has fallen out with his wife Aggie; having written a scenario for Hollywood to impress her, he tried to persuade a prominent starlet to promote it for him; however, he is seen dining with the girl by Jane Yorke, a friend of his wife. Yorke tells Aggie she has seen Freddie with another girl, and she promptly leaves him.
Freddie tries to persuade his father to plead with her on his behalf, convinced by his movie knowledge that an appeal from a white-haired old father never fails, but Emsworth refuses. Later, however, realising the danger of Freddie returning to Blandings if his marriage is not patched up, he relents, and pays a call at the lady's hotel.
Finding the door to her room open, he potters vaguely in, and is chased into the bedroom by a small yapping dog, only to find she is in the bath. Her friend Jane Yorke holds him up with a gun, believing him to be a burglar, and while he is trying to explain himself, and Freddie, Freddie himself enters disguised as an old man with a white beard.
Seeing a cable from Hollywood accepting his scenario, Aggie believes Freddie's story and forgives him, to Jane's disgust. Jane is ejected, and Emsworth, on hearing that he looks like Freddie in his false beard, decides to shave off his own, much to Beach's relief.
The story was adapted for television by the BBC, broadcast in March 1967 as the fourth of six half-hour episodes. They starred Ralph Richardson as Lord Emsworth and Stanley Holloway as Beach. Unfortunately the master tapes of all but the first part were wiped, and no known copies of this episode exist.
The story lends its title to a complete collection of Wodehouse's Blandings shorts, published by Penguin in 1992, with an introduction by Frank Muir (part of the Penguin Twentieth Century Classics series, ISBN 0-14-118574-0).