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Noble House: TV Series

Noble House is an eight-hour Classic TV Miniseries produced and broadcast in 1988 by NBC. Based on the fantastic and richly detailed novel of the same name by James Clavell, it features a large cast headlined by Pierce Brosnan, who portrays business tycoon Ian Dunross.

Clavell weaves many intricate story lines into a coherent pattern. Complexity is what makes this series sizzle, as these local businessmen, foreign tycoons, police investigators, all of whom expatriates, mentally wrestle with the local triads and compadore in a complicated, multi-layered plot redolent of double dealing and triple crossing. Unlike many half-baked popular fiction, the characters in Noble House are etched and developed, duly reflecting the biracial and colonial psyche of the last British overseas sovereignty.

Preppy, thoughtful Pierce Brosnan is Ian Dunross, the taipan, meaning big boss in Cantonese, at Struan & Company and the title has been passed down at least 150 years, The newly appointed taipan is weathering a crisis concerning a sinking ship. Insidiously rising is another crisis brought on my his arch rival, Quillan Gornt (Rhys-Davles), wants to destroy Dunross and take over Noble House. Meanwhile, two American tycoons (Deborah Raffin and Ben Masters) have come to Hong Kong to make a financial deal with Dunross.

The novel is set in 1963 but the mini series takes place in a recent modernity of 1987. Aside from the cast and brilliant script, Hong Kong has clearly stolen the show. With eight weeks of exterior shots in the former British colony, Noble House has captured the exotica, intrigue and local psyche of the city. As the complicated double-dealing and kidnapping unfold, so do the custom and traditions of a city. The eight weeks of exterior shots have taken the cast to the Peak Star Ferry, Central, Aberdeen, Jumbo Floating Restaurant, The Peninsula, Happy Valley racecourse, Repulse Bay, and other landmarks. This is full of double talk, and wit that will leave you laughing until you bust a gut. I do hope that for verisimilitude’s sake the Chinese triads and locals would have conversed in native tongue rather than English.

2 Discs, 355 minutes

5 Responses

  1. I think I have this book somewhere. Clavell paperbacks are always so thick they are a bit off putting for me. I like the idea of watching the miniseries instead!

    • The mini series has taken out some of the subplots of the book. The KGB and Russian espionage are completely wiped out of the series. I love the book and enjuoy watching the series.

  2. I remember desperately following this mini-series (and Shogun, too, of course) as a schoolgirl. I recall making attempts at the novels, but I don’t think I ever made it through!

  3. I read this when I was very young and I loved it then.

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