Saturday, March 27, 2010

Cinema Royal: Barry Foster

The late British actor Barry Foster (originally John Barry Foster) appeared in a number of television and film roles but one of his most memorable, certainly for readers here, was his part in the 1974 BBC miniseries “Fall of Eagles”. In seven episodes he played the part of German Kaiser Wilhelm II. Of course the crew did their best to make all the actors resemble their historical characters as much as possible but, in my opinion, none looked so convincing as Barry Foster’s Kaiser Wilhelm. Particularly in the latter episodes where he was aged somewhat the resemblance is striking. Had it been possible to give him a shrunken left arm one could, at times, have trouble telling the actor apart from the actual monarch. His portrayal was also, on the whole, a fairly accurate one. He did not play the Kaiser as a malicious villain, but as a somewhat over-the-top monarch trying to be the sort of strongman he was expected to be, ever confident that his own course was the correct one. As the series went on and especially in the final episode Foster shows very well how the Kaiser had fallen into frustration and melancholy trying to come to grips with being reduced to a figurehead with his empire collapsing around him. Certain scenes also show his religious side which is often ignored. It correctly shows that he was not behind some maniacal scheme to conquer the world, that he had grave misgivings and gave dire warnings about the efforts to encourage revolution in Russia and one of the most touching scenes of the series was certainly when he comforted his weeping wife over the tragic fate of the Romanovs. For the accuracy of the part, sugar-coating nothing but not vilifying the Kaiser, the talent with which he portrays the Kaiser at different stages in his life and for his uncanny resemblance it is Barry Foster as Wilhelm II that most stands out in my mind from “Fall of Eagles”.


  1. Might we see a post on the said Kaiser, or on Bismark? That would be great.

  2. You very well might. It will not be in the next few days but I'm sure I will as Wilhelm II was one of the first royal figures I really studied in-depth. Call me a sucker for hard luck cases but I tend to be drawn to those most often vilified by history, especially when they are hard to 'figure out' and the Kaiser was definitely that -a mass of contradictions. As for Bismarck, I cannot say I am a fan of the man himself but one would be hard pressed to deny his ability to accomplish his goals as well as uttering some of the most memorable quotes of any statesman.


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