Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
"You've got much better manners than we have. It's all wrong about the English being better-mannered than Americans," said Jean Marsh, the actress, daughter of a parlor maid and co-creator of "Upstairs Downstairs."
Her American fans seemed so much more polite and intelligent than the common run at home, she said, where "Upstairs, Downstairs" is a popular commercial show on TV.
And 300 of the 1,500 WETA subscribers who attended a by-invitation-only "cast party" Wednesday night at the station with Marsh and two other members of the recently concluded British series beamed and shuffled a bit while the familiar pomp-and-circumstantial trumpet theme of Masterpiece Theater played on.
Three thousand had been invited but rain and the first of the David Frost/Richard Nixon interviews thinned the ranks considerably. Those who did show up were admitted in groups of 300 to the studio, which was drapped in Union Jacks. They clustered around the dais were Marsh, (who played Rose, a maid) Simon Williams (James Bellamy, the dashing young suicide), Christopher Beeny (Edward, the jocular chauffeur) and Ward Chamberlain, president of WETA, sat on a white wicker sofa and rocking chairs, holding forth about the making of the show and the $1.6 million raised for public television in last Sunday's telethon (WETA subscribers contributed approximately $85,000.)
"The three questions asked most often are: 'Do you have trouble learning the lines?' 'Is it really booze?' And 'Do you really kiss all those girls?'" said Williams, smiling and twitching his sleek mustache. "And the answers to those questions are 'Yes,' 'No' and 'None of your business.'" The audience was delighted and became even more so when Williams confessed that he had attended British public school, which in Britain means a private school.
"Which public school?" a man cried. "Harrow," said Williams. "Westminster," shot back the man, as if terribly nostalgic.
Asked by Chamberlain to talk a bit about the other cast members who were unable to be present, the three had nothing but praise for Gordon Jackson (Hudson, butler), the late Angela Beddeley (Mrs. Bridges, the housekeeper) and Lesley-Anne Down (Georgina).
After 20 minutes of questions and rapturously received answers, the audience waved autograph books, cast photographs, scraps of paper and copies of "This England," a glossy National Geographic book which subscribers who contributed $125 during the WETA telethon received as a gift.
"Why did you like 'Upstairs, Downstairs' so much?" someone asked of a woman who popped one soft-voiced question after another. "I don't know . . . I don't know . . ." she said. "I, we all, just did ."