Harry Gordon Selfridge to become the subject of a new ITV1 drama – Mr Selfridge

by Lisa McGarry

The life of the flamboyant and visionary American entrepreneur, Harry Gordon Selfridge, is the subject of an ambitious new ITV1 drama to be produced by ITV Studios.

Created by multi-award winning writer Andrew Davies, Mr Selfridge tells the story of ‘Mile a Minute Harry’, a man with a mission to make shopping as thrilling as sex. Pioneering and reckless, with an almost manic energy, he created a theatre of retail where any topic or trend that was new, exciting, entertaining – or sometimes just eccentric – was showcased.

The drama is set in London in 1909, at a time when wealthy women were revelling in a new sense of freedom and modernity. Harry wanted to indulge, empower and celebrate these women and so opened the doors of his lavish department store, on London’s famous Oxford Street.

Through the innovations and spectacular events Harry staged within the store, the stories will shine a light on hidden moments of the history of women, be it fashion, cosmetics, technology or domestic affairs.

Harry’s colourful life will play out against the rich tapestry of London at the turn of the century. In his leisure hours he was a gambler, and although happily married, he enjoyed the company of glamorous show girls and film stars. His womanising was legendary and he very much lived life in the fast lane.

Based upon the book Shopping, Seduction and Mr Selfridge by author Lindy Woodhead which is the biographical account of the life of Harry Gordon Selfridge and the story of his store, the series will go into production in April in London for transmission on ITV1 during 2013.

Andrew Davies and his writing team have cherry picked the most intriguing aspects of Harry’s real life and used them as a spring-board to create a big, glamorous city story. There is a rich cast of fictional characters to fall in love with, and whose fortunes are all interlinked with his own extraordinary story. From the opulent life of London’s social elite, to the bright lights, glamour and back-stage intrigue of London’s theatres, from board rooms, private poker games and smoky music halls to the working men and women trying to make their own success, this is period drama firmly set in the advent of modernity.

Mr Selfridge (working title) will be produced by Chrissy Skinns (Marchlands, Secret Diary of a Call Girl) and executive produced by ITV Studios Drama’s Kate Lewis. Jon Jones (Titanic, Northanger Abbey) will direct and Andrew Davies (Bleak House, Pride and Prejudice) is the lead writer alongside Kate Brooke (Case Sensitive, Murder in the Outback) and Kate O’Riordan (The Bad Mother’s Handbook, The Kindness of Strangers) who will also be writing some of the scripts.

Mr Selfridge (working title) has been commissioned by ITV’s Director of Television, Peter Fincham, Director of Drama Commissioning Laura Mackie and Controller of Drama Sally Haynes.

Said Peter: “The story of Harry Selfridge and how he transformed the world of retail is fantastically rich territory. Andrew Davies and the team have created a compelling and entertaining series that is part family saga and part workplace drama.”

Kate Lewis, Executive Producer for ITV Studios added: “It’s impossible to read about the real Harry Selfridge and not be enthralled. Here’s a man that had it all and lost it all in the most spectacular fashion. His life and the extraordinary legacy he left behind are dripping with drama.”

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