Sharpe Overview (1993-2008)


Introduction

Sharpe is a British television series of stories starring Sean Bean as Richard Sharpe, a fictional British soldier in the Napoleonic Wars, with Irish actor Daragh O’Malley playing his second in command Patrick Harper.

Sharpe and Harper are the heroes of a number of novels by Bernard Cornwell; most, though not all, of the episodes are based on the books.

Produced by Celtic Films and Picture Palace Films for the ITV network, the series was shot mainly in Crimea, a few episodes in Turkey, although some filming was also done in England, Portugal and Spain. Two episodes were filmed in India.

The series originally ran from 1993 to 1997. In 2006, ITV premiered Sharpe’s Challenge, a two-part adventure loosely based on his time in India, with Sean Bean continuing his role as Sharpe; part one premiered on 23 April, with part two being shown the following night. With more gore than earlier episodes, the show was broadcast by BBC America in September 2006.

Filming of Sharpe’s Peril, produced by Celtic Film/Picture Palace, began on 03 March 2008 in India. The first part was broadcast on ITV and UTV on 02 November 2008, with the second part shown a week later, although STV, the holders of the Northern and Central Scottish licensees of ITV, decided not to screen Sharpe’s Peril. Sharpe’s Challenge and Sharpe’s Peril were broadcast in the US in 2010 as part of PBS’ Masterpiece Classic season.

Outline

At the beginning of the series, Richard Sharpe (Sean Bean) is a Sergeant in the 95th Rifles serving in Portugal during the Peninsular War in 1809. When he singlehandedly saves the life of General Sir Arthur Wellesley (David Troughton in the first two films, Hugh Fraser thereafter) from a group of French cavalrymen, Wellesley gives Sharpe a battlefield commission, appointing him a Lieutenant. Sharpe is placed in charge of a detachment of the 95th Rifles: The term used for his men, ‘chosen men’, reflected acknowledgement of the men’s rifle marksmanship performance rather than rank; it granted some privileges, such as avoiding certain routine duties. Patrick Harper (Daragh O’Malley) eventually becomes his best friend and is promoted to Sergeant and later Sergeant Major.

Wellesley and his various spymasters, first Major Michael Hogan (Brian Cox), followed by Major Nairn (Michael Byrne), Major Mungo Monroe (Hugh Ross) and Major General Ross (James Laurenson), find Sharpe to be an extremely capable and cunning officer and give him progressively more important tasks. Despite their backing, he has to fight against the strong prejudice of aristocrats (who often owe their army positions to money and social connections rather than military skill) against an uncouth commoner raised from the ranks. He makes a number of dangerous enemies, such as French Major Pierre Ducos (Féodor Atkine) and Colonel Sir Henry Simmerson (Michael Cochrane), and encounters one from his prior service in India, Sergeant Obadiah Hakeswill (Pete Postlethwaite). However, Sharpe’s successes gain him steady promotion. By the end of the Napoleonic Wars, at the Battle of Waterloo, he is Lieutenant Colonel Sharpe.

Along the way, Sharpe has a number of romances. During the course of the series, he marries the Spanish guerrilla leader Teresa Moreno (Assumpta Serna), with whom he has a daughter. Teresa is killed by Hakeswill. Sharpe then marries Jane Gibbons (Abigail Cruttenden, Bean’s real-life wife for less than three years), who deserts him, steals his hard-earned money, and takes a lover. He finally settles down with Lucille Castineau (Cécile Paoli), a Frenchwoman who passes away some time after Napoleon’s final defeat. (However, according to the Starbuck Chronicles, another series of Cornwell books, she outlives Sharpe.)

Sharpe Films

Production & Filming Details

  • Director: Tom Clegg.
  • Writers: Eoghan Harris, Russell Lewis, Colin MacDonald, and Charles Wood.
  • Music: Dominic Muldowney and John Tams.
  • Original Network: ITV.
  • Release Date: 05 May 1993 to 09 November 2008.
  • Running Time: 100-140 minutes (per episode).
  • Country: UK.
  • Language: English.

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