Julia, episode 4, Petit Fours

Sarah Lancashire and David Hyde Pierce in Julia

Julia, the drama series about Julia Child, uses episode 4 to bring in more humor and an awareness of what Julia’s growing popularity would mean to Julia and Paul Child. This episode was directed by Erica Dunton. Instead of discussing the entire episode, I want to concentrate on Julia’s growing fame and her ahead-of-its-time marriage of equality.

The Double Edged Sword of Fame

Julia Child’s (Sarah Lancashire) arrival as a television personality exploded in episode 4.

She went to her alma mater, Smith College, for a reunion. She was a guest speaker and the women LOVED her. Fawned over her. Later having wine with some of her friends, a woman named Iris (Robin Weigert) joined the group. Julia was gracious, but didn’t remember who Iris was.

Iris told her about how important being around Julia in college had been to her. She remembered a spring break when they went skinny dipping in a frigid lake and then slept on a couch under a green and red tartan blanket. Somehow this night with Julia gave Iris permission to acknowledge herself as a lesbian.

Sarah Lancashire in Julia
Memory is a tricky thing.

Julia was gobsmacked by this story. Something she didn’t even remember had been so important to a woman she’d long forgotten. Hearing Julia’s voice on the television had made the memory come rushing back to her.

People who had seen The French Chef called Julia’s home to ask questions about the recipes. Paul Child (David Hyde Pierce) wondered if they should get an unlisted number.

Sarah Lancashire in Julia
She got mail.

The TV station started getting stacks of letters for Julia. People wanted to bring her samples of what they’d cooked. Julia commented that she’d better start locking her door.

Associate Producer Alice Naman (Brittany Bradford), on her own initiative, got the first syndication deal for the show with a public television station in San Francisco. They wanted Julia to come there for an interview. (When does she get to stop paying for everything herself now that WGBH sees a way to profit from her?)

She was getting a glimpse of the fact that people thought they owned her and had a right to her because they’d seen her on television. This was the first glimmer of what was to come, a pivotal moment in her career. She wasn’t sure she was going to like the adoration she was already feeling from fans. It scared her.

Julia and Paul

Julia Child’s marriage and her love for Paul were her rock. While she was away at Smith College, he’d had his first art opening in a gallery. He realized he wasn’t going to be a great success as an artist. But he was happy to let Julia be the artist in the family.

She’d supported him in his long career, now he would support her.

The love these two shared was inspiring. Paul was willing to let Julia shine and take the spotlight. When you compare how she had to struggle with butt-hurt men like Albert Duhamel (Jefferson Mays) at work, you realize what an emotionally secure man Paul Child was.

They were equals in the most modern sense.

A footnote about episode 4. In the previous three episodes, there was lots and lots of eating. I was astonished and amazed by Sarah Lancashire’s ability to stuff her mouth with food and then deliver lines in Julia’s voice. We missed that bit of acting magic in this episode.

6 thoughts on “Julia, episode 4, Petit Fours”

  1. Ileene Mittleman

    E4 raises so many thought provoking issues. The price of fame, the treatment of women in the workplace, sexual identity, reminiscences of youth, expectations, the bonds of a healthy modern marriage, love, friendship, partnership- oh, and some lovely petit fours! Sarah continue to wow us with her in depth, nuanced performances. This series is smashingly grand. Longing for E5 but dread that it brings us one step closer to the series conclusion. Hungry for a 2nd course of Julia ( series two!)

    1. I had no idea that Julia Child was such a bold and brilliant woman. I’m really appreciating the depth of character that the writers and Sarah together are giving her. And YES to more seasons!

  2. Meant to tell you that I’ve enjoyed reading your blog over the years.

    Irony is probably not lost on Sarah Lancashire when portraying Julia, as she dealt with the crushing world of celebrity and fame and the notion of “public ownership” very quickly and very early in her career. She spent the next 30 years really protecting her private life while still managing to turn in stellar work in a very public space.

    I’m sure she understands and appreciates when people respond to her work but not sure she would love some internet circles of fandom that border on fanatical worship. Kind of icky. And I say that as a huge admirer of her performances in everything she has ever done.

    1. It’s interesting to see who uses social media and who doesn’t. You can tell if it’s someone trained to use it for PR or it’s the person just being themselves. Surprisingly, Sarah has done a few interviews and press for Julia. She looks uncomfortable doing it, and I’m sure when the opening excitement over the show dies down, she’ll disappear from public view as fast as she can.

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