Newport Polo In Feature Film

Million Dollar American Princesses, Part I premieres on Sun., Jan. 4 (8 p.m. ET on Smithsonian Ch.) chronicling the fascinating stories of real American heiresses and their arranged marriages to British nobility at the end of the 19th & early 20th centuries.  Each segment includes scenes filmed at the Newport International Polo Series, USA vs. Scotland 2014, and other scenes on location in Newport.

Through sumptuous location filming, including the famed Marble House on Bellevue Avenue, historical documents, interviews and dramatic re-enactments, Million Dollar American Princesses brings to life the stories of these extraordinary women – the romance, the heartbreak, the secrets, the scandals and their enduring legacy.

Million Dollar American Princesses makes an enthralling journey through history to reveal the stories of some of the most charismatic and adventurous women of their day, and how they interacted with the great social changes that ushered in the 20th century.

From Winston Churchill’s parents to Princess Diana’s great grandmother, the series examines arranged marriages that saved a fading British aristocracy and, in return, gave some American women a title and place in high society.  Between 1880 and 1920, as many as 350 British aristocrats married wealthy American brides—the so-called “Dollar Princesses.”   This new series chronicles the true stories of how marriage, class, sex, ambition, power and money all converged during these four decades, as the sun began setting over the British Empire.

Elizabeth McGovern takes viewers into Highclere Castle, where “Downton Abbey” is shot. The three-part series reveals the lives of cossetted women whose families craved the social standing, breeding and respect a title would grant. They lived like nobility in America, in marble palaces with legions of staff, while their British counterparts lived in centuries-old family estates that were crumbling. The culture clash was often intense, and the result sometimes extraordinary. Some of these women became not just socialites but Members of Parliament and Suffragettes. They campaigned for enlightened causes and embraced sexual freedom – setting their mark on everything from the Royal Family and the British Empire to parliamentary democracy.

Segment 1 Synopsis:  The series begins with the gentility of the late Victorian period and a profile of America’s Jennie Jerome, whose son, Winston Churchill, was arguably the most famous statesman of the 20th century. Beautiful, educated and headstrong, Jennie met Lord Randolph Churchill at a dance, and it reportedly was love at first sight for both. Jennie was a wonderful spirit, writing to her betrothed: “I won’t marry you unless you let me do exactly as I like.” A Brooklyn-born heiress, she grew up in a Manhattan mansion worth $253 million (in today’s dollars, accounting for inflation), but still was not accepted by Manhattan society. In England, it was not much better. No matter how much of her father’s money was pumped into the family estate, Jennie was keenly aware of always being looked down upon by the gentry.

PART 2 TO AIR JANUARY 11th AT 8PM ET/PT ON SMITHSONIAN CHANNEL™

PART 3 TO AIR JANUARY 18th AT 8PM ET/PT ON SMITHSONIAN CHANNEL™

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