Hooray for Hornblower

I dug out my old Horatio Hornblower DVDs, dusted them off, and forced my friend to watch them with me.  True love never dies.  This series never fails to entertain.

It was eleven years ago when the first series of Horatio Hornblower aired on A&E.  I knew during the opening credits that I was hooked.  The weeks in between the broadcast of the four episodes were some of the longest I’ve experienced.  Ioan Gruffudd was instantly my most favorite actor.  I  began reading the Forester books, although I didn’t get very far with them due to the nautical terms and the long confusing descriptions of battles that didn’t really engage me.  The TV series was more character-centered and accessible to a wider audience.

That same month I got my first computer.  Well, my first computer since internet access.  The Apple IIe from college in 1984 never really counted for much.  I went online after Hornblower to find an instant community with other fans of the show.  I started spending hours typing away online in forums and chat rooms.  It must be a stage everyone has to go through in their computer lives.  I’m so relieved it didn’t last!  Over the next few months, more than one Hornblower fan group developed, some remaining tethered to the A&E forums and others around Ioan Gruffudd fansites.  We were all friendly with each other, but we had definite loyalties. 

As Ioan Gruffudd’s October birthday approached, my group decided to start a charity fund in his name. We chose Tenovus (cancer research) because it was based in Gruffudd’s hometown of Cardiff , and he’d done some work with them already.  The Tenovus staff were delightful to work with, and they made it easy for fans from several continents to make donations in his name.  Another fan group liked the idea, so they joined our fundraising.  The amount we raised wasn’t huge, but we were very proud of our efforts.  A small photo shoot was arranged at Cardiff Stadium with Ioan and the director of Tenovus.   I was sent an autographed Hornblower book and copies of the photos. 

Ioan Gruffudd and Tenovus Director Marc Phillips in 1999. Gruffudd is holding a photograph taken by me!

A couple of months later, just before Christmas 1999, I flew to London to be with my dying uncle.  It was an emotional ordeal that was made a little more bearable by my trip to Cardiff to meet the Tenovus staff.  I also got to visit the Grand Turk, the ship used for the Hornblower series.  It was docked quite close to where my uncle lived.  The crew members were very friendly and told me lots of stories about filming.

Over the next few years, two more series of Hornblower were made.  The budgets were bigger, some excellent new actors joined the cast, and the scripts were fine.   Still, the later series never had the same impact on me.

I stopped participating at the fan forums when the topic of discussion was “If Ioan Gruffudd was an ice cream, what flavor would he be?”  One can only take so much silliness.  I still like Gruffudd, but the Fantastic Four movies seem to have stalled his career.  I hope he gets back to working on projects I want to see.

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