Adapted from Henry James' 1877 novel, The American stars Matthew Modine as Christopher Newman, a nouveau riche Californian determined to crash into European society. Falling in love with aristocratic young widow Claire De Cintre (Aisling O'Sullivan), Christopher intends to marry the girl despite fierce opposition from Claire's formidable mother Madame de Bellegarde (Diana Rigg) and her snobbish and titled elder brother Valentin (Andrew Scott). Thanks to the intervention of busybody maidservant Mrs. Bread (Brenda Fricker), Christopher comes into possession of evidence suggesting that Madame de Bellegarde may have murdered her husband -- thereby placing the enterprising young man in the position of being able to blackmail his way into a profitable marriage. A co-production of the BBC and PBS, The American was first telecast in Britain in 1998, and in the U.S. as part of the Masterpiece Theatre: The American Collection anthology on January 3, 2001.