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Gudrun Brangwen, an independent-minded sculptress, and her sister, Ursula, a schoolteacher, watch the wedding festivities of Laura Crich and Tibby Lupton in the British mining town of Beldover. At a luncheon given by the stiff and wealthy Hermione Roddice for the newlyweds, Gudrun meets Gerald Crich, a coal mine owner, and Ursula becomes preoccupied with Gerald's friend, school inspector Rupert Birkin. Breaking off his relationship with Hermione, Rupert finds tender and optimistic love with Ursula, but still he searches for a deeper and wider meaning of love. Gerald and Gudrun, however, pursue a stormy affair. The emotions of the four are heightened by the drowning of the newlyweds at a picnic given by the Crich family. Gerald and Rupert confront their fears and their need for friendship in a wrestling match; Rupert and Ursula marry; and all four go on a holiday to Switzerland. Growing impatient with Gerald, Gudrun becomes involved with Loerke, a bisexual German sculptor, and Ursula and Rupert seek the calmer atmosphere of warmer climes. Gerald, angry and tormented, attacks Loerke, makes a feeble attempt to strangle Gudrun, and wanders off into the snow until he collapses. Rupert grieves at the death of his friend and the inadequacy of love between man and woman.
Michael Graham Cox
A. G. Scott
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Best Writing, Screenplay
Women in Love
Kramer (who later became a novelist, playwright and gay rights activist) was enthusiastic, but was dissatisfied with the script written by playwright David Mercer, and ended up writing another draft himself. Narizzano eventually dropped out, and Kramer approached Jack Clayton, Stanley Kubrick and Peter Brook to direct Women in Love. All of them turned it down and Kramer then offered the job to Ken Russell, whose two feature films had flopped miserably, but who had directed a series of well-received biographical films about famous artists (including dancer Isadora Duncan and composer Claude Debussy) for British television. Together, Kramer and Russell rewrote the script, incorporating more of Lawrence's dialogue.
Women in Love explores the relationships of the Brangwen sisters -- teacher Ursula and artist Gudrun -- with Rupert Birkin, a school official and intellectual, and his friend Gerald Crich, the son of a mine owner in the English Midlands district. It also examines the friendship between the two men, and the nature and limits of love. The first of the four leading roles to be cast was Birkin. Kramer had been talking to Alan Bates about playing Rupert from the start, and Russell was enthusiastic about him. For the part of Gerald, Kramer wanted Edward Fox, who fit Lawrence's description of the character as blond Nordic type; but Russell preferred dark, burly Oliver Reed, who had played Debussy and poet Dante Gabriel Rosetti in Russell's television biographies. Reed had starred in his uncle Carol Reed's Oscar®-winning hit, Oliver! (1968), so he was considered box office, and Kramer agreed. Glenda Jackson had little film experience. She was primarily a stage actress, a member of the prestigious Royal Shakespeare Company, but both director and producer had been impressed by her powerful performance in the film version of Marat/Sade (1967), and agreed that she had the fierceness to play Gudrun. It was Jackson's first starring film role, and she won her first Oscar® for it. Vanessa Redgrave and Faye Dunaway both turned down the part of Ursula, realizing that the rather pallid character was certain to be overshadowed by Jackson's Gudrun. The role went to Jennie Linden, who was nominated for a British Academy Film Award for her performance.
The macho, street-smart Reed took an instant dislike to Jackson, the Shakespearean theater actress, perhaps intimidated by her. It didn't help that her character was supposed to bully and dominate his. There were rumors that he tried to have her replaced on the film, but the creative tension and rivalry between them worked for their characters, and they made two more films together. Years later, Reed spoke admiringly of her talent: "Once there's a spark there's always a fire, depending on where the wind blows and how much water you put on it. With good movement of air there is always combustion, and Glenda will always be Glenda."
Like the novel, the film version of Women in Love explores the nature of love and sexuality, and thanks to the creative freedom that filmmakers were enjoying in the late 1960s Russell was able to infuse the film with a frank eroticism that shattered some film taboos. There are nude lovemaking scenes between both couples, and the film broke new ground as one of the first to show male frontal nudity in several scenes. In one, Bates runs naked through the woods. More controversial was the famed nude wrestling scene between Bates and Reed. Russell and Kramer met with the British censor to discuss the scene, agreed with his suggestion that the lighting be dim, reassured him that there would not be "clearly visible genitals," and that homoerotic overtones would be "handled discreetly," according to correspondence released in 2011. One of the most provocative and sexually-charged scenes took place around an outdoor dining table, with all the participants fully clothed. Bates compares the figs they're eating to a woman's anatomy, and lasciviously devours it, shocking everyone at the table.
With Women in Love, the movie careers of Russell and Jackson were spectacularly launched. Besides Jackson's Oscar® win, the film earned three additional nominations, for Russell as Best Director, for adapted screenplay and for cinematography. Women in Love was well-received on both sides of the Atlantic, and even the critics who complained that the script dumbed down or romanticized Lawrence's novel praised the performances and Russell's visual style. Vincent Canby of the New York Times admitted that "Although the novel's ideas are necessarily simplified onscreen, the movie does capture a feeling of nature and of physical contact between people, and between people and nature, that is about as sensuous as anything you've ever seen in a film." More than 40 years later, in an appreciation of the film written after Russell's death in 2011, Australian critic Roderick Heath praised the director's "animated, dynamic camera, a visual entity that reproduces the thrashing sense of life found in the characters."
By Margarita Landazuri
Director: Ken Russell
Producer: Larry Kramer, Martin Rosen
Screenplay: Larry Kramer, Ken Russell (uncredited), based on the novel by D.H. Lawrence
Cinematography: Billy Williams
Editor: Michael Bradsell
Costume Design: Shirley Russell
Art Direction: Ken Jones
Music: Georges Delerue
Principal Cast: Alan Bates (Rupert Birkin), Oliver Reed (Gerald Crich), Glenda Jackson (Gudrun Brangwen), Jennie Linden (Ursula Brangwen), Eleanor Bron (Hermione Roddice), Alan Webb (Thomas Crich), Vladek Sheybal (Loerke), Sharon Gurney (Laura Crich)
Women in Love
Sir Alan Bates (1934-2003)
Born Alan Arthur Bates on February 17th, 1934 in Derbyshire, England, Bates was the son of amateur musicians who wanted their son to become a concert pianist, but the young man had other ambitions, bluntly declaring to his parents that he had his sights set on an acting career when he was still in secondary school. He eventually earned a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, but had his career briefly interrupted with a two-year stint in the Royal Air Force. Soon after his discharge, Bates immediately joined the new English Stage Company at the Royal Court Theatre and by 1955 he had found steady stage work in London's West End theatre district.
The following year, Bates made a notable mark in English theatre circles when he starred as Cliff Lewis in John Osborne's charging drama about a disaffected, working-class British youth in Look Back in Anger. Bates' enormous stage presence along with his brooding good looks and youthfulness (he was only 22 at the time of the play's run) made him a star and promised great things for his future.
Four years later, Bates made a solid film debut in Tony Richardson's The Entertainer (1960) as the son of a failing seaside entertainer, played by Sir Laurence Olivier. Yet it would be his next two films that would leave an indelible impression in '60s British cinema; Bryan Forbes' Whistle Down the Wind (1961) and John Schlesinger's A Kind of Loving (1962). Bates' performances as a murderer on the lam who finds solace at a farm house in the company of children in the former, and a young working-class husband who struggles with his identity in a loveless marriage in the latter, were such finely nuanced portrayals of loners coping with an oppressive social order that he struck a chord with both audiences and critics alike. Soon, Bates was considered a key actor in the "angry young men" movement of the decade that included Albert Finney and Tom Courtney.
For the next ten years, Bates simply moved from strength to strength as he chose film roles that both highlighted his range and raised his stock as an international celebrity: reprising his stage role as the brutish thug Mick in the film adaptation of Harold Pinter's The Caretaker (1963); starring alongside Anthony Quinn as the impressionable young writer Basil in Zorba the Greek (1964); the raffish charmer Jos who falls in love with Lynn Redgrave in the mod comedy Georgy Girl; the bemused young soldier who falls in love with a young mental patient (a radiantly young Genevieve Bujold) in the subdued anti-was satire King of Hearts (both 1966); reuniting with director Schlesinger again in the effective period drama Far from the Madding Crowd (1967); a Russian Jew falsely accused of murder in John Frankenheimer's The Fixer (1968, remarkably, his only Oscar nomination); as Rupert, the freethinking fellow who craves love and understanding in Ken Russell's superb Women in Love (1969); playing Vershinin in Sir Laurence Olivier's underrated The Three Sisters (1970); opposite Julie Christie in Joseph Losey's tale of forbidden love The Go-Between (1971); and his moving, near-tragic performance as Bri, a father who struggles daily to maintain his sanity while raising a mentally disabled daughter in the snarking black comedy A Day in the Death of Joe Egg (1972).
Bates would slow down his film work, concentrating on the stage for the next few years, including a Tony award winning turn on Broadway for his role in Butley (1972), but he reemerged strongly in the late '70s in three good films: a conniving womanizer in The Shout; Jill Clayburgh's love interest in Paul Mazursky's hit An Unmarried Woman (1978); and as Rudge, Bette Midler's overbearing manager in The Rose (1979).
By the '80s, Bates filled out somewhat physically, but his now burly presence looked just right in some quality roles: as the notorious spy, Guy Burgess, in John Schlesinger's acclaimed mini-series An Englishman Abroad (1983); a lonely homosexual who cares for his incarcerated lovers' dog in the charming comedy We think the World of You (1988); and a superb Claudius in Franco Zeffirelli's Hamlet (1990).
Tragically, Bates lost his son Tristan to an asthma attack in 1990; and lost his wife, actress Victoria Ward, in 1992. This led to too few film roles for the next several years, although he remained quite active on stage and television. However, just recently, Bates has had some choice moments on the silver screen, most notably as the butler Mr. Jennings in Robert Altman's murder mystery Gosford Park (2001); and scored a great comic coup as a gun-toting, flag-waving Hollywood has-been in a very broad satire about the Canadian movie industry Hollywood North (2003). Also, theatre fans had a treat when Bates appeared on Broadway last year to critical acclaim (and won a second Tony award) for his portrayal of an impoverished 19th century Russian nobleman in Fortune's Fool (2002). Most deservedly, he was knighted earlier this year for his fine contributions as an actor in all major mediums. Sir Alan Bates is survived by two brothers Martin and Jon, son Benedick and a granddaughter.
by Michael T. Toole
Sir Alan Bates (1934-2003)
How frightfully kind of you!- Gudrun Brangwen
Oh, my God, Gerald! Shall I die?- Gudrun Brangwen
I want the finality of love.- Rupert Birkin
I am not married. Truth is best.- Gudrun Brangwen
Both Oliver Reed and Alan Bates were initially apprehensive about filming the legendary wrestling scene due to insecurity over who had the largest "member". Eventually, after both actors got drunk, compared sizes and realized there was little difference between the two, filming continued with relative ease.
Filmed on location in Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Northumberland, County Durham, and London, England, and Zermatt, Switzerland. Opened in London in November 1969.
Voted Best Actress (Jackson) of 1970 by the National Board of Review.
Voted Best Actress (Jackson) of 1970 by the National Society of Film Critics.
Voted Best Actress (Jackson) of 1970 by the New York Film Critics Association.
Voted One of 1970's Ten Best English-language films by the National Board of Review.
Released in United States Fall November 13, 1969
Released in United States March 1970
Released in United States Fall November 13, 1969
Released in United States March 1970
The United Kingdom