Sons and Lovers
Cast & Crew
Paul Morel, the sensitive son of a miner, lives with his father Walter and domineering mother Gertrude in a grim Northern England mining town. Walter, resigned to his life in the mines, resents Gertrude's encouragement of Paul's budding artistic talents and her insistence that their son take a lesser paying job above ground rather than follow in his father's path. Paul, who lives in an ethereal world of books and ideas, finds a soul mate in Miriam Leivers, a farmer's daughter whose puritanical mother has indoctrinated her with the idea that sex is dirty and meant only for procreation. When Arthur, Paul's miner brother, dies in a catastrophic collapse of a mine tunnel, his other brother William, who escaped the mines to work as a clerk in London, returns home for the funeral. After the burial, as William boards the train for London, he informs his mother that he plans to marry and shows her a photo of his fiancé, Louise Weston. Fearing that she will be displaced in William's affections by his new wife, Gertrude becomes depressed, and to cheer her up, Paul takes her to an art show in Nottingham, where one of his paintings in being exhibited. When Paul decides to have dinner with Miriam, the possessive Gertrude again feels threatened. Later, Walter, simmering with resentment over Gertrude's constant belittling, gets drunk and storms out of the house. The next day, Henry Hadlock, a patron of the arts who saw Paul's sketch at the show, comes to the Morel house and offers to send Paul to art school in London. Paul races off to share his good news with Miriam, but when he kisses her on the lips, she recoils in shame and fear, and Paul protests that Miriam is interested only in his spiritual side and therefore cannot accept him as a man. While Paul and Miriam struggle with their emotional needs, Walter returns home and drunkenly bellows at Gertrude and then locks her out of the house. When Paul returns home, he finds his mother stranded on the porch and breaks down the door. Gertrude then tearfully recalls her love for the dashing young Walter, a love that faded as Walter proved to be an irresponsible provider and a drunkard. Bound to his mother, Paul decides to forsake his opportunity in London and take a job at Jordan's Surgical Appliance factory instead. The next morning, Paul reports for work and meets Clara Dawes, the stunning young overseer who fiercely believes in women's rights and has thus separated from her husband Baxter, an employee at the factory. After work, Paul rides his bicycle to Miriam's farm and she finally lets him make love to her. Afterward, riddled with remorse, Paul regrets forcing Miriam to subjugate her body to him. At Christmas, William comes home with the empty-headed Louise, and confides to Paul that he loves Louise because she is the polar opposite of their mother. When Paul begins to question the permanency of love, he decides to break off his relationship with Miriam. Later, Paul sees Clara at a suffragette rally and becomes intrigued when she declares herself in favor of free love. Although his mother disapproves of Paul seeing a married woman, he begins to see Clara. One night, after Paul misses his train home, Clara invites him to stay at her mother's house. As Clara's mother frets about the lateness of the hour, sexual tension builds between Clara and Paul. After her mother finally goes to bed, Paul, haunted by his longing, sneaks downstairs and makes passionate love to Clara. As gossip of their relationship spreads throughout the factory, Baxter warns Paul to stay away from his wife. Later, Paul assures his mother that he will never marry as long as she is alive because no woman could ever take her place. When Paul and Clara leave for a seaside holiday, Walter, furious that his son is consorting with a married woman, blames Gertrude's overpossessiveness for ruining their son's life. Although Paul makes love to Clara with physical abandon, she senses that he is incapable of fully giving himself and that something is holding his back. When Paul returns home from his holiday, Baxter meets him at the train and pummels him in jealous anger. Upon reaching his house, Paul finds his mother resting in bed, frail and exhausted. The next day at the factory, Clara receives a message from Baxter notifying her that he has been injured, and when she hurries to his side, Paul realizes that she still loves her husband. As Gertrude's condition worsens, the doctor is summoned and diagnoses that she has suffered a heart attack, and that another attack will prove deadly. As they sit by Gertrude's beside, Walter expresses remorse over failing his wife, and Paul, ever solicitous of his mother, tries to deny her impending death. The next morning, Gertrude suffers a fatal heart attack and Paul reacts by cursing that his life is empty without his mother. Angered by Paul's self pity, Walter admonishes him to make something of himself as Gertrude had wanted. Later, Paul encounters Miriam in the woods and she tells him that she is going to London to become a teacher. When Miriam suggests that they marry so that she can protect him, Paul replies that he needs to be free and not belong to anyone because that is the only way he will know what it means to live.
Vilma Ann Leslie
T. E. B. Clarke
Best Art Direction
Best Supporting Actress
Best Writing, Screenplay
Sons and Lovers on DVD
Based on D.H. Lawrence's semi-autobiographical 1913 novel, the movie is a gorgeously photographed and textured look at a young man's coming-of-age in a gritty English mining town. The man, Paul Morel (Dean Stockwell), is a sensitive, budding artist who lives with his parents and is on the verge of breaking free into his own life. His father (Trevor Howard) is a bitter miner prone to bursts of alcohol-fueled rage. His mother (Wendy Hiller) is overly protective and dependent on Paul. Paul also has a girlfriend (Heather Sears), but her uptightness regarding sex (due to her own overbearing, devout, anti-sex mother) drives Paul to an affair with another, married, woman (Mary Ure). Through all the turbulence of home and romantic life, Paul explores his sexual awakening and tries to determine his life's direction.
Sons and Lovers has something of the feel of the contemporary film versions of two other famous novels: East of Eden (1955) and Splendor in the Grass (1961), with their highly intense, dramatic conflicts between parents and older children. (All are also period pieces.) A big difference, though, is that Sons and Lovers loses something by not being purely subjective from Paul's viewpoint. It's his story, yes, but director Jack Cardiff treats us more as observers than participants, and the result is a lack of a true emotional spine to the piece. Still, it looks great and contains powerful dialogue (if a bit too "literate" and self-conscious at times), utterly convincing performances, and first-class production design, with an enveloping effect. While not as emotionally powerful for the audience as it seems to be for Paul, this is still a worthwhile viewing experience.
Jack Cardiff was a brilliant cinematographer (Black Narcissus , The Red Shoes ) who had recently started a concurrent directing career. As to be expected, his films as director tend to look ravishing, and on this one that is also due to his own cinematographer, Freddie Francis, another of the all-time greats. Francis, in fact, won an Academy Award for Sons and Lovers -- the only Oscar to go to this picture. (It was nominated for seven in all, including Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor [Trevor Howard], Actress [Mary Ure] and Black-and-White Art Direction.)
Sons and Lovers is also a powerhouse actors' showcase. Trevor Howard is remarkable as the father; he just completely loses himself in the character. Wendy Hiller is also first-rate, as always, and Stockwell and Ure are not only beautiful to look at but turn in excellent portrayals, making the most of their many facial close-ups deep in thought or anguish. The bewitching Ure was at this time married to playwright John Osbourne and had started an affair with actor Robert Shaw, whom she would soon marry.
And stealing the show in his few scenes as an art patron is Ernest Thesiger, fondly remembered as Dr. Pretorius in The Bride of Frankenstein (1935). He was 81 when he made Sons and Lovers and died a few months after its release.
Fox Cinema Archives' DVD looks quite good. It is an enhanced widescreen transfer of this black-and-white, CinemaScope film, and while it suffers from a little scratchiness here and there, Freddie Francis' blacks are quite stunning and the contrast looks perfect. This is especially so in one sublime scene that must be mentioned: Stockwell stands on a staircase gazing at Ure, who sits in front of a fireplace late one night with her back to him (and us), brushing her hair. He then moves slowly toward her down the stairs and across the floor, in a traveling point-of-view shot, for a romantic interlude. This brief moment, so perfectly calibrated, and expressing so much entirely visually, is transcendent.
By Jeremy Arnold
Sons and Lovers on DVD
Wendy Hiller, 1912-2003
Wendy Hiller was born on August 15, 1912, in Bramhall, and raised in Manchester, where her father was a cotton-cloth manufacturer. Educated at Winceby House, a girl's school in Sussex, Hiller found herself drawn to the theater, and after completing secondary school, Wendy joined the Manchester Repertory Theater, where she was a bit player and later an assistant stage manager. In 1934, she earned critical acclaim and stardom when Manchester Rep cast her as the lead in the popular drama, Love on the Dole, written by her future husband, Ronald Gow. The play was such a hit, that Hiller would repeat her role in London and triumphed on Broadway.
Back on the London stage, she was playing the lead in George Bernard Shaw's St. Joan, when she caught the eye of the playwright himself. He cast her as the beloved cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion (contemporary audiences will no doubt be aware of the musical version - My Fair Lady) on stage in 1936 and in Anthony Asquith's screen adaptation two years later co-starring Leslie Howard. The film was a smash, and Hiller earned an Academy Award nomination for her striking and original Eliza. Shaw would cast her again as an heiress turned Salvation Army worker in the classic Major Barbara for both stage and the 1941 film version.
The ensuing years could very well have been Hiller's time for screen stardom, yet despite her blazing acting ability, regal presence and distinctive voice, her film forays were too few, as she concentrated on the stage and spending time with her husband Gow and two children. Still, when she did make a film appearance, it was often memorable: a materialist turned romantic in Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's glorious, I Know Where I'm Going! (1945); a lonely hotelkeeper in Delbert Mann's Separate Tables (1958), which earned her an Academy Award as best supporting actress; an obsessive mother in Jack Cardiff's Sons and Lovers (1960); a unfaltering wife to Sir Thomas More in Fred Zinneman's brilliant A Man for All Seasons (1966); and as a compassionate nurse who cares for the deformed David Merrick in David Lynch's The Elephant Man (1980).
Ill health became an issue for Hiller in her later years, but she made one elegant return to the camera when she was cast as a former society beauty who is interviewed 50 years after her fame in Moira Armstrong's The Countess Alice (1992). In a performance that was touching, but never maudlin, Wendy Hiller proved that few could match her for presence, integrity and dignity. Her contribution to her craft did not go unnoticed, as she was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1975. She is survived by her son, Anthony, and daughter, Ann.
by Michael T. Toole
Wendy Hiller, 1912-2003
The opening and closing cast credits differ slightly in order. Tom Morahan's onscreen credit reads: "associate producer and production designer." Although Hollywood Reporter production charts indicate that the film was to be shot in Technicolor, it was released in black and white. An October 1959 Hollywood Reporter news item states that Joan Collins and Margaret Leighton were to appear in the film. The Variety review notes that location filming was done on location outside Nottingham, England. In D. H. Lawrence's novel, "Mrs. Morel," suffering in agony from cancer, dies from an overdose of pain-killing drugs administered to her by "Paul." As noted in a February 1960 New York Times article, the novel, set in Lawrence's home town, was semi-autobiographical, dealing with the author's emotionally unsettled early years, when he was nearly destroyed by parental conflict.
According to Hollywood Reporter news items, producer Jerry Wald bought the film rights to Lawrence's novel in 1954, when he was an executive producer at Columbia. In October 1955, Irving Ravetch was signed to write the screenplay, which William Fadiman was to produce. New York Times news items add that Montgomery Clift was announced as the male lead in 1955, and Peter Glenville was to direct the Columbia version.
According to information in the file on the film in the PCA/MPAA Collection at the AMPAS Library, when the studio submitted the treatment for the film to the PCA in March 1955, the PCA deemed the film unacceptable because the illicit affair between "Clara" and "Paul" was too detailed and prolonged and because Paul never expressed sorrow for his acts. The PCA was also concerned that Paul's relationship with his mother bordered on incest. After moving to Twentieth Century-Fox, Wald submitted a first draft continuity for the film to the PCA in December 1958. The PCA again objected to the lack of a voice of morality in the film, to Paul and Clara's affair and to Paul's incestuous relationship with his mother. The PCA's objections were finally overcome by having Paul's father "Walter" speak out against the sexual immorality of his son.
According to a March 1960 Daily Variety news item, following the completion of production in England, Wald wanted to film an additional romantic scene involving Dean Stockwell and British actress Mary Ure. At that time, Ure was in New York rehearsing a play. SAG denied permission for Wald to film the scene in New York, and consequently, it was never shot. In an October 1960 Esquire review, film critic Dwight MacDonald critized Sons and Lovers's failure to "capture the novel's spirit." In a December 1960 Esquire article, Wald answered MacDonald's criticism by explaining the genesis of the film. After reading Lawrence's novel which had been ignored by filmmakers, Wald entered into correspondence with Lawrence's widow to secure the screen rights.
The first screenplay was deemed too downbeat by the studio, but Wald perservered and pushed the project through. At that point, he decided that the screenplay departed too radically from the novel and hired Gabin Lambert to write a new script. At the time, Lambert was relatively unknown in the film industry, and director Jack Cardiff, who had earned an Academy Award for Cinematography(Color) for the 1947, British-made Black Narcisssus, had only directed two films previous to Sons and Lovers.
Sons and Lovers, which was Britain's official entry at the Cannes Film Festival, won an Academy Award for Best Cinematography and was nominated for Academy Awards in the following categories; Best Picture, Best Actor (Trevor Howard), Best Supporting Actress (Mary Ure), Best Director, Best Screenplay Based on Another Medium and Best Art Direction. Sons and Lovers also shared the New York Film Critics award with The Apartment (see entry above).
Voted Best Picture and Best Director by the 1960 National Board of Review.
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1960
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1960
Co-Winner for Best Picture and Best Director of 1960 as voted by the New York Film Critics Association.