D.H. Lawrence published Lady Chatterley's Lover in 1928, two years before his death at the age of 44. It took another 32 years for the courts to rule that the work was not obscene, and on this day in 1960, the publisher, Penguin Books, was acquitted of those charges. Filming this story can be like drawing a nude. What turns up on the screen is more a portrait of yourself than the subject you're trying to portray. But the language of the novel, especially when read in this clip featuring, Judi Dench, brings us as close to understanding the nature of intimacy as is possible in any art form. Her voice-over covers scenes from Ken Russell's 1993 TV Series. It is followed by a second clip from Pascal Ferran's 2006 film, Lady Chatterley, which is based on Lawrence's 1927 novel, John Thomas and Lady Jane, often referred to as the "second draft" of the novel that eventually became Lady Chatterley's Lover. It takes a long time to write a good novel. And even when the author finally gets it right (three tries on this material for D. H. Lawrence), it can take as long as 32 years for the rest of the world - especially the courts - to catch up.
But before we leave this subject, consider the 2002 Todd Haynes' film, Far from Heaven. Although Haynes is "channeling" Douglas Sirk's All That Heaven Allows, the content of both films is really a mid-20th-century spin on Lady Chatterley. In Sirk's version, the gamekeeper is a gardener played by Rock Hudson, and the husband is dead. But in Hayne's version, the "crippled" husband is Dennis Quaid, whose closeted homosexuality prevents him from fulfilling his wife's need for intimacy. And to put Lady Chatterley in terms a modern audience can relate to, the gamekeeper/gardener in this version is black, Dennis Haysbert, the wholly acceptable spokesman for Allstate insurance. Lawrence was onto something in the 1920's that haunts us to this day. Remember the infamous Cheerios commercial a few months ago?
French director, Pascal Ferran's Lady Chatterley
Julianne Moore As a Frustrated Lady Chatterley in Far From Heaven
Born this day in 1906, his official title was Count don Luchino Visconti di Modrone. Who better than a member of the aristocracy itself to document its decline in films like The Damned and The Leopard? But we have the amazing Coco Chanel to thank that Victonti became a filmmaker at all. It was she who got him connected to Jean Renoir, for whom he worked as an assistant director before branching out on his own. Check your DVD and Streaming options to see trailers or full versions of his beautiful Death in Venice, featuring Mahler's Fifth Symphony, and The Leopard with Burt Lancaster, allegedly one of the most inspired casting decisions in film history. Make sure it's the Italian version. Vicsonti disavowed the American version released by 20th Century Fox. It would be sacrilege to view it at all, but especially so on his birthday.
I like big books, and I cannot lie. My background includes talk radio, newspapers and TV news. I've hosted a morning-drive classical music program on the California coast and published nationally in Reader's Digest, the Christian Science Monitor, and Playboy. I've won awards for my journalism and my fiction. One of my essays even made it into an anthology for college English courses. For real? Yes, for real.
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