Lady Chatterley’s Lover In 1913 Connie Reid marries wealthy Nottingham colliery owner Sir Clifford Chatterley but he returns from the Great War disabled and in a wheelchair. Connie is loyal but begins to feel alienated as he engages a nurse, Mrs Bolton, to bathe him and excludes her from pit business. Despite his desire for an heir his impotency results in a lack of sexual activity and Connie is drawn to handsome Oliver Mellors, the plain-spoken former miner her husband has engaged as his game-keeper and who represents the passion she craves. They embark upon a physical affair in Oliver’s cottage but are discovered and betrayed by Mrs Bolton. Connie, now carrying Oliver’s child, must choose between a pampered but joyless existence with her husband or an uncertain future with the man she has come to love.
Popping down to the woodshed
Lady Chatterley’s Lover Friends complained that this new BBCtv adaptation was too slow and not naughty enough. They could not be more wrong. The pace was well-judged and if the novel’s “John Thomas and Lady Jane” scenes were somewhat diluted, there was enough of that kind of “action” to explain why Lady C. threw caution and decorum out the window after she was captivated by the gamekeeper’s rough manliness.
Holliday Grainger and Richard Madden gave strong performances and both looked and felt in tune with the finely evoked post-World War One setting. James Norton brought pathos as well as rage to the role of Sir Clifford and was well-served by Jed Mercurio’s screenplay which did not banish him to the sidelines once his wife started popping down to the woodshed. The script’s one big flaw was to give the story a Mills & Boon ending which is not ruled out but not promised in the novel.
The best-ever screen version of a D.H. Lawrence book was Ken Russell’s WOMEN IN LOVE (1969), which did manage to work in the novel’s intellectual element as well as the social and sexual. Christopher Miles’s THE VIRGIN AND THE GYPSY (1970) was nearly as good. And so is this: beautifully photographed, with a subtle script and excellent acting; a touching tale of a love affair that crosses the class divide. I hope this weekend’s reworking of THE GO-BETWEEN will be as good – and as subtle.