D. H. Lawrence: Fifty Years on Film

By Louis K. Greiff | Go to book overview

4
Foxes and Gypsies on Film:
They Steal Chickens, Don't They?

At least in theory, Lawrence's short novels should offer the optimum starting point for successful cinematic transformation. Their genre seems to promise a balance between two difficult extremes for filmmakers: an opportunity to avoid the expansions and interpolations of The Rocking Horse Winner and the condensations of Sons and Lovers. In his review of Christopher Miles's film of The Virgin and the Gipsy, John Simon reaches the same conclusion when he writes, “The novella may be just about the only form of fiction that readily lends itself to cinematic adaptation: it is long enough to offer the filmmaker a sufficiency of material to use, expand, or drop; but it is not so long as to oblige him to cut ruthlessly and disfiguringly, nor so short as to force him into wholesale inventions and additions. ” 1 This reference to the cinematic advantages of the short novel is a familiar one, echoed by numerous critics yet surprisingly put into practice by few of the Lawrence filmmakers. The exceptions are two directors, Mark Rydell and Christopher Miles, whose screen adaptations of Lawrence novellas were released close together and during a renaissance period for Lawrence filming in which three high-profile productions appeared in as many years: The Fox in 1968, Women in Love in 1969, and Virgin in 1970. 2

Mark Rydell's version of The Fox, which began this cinematic outburst, was the first Lawrence film to be directed by an American. Rydell's producer, Raymond Stross, maintained the British presence in Lawrence filming, however, as did Anne Heywood, the female lead in The Fox, who was also Stross's wife and a former Miss Great Britain. Heywood, as March, was joined by two better known American actors, Sandy Dennis as Banford and Keir Dullea as Paul Grenfel, a

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