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  • Jack Cardiff, the director of "Sons and Lovers" was one of the greatest cinematographers ever. Just think of "Black Narcissus" but as a director he lacked that extra something, call it egomania, single mindedness or whatever you want. "Sons and Lovers" is beautifully crafted but it doesn't have a real center and by that I mean, no real point of view, no personality. What a feast however. Trevor Howard got an Oscar nomination for his role here and he is truly wonderful. The marvelous Wendy Hiller manages to give a soul to the monstrous mother and make her sympathetic without betraying the misogynistic nature of DH Lawrence's vision. But the film belongs to Dean Stockwell. His truth and his beauty is what I took away with me and stayed with me, always.
  • Freddie Francis's cinematography is in some ways the star. It is not showy or intrusive. It's totally organic to the unfolding of the plot. Yet it is exquisite -- both with landscapes and with actors. This is especially true with Trevor Howard, very powerful as a boozy miner.

    The other star is that great actress Wendy Hiller. Her role is far from entirely sympathetic. She suffocates her favorite son, well played by Dean Stockwell. She is demanding in a quiet way and selfish in a manner passing itself off as martyrdom. But what a gorgeous performance! Mary Ure was a fine actress. Somehow, though, the character she plays doesn't entirely work in my view. It seems more from kitchen-sink realism, like the Shelagh Delaney plays that were filmed around this time. (And where have they gone? Why don't we ever see "A Taste of Honey" or "The Leather Boys" anymore?) Heather Sears is good but I have to admit, to my embarrassment, I found it hard to shake her excellent performance in the tile role of "The Story of Esther Costello" from my mind. Her being a bright young woman taken with Stockwell, therefore, startled me throughout. That is my own failing and surely not hers.

    This is a superb movie. All of it is good. But for me, the scenes involving Hiller are the most compelling. Howard, too, is superb. And Stockwell as Paul. The family story is heart-wrenching.
  • This exquisite adaptation of D.H. Lawrence's novel is famed cinematographer Jack Cardiff's most accomplished film as a director; in fact, he was nominated and indeed won several major Best Direction awards (including the Golden Globe). Sadly, none of his other directorial efforts were anywhere near as rewarding although I'd still like to watch at least 2 of them - the epic THE LONG SHIPS (1963) and the horror film THE MUTATIONS (1974; a SE DVD of which has been released under the title THE FREAKMAKER).

    Amazingly, this was a Hollywood production (made by 20th Century Fox) and, as such, leading man Dean Stockwell (who was probably never better) was imposed on Cardiff by producer Jerry Wald - though he seems to have been pleased with his performance. The acting of the Oscar-nominated Trevor Howard (as Stockwell's boorish and drunkard coal-miner father) and Mary Ure (as the married but separated young suffragette with whom Stockwell has an affair), as well as Wendy Hiller (as his strong but possessive mother), is irreproachable. The supporting cast includes Ernest Thesiger (in one of his last films) and Donald Pleasence, with both unfortunately having limited screen-time.

    Freddie Francis' luminous black-and-white cinematography earned the film its only Oscar; interestingly, Francis also followed in Cardiff's footsteps and became a film director himself (with similarly erratic results, ironically enough). Mario Nascimbene's lovely music score and the film's vivid recreation of an era (in authentic locations, no less) add immeasurably to its lasting impression.

    The coal-mine setting recalls earlier films like Carol Reed's THE STARS LOOK DOWN (1939) and John Ford's HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY (1941), with which it can be favorably compared. Still, for all its quaint Englishness and the inherent sentimentality of its narrative, the film is a remarkably adult and frank depiction of sexual and artistic awakening vis-à-vis repressed Edwardian society and, together with Ken Russell's equally celebrated adaptation of WOMEN IN LOVE (1969), remains undoubtedly the finest screen rendition of D. H. Lawrence's work.

    It's a shame, therefore, that this is as yet unavailable on R1 DVD but the R2 edition I own is a more than adequate substitute, with a very nice-looking print of the main feature, surprisingly strong audio and, apart from the basic supplements of the original theatrical trailer and a stills gallery, features a wonderful interview with Cardiff about the making of SONS AND LOVERS (interspersed with relevant clips from the film itself) which clocks in at around half-an-hour.
  • This is perhaps Jack Cardiff's best known film as a director, and it is certainly not a letdown. 'Sons and Lovers' was DH Lawrence's most autobiographical novel, and here, although some aspects have been shorn down or removed, the substance of that novel comes through.

    In the main roles we have US actor Dean Stockwell as Paul Morel, the son who is suffocated by his overbearing mother, and derided by his miner father. His parents are played by Wendy Hiller and Trevor Howard, and they are brilliant in difficult roles. Stockwell, less so, although he certainly looks the part.

    The women in Paul's life are played by Heather Sears - another annoying part as Miriam which reminds me of her 'Room at the Top' performance a few years earlier - and Mary Ure, who is a little bland but watchable as Clara. Somehow Ure never really found her niche on the screen.

    The film looks sumptuous and the black and white photography is exactly right. There are moving scenes and moments of comedy, plus a wicked cameo appearance by Ernest Thiesinger as an art collector.

    This film is much less known than more showy Lawrence adaptations such as 'Women in Love', but it is excellent, well-paced, and is far from a disappointment.
  • filmkr26 August 2002
    How can there be so little attention and knowledge about this film? Nominated for SEVEN academy awards including Best Picture!

    I have always felt that CinemaScope was made for B&W films. Scope films look really good B&W. And to my mind the best B&W photographed movie of All Time is SONS & LOVERS. This was a prestige picture for distributor 20th Century-Fox, as indicated by the rare lack of drum roll over the Fox Logo - instead the beginning of the outstanding music score is heard. In the Chicagoland area in 1960 and again at a theatre in Okland, CA in 1976 I had the pleasure to view the film with Mag Stereo Sound. I also saw a new print in NYC sometime in the early 80's. So why has Fox let this picture set in obscurity? My only knowlege of any TV exposure was on American Movie Classics Channel (scanned only) about ten years ago. This one NEEDS to be on DVD!!!!!!!!

    One last comment. if you've ever read the book, you will really appreciate the great job that was done in "adapting" the novel. The screenplay, which is SO well done, is I'd say a good 80% original material.
  • The limitations of space for comments make it impossible to detail this film's many virtues. The film is so good that I couldn't begin to do justice to its merits with my words. Don't miss the opportunity to see this film.

    There is an excellent script by Gavin Lambert aided by T.E.B. Clarke, which does a fine job of putting into 103 minutes a long, complex novel. Each scene in this film has a purpose to reveal character and make thematic points. There are no wasted scenes or aimless dialogue, yet the dialogue and action all seem natural. The characters are real and immediately involved me.

    There is a complexity to the characters. Paul's mother wants the best for him, yet at the same time she wants him for herself. Paul both wants to be free of his mother and is inextricably bound to her, so much that he refuses an all-paid education at a London art school to stay home with her, saying he doesn't want to see her alone with her abusive husband.

    Gertrude and Walter Morel's marriage is a complex one that befuddles Paul as he tries to understand the complex connection between the sensitive mother and the outwardly angry, rough father, who is, underneath, a very sensitive man, too. Walter fully understands the close relationship between his wife and Paul and knows he's locked out of that. He's both jealous of and angry at their closeness.

    Many excellent scenes here could stand alone. One such is the scene leading up to Paul and Clara having sex for the first time. There is good use of close-ups here in which Clara and Paul must convey much with their eyes.

    A certain restraint to the performances here give the characters an intensity they might not have were their performances more flamboyant, if they'd been given "big" scenes to play with shouting, tears, and so on.

    The cast in this film is perfect. I don't know of another film about which I could make that statement. I don't see a single poor performance. I can't imagine any other actors doing these roles. Each one fully inhabits the character that he/she is playing. It was a pleasure to see Heather Sears and Mary Ure again; both died far too young. And Dean Stockwell is at his youthful, handsome best. Wendy Hiller and Trevor Howard are both excellent. The excellence extends to the supporting players.

    The film is beautifully photographed in black and white. I'm sure this derives partly from director Jack Cardiff's background as a photographer, though Freddie Francis was the cinematographer here and won an Oscar for his work. Gavin Lambert and cast members Hiller and Howard didn't think much of Cardiff as director, whom 20th Century Fox forced upon producer Jerry Wald. Hiller and Howard both said they directed themselves throughout the film.

    The film was made in Cinemascope and should be seen in that form, for it doesn't scan well. (Another IMDb commentator has written well about this; see his comments.) Cardiff made good use of close-ups, but every part of this film is excellently framed, the positions of the characters in the frame, their relation to various items in the landscape. And the landscape adds a lot to the mood of the film.

    The film has an excellent score (It should be seen in a theatre with a fine sound system), but it is not overscored, and the theme song doesn't become intrusive. This theme never became a hit like the theme from "A Summer Place" did, though the theme did turn up on a number of instrumental albums back in the 60s. People often didn't know from what film it came.

    I'm glad to know this film and appreciate its virtues.

    The film will probably send viewers to the novel, where they can find complete details about the Morel family yet also realize how well the film conveys the novel.

    A PBS version of this novel, starring Eileen Atkins as Gertrude Morel, Tom Bell as Walter Morel, and Karl Johnson as Paul, was shown in 1981. It has never been shown subsequently on PBS or elsewhere to my knowledge nor was it ever issued on video. Was it that bad?
  • kenjha26 December 2012
    In this fine adaptation of the Lawrence novel, the son of a coal-mining family aspires to become an artist. The only American in a British cast, not only does Stockwell flawlessly adopt an English accent, but he also turns in an excellent performance. This is certainly one of the high points of a career that has spanned a remarkable eight decades from the 1940s to the 2010s. Howard and Hiller play his parents and the latter is particularly good. Supplying the love interest are Ure and Sears, two actresses who both died too soon. After a long, distinguished career as a cinematographer, Cardiff scored his first directorial success with this drama.
  • bandw31 October 2012
    This is an admirable adaptation of the 1913 D.H. Lawrence novel of the same name. The story concentrates on young Paul Morel and the relationships among him, his parents, his brothers, and his two lovers. This is a case where the title provides a good synopsis.

    The relationships are complex. Paul's father is a rough coal miner and his relationship with his wife is quarrelsome. We get a glimpse into how that relationship came to be, when in fact they were lovers. The intense relationship between Paul and his mother is at the core of the story--the dynamics of all the relationships are spin-offs of this central one. Paul talks of wanting to be free while being uncommonly devoted to his mother; this emotional tug-of-war is central to Paul's personality.

    Trevor Howard is wonderful as the father and the rest of the cast does not lag far behind. Contrary to some opinions, I found that Dean Stockwell was well cast as the sensitive, emotional young Paul.

    The filming is truly outstanding, earning Freddie Francis an Oscar for best cinematography. The composition of every scene reflects the work of a superb visual artist. Francis' ability to exploit the black and white CinemaScope format is a joy to behold. The 2.35:1 aspect creates a tremendous sense of freedom, making any other format seem rather claustrophobic. Black and white photography is ideally suited to the stark emotional and physical environment of this movie, a movie that depends a lot on facial expressions. I sincerely regret the passing of the art form of this super wide screen black and white filming. The most recent movies to film in this format, exclusively in black and white, are Woody Allen's "Manhattan," and "The Elephant Man" in 1980. Think how the facial closeups would lose impact if filmed in color, and how the scene with the young couple frolicking on the beach would be made insignificant. The final scene between Paul and his first girlfriend, Miriam, is so beautifully filmed as to make it hard to forget.

    The dialog is subtle and insightful, thanks to a good screenplay, but also thanks to D.H. Lawrence I assume. Consider this comment Miriam makes to Paul when he suggests they call it quits:

    "I could hate you for making me love you. Making me fail you."

    The only minor negative comment I can come up with is that the music gets a bit too aggressive on occasion.

    This movie deserved its seven Oscar nominations and it puzzles me as to why it is not more honored in film history.
  • I probably saw this film when I was in college and it made a big impression.

    It then seemed to vanish, at least for me, until, amazingly, the American Cinematheque in Los Angeles screened it on a Monday night some months ago. I was extremely impressed with it again, especially the BxW CinemaScope cinematography (and I agree, wide-screen is the way to see this rare film, if indeed you ever can).

    So many thanks to the Cinematheque for this unusual revival.

    RE the musical score (by Italian composer, Mario Nascimbene): actually the theme was so melodic Percy Faith recorded it as a follow-up to his hit single of Max Steiner's SUMMER PLACE theme, (complete with similar 1950s piano triplets in the accompaniment!) In spite of the nod to '50s pop the SONS AND LOVERS theme was not a hit, but it remains one of the more lyrical (and obscure) movie themes from this period.

    Remember when movies actually had original musical themes????

    Ultimately I feel SONS AND LOVERS ranks with Russell's WOMEN IN LOVE in the admittedly small canon of excellent cinematic Lawrence adaptations.

    It's also one of the adult Dean Stockwell's best roles, a long, long day's journey away from the almost too adorable, curly headed moppet in ANCHORS AWEIGH.
  • Sons and Lovers (1960)

    D. H. Lawrence is at an all time low in popularity--both his books and the movies based on them. Why? Good question. It's more than just passing tastes. I think it has to do with the precious boundary breaking that once made Lawrence a daring darling of the literary set. Sexual taboos have since been so radically eclipsed, from Henry Miller to John Updike, not to mention hundreds of less mainstream authors, Lawrence is almost stuffy and pretentious.

    Or so it would seem. "Sons and Lovers" is a love story set in a tough mining town in England early in the 20th Century. It's filled with the longing of a man to rise out of these pits and be "something" in the world--namely, a successful painter. The girl who loves him is overly devoted, and after a tryst (that was the radical part) there is a falling apart of things. How true this can be! I mean, this is great stuff--a sensitive story about the feelings most of us have had, where desire is mistaken for something deeper, where the world is calling and love, or shades of love, are not enough to keep you home.

    The filming is straight out of the gritty, short period of British films known rough as the British New Wave or the Angry Young Men (or both). These films, a grown out of French New Wave and early Italian neo-realism, were a reaction against the slick and vacuous big studio filmmaking (Hollywood especially) from this period. There are more typical films from this group than "Sons and Lovers" but it's certainly part of that mood, looking at working class life, filming with great economy and directness, and using actors in a realistic, vaguely documentary way. For insight into this kind of film, try "Loneliness of a Long Distance Runner" or "Look Back in Anger." Even the first Beatles film, oddly enough, is influenced by this movement ("A Hard Day's Night"), in the raw, fast, black and white style.

    But if that's the context, you still have to ask if this film is any good. And the answer is quite. It's a big movie, a deep movie, emotional and deeply serious. It is sad, too, overall, or perhaps melancholy is a better word, and this gloom is slightly wearing after a bit. Some people will find that talking about love is a peculiarly British and indirect way of being in love--the literary overwhelms the truth.

    Director Jack Cardiff is a cinematographer above all. This might explain the visual emphasis, the sublime, restrained photography. Lead young actor Dean Stockwell is a perfect visual cast, and he really is good, somehow, in a way that is convincing, though he isn't always commanding. A small part of me didn't care what happened to anyone in the movie. It was all plain to see, and I knew what I was supposed to feel, but I didn't always get the force of those feelings.

    The movie, like the book, is patient and deliberate, and quite nuanced and beautiful.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This film won several Oscar nominations in 1960 including Best Picture (Jerry Wald), Best Director (Jack Cardiff), Best Actor (Trevor Howard) and Best Supporting Actress (Mary Ure). It had a very good cast and one of those unforgettable movie theme songs. I'm not sure that it is possible to capture a large classic novel in a 90-min movie, but if it is, this one came close. Based on D.H. Lawrence's semi-autobiographical novel, this film captures some of the common themes displayed in his other works: the search for ideal love and sensuality and its limitations in the industrialized and modern life of early 20th Century England. Although written MUCH earlier than the 'kitchen sink realism' of the late 50s and early 60s, it still captures some of its flavor and uses the same geographical setting, the English Midlands.

    The protagonist of the story is Paul Morel (Dean Stockwell) who has an almost idyllic love for his mother, Gertrude (Wendy Hiller). He also hates his father, Walter (Trevor Howard), who—-though usually good natured--treats his mother beastly. Paul asks his mother how she can put up with his father's drinking. She answers by saying that he was once young and handsome and good.The relationship between Paul and his mother clearly points towards emotional insect.

    Gertrude wants to rescue her three sons' lives from the mine. With her eldest son now living in London and her youngest son being killed in a mine explosion, she turns her attention to Paul. And, even though both Paul and his mother know that their love for each other is only that between a mother and a son, Gertrude is clearly jealous of Paul's intimate closeness towards his long-time girlfriend, Miriam (Heather Sears, Room at the Top). Miriam's mother thwarts their relationship because she doesn't think Paul is good enough for her and seems to have forced a religious fanaticism on Miriam. Paul and Miriam's physical relationship seems destined to failure. After making love, Paul tells Miriam that she was sacrificing herself to him, and he wanted her to WANT more of him.When Paul makes love to Miriam, he is thinking of his mother.

    When Paul turns down an art scholarship in London and takes a job in a nearby corset factory, he does it to protect his mother and she doesn't protest that much. In the factory, he is attracted to one of his fellow worker, Clara Dawes (Mary Ure, Look Back in Anger). The married (but separated) Clara is a suffragette who seems very different from Miriam. After Clara and Paul go off for a weekend together, Paul is confronted, and beat up by, Clara's husband, Baxter (Conrad Phillips). After this, Clara breaks up with Paul, realizing that she will always own Baxter (or that he would always need her) and Paul only wanted the physical relationship.

    This is a GREAT MOVIE, FULL OF FEELING AND EMOTION, and with all of the principal cast members at their best.
  • Master cinematographer Jack Cardiff directed Sons And Lovers and got an Oscar nomination for it. The adaption of the D.H. Lawrence novel also yielded an Oscar nomination for Trevor Howard as Best Actor playing the rough and outspoken patriarch of the Welsh Morel family. The film is a look at a Welsh coal miner's family just before World War I.

    But if you are expecting something like John Ford's How Green Was My Valley let me disabuse you of that quickly. There's nothing poetical in the life these miner's lead, certainly Howard doesn't find it. One of his three sons is killed early on in a mining accident and another moves away from Howard and wife Wendy Hiller.

    But the third son based in part on Lawrence himself is a talented artist and has little chance of really blooming into a full fledged artist in Wales. He's played by Dean Stockwell and Hiller really clings to him. Which annoys Howard no end as he feels he should do his bit to put food on the table as the rest of the men do.

    Stockwell of course is torn and his struggle is the basis for the novel. He gets a job doing displays in a dress shop where he meets Mary Ure who is one of the dressmakers, quite a beauty, already married, but a woman who believes in free love. Stockwell gets some free samples. He's also involved with Heather Sears a pious young lady who comes from a religious family.

    Howard got his one and only Oscar nomination for this part. He who got first recognition for playing romantic leads like Brief Encounter is anything but romantic here. He's blustering and swaggering and dominates the scene with whomever he's in it. Wendy Hiller is pained to keep up with him, but as the clinging vine of a mother it's really her character on which the plot turns.

    Sons And Lovers yielded one Oscar, for black and white cinematography to Freddie Francis. On a television interview Jack Cardiff said that he never interfered with the camera work in this film. Like a good chief executive he picked the right subordinate for the job and was rewarded for his faith with the film's Oscar.

    Sons And Lovers ought to be viewed back to back with How Green Was My Valley. Both are family films set in the same background, but what different families.
  • Freddie Francis won a much deserved Oscar for his superb black and white, widescreen cinematography on this 1960 screen version of "Sons and Lovers" which was directed by another great cameraman, Jack Cardiff. It was a huge success in its day, tying with "The Apartment" for the New York Film Critics' Best Picture prize but apart from Francis' cinematography it has very little to recommend it. This is a sanitized, unbearably literate treatment of Lawrence's novel with a hugely miscast Dean Stockwell in the crucial role of Paul Morel, Lawrence's alter-ego. The American Stockwell just about manages the accent but makes Morel a soulless, spoiled brat. As his coal-miner father Trevor Howard also struggles but, as always, Wendy Hiller is superb as the clinging, overly possessive mother and an Oscar-nominated Mary Ure isn't bad as Clara Dawes. It may have felt reasonably daring in 1960 but Lawrence deserves better than this kid-gloves approach.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I am pretty sure D. H. Lawrence's "Sons and Lovers" was considered a rather shocking book when it debuted in the early 20th century. The book had a male lead (Paul) who was sexual--sleeping with both his girlfriend as well as having an affair with a married woman. In the book and in this movie, this could have been a lot more explicit but due to conventions of the day it's somewhat muted--but still very much a groundbreaking sort of story (the same can be said for Lawrence's later book, "Lady Chatterly's Lover"). So in that sense, the film is interesting to any film student since it is rather frank and unusual when it comes to sex.

    The acting is quite nice. While Dean Stockwell was an American, he did a credible job playing a Brit in the lead. As for the rest of the cast, they are also quite good though two performances struck me. Trevor Howard usually played refined roles--upper or at least middle-class gentlemen. Here, he's a crude coal miner--and not the least bit likable through much of the film. The other performance, though not exactly a huge or important role, was that of Ernest Thesiger as Paul's benefactor. I loved seeing Thesinger, as this was a HUGE departure from his most famous role--an evil scientist in "The Bride of Frankenstein"! So, with a groundbreaking sort of story (that has MANY Freudian overtones) and very good acting, I loved the film, right? Well, no...not especially. This brings me to a major problem with the film--I just didn't particularly like anyone and felt very detached from them. Paul was rather selfish and cold and no one seemed particularly interesting or likable. You may not mind this--I did. Worth seeing--just not a must-see film.
  • For a movie depicting a young man's struggles with sex this movie is mostly passionless, and that is what weighs it down. I would have put the father more into the background too even though Trevor Howard gives a strong performance. Dean Stockwell is also good as Paul, conveying the intelligence and confidence yet confusion of the main character. If the film had been made a few years later more could have been made of the Lawrence book on which it is based. His Lady Chatterly's Lover was being un-banned the year this film was released. Is that The Battle Hymn of the Republic being used (ironically) in a scene after one of the Morels' rows?