Lady Chatterley

Last Update: 10 May 2003
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The novel, Lady Chatterley's Lover, by D.H. Lawrence, was banned in Britain for 30 years. What many people don't know is that this version was the last of three written by Lawrence and that, in the view of a number of critics - as well as Lawrence's wife, Frieda - it is greatly inferior to the earlier drafts. In fact, the second of these earlier versions was published in 1972 by Heinemann, under the title John Thomas and Lady Jane.

When Ken Russell set out to film Lady Chatterley for the BBC in the summer of 1992, he drew upon all three versions of the novel, deliberately toning down the infamous sex scenes and the language to ensure the program would be shown in a prime-time slot. The £3.7 million, 4-part serialization stars Sean Bean as Mellors, the gamekeeper, and Joely Richardson as Lady Connie Chatterley, with James Wilby as Connie's disabled husband, Clifford.

Location Notes:

Lady Chatterley was shot from 11 May 1992 until 25 July 1992 at locations ranging from Hertfordshire, to woods in Oxfordshire, to the Isle of Wight and Pinewood Studios.

The Isle of Wight doubled for the South of France, while the Old Park Hotel at St. Lawrence was the location for the beach and woodland walk scenes and the aviary scenes were shot at the Tropical Bird Park.

Scenes at Connie Chatterley's father's home, Mandalay, in the south of France, were filmed at the maze at the clifftop theme park, Blackgang Chine, and Lisle Combe, the house at the Rare Breeds Park at St. Lawrence.

Havenstreet Station, part of the Isle of Wight Steam Railway (which runs from Wootton to Smallbrook Junction) was featured in the final episode of the BBC adaptation when Lady Chatterley returns home from France.

The final scenes from Lady Chatterley, where Mellors and Connie embrace at the stern of a ship as they set off for Canada, were filmed aboard the Southampton to Isle of Wight Red Funnel ferry, Cowes Castle. The ship, which was built in 1965, doubled as a transatlantic cruise liner sailing from Southampton. It was picked because it had a traditional wooden hand rail and by cleverly filming from different angles, director Ken Russell was able to make the ferry look like a liner -- and not like a ferry full of passengers on a normal crossing to the Isle of Wight.

The scenes at Lady Chatterley's home were filmed at Wrotham Park, near Barnet, just north of London.

(From British Television Locations Guide by Steve Clark)

Audience reaction to the airing of Lady Chatterley in the summer of 1993 was as varied as it was heated. One reviewer likened it to Fawlty Towers and predicted Sir Clifford would soon start screaming "Don't mention the war!" while doing his Silly Walk, while Lady Connie would discover the source of her angst to be an ingrown toenail, and Mellors would soon be running around in circles wearing a moose's head and shouting "Fire! Fire!" Other critics were kinder, allowing for the boundaries placed on the series by the medium of television and its restrictive codes.

Lady Chatterley is tastefully done and beautifully filmed. There is nudity and there is coarse language - to quote from the North American warnings that preceed similar programs - although it's quite fair to say that the nudity and coarse language permitted by the BBC would never make it past the eagle-eyed guardians of prime-time network programming in the U.S. and Canada without the liberal use of the nearest editing suite.

That is not to say the series was without controversy. In spite of toning down both the sex and language before sending it to air, and in spite of its 9.35 pm time slot, the Broadcasting Standards Council criticised Lady Chatterley for showing sex scenes that were both "too long" and "too rough", as well as airing them too early in the evening. Lady Chatterley and Mellors, the Council complained, had sex three times in the second episode of Ken Russell's adaptation. Moreover, the Council reported it had received no less than 20 complaints from viewers about the explicitness of those scenes.

The BBC, for its part, argued that viewers had been amply warned, in announcements before the broadcast, of the "explicit scenes of passion" to follow - and that the audience was "not taken unawares". Moreover, the BBC said, in order to be faithful to the book it was important that the physical aspects of the relationship between Mellors and Lady Chatterley be explored. Rejecting the contention that Mellors' actions in one scene amounted to a portrayal of rape, the BBC said: "It was sufficiently clear that Mellors' actions represented urgency rather than force and that Lady Chatterley's consent was ultimately not in doubt."

The Council, in replying, accepted that any adaptation of the novel required "explicit treatment of the sexual aspects", but ultimately concluded that the three love-making scenes were "unduly protracted".

Whatever the outcome of these debates, it's difficult to argue with the result. For the week ending June 13, 1993, Lady Chatterley drew an audience share of 12.69 million viewers, second only to Eastenders on BBC1 (12.93 million), and bested only by Coronation Street and Heartbeat on rival ITV.

Lady Chatterley Trivia:

Actor Sean Bean, who plays Mellors in Lady Chatterley, had a scheduling conflict that ended up making a lasting mark on him!

Prior to starting work on Lady Chatterley, Sean was wrapping up his role of terrorist Sean Miller in Patriot Games. He was flown back to Los Angeles from England three times to finish the film.

In the notes to the DVD release of Lady Chatterley, Sean says: "Harrison was really good to work with. He's like a sort of hero. I had a lot of scenes with him, but we did not have much dialogue, because we were fighting all the time. We reshot the ending three times, so I kept having to fly out again. The last time was just before we were about to start on Lady Chatterley. For continuity, they wanted me to have my hair cut again - a crew cut - which would have been a big problem for doing Mellors."

"But in the end it wasn't the hair that was a problem. I rang the Lady Chatterley production and said, 'I got some good news and some bad news. I managed to keep my hair, but I've split my eye open.' I had eight stitches where a boat hook hit me in the final fight scene."

If you watch the final scenes of Patriot Games closely, you can actually see the two different haircuts.

In some of the shots done during the climactic boat chase, you can see Sean's spiky brush cut, sticking up wet, and in some of the other shots, including some closeups, you can see his hair is long in the front and hanging over his forehead.

The boat hook Sean mentions earlier was actually swung by Harrison Ford while filming these scenes, and the scar remains one of Sean's defining facial features, just under his left eyebrow.



Joely Richardson
Sean Bean
James Wilby
Shirley Anne Field
Amanda Murray
Soo Druet
Frank Grimes
David Sterne
Melanie Hughes

Lady Connie Chatterley
Oliver Mellors
Sir Clifford Chatterley
Mrs. Bolton
Mrs. Draycott
Mrs. Flint
Mr. Linley



Produced by

Production Design
Costume Design
Music by
Running time
Region 1 DVD/VHS Release

Global Arts/London Films/BBC
Ken Russell
Michael Haggiag and Ken Russell
Based on the novel by D.H. Lawrence

Robin Vidgeon
Alan Mackay
James Merifield
Evangeline Harrison
Jean-Claude Petit
210 minutes
June 06, 13, 20 and 27, 1993 / BBC
June 24, 2003 (North America)

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