Ken Russell the films
Classic Period: Women in Love


Ken Russell Women in Love

A period when Ken Russell brought out films that challenged cinema. Women in Love was a major critical and commercial success. The Music Lovers continued his success and The Devils established him as a great mainstream director. At one point his latest three films (The Music Lovers, The Devils and The Boyfriend) were showing at the same time on London's West End.

Women in Love from 1969 is based on DH Lawrence's novel and caused as much critical confusion as Lawrence did in his day. The wrestling scene brought homo-erotic images into the mainstream cinema.  But it became a major commercial success.

British Board of Film Censorship on Women in Love

Correspondence from the British Board of Film Censorship on Women in Love detailing the cuts they required (from BBC4 Dear Censor).

Ken Russell Women in Love

As in the later Rainbow, Russell skips most of the political aspects of Lawrence's book.

Ken Russell Women in Love   Ken Russell Women in Love

Drowned lovers contrasted with the living.

Ken Russell Women in Love   Ken Russell Women in Love

The rest of the virgin and the anxiety of the mistress.

Eleanor Bron and Jennie Linden provide good supporting roles.  The photography is by Billy Williams.  Says Joy Gould Boyum (from Double Exposure) "the scenes between Rupert and Ursula tend to be brightly lit, situated in daylight and frequently outdoors.  The scenes between Gerald and Gudrun, in contrast, tend to be set in interiors and most often at night- with the prevailing darkness serving... to comment on the texture of their relationship....".  The use of mirrors is typical of Ken Russell.

Ken Russell Women in Love

The editor is again Michael Bradsell.  Costumes are by Shirley Russell.  Georges Delerue did the music, Russell says: "Certainly the power of the scene is greatly enhanced by the music of Georges Delerue but it’s not the exact music that he wrote for that particular sequence... what I had to do was to cut out the fugue and use the prelude, actually the prelude had tremendous, a sort of growing intensity and power so it worked and the fact that it cut off just as the moment when the two men collapsed worked extremely well".

John Russell Taylor in The Times, 13 Nov 1969, says "Whoever had the idea of putting D.H. Lawrence and Ken Russell together , it was a stroke of something like genius."

Ken Russell Women in Love



Ken Russell Women in Love Oliver Reed   Ken Russell Women in Love Alan Bates

Oliver Reed is at his peak with subtle powerful acting. Alan Bates co-stars. Both traded part of their salary for a percentage of the profits, one of the first such deals in films. Initially they were cast in the opposite roles, but Russell soon switched them round.

Ken Russell Women in Love Glenda Jackson pregnant

Glenda Jackson acts subtly. The initial scenes, where her acting is by facial expression rather than words, is presumably Ken Russell's idea and increases the depth of the film.  She was paid 5000 for the role.   She was pregnant but did not tell Russell until it became obvious.  Vladek Sheybal says "there is a revealing shot in the film which nobody noticed after its release, but which I noticed, when she dances with me in the snow- suddenly we see a bulge" (from Fire and Ice).


Best Image

Glenda Jackson Ken Russell Women in Love   Ken Russell Women in Love

Glenda Jackson, red hair and fringe, confronting the Highland cows, red hair and fringe.
Alan Bates naked in the field.



Best Scene

Oliver Reed and Alan Bates in Women in Love

The wrestling scene. Homo-erotic imagery which is still daring.
The opening sequence with the coal miners on the bus and the silent dialogue of Glenda Jackson.



Sexuality (repression, homosexuality).
The elements: water and earth.



Other films released in the same year include True Grit, Midnight Cowboy and Easy Rider.

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