What links Lady Chatterley’s Lover to Walkabout and William Hurt?

The DH Lawrence classic inexorably leads to violent UK theatre, a stunning John Barry soundtrack and the erotic thriller Body Heat

Poached game

Emma Corrin and Jack O’Connell in Lady Chatterley’s Lover
Lady Chatterley may be back, but she was banned at first … Photograph: courtesy of Netflix

If a gauge of success is the number of adaptations your work inspires, then DH Lawrence’s 1928 novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover scores high. The latest update is a Netflix film with Emma Corrin as the lady of the house having the sort of relationship with the estate’s gamekeeper Mellors (Jack O’Connell) that the expression “torrid affair” was invented for.

Tangled up in blue

Portrait of playwright Edward Bond standing in front of a wall of posters
… as was Saved by Edward Bond, who also wrote the script for Walkabout … Photograph: Radio Times/Getty Images

The novel, notorious for its portrayals of sex, was finally published in the UK in 1960 after an era-defining obscenity trial. Censorship abounded: at the Royal Court, the Lord Chamberlain’s office banned the shocking violence of Edward Bond’s 1965 play Saved until the theatre found a loophole. Bond, an irascible giant of the British stage, also turned to screen, most successfully with the script for Nicolas Roeg’s outback drama Walkabout.

The heat around the corner

English composer John Barry (1933 - 2011)
… the music for which was composed by John Barry, whose work also appeared in Body Heat … Photograph: Getty Images

The music for Walkabout came from John Barry, the prolific British composer and conductor who can do a Bond score one day, an Out of Africa theme the next. Another notable film with Barry’s music was the great 1981 neo-noir Body Heat.

Hurt’s locker

William Hurt in The Big Chill
… starring William Hurt, who began the 80s in Altered States … Photograph: Collection Christophel/Alamy

Kathleen Turner and William Hurt were the steamy stars of that erotic thriller, which came during Hurt’s great 1980s leading-man run which included Kiss of the Spider Woman (earning him an Oscar), The Big Chill and Broadcast News. Hurt began the decade in Altered States, a strange sci-fi-horror-thriller.

Altered names

Ken Russell in 2001
… directed by Ken Russell, who later adapted Lady Chatterley for TV. Photograph: Rex Features

Sidney Aaron was credited with the screenplay for Altered States, but that was a pseudonym for Paddy Chayefsky, who disowned the work as a protest at its rendering by director Ken Russell. The British film-maker was no stranger to trouble and no stranger to DH Lawrence – an adaptation of Women in Love helped make his name; in 1993, he did Lady C for TV with Sean Bean and Joely Richardson. The latter appears in the latest film, as housekeeper Mrs Bolton.

Pairing notes

Watch This is the second feature from French director Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre, who impressed with her 2019 prison-and-horse-based debut The Mustang. “Inspirational without going Disney,” wrote the Guardian’s critic.

Eat While DH Lawrence derided elitist “eaters of good dinners”, Paris Review’s cooking columnist Valerie Stivers attempted to recreate food from the book, landing on a “simple chop” and “bread with cheese and chives” and a summer cake with fruit.


Larry Ryan

The GuardianTramp

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