Between 1949 and 1999, the life and works of D. H. Lawrence inspired ten feature films: nine based on works of fiction and one based on biography. In "D. H. Lawrence: Fifty Years on Film", Louis K. Greiff examines these films as adaptations, as cultural or historical documents, and as independent works of art. Significantly, the films were not spread evenly throughout the decades but appeared in three clusters. The first group, or the "black and white," appeared between 1949 and 1960. With the exception of Marc Allegret's "L'Amant de Lady Chatterley" (1955), all celebrate the British common man as a midcentury hero and promote an unmistakable yet never strident postwar ethos that is Marxist in spirit. The second cluster occurred during the late 1960s and early 1970s. These films show Lawrence embraced many values shared by the culture at large of the time - nonconformity, neobohemianism, sexual rebellion, war protest, and the celebration of youth. The third group answers the question, "Why, in an un-Lawrentian decade like the 1980s, was there a revival of Lawrence's works on film?"
Greiff also deals with the contributions made by directors, Ken Russell and Christopher Miles, both of whom directed Lawrence films of the latter two clusters. He shows how Russell and, to a lesser extent, Miles were responsible for bringing mass audiences in touch with the works of Lawrence. Greiff's final and most important goal is to interpret and evaluate the Lawrence films. He looks first at the film as a visual representation of its text, then as an original act of creation and object of art.
Louis K. Greiff is a professor of English at Alfred University.