Sons and Lovers (film)

Sons and Lovers is a 1960 British period drama film directed by Jack Cardiff and adapted by Gavin Lambert and T. E. B. Clarke from the semi-autobiographical 1913 novel of the same name by D. H. Lawrence. It stars Trevor Howard, Dean Stockwell, Wendy Hiller, Mary Ure, and Heather Sears.

Sons and Lovers
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJack Cardiff
Written byGavin Lambert
T. E. B. Clarke
Based onSons and Lovers
by D. H. Lawrence
Produced byJerry Wald
StarringTrevor Howard
Dean Stockwell
Wendy Hiller
Mary Ure
Heather Sears
CinematographyFreddie Francis
Edited byGordon Pilkington
Music byMario Nascimbene
Jerry Wald Productions
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • 14 May 1960 (1960-05-14) (Cannes)
  • 23 June 1960 (1960-06-23) (U.K.)
Running time
103 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office$1,500,000 (US/Canada rentals)[2]
$800,000 (UK rentals)[3]

Set and filmed in the East Midlands of England, the film centres on a young man (Stockwell) with artistic talent who lives in a close-knit coal-mining town during the early 20th century, and finds himself inhibited by his emotionally manipulative, domineering mother (Hiller)—a literary, psychological interpretation of the Oedipus story.

Premiering at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival,[4][5] the film was well-received by critics and a commercial success. At the 33rd Academy Awards, it was nominated for seven Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (for Howard), Best Supporting Actress (for Ure), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Art Direction – Black-and-White, and Best Cinematography – Black-and-White; it won the cinematography award. For his work on the film, Jack Cardiff won the Golden Globe Award for Best Director and the National Board of Review Award for Best Director.



East Midlands housewife Gertrude Morel is miserable in her marriage to Walter, a coal miner who drinks heavily and sometimes shows his bitterness in violent ways. She has placed her hopes on her son Paul, who has the talent and ambition to become an artist, a dream that is mocked by Walter. Paul finds his desire to escape to a different life sidetracked by his mother's possessiveness, as well as by local girl Miriam Leivers, with whom he has an intellectual relationship that he would like to become physical. Miriam, however, is torn between her feelings and the views of her mother, who views sex as sinful and dirty.

Paul's brother Arthur dies in a mining accident, and the Morel's eldest son, William, returns home for the funeral. As William's train back to London is about to depart, he reveals that he is engaged to be married to a pretty woman from an affluent family, a woman who the Morels later learn is the temperamental opposite of Gertrude—light-spirited, and not particularly passionate or intellectual.

When a sketch Paul made of his father is exhibited in Nottingham, he overhears a wealthy art patron criticize the work, but the man later comes to the Morel house to offer to pay for Paul to attend art school in London, as he recognizes Paul's potential as an artist. Excited, Paul tells Miriam, but she rejects his physical advances. When Paul gets home, his parents have just had a violent confrontation, and he decides to forego art school, as he cannot bear to leave his mother alone with his father.

Paul takes a job in a local lace factory, where he becomes enchanted with Clara Dawes, a "liberated" feminist co-worker who is separated—but not divorced—from her husband, Baxter. Nonetheless, he continues seeing Miriam, and she finally agrees to have sex with him, but he immediately regrets convincing her to do so, as she did not seem to enjoy the experience, and he decides to stop seeing her. He and Clara begin a passionate affair, but he is not able to totally commit himself to her, in large part due to his mother's emotional hold on him.

While Paul and Claire are away on a trip to the seaside, Baxter confronts Walter in a pub and tells him to keep Paul away from Claire. Walter blames Gertrude's clinginess for preventing Paul from being able to have a normal romantic relationship with a woman his age, but Gertrude says all she ever wanted was for Paul to be happy. Baxter is waiting for Paul when he returns from the trip, and, although Baxter wins the fight, he is injured. Clara, who has noted Paul's emotional distance, returns to her husband to nurse him back to health.

Gertrude has not seemed well recently, and, one evening, Paul comes home to discover that she has had a heart attack. She says she no longer wishes to see Walter, as she wants to remember the days when they were in love and not be reminded of all of the negative aspects of their current relationship. She dies early the next morning, and Walter tells Paul to not let her down like he did, encouraging him to go to London and, hopefully, find some happiness.

On a walk in the woods, Paul meets Miriam. She apologizes for his loss, and they learn that they are both going to London—Paul to attend art school, and Miriam to train to be a teacher. She suggests they marry so she can care for him, but Paul rejects her proposal, telling her that, after having belonged to his mother, he wants to stay free so he can learn "what it means to live."







American producer Jerry Wald had purchased the film rights to D. H. Lawrence's novel Sons and Lovers in the 1950s, intending to produce the film in the United States, with Montgomery Clift as Paul Morel and Marilyn Monroe as one of his girlfriends.[6] When Clift's casting fell through, Wald approached James Dean, but Dean's death put the project on hold for several years, after which Wald decided it would be better for the film to be produced in the UK.



Dean Stockwell, whose performance was the most heavily criticised in reviews of the film, was given the role of Paul at the insistence of producer Wald, who hoped that an American in the cast would increase the film's box-office appeal in the United States.[7]

The part of Clara Dawes was offered to Joan Collins, but she turned it down, as her then-fiance Warren Beatty thought the script was "crap" and did not want her to do it. The part went finally to Mary Ure, who was nominated for Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance.[8]



Location shooting took place near Nottingham in the East Midlands, very close to where Lawrence himself grew up. Interiors were filmed at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire. Freddie Francis said he was hired to lens the film due to the recent success of Room at the Top (1959), for which he had served as cinematographer.[9]



Box office


By January 1961, the film had earned $1,500,000 from box office rentals in the United States and Canada and $800,000 in the United Kingdom.[2][3] Kine Weekly called it a "money maker" at the British box office in 1960.[10]

Critical reaction


Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote: "Sons and Lovers is sensitively felt and photographed in Jerry Wald's British-made film version of [Lawrence's novel] ... An excellent cast of British actors (and one American) play it well. And Jack Cardiff, camera man turned director, has filled it with picture poetry."[11]

Variety described the film as "a well-made and conscientious adaptation of D. H. Lawrence's famed novel, smoothly directed by Jack Cardiff and superbly acted by a notable cast." The review particularly singled out Trevor Howard for "giving a moving and wholly believable study of a man equally capable of tenderness as he is of being tough."[12]

Harrison's Reports wrote: "Prizeworthy performances are rendered by all, especially Trevor Howard as a humorous, drunken miner; Wendy Hiller as his wife; Dean Stockwell as the sensitive son; Heather Sears and Mary Ure as friends of Stockwell. Direction is outstanding; photography [is] fine."[13]


Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
Academy Awards Best Motion Picture Jerry Wald Nominated [14]
Best Director Jack Cardiff Nominated
Best Actor Trevor Howard Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Mary Ure Nominated
Best Screenplay – Based on Material from Another Medium Gavin Lambert and T. E. B. Clarke Nominated
Best Art Direction – Black-and-White Art Direction: Thomas N. Morahan;
Set Decoration: Lionel Couch
Best Cinematography – Black-and-White Freddie Francis Won
British Academy Film Awards Best British Actress Wendy Hiller Nominated [15]
British Society of Cinematographers Awards Best Cinematography in a Theatrical Feature Film Freddie Francis Won [16]
Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or Jack Cardiff Nominated [17]
Directors Guild of America Awards Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Nominated [18]
Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Drama Nominated [19]
Best Director – Motion Picture Jack Cardiff Won
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama Trevor Howard Nominated
Dean Stockwell Nominated
Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Mary Ure Nominated
National Board of Review Awards Top 10 Films Won [20]
Best Film Won
Best Director Jack Cardiff Won
New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best Film Won[a] [21]
Best Director Jack Cardiff Won[b]
Best Actor Trevor Howard Nominated
Best Screenplay Gavin Lambert and T. E. B. Clarke Nominated
Writers Guild of America Awards Best Written American Drama Nominated [22]


  1. ^ Tied with The Apartment
  2. ^ Tied with Billy Wilder for The Apartment


  1. ^ Solomon, Aubrey (1989). Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. p. 252. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1.
  2. ^ a b "Rental Potentials of 1960". Variety. 4 January 1961. p. 47 – via Internet Archive.
  3. ^ a b "'Sons & Lovers' Does Well". Variety. New York. 2 August 1961. p. 2.
  4. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Sons and Lovers". Cannes Film Festival. Retrieved 19 February 2009.
  5. ^ Crowther, Bosley (22 May 1960). "Cannes Carnival". The New York Times. p. D1. Retrieved 24 August 2021.
  6. ^ Pryor, Thomas M. (18 April 1955). "CLIFT TAKES ROLE IN COLUMBIA FILM; Will Portray Paul Morel in Adaptation of Lawrence's Novel, 'Sons and Lovers'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 30 April 2023.
  7. ^ "Sons and Lovers (1960: Trivia". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 3 December 2020.
  8. ^ Dame Joan Collins on Jackie, #MeToo, & 'American Horror Story', Interview with Larry King. Archived from the original on 21 December 2021. Retrieved 8 May 2021 – via YouTube.
  9. ^ "Interview with Freddie Francis". British Entertainment History Project. 1993–1994.
  10. ^ Billings, Josh (15 December 1960). "It's Britain 1, 2, 3 again in the 1960 box office stakes". Kine Weekly. p. 9.
  11. ^ Crowther, Bosley (3 August 1960). "Screen: Tepid Passions". The New York Times.
  12. ^ "Film Reviews: Sons and Lovers". Variety. 25 May 1960. p. 6. Retrieved 24 August 2021 – via Internet Archive.
  13. ^ "'Sons and Lovers' with Trevor Howard, Dean Stockwell, Mary Hiller, Mary Ure and Heather Sears". Harrison's Reports. 9 July 1960. Retrieved 24 August 2021 – via Internet Archive.
  14. ^ "The 33rd Academy Awards (1961) Nominees and Winners". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 4 May 2015.
  15. ^ "BAFTA Awards: Film in 1961". British Academy Film Awards. Retrieved 29 September 2023.
  16. ^ "Best Cinematography in a Theatrical Feature Film" (PDF). Retrieved 29 September 2023.
  17. ^ "SONS AND LOVERS". Cannes Film Festival. Retrieved 29 September 2023.
  18. ^ "13th DGA Awards". Directors Guild of America Awards. Retrieved 29 September 2023.
  19. ^ "Sons and Lovers". Golden Globe Awards. Retrieved 29 September 2023.
  20. ^ "1960 Award Winners". National Board of Review. Retrieved 29 September 2023.
  21. ^ "1960 New York Film Critics Circle Awards". New York Film Critics Circle. Retrieved 29 September 2023.
  22. ^ "Awards Winners". Writers Guild of America Awards. Archived from the original on 5 December 2012. Retrieved 6 June 2010.