Trevor Howard and Mary Ure in Sons and Lovers (1960)

trevor-howard

Trevor Howard received a best actor nod for playing Walter Moreal in Sons and Lovers…which I don’t get the placement of this nomination. While I am not particular about screentime, Walter is clearly a supporting character in this story. I’ll give Howard this though – he does have presence and leaves a fairly strong impression throughout the film.

Sons and Lovers is not bad, but if you have read the book, you will know that this is a highly condensed version of D. H. Lawrence’s story. I felt that the transitions between the key events of the story were a little jumpy, but I was engaged throughout the whole movie. I will say without hesitation that the cast is the film’s greatest asset. They really made the characters jump to life from the book, and I personally would have nominated Dean Stockwell for his terrific performance as the true lead of the film. Wendy Hiller is also great as always, and she too would have deserved to be nominated. The acting is just great all-around, with Heather Sears being the weak link (because I can’t stand Miriam as a character, not her acting, which is good).

Despite his fairly limited appearances in the film, Howard makes the most out of his role. It’s actually amazing how he manages to squeeze in the various facades of the character and make them gel together – a violent alcoholic, a bitter husband, a lonely man and a father who wants to reconnect with his son. It’s a true testament to Howard’s ability as an actor in making the characterisation work so well. My only qualm is that he was mainly overshadowed by the stories of the other characters, and his main role is to react to the events around him. Still, a strong performance that should have been nominated in supporting instead. 3.5/5.

mary-ure

Mary Ure was nominated for best supporting actress for her performance as Clara Dawes, losing out to Shirley Jones in Elmer Gantry.

Mary Ure gives the kind of supporting performance I love – despite the fairly limited screentime, she also makes the most out of her character. Clara Dawes is a suffragette and an unhappy woman separated from her husband. Ure was known for being a strong dramatic stage actress, and it can be seen in this performance. She’s never theatrical, but she also has this strong presence that commands the screen whenever she is on. It also helps that she plays the most interesting character in the film – despite being a self-proclaimed free lover, we can sense Clara’s desire for stability and love. There’s a great deal of mystery, intelligence, vulnerability and complexity in this performance that’s never fully explained, but Ure’s performance draws you in like a magnet.

There’s a great deal that can be analysed here – from her stiff posture (not her performance) to her line readings that always suggest an underlying bitterness, I love how much Ure did with how little she had. In a way, the same can be said for Howard’s performance, except that Ure has the benefit of a more complex and mysterious character. I really admired and enjoyed this performance. 4.5/5.

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