Richard Attenborough's Shadowlands
by Doug Reside, Lewis and Dorothy Cullman Curator for the Billy Rose Theatre Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center, Billy Rose Theatre DivisionAugust 25, 2014
Most of the articles memorializing director and actor Richard Attenborough cite his role as the nearly-mad scientist, Dr. John Hammond, in the film version of Jurassic Park or his directoral work on the film biography, Gandhi. Today, though, NPR's Morning Editioncited an interview in which Attenborough stated that his best work was the movie version of William Nicholson's play, Shadowlands.
Shadowlands tells story of the short, happy marriage of writer and theologian C.S. Lewis and the American novelist and poet, Joy Davidman Gresham. Gresham met Lewis in 1952 while traveling in England. The two became close friends, and, when Gresham divorced and moved to England, Lewis agreed to marry her in a civil ceremony to allow her to stay in the country. The two continued their friendship until Gresham was diagnosed with bone cancer. Lewis dismayed at the prospect of losing her, realized he was in love (Gresham, it seems, had fallen in love with Lewis some years before). The two were married in a religious ceremony in 1957, but Gresham died three years later. The film, like the play on which it is based, tells this story with a quiet beauty and elegance that few other modern films have managed to achieve.