Click to search the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library Skip Navigation

Richard Attenborough's Shadowlands


Actors Nigel Hawthorne and Jane Alexander in a scene from the Broadway production of the play Shadowlands. (New York)
Image ID: swope_5570206

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 Edition cited 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.

Unfortunately, the Attenborough film is currently out of print. However, the library circulates both a printed version of Nicholson's play and an audio recording of a production by L.A. Theatre Works. A BBC television adaptation that preceded the film can be viewed in the main library at 42nd street.


Patron-generated content represents the views and interpretations of the patron, not necessarily those of The New York Public Library. For more information see NYPL's Website Terms and Conditions.

Attenborough & Shadowlands

Yes, I agree! Keep those handkerchiefs at the ready! If you liked Shadowlands, you might also like Helene Hanff's 84 Charing Cross Road (also a fine movie).


I agree. Shadowlands was Attenborough best work, and I can look at the film time after time because of it quiet beauty, mood, and power(quiet does not mean weak). This film could not be made today, no cusring, and a deep love for God: no pc at all.


How extraordinary that the film is no longer available! I saw it (only once, sadly) and loved it. Great work by Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger.

Post new comment