Monday, December 2, 2013

Lewis biopic, A. N. Wilson style

Having finished my previous post about a spate of recent efforts to bring a Tolkien or Lewis or Tolkien-and-Lewis biopic to the big screen, I didn't manage to work in one amusing bit where Lewis biographer A. N. Wilson weighs in. So I thought I'd give it here, as a kind of afternote. Here's the passage (emphasis mine):

"the 1993 film SHADOWLANDS told a romanticised version of the story of Lewis's marriage late in life to an American fan, Joy Davidson (the title of SUPRISED BY JOY, published much earlier, started to look prescient). It both increased, and somewhat distorted, his reputation.

"The problem, says Wilson, is that "almost none of it is true. There's only one stepson [in the film], not two stepsons [as in real life], and so on. Anthony Hopkins, a brilliant actor, is immaculately clad in a dark suit, while Lewis was a filthy old man dripping beer and tobacco everywhere. But apart from that, it makes out that this big thing in Lewis's life was the marriage -- and in fact it was just a little thing that happened at the end. For 33 years, he shared his life with the woman he called Minto, Jane Moore ((the mother of one of Lewis's boyhood friends)). She was the love of his life -- she was the main thing. I want to write a screenplay for Helen Mirren to play Minto."

While I don't think the Helen Mirren Minto is likely to grace screens anytime soon, Wilson's point is interesting. He's right that Janie Moore was the love of Lewis's life (a point many Lewis scholars are reluctant to acknowledge), but I don't think he's fair to SHADOWLANDS. Some have used the latter to claim that Lewis's life was empty till he met Joy Gresham, that he was wonderfully happy during their brief time together, and that he was a broken shell of a man after she died. That's clearly a distortion. The truth seems to be somewhere in-between: Janie Moore was the most important woman in his life, yet his marriage (soon after her death; Joy seems to have caught him on the rebound) was a major episode that moved him deeply.

To see Wilson's comments in context, see Sam Leith's piece in THE GUARDIAN of Tuesday November 19th, which includes evaluations of CSL by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Wms, A. N. Wilson, Philip Pullman, and A. S. Byatt. Be warned that while most both praise and criticize, overall they're rather harsh on Lewis. Here's the link:



David Bratman said...

That Mrs. Moore was important in Lewis's life is undeniable. That she was "the love of his life" in the sense that the phrase is usually used, is much more doubtful. There's no evidence, whether they had an affair during WW1 or not, that she was a subject of continuing romantic (with or without sexual) passion to him, which is what that phrase usually means, and their continuing to share a house together, and his being continually at her service, does not negate this, not if he felt under an obligation to her, whether that obligation was the (possibly imaginary) promise he had made to her dead son or not.

That, whatever she was to him, it somehow diminishes the importance of the feelings he had for Joy Gresham is completely unnecessary.

John D. Rateliff said...

Hi David.
Regarding Janie Moore, you write

"There's no evidence . . . that she was a subject of continuing romantic . . . passion to him"

I would counter that the same can be said of many longterm couples, esp. when they were as private about their relationship as CSL and JM.

I don't know of any evidence to support any assertion that there was no romantic or passionate element in their relationship after the first year or two.

I don't mean to diminish the importance of CSL and JG's relationship, just to place it into context. I view this as the equivalent of his second marriage (the first having been to his common law wife, JM), and so also view SHADOWLANDS' claim that Lewis was an innocent old bachelor who knew nothing of women as off the mark.