IMDb > The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981)
The French Lieutenant's Woman
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The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981) More at IMDbPro »

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The French Lieutenant's Woman -- A film is being made of a story, set in 19th century England, about Charles, a biologist who's engaged to be married...


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Down 57% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
John Fowles (novel)
Harold Pinter (screenplay)
View company contact information for The French Lieutenant's Woman on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
August 1981 (UK) See more »
She was lost from the moment she saw him.
A film is being made of a story, set in 19th century England, about Charles, a biologist who's engaged to be married... See more » | Add synopsis »
Nominated for 5 Oscars. Another 10 wins & 13 nominations See more »
(70 articles)
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User Reviews:
Romanticism without the "base" alloy of actual feeling See more (54 total) »


  (in credits order) (verified as complete)

Meryl Streep ... Sarah / Anna

Jeremy Irons ... Charles Henry Smithson / Mike
Hilton McRae ... Sam
Emily Morgan ... Mary
Charlotte Mitchell ... Mrs. Tranter

Lynsey Baxter ... Ernestina
Jean Faulds ... Cook

Peter Vaughan ... Mr. Freeman
Colin Jeavons ... Vicar
Liz Smith ... Mrs. Fairley
Patience Collier ... Mrs. Poulteney
John Barrett ... Dairyman

Leo McKern ... Dr. Grogan
Arabella Weir ... Girl on Undercliff
Ben Forster ... Boy on Undercliff
Catherine Willmer ... Dr. Grogan's Housekeeper
Anthony Langdon ... Asylum Keeper
Edward Duke ... Nathaniel

Richard Griffiths ... Sir Tom
Graham Fletcher-Cook ... Delivery Boy

Richard Hope ... 3rd Assistant

Michael Elwyn ... Montague
Toni Palmer ... Mrs. Endicott
Cecily Hobbs ... Betty Anne
Doreen Mantle ... Lady on Train

David Warner ... Murphy

Alun Armstrong ... Grimes
Gérard Falconetti ... Davide (as Gerard Falconetti)

Penelope Wilton ... Sonia
Joanna Joseph ... Lizzie
Jude Alderson ... Red Haired Prostitute (as Judith Alderson)
Cora Kinnaird ... 2nd Prostitute
Orlando Fraser ... Tom Elliott
Fredrika Morton ... Girl
Alice Maschler ... 2nd Girl
rest of cast listed alphabetically:

Harriet Walter ... (scenes deleted)
Georgina Hale ... Actress at Wrap Party (uncredited)
Vicky Ireland ... (uncredited)
Janet Rawson ... (uncredited)
Clare Travers-Deacon ... (uncredited)
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Directed by
Karel Reisz 
Writing credits
John Fowles (novel)

Harold Pinter (screenplay)

Produced by
Leon Clore .... producer
Geoffrey Helman .... associate producer
Tom Maschler .... associate producer
Original Music by
Carl Davis 
Cinematography by
Freddie Francis (director of photography)
Film Editing by
John Bloom 
Casting by
Patsy Pollock 
Production Design by
Assheton Gorton 
Art Direction by
Allan Cameron 
Norman Dorme 
Terry Pritchard 
Set Decoration by
Ann Mollo 
Costume Design by
Tom Rand 
Makeup Department
Sue Barradell .... makeup artist
Simon Thompson .... hairdresser
Production Management
Chris Burt .... production manager
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Richard Hoult .... assistant director
Peter Kohn .... second assistant director
Mathew Simmons .... third assistant director
Paul Tivers .... third assistant director
Art Department
Trisha Edwards .... property buyer (as Tricia Edwards)
Dennis Fruin .... property master
Toddy Roche .... property buyer (as Toddie Roche)
Sally Scott .... artist: Sarah's drawings
Fred Walker .... construction manager
Andy Aitken .... plasterer (uncredited)
Mark Fruin .... stand-by propman (uncredited)
Peter Russell .... junior draughtsman (uncredited)
Sound Department
Rocky Phelan .... sound assistant
Bill Rowe .... sound re-recordist
Don Sharpe .... sound editor
Ivan Sharrock .... sound recordist
Ken Weston .... boom operator
Don Banks .... sound camera (uncredited)
Lionel Strutt .... adr mixer (uncredited)
Special Effects by
Alan Bryce .... special effects
Nobby Clark .... special effects (as Nobby Clarke)
Paul Corbould .... special effects (uncredited)
Ricky Farns .... special effects (uncredited)
John Humphreys .... sculptor (uncredited)
Garth Inns .... special effects (uncredited)
Michael White .... special effects technician (uncredited)
Visual Effects by
Nick Wass .... optical cameraman (uncredited)
Camera and Electrical Department
Alan Annand .... clapper loader
Frank Connor .... still photographer
Jim Dawes .... grip
Gordon Hayman .... camera operator
Roy Larner .... gaffer
Tim Ross .... focus puller
Steve Blake .... electrician (uncredited)
John Matthews .... best boy (uncredited)
Costume and Wardrobe Department
Maureen Booth .... wardrobe assistant
Austin Cooper .... wardrobe assistant
Brenda Dabbs .... wardrobe supervisor
Joanna Johnston .... assistant to costume designer
Editorial Department
Jeremy Hume .... assistant editor
Chris Kennedy .... second assistant editor
Chris Ridsdale .... assistant editor
Music Department
Carl Davis .... conductor (uncredited)
Brian Gascoigne .... music arranger: additional arrangements (uncredited)
Christopher Palmer .... music assistant: Carl Davis (uncredited)
Transportation Department
Richard Booz .... transportation captain
Colin Morris .... personal driver
Other crew
David Barron .... location manager
Barry Beckett .... location manager
Len Cave .... production accountant
Peter Dolman .... location manager
Kay Fenton .... continuity
Mon Mohan .... title designer
Julia Robinson .... production assistant
Mark Mostyn .... runner (uncredited)

Production CompaniesDistributorsOther Companies
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Additional Details

Also Known As:
124 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.85 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Argentina:16 (original rating) | Argentina:Atp (re-rating) | Australia:M | Canada:PG (Ontario) | Finland:S | Iceland:12 | Norway:16 | Peru:14 | Singapore:M18 | Sweden:11 | UK:AA (original rating) | UK:12 (video re-rating) (2001) | UK:15 (video rating) (1986) | USA:R (certificate #26244) | West Germany:12

Did You Know?

The original novel does not feature the subplot of the actors playing the parts in a modern day film. The novel did, however, feature three alternate ending from which readers could choose their favorite. Creating two parallel story lines allowed the filmmakers to include two of those endings, one happy and one tragic.See more »
Continuity: Early in the film when Charles takes a horse-drawn carriage to visit Ernestine the horse changes between shots (confirmed by the number of "stocking" feet it has).See more »
[describing how she became the French Lieutenant's mistress]
Sarah:Soon he no longer bothered to hide the nature of his intensions towards me. Nor could I pretend surprise. My innocence was false from the moment I chose to stay. I could tell you that he overpowered me, he drugged me. But it was not so... I gave myself to him.
See more »
Movie Connections:
Referenced in 10 to Midnight (1983)See more »
Adagio from Sonata in D, K 576See more »


See Jeremy Irons discuss this film
See more »
29 out of 54 people found the following review useful.
Romanticism without the "base" alloy of actual feeling, 11 February 2005
Author: Thomas W. Muther, Jr. (twm-2) from Topeka, KS

This is a real curio of a movie, more a dry experiment with form than a story concerning fleshed-out characters. The primary focus is on the plot developments of a film within the film--a story of two illicit lovers in 19th century England--while a secondary narrative follows the two leads in that film who pursue a similar relationship to the one they portray. The way these two stories intercut back and forth is, unfortunately, one of the few interesting things in the movie. Unique to this presentation is the way the Victorian Era scenes are shown only (with the opening scene being a lone exception) as a finished product, that is, we see that part of the film as its theoretical audience would. There are no shots of cameras in the foreground, no scenes of director and crew watching rushes in a darkened theater. This device might have allowed the viewer to become more involved in the "old-time" goings on--if only we had been given something, anything onto which we could have hung our emotional hats. This is the insurmountable problem of "The French Lieutenant's Woman." While the Victorian Era plot is luxuriantly mounted--while the characters are played by wonderful actors--the "heart" of this film is occupied by this film within a film device. While interesting, it's not enough to keep our interest from flagging. In both story lines, emotions are uniformly muted, or absent altogether. The 20th century story is about two bored actors who engage in their affair simply as a distraction from the tedium of making a movie. No hint of passion here. The Victorian narrative at least provides a HINT of feeling, but always held at arms length--and further attenuated by the inevitable return to the modern story, reminding us that the "costumer" portion of the film is not only not real, but TWICE removed from reality. There is a scene at the end of the movie where all signs point to some grand cathartic denouement--a scene where, finally, we will be swept up into the currents of these players' lives, the promise of romance finally realized. Instead we are given an awkward, bumbled scene without so much as a kiss or an eloquent avowal of love. We are left with a muted, distant view of the two purported lovers on a lake--its surface as calm and unmoved as the film's audience. A disappointing end to a disappointing film.

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