Fire Over England

Excerpt from Fire Over England (1993, Hutchinson)
by Ken Russell

The film was shot on 35 mm and starred Joely Richardson and Sean Bean. The result was first seen on BBC television in four 50-minute episodes - which made me very happy. It's not every day that a director has the opportunity to bring a great novel to the screen in its entirety....

There was one particular incident in Lady Chatterley involving Mellors' dog. In the book she's called Flossie, but our black labrador was called Bramble and would only answer to that name, so the gamekeeper's dog had to be rechristened. But she was a lazy bitch, and often her mother and sister were called upon as substitutes. They looked identical and also answered to the name of Bramble. The animal handler left nothing to chance, and it was through no fault of her own that she and her dogs failed to turn up for filming one morning. There had been a mistake on the call sheet, with the result that Bramble was not around to complete a scene that had been left over from the previous day. So there was Lady Chatterley standing in the middle of her stately hallway and there was Mellors standing opposite her, discussing Bramble - who should have been lying on the floor between them. Consternation. Excuses and explanations, but no Bramble - at least for the three hours it would take the handler and her Brambles to jump into the Landrover and drive over. What to do, with ú250 per minute ticking away on the clock? Brainwave - didn't the wardrobe boy have a black Labrador? Yes, he was always playing ball with it during the lunchbreak. But it was untrained and only answered to the name of Jock. If we didn't start shooting soon, we'd be behind schedule and over budget.

So, despite our continuity girl's cries of horror, the scene that started with an overweight Labrador bitch lumbering into shot ended with a lithe Labrador pup bounding out of shot with balls bouncing. The only thing the animals had in common was their breed and their colour. But, as the producer remarked philosophically, as we got back on schedule. "Well, if the audience are clocking a dog's bollocks instead of the actors, then we should recast."

"That was the swiftest sex change in history," commented the continuity girl. She wasn't really worried, because she knew that no one would notice such an error on the television.

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