Books Made Into Movies
Grab The Popcorn (& Don't Forget The Books)
The recent gold standards, Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings, pretty much seal the deal on how to make a dazzling film out of a dazzling book. But then again, think about it: The Notebook is iconic, if schmaltzy, as well. The film adaptation still work for many, doesn’t it? So, let’s investigate some other writings and writers adapted into movies. I haven’t included links below because, in some cases, we are solely looking at authors, not specific titles only.
Francis Ford Coppola brought what was pulpy writing to the peak of cinematic brilliance (despite the catastrophic plop of GFIII). Oh well, it’s a cliché that this is the one group of films you can watch over and over again, immerse yourself within, and still not catch everything. An added sweetener is to read the books, going back to the source, to feel the texture of Mario Puzo’s prose from a post-Sopranos degree of distance.
If it’s on TV, I’m watching this flick, as it has everything to love in it. William Goldman’s source book is amusingly different, though. For one thing, Buttercup is portrayed as a bit of a dim bulb (IMHO) on the page, and there are some really funny shenanigans going on with epilogues, addenda, authorship and the like with regard to the print history of the text. Check it out, if you haven’t already.
This is a GENERAL, overarching span: Each generation gets a crack at the Bard on celluloid, for good or ill, whether it’s Olivier, Orson Welles, Akira Kurosawa, Kenneth Branagh, Peter Greenaway, Julie Taymor, or Sons of Anarchy (oh wait, that’s TV—sorry). Outside of mythology and the Bible, Shakespeare’s plays are the most well-adapted (and badly adapted, sigh…) texts in cinematic history.
It took a few goes to get this right, but the iconic Bogart crime/film noir is still watchable 70 years on. AND, the laconic, vernacularly crackling prose of Dashiell Hammett makes you want to be a private detective, as well, just as the classic black-and-white tints of the film seem perfectly suited to the smoky, boozy and dangerous world of Sam Spade—on the page or the screen.
The Novels of Jane Austen, Edith Wharton, Henry James & EM Forster
Don’t get me wrong: I like all of these authors, particularly Forster (well, maybe I’m not a James fan, OK?). But the movies that have been made of these works, especially Merchant-Ivory adaptations featuring Helena Bonham-Carter, are lush and beautiful to look at. The big bonus is that, though they aren’t faithful to the novels all that often, you feel like you’ve read the books after entering the world of the films. Not too shabby, because when you come across the movies, they draw you in to read the books—see?