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NOVEL INTO FILM: Man, did they EVER RUIN a GREAT BOOK in transforming BEFORE THE FACT (1935) into SUSPICION (1941)!


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GO AHEAD, YOU CAN READ IT NOW (AND REPLY!) SORRY I POSTED IT BEFORE IT WAS DONE

 

NOTE, In these initial posts I WILL NOT BE REVEALING ANY SPOILERS

 

Earlier this summer, I reread THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE and was happy to like it as much (if not more) on the second go-round.

Spurred on by a discussion we had in a thread I started to discuss THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE about GOOD HITCHCOCK MOVIES THAT WERE BASED ON TERRIBLE NOVELS (ie THE LADY VANISHES and [to a degree] SPELLBOUND), I decided to order a fresh reprinted edition of the 1935 British novel BEFORE THE FACT by FRANCIS ILES ...and it sat on my nightstand for all of july and august...but something about LATE SUMMER compels me to read, so i picked it up...

...and damned if i could put it down.

first and foremost, I was surprised, stunned even, to discover from a bio included in the very nice edition I ordered (pictured below, en gargantua)  that FRANCIS ILES was A MAN, BABY! (He wrote under a couple of psuedonyms)

See the source image

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  • LornaHansonForbes changed the title to NOVEL INTO FILM: Man, did they EVER RUIN a GREAT BOOK in transforming BEFORE THE FACT (1935) into SUSPICION (1941)!

i absolutely LOVED this book on multiple novels.

it was verymuch like reading PORTRAIT OF A LADY rewritten as A THRILLER and by an author who ACTUALLY LIKES HIS HEROINE AND UNDERSTANDS WOMEN and sympathizes with their plight.

the first part of the book is quite a bit like the film, set in ENGLAND between the wars- a 28 year old well-to-do unmarried bookworm living with her parents in the countryside falls madly in love with a handsome stranger who woos and weds her....and turns out not to be what he seems at all....at least to her.

unlike the 1941 film, which ultimately gives us one of the most unsatisying endings of all time, a copout to end all copouts, MR ILES makes things quite clear from the start:

the first paragraph of BEFORE THE FACT:

"Some women gave birth to murderers. Some women went to bed with them. LINA AYSGARTH had lived with her husband for nearly eight years before she realized that he was a murderer."

I mean, how COULD YOU NOT BE HOOKED AFTER THAT OPENER????

AS THE STORY PROGRESSES, there are things that a film in 1941 couldn't show...

JOHNNY impregnates THE PARLOR MAID (!) and sleeps with all of LINA'S FRIENDS (it is WILD!!!!!) who all FALL IN LOVE WITH HIM!!!!

Also, JOHNNY kills her father by bringing on an angina attack at CHRISTMAS.

Also there is a character named RONALD who was REMOVED FROM THE FILM ENTIRELY AND IT'S A DAMN SHAME because he is a wonderfully drawn character and a great counterbalance to JOHNNY'S SUPREME ROTTENESS. A point comes at the halfway part of the novel where LINA LEAVES JOHNNY, moves to LONDON and is wooed by an incredibly decent man and has a loving relationship with him.

it is HEARTBREAKING and really- it's a damn shame he was excised from the story because it adds such tragedy and dimension.

Also, as the story progresses and LINA discovers that her husband is a murderer, you begin to see her mixture of apathy and terror- her progression through the stages of shock and grief and accpetance, it's an amazing, deep portrait of a character and the author succeeds wonderfully. I am pretty sure JOAN FONTAINE read this novel and I am pretty sure it influenced her performance in the film even as they filed off every single jagged edge of the book that made it so marvelous.

also LINA has a SISTER NAMED JOYCE who is an absolute BRITISH EVE ARDEN, she and her husband are great characters.

BEAKY THWAITE- played by NIGEL BRUCE in the film- is in the book, and he is SUCH AN UPPERCLASS BRITISH TWIT OF THE YEAR, I HAD TO GOOGLE HALF HIS DIALOGUE BECAUSE IT'S ALL OLD BRITISH SAYINGS AND "AYE WHAT"S" AND "DRAW IT MILD" AND WHATNOT?"

This is a VERY VERY BRITISH NOVEL that at times walks along the edge of a dark dark comedy.

 

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SPOILERS BEGIN HERE...

 

 

As LINA progresses into a sad kind of acceptance, the novel ends with her basically commiting suicide by allowing JOHNNY TO KILL HER and GET AWAY SCOTT-FREE. They wanted to end the movie with him killing her, BUT GETTING CAUGHT because of a letter she mailed- that last part isn't in the book, it's just tragedy, but not pathetic and, odd as this may sound, the author CLEARLY IS SO SYMPATHETIC AND UNDERSTANDING TO HIS MAIN CHARACTER (LINA) that, in killing her, we know there is no malice. i mean, it probably brought him to tears doing it.

but i really thought it worked. and I know some may disagree.

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Great posts LHF. Thank you

I read the book many years ago, so I don't have the specific differences down anymore, but I do remember (spoiler alert) the book was darker than the film and made no secret that Johnny was a murderer. LHF nails the movie (a movie I very much enjoy) correctly with this line, "unlike the 1941 film, which ultimately gives us one of the most unsatisying endings of all time, a copout to end all copouts...".

Relatedly, I find it a lot of fun to read the books that the movies one enjoys are based upon. 

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5 minutes ago, Fading Fast said:

Relatedly, I find it a lot of fun to read the books that the movies one enjoys are based upon. 

it can be, but it can also be DISASTROUSLY DISAPPOINTING.

For example, and I feel no guilt in spoiling this, the CS FORRESTER'S NOVEL THE AFRICAN QUEEN ends with ROSE AND CHARLIE FAILING TO BLOW UP THE GERMAN BOAT AND GETTING MALARIA.

I know he's been dead for years, but man I'd like to kick him in the shins for that.

 

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Just now, LornaHansonForbes said:

it can be, but it can also be DISASTROUSLY DISAPPOINTED.

For example, and I feel no guilt in spoiling this, the CS FORRESTER'S NOVEL THE AFRICAN QUEEN ends with ROSE AND CHARLIE FAILING TO BLOW UP THE GERMAN BOAT AND GETTING MALARIA.

I know he's been dead for years, but man I'd like to kick him in the shins for that.

 

There's no question the book can be disappointing sometimes, but then it is still interesting to see how Hollywood improved on the story.  

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1 minute ago, Fading Fast said:

There's no question the book can be disappointing sometimes, but then it is still interesting to see how Hollywood improved on the story.  

In this case I AM STUNNED that in 80 years no one has made a film version more faithful to the novel.

this story still ABSOLUTELY resonates in 2022.

it would be A SMASH!

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21 minutes ago, Allhallowsday said:

In some cases, a film improves on the source material (The Ghost and Mrs. Muir... The Shawshank Redemption... The Young Visiters). 

In each case cited, there is barely a story there particularly compared with the film.  I went back and reread Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption (years ago, it's barely 100 pages, a STEPHEN KING  novella) and the screenplay was a vast improvement.

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56 minutes ago, LornaHansonForbes said:

In this case I AM STUNNED that in 80 years no one has made a film version more faithful to the novel.

this story still ABSOLUTELY resonates in 2022.

it would be A SMASH!

No, there hasn't officially been another version. I know that the story was greatly changed at the end largely because of Cary Grant's casting as the husband. They might have been able to pull off the original dark ending if they had cast someone else (maybe Ronald Colman), but Cary's lighthearted image killed the original intention.

 

There actually was a variation on the story that appeared in the late 1980s in a very compromised form, with a Brat pack and TV oriented cast and much sweaty nudity and sex. It was 1988's Masquerade, which put some other twists on the ending (there were two conspirators in this one, replete with a scene between the plotters with very palpable homoerotic undertones [one of them spent the entire scene in only their underwear])  and still kept the heiress alive. Meg Tilly starred, with Rob Lowe as the husband (his bare backside could have had second billing). The rest of the cast included Doug Savant (of Melrose Place and Desperate Housewives), John Glover, Kim Cattrall, and Dana Delany. Lush photography of the Hamptons and  a John Barry musical score were both plusses.

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5 minutes ago, CinemaInternational said:

No, there hasn't officially been another version. I know that the story was greatly changed at the end largely because of Cary Grant's casting as the husband. They might have been able to pull off the original dark ending if they had cast someone else (maybe Ronald Colman), but Cary's lighthearted image killed the original intention.

 

There actually was a variation on the story that appeared in the late 1980s in a very compromised form, with a Brat pack and TV oriented cast and much sweaty nudity and sex. It was 1988's Masquerade, which put some other twists on the ending (there were two conspirators in this one, replete with a scene between the plotters with very palpable homoerotic undertones [one of them spent the entire scene in only their underwear])  and still kept the heiress alive. Meg Tilly starred, with Rob Lowe as the husband (his bare backside could have had second billing). The rest of the cast included Doug Savant (of Melrose Place and Desperate Housewives), John Glover, Kim Cattrall, and Dana Delany. Lush photography of the Hamptons and  a John Barry musical score were both plusses.

PAULINE KAEL (of all the people!) REALLY LIKED "MASQUERADE" (1988) A LOT and included a pretty elaborate review in her 5001 NIGHTS AT THE MOVIES.

I know I've seen it, but I think it was back ca. 1990.

sometimes PAULINE KAEL takes a real shine to something you don't expect at all...maybe her assistants fed her a weed brownie before the screening.

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i actually bought the following small vintage paperback 30 years ago at a used bookstore, but unfortunately it was VERY BROWN AND CRUSTY and the PAGES WERE BRITTLE (even then) and it made my throat itch and the print was too small so I gave up.

See the source imageI believe those nails are JUNGLE RED !

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5 minutes ago, Allhallowsday said:

Looks like CARY but poor JOAN must've been a boxer! 

I KNOW RIGHT!!!!!????

I think the artist had to draw from distant recollection of seeing the movie and he remembered the spider web window from the movie and, of course, what CARY GRANT looks like, but I think he had forgotten all about poor JOAN FONTAINE!

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