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GREATEST ADAPTATION OF A NOVEL OR PLAY INTO A FILM


CDiNicola
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I am just throwing out this question for any response.

 

What is the greatest film adaptation of a novel or play?

 

Some of my favorites would definetly be The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man in the Moon Marigolds (adapted from the Paul Zindel Play of the same name), The Trip to Bountiful (based on the play by Horton Foote of the same name), To Kill A Mockingbird (based on the novel by Harper Lee) and the Godfather (based on the novel by Mario Puzo), The Last of the Mohicans (based on the novel by James Femimore Cooper).

 

These are just to name a few.

 

Please comment! :)

 

Edited by: CDiNicola on May 30, 2010 12:35 AM

 

Edited by: CDiNicola on May 30, 2010 12:38 AM

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Berlin Alexanderplatz. Doblin's book is very good but next to Fassbinder's film it's almost irrelevant.

 

And of course we have Orson Welles' woefully butchered version of The Magnificent Ambersons. In the field of Orson Welles and the stage, you have three excellent Shakespeare films, Macbeth, Othello, and Chimes at Midnight (the latter of which takes adaptation to a new level.)

 

Another butchered masterpiece: Erich Von Stroheim's Greed (based on McTeague.)

 

D.W. Griffith's Broken Blossoms is based on a short story by Thomas Burke.

 

John Ford's The Searchers, of course.

 

Martin Scorsese's The Age of Innocence.

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I hate to sound like a smartass, but it seems like every great film was based off some literary work.

 

The Godfather and Gone With the Wind would be the ones that I think of right away. Apocalypse Now was based off a novel as well.

 

There's just so many to pick from.

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> {quote:title=JefCostello wrote:}{quote}

> I hate to sound like a smartass, but it seems like every great film was based off some literary work.

 

There certainly are a lot of them.

 

More Orson Welles...The Trial, his fantastic adaptation of the Kafka novel. The Immortal Story, from Isak Dinesen, is a pretty nice film. Criterion should pick up that one (hell, The Trial and the Shakespeare films too for that matter.)

 

Jean Renoir's The River is an adaptation of the Rumer Godden novel. Powell and Pressburger's Black Narcissus also comes from Godden. Both great films.

 

Carol Reed did some Graham Green adaptations - The Third Man, Our Man in Havana, The Fallen Idol.

 

Ernest Hemingway adaptations - The Killers (interpreted by Siodmak and Siegel), To Have and Have Not (Howard Hawks, later The Gun Runners by Don Siegel), A Farewell to Arms (Frank Borzage),

 

Raymond Chandler adaptations - The Big Sleep (Howard Hawks), The Long Goodbye (Robert Altman)

 

Charles Dickens - Great Expectations and Oliver Twist (David Lean)

 

George Bernard Shaw - Pygmalion (Anthony Asquith, later My Fair Lady by George Cukor.)

 

A couple of favorite G.W. Pabst films, Pandora's Box and The Three Penny Opera, are based on 2 Frank Wedekind plays and Brecht's Three Penny Opera respectively.

 

Edited by: JonasEB on May 30, 2010 3:42 AM

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The Heiress adapted from Henry James' novel Washington Square

 

Two of my favorites, The Children's Hour and The Little Foxes, plays by Lillian Hellman of course.

 

Teahouse of the August Moon

Life With Father

 

Moby Dick, John Huston did a gorgeous job on that one.

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Dark Victory (play)

The African Queen (novel)

The Letter (play)

Gone With the Wind (novel)

Philedelphia Story (play)

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (play)

The Lion in Winter (play)

Double Indemnity (novel-I think)

The Big Sleep (novel)

 

Good screenplays plus excellent direction and casting on all of these.

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Not to get all know-it-all-ish, and I could be mistaken, but I think The Letter (oustanding Bette Davis performance !) was based on a short story by W. Somerset Maugham. I'm not disputing that there was a play, too, but the original source material, I think, was from one of the many collections of Maugham's short stories.

 

Has anyone mentioned Rebecca ? The film was just as good as the novel, and that's unusual. (oh right, that's actually what this thread is about anyway.)

 

Edited by: misswonderly on Jun 1, 2010 5:39 PM

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Adaptations of novels and adaptations of plays are very different animals. Plays present interesting problems. How do you keep the concentration of a play while not letting the material feel stagebound? Wyler's The Letter (1940), as some of you have mentioned, does a great job of this. Those two amazing camera movements at the beginning of the film, which end with Bette Davis shooting her lover, give us something no play could provide.

 

Some other successful play to film translations which haven't been mentioned yet:

 

La Cage aux Folles

Long Day's Journey Into Night (1962)

The Night of the Iguana

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Some novels are filmed repeatedly, like Louisa May Alcott's LITTLE WOMEN (and each version has its own degree of success).

 

One adaptation I really like is GOD'S LITTLE ACRE. I think Anthony Mann and his cast of actors did a great job...the production code hampers it a bit, but it really pays homage to the original text and captures the characters remarkably well.

 

Another one I like is Lewis Milestone's THE RED PONY, based on Steinbeck's novella. In fact, I think Steinbeck also wrote the screenplay...the dialogue is excellent and the situations are played out very realistically. It's another faithful rendering of a bestseller.

 

And of course, I like KINGS ROW...but again, due to constraints brought about by the production code, it is not what it should've been.

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Forgot about East of Eden (Kazan from Steinbeck novel.)

 

And dammit, I forgot about Victor Sjostrom's silent version of The Scarlet Letter, probably the best adaptation of Hawthorne's oft-filmed novel.

 

Edited by: JonasEB on Jun 3, 2010 1:35 AM

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> {quote:title=misswonderly wrote:}{quote}

> Not to get all know-it-all-ish, and I could be mistaken, but I think The Letter (oustanding Bette Davis performance !) was based on a short story by W. Somerset Maugham. I'm not disputing that there was a play, too, but the original source material, I think, was from one of the many collections of Maugham's short stories.

>

> Has anyone mentioned Rebecca ? The film was just as good as the novel, and that's unusual. (oh right, that's actually what this thread is about anyway.)

>

> Edited by: misswonderly on Jun 1, 2010 5:39 PM

 

 

Yeah, I think you're right. Great adaptation, either way.

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traceyk65, thanks for your response. I'm not sure if you were agreeing about The Letter or Rebecca. Both were fine works of literature, and both were great films. So, either one, I guess.

 

Someone mentioned E.M. Forster's Howard's End. There's also Room with a View, based on another E.M. Forster novel.

 

ValentineX, I saw Adaptation and I'm still trying to decide to this day whether I liked it or not. Although, as you pointed out, with a title like that, it ought to be good. :) Charlie Kaufman's films are problematic for me.

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As nice a movie as *A Room With A View* is, I really didn't think it was a very good adaptation of the book. In the book, we experience all of Lucy's changing thoughts and feelings, and the movie completely left out entire chapters that take place inside Lucy's head. Of course, that would be difficult to do, but I don't think it is impossible. It was a very basic retelling of the outer story, which is not bad - it just didn't really capture the true spirit and meaning of the book for me.

 

That being said, it is quite a beautiful film, and has a slew of good actors, Denholm Elliott, Simon Callow, and Daniel Day Lewis being standouts for me. If you haven't read the book, I highly recommend it, as well as all of E.M. Forster's other great novels. As good as the movies mostly are, the books are much better.

 

Edited by: JackFavell on Jun 7, 2010 8:34 AM

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I've got to be honest here; I must confess that I haven't actually read either of those E.M. Forster novels. I was just listing another film that came to mind when E.M. Forster was mentioned. From what you say, it does sound as though the internal aspect of the novel, the character's thoughts, were not sufficiently portrayed in the film Room with a View. That's always a problem with translating fiction to film, isn't it, especially if the fiction has a lot of interior action, psychological depth etc. How does a filmmaker take that aspect of the novel and synthesize it into cinema? Some do it more successfully than others.

There's always the option of "voice-over", but you can only do that so much.

 

One type of fiction that rarely "works", in my opinion, when made into film, is chlidren's literature, or at least fantasy children's literature. Stories with magic in them. Especially now, with C.G. I that that technology has made the depiction of magical events worse, not better. I cringe when I think of the recent "Narnia" movies. The only time it worked was with Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings,

(which I actually have read, by the way). One rare time when I think the film(s) was better than the books.

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