By Jeff Salter
I wanted to steal Angie Schroeder’s cool blog title, “From Screen to Shelf” but I didn’t.
This is Part 2 of a two-week focus on books and movies. Last week, we looked at the movies we saw because we’ve read and enjoyed a book. But THIS week, it’s about books we’ve read because we saw and enjoyed a movie. Pay attention, folks, and keep it straight.
This is additionally confusing on my two Hound Days of this series, because there are many books I’ve read after seeing movies … and many movies I’ve watched after reading books — and some of them were so long ago that I’ve forgotten which I experienced first (book or film).
So bear with me as I try to parse out which books I’ve read because I enjoyed the movies that were inspired by them. [As others have noted this week and last, sometimes there is very little shared content between a book and movie… other than title and character names.]
Before I list a few books I read after seeing and enjoying a film, let me tell you about an example in which I wasn’t even aware that the two were connected. Yeah — as in totally DIFFERENT TITLES.
When this movie was released in 1966, I thoroughly enjoyed The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming, with Carl Reiner, Alan Arkin, Eva Marie Saint, and a really cute blonde teen-aged girl. [Also Brian Keith, Jonathan Winters and numerous other familiar faces… plus the newcomer heart-throb whats-his-name.]
Anyhow, in about 1971-72, when I was stationed at Cannon AFB near Clovis, NM, my wife would frequently visit the local public library and bring home books for herself, some for me, and some we both might enjoy. [Yes, back then we read some of the SAME books!] One of the authors we both got hooked on was Nathaniel Benchley — son of entertainer/humorist Robert Benchley… and father of Peter Benchley (of later Jaws fame). One of Nathaniel’s several novels was called The Off-Islanders. I read it mainly because I’d already enjoyed most of his other novels.
Well, lo and behold, as I had barely started reading The Off-Islanders, I jumped up and screamed, “Hey, the Russians Are Coming!” Well, my wife didn’t know what I was talking about and likely thought – for at least the first moment – that I was announcing an actual invasion. [Remember, this was during the Cold War]. Anyway, we sorted things out and I thoroughly enjoyed the novel — which the film followed pretty closely, as I recall. Since then, I’ve seen the film again – still very enjoyable – and have read the novel again. And the novel is still quite good.
The Heart Of The Matter
After seeing the fantastic and inspiring 1983 film, The Right Stuff (with a host of my favorite actors) I was eager to read the non-fiction book by Tom Wolfe. The book – about the early NASA astronauts – is also terrific and (obviously) includes more detail and back-story. I highly recommend both.
After watching one of my favorite actors (Lee Marvin) in a rather untypical western called Monte Walsh (1970), I was surprised to find it was also a novel by a well-known author, Jack Schaefer. No longer recall many specifics, but the book featured more background on Monte’s younger days. Both are good and I’ve since seen the film again.
A really funny and edgy film – brilliantly directed by Robert Altman – M*A*S*H (1970) was a big hit. I had no idea it was actually based on a novel by some unknown doctor [pseudonym – Richard Hooker] who served during the Korean Conflict. I read the book – also very enjoyable – though considerably different.
I remember reading Joseph Heller’s incredibly funny novel, Catch-22 in late spring or early summer of 1971. Don’t recall whether I saw the 1970 movie before or after reading the book, but I also enjoyed the film a lot. The film went off on some tangents and the book was more laugh-out-loud.
I mentioned last week that I’d read some of the James Bond novels after seeing the movies and saw some of the movies after reading the corresponding novels. The only title in which order I recall for certain was the first JB film I ever saw, From Russia With Love (1963). After seeing that flick, my dad started buying the Ian Fleming paperbacks and my brother and I also began reading them. So I’m certain I read that novel after seeing the film and that was one of the few titles in the JB canon where the book and film were pretty similar in content. For the rest of the JB titles, I honestly don’t recall whether I read them first or viewed them first.
I’m sure there are many others, but these are all I can recall at the moment.
Leftover from last week
One I forgot to mention last week (when we were taking about movies we saw after books we read) was James Dickey’s Deliverance. I read the book, found it outstanding, and was eager to see the 1972 Burt Reynolds film when it later came out. The film was also outstanding.
What about YOU? Which books have YOU read after enjoying a movie?