Cinema Magic, Book Enchantment

This week we are talking about books that we have read after seeing a movie on which they were based . I was surprised to realize I had done this quite a bit.

Last week I brought up a sort of ‘chicken and egg’ situation where I had seen a movie by an author, read the book and then went onto read other works of the author,(or series), before I saw movies based on their subsequent, or earlier, works. [For instance, Harry Potter, LOTR, Agatha Christie’s works and others.]

Another chicken-or-the-egg movies-writings are those of Truman Capote. I’d heard the name, heard of “In Cold Blood” and seen the persona he showed on late-night TV, but I was captivated by seeing “The Thanksgiving Visitor“, and “A Christmas Memory”, so I read the stories and then many others, (but not “In Cold Blood”). I became quite a fan of his writing style. I have yet to read “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, although I should because I really don’t like the movie and I should probably give it a chance.

To answer the question brought up earlier this week: “Why read a book if you have seen the ending?” Daphne Du Maurier’s works are the prime example to answer that question. I saw “Rebecca” and then read the book, which is almost a perfect transformation, except for the bit at the end. If you have not read the book or seen the movie, I will not give it away, as both are great and I’d recommend them to anyone. The same with her book, “The Scapegoat”. In the days of the Hayes Office, “Standards and Practices”, one could not get away with murder, adultery, etc. without suffering consequences. Many books are stronger than their films.(Check out the difference in the ends of the movie of Agatha Christie’s “Witness for the Prosecution” and the written version.)

Also, Daphne Du Maurier’s “The Birds” is so changed from the story to the movie as to be unrecognizable. The story has completely different venue and character,is more subtle…and more chilling.

I hate to sound like a broken record, but any writer and anyone truly interested in movies and books should read “Writing Movies for Fun and Profit” by Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant.(Yes, there is a strike-through  in the title.) They tell how intellectual property rights are obtained, plus the hows and whys of the change of stories from print to screen. I have mentioned before how enthusiastic I was to get my hands on the book of “Forrest Gump” and “The Time Traveler’s Wife” which these, most favorite movies of mine, were based, only to be beyond disappointed in them. How the screenwriters found the potential for such sweet stories and such loveable characters in the pages of those sordid stories with disagreeable characters is amazing to me.

My mother had me watch the original movie of James Hilton’s “The Lost Horizon” with Ronald Coleman when I was young; she loved the movie and the idea of the place. A few years later I read the book, which was a real let-down. Only an old-fashioned, staid Englishman would find Shangri-La the epitome of a marvelous life. To top it off, there was something magical going on as to how all the marble, books and antiques arrived there, since Hilton insisted that the steep, narrow mountain passes made their [normal] transport impossible. Despite the great detail he put into other explanations, he never pursued that premise. And left a real loose end.

I am not a big “Sound of Music” fan, but I read Maria Von Trapp’s memoires;. There was no rival for her affections in real life, there was no mountain to sing on in Vienna, nor did they escape during a performance. I am still not a big fan of either Maria or the movie.

In a number of cases, the movies are certainly better than the books. But usually, no. No matter how good a movie is, if you love the written word, (and since you are reading here,I assume that you do),  the style and literature  of  the original book/story can never be executed with justice on the screen.


When my sons were first born I started reading to them and didn’t stop until they were teens. Among the books we read in the evenings when they were older was “Lilies of the Field”. I had seen the movie many years before but the story is well worth the read. The priest was not an alcoholic Irishman as in the movie, but a meek Mexican fellow;( it was such an unnecessary change). You understand exactly how and why Homer,(the Sydney Poitier character), stays with the nuns, who are harsh but not as seemingly cruel as the Mother Superior comes across in the movie. And you get to hear what Homer is thinking throughout the story. I can’t find the anthology that contains it but there is particularly one line that I remember that you read of Homer thinking to himself. He came back after an evening of fun with some of the local people and thought that the Mexican people had a way with beans…they made them taste like food (!).

Do yourself a favor and read it if you liked the movie. It won’t ruin it.

I enjoyed “The Jewel in the Crown” miniseries and started to read Paul Scott’s Raj Quartet on which it was based,(The Jewel in the Crown is the name of the first novel), but some family business stopped me and I never went back…I should have.

There is more but I will end on s more spiritual tone. I went on a field trip a few years ago with my grandson’s class to see the play,(which is also a movie), “The Greatest Christmas Pageant Ever”…and wish I had read it first. I cried in front of several thousand schoolchildren, teachers and theater folk. Then I read the book. It is just as wonderful.

One of my favorite movies of all time is “The Inn of the Sixth Happiness”, the story of Gladys Alyward, who became a missionary in China. After reading several, sometimes conflicting accounts of her true story online, I found they they made a few unnecessary changes to her story, but one day I will get my hands on a copy of “The Small Woman”. I don’t think I’ll be disappointed.

[FYI, When they cast the tall Swede Ingrid Bergman as Gladys, the could not use the book’s title for the movie!]

And without telling my life story, suffice it to say that I was not raised in any real religion but my family celebrated ON Christian holidays. I never got much out of the biblical dramas that were so prevalent in the late 1950s-early ‘60s that my brother dragged the family to …and played the soundtracks to over and over when I was a kid. However, when I saw most of “The Greatest Story Ever Told” that my mother had on our TV as we were preparing the feast for Easter when I was about 20, it made me read The Good Book and the rest is [part of my] history.

If you really like a movie, you may want to read the book/story on which it was based.  If you didn’t like a movie, try reading the book; you may be surprised either way.


About Tonette Joyce

Tonette was a once-fledgling lyricists-bookkeeper, turned cook/baker/restaurateur and is now exploring different writing venues,(with a stage play recently completed). She has had poetry and nonfiction articles published in the last few years. Tonette has been married to her only serious boyfriend for more than thirty years and she is, as one person described her, family-oriented almost to a fault. Never mind how others have described her, she is,(shall we say), a sometime traditionalist of eclectic tastes.She has another blog : "Tonette Joyce:Food,Friends,Family" here at WordPress.She and guests share tips and recipes for easy entertaining and helps people to be ready for almost anything.
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6 Responses to Cinema Magic, Book Enchantment

  1. jeff7salter says:

    For many of these I recognize the title but have not read the book or seen the film.
    Others, I’m vaguely acquainted with. You have such eclectic tastes in book & film!
    I definitely agree about The Sound of Music film — never cared for it, either in characters, story, or the dippy songs. One exception being Adelweiss, with I think is lovely.
    And I’m a big fan of Julie Andrews, the actress.
    I liked the film, Lilies of the Field. Also Forest Gump and Bridges/Madison Co.
    But no desire to read the books of either.
    Was Hitchcock’s BIRDS based on the DuMaurie story? Didn’t know that.


    • Finally, someone else who is a S of M dissenter.
      (I have eclectic tastes in about everything, Jeff!)
      I can’t say I am a fan of The Bridges of Madison county as I have not read the book and only seen the beginning of the movie.Th scene where Meryl Streep is incredulous that Clint Eastwood just hopped off a train and changed his planes was very well-played.
      Yes, Daphne DuMaurier wrote The Birds.It is set in rural seaside England and there isn’t a Tippi Hedren-type character at all, no Rod Taylor love interest,etc. And there is not a happy ending.


  2. I saw Sound of Music as a child. Always loved the movie, especially the music. I saw Lost Horizon sometime later, but it must not have made much of an impression because I can barely remember it, other than the great soundtrack and the theme song. I must have seen bits and pieces of Lilies of the Field because I remember some singing – but I honestly don’t remember the story. As I mentioned, I have a hard time staying focused on a film unless I’m in a theater – and that doesn’t happen often!


    • You must be remembering a remake of The Lost Horizon, Patty.One was made in the 1970s and they really had a field day changing the story, trying to make it ‘modern and relevant’, I suppose.I don’t remember if I saw all of it because I found it truly annoying; it tried too hard to be ‘modern and relevant’, if you know what I mean.I am sure it would seem very outlandishly dated if we saw it today.I don’t recall any soundtrack to the early one.Only schoolchildren singing in one scene, if memory serves.
      I almost never go to the theater for a movie anymore either.


  3. That is certainly a variety of movies and books. I do agree with you about giving the book a try.


  4. Well, Angie, as Jeff said, my tastes are eclectic! The stories in the movies are often changed so much.You just never know which way!


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