I know that we have covered this; I absolutely know that I have brought up the best movies made from terrible books.
Yes, it happens; books are not “always ruined” when made into movies. I will once again name three good movies, (maybe great ones), somehow inspired by really bad books: “Ship of Fools”, “Forrest Gump”, and “The Time Traveler’s Wife”.
I also know that I have mentioned what I think is the hands-down best translation of a book to a movie: the 1940 Lawrence Olivier-Joan Fontaine Alfred Hitchcock version of “Rebecca”.
This version of Rebecca is completely faithful to the story and dialogue. Daphne Du Maurier was a truly good writer. There are only two deviations that I noticed from the book. Because of the time of the filming, (that is, the time of “Standards and Practices”/”The Hayes Office”), they had to make a slight change in one pivotal action. (I will not spoil it if you have not read the book or seen the movie.) They also excluded the husband’s mother, who had dementia and whose actions added to the new wife’s discomfort, but did nothing to move the story along.
The casting in this Rebecca is perfect, even if there actually was no “Rebecca” to cast. Olivier is the only one I can see playing the husband. He was just serious enough, just aristocratic enough, just attractive enough, just older enough than the young wife. Fontaine perfectly played the naïve young wife who is lost in new waters, to her transition of what became of her after the troubles hit. Gladys Cooper is the perfect English-Country-horsey sister, and if Du Maurier didn’t know that she had George Sanders in mind when she wrote the part of the cousin, the casting of someone so perfect is uncanny.
Judith Anderson’s portrayal of Rebecca’s more-than-devoted housekeep/confidant Mrs. Danvers is as chilling as described in the book.
Another good adaptation could have been the first of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, “One For The Money”. Even though these are basically cozy mysteries and funny ‘chick-lit’, the producers still felt the need to play down how harmed her prostitute informant was in the book, (and, as we see in the movie as well as the books, the woman leaves that life to become her good friend and assistant). However, the rest of the story was quite faithful. Casting, I believe, stopped these from becoming a series of movies, however, for we die-hard Stephanie fans. Katherine Heigl did great justice, as near a perfect as Stephanie as possible, but unfortunately, the woman is notoriously hard to get along with, which I am sure did a lot to stop the series from progressing into more films.
The Second and Third problems were the casting of the parts of Stephanie’s love interests, Joe Morelli, (an old flame), and Ranger, (a new one). Both of the actors were fine-looking men and competent actors, but neither fit the descriptions so faithfully adhered to throughout the book series. They just weren’t Joe and Ranger to us, and it was so disappointing after we waited and waited to see the men so lovingly described throughout the books .
Fourth, I am also sure that the director was pleased to have scored a name as big as Debbie Reynolds for Stephanie’s grandmother, but plump, still darling, well-coiffed, blond Debbie had nothing to do with our much-enjoyed Grandma Mazur, who was always described as unattractive, skinny-with-sagging-skin and her steel gray hair, which was so thin there was more pink scalp showing than her too-tight pin curls. This was a complete turn-around. Grandma’s unfiltered remarks, so amusing in the books, were toned-down and yet were foolish coming from Debbie.
After working so hard to keep the books faithful to the storyline and dialogue, what were they thinking?
As mentioned before this week, some great adaptations are the Harry Potter movies. Only J.R. Rowling had the clout to have as much influence in movies made from her works as she did; (besides, most 9-13 yr old hard-core Potterheads would have rioted). Few writers have any influence at all, once intellectual property is ‘optioned’. If you don’t understand how this works, I will once again beg any and all writers, (or anyone interested in movies, and you probably are, since you are reading this post), PLEASE read “Writing Movies for Fun and Profit” by Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon. It is amusing and very informative.
In that book you will find the reason as to why things are changed in movies, often, it’s change for the sake of change, some of which happened in the Harry Potter movies. Why did they have Ron say that Harry’s tea leaves showed a sun and a wonky cross, (which in the book is what Harry saw in Ron’s), when we all could see the dog, (be it The Grim or Sirius)? No sense in that. They gave other character’s lines to others, as well.
They toned-down some of the harsher points, but leaving them watered-down made no sense. (Why would Harry have held a grudge if Chai had really been given veritas serum and talked against her will? In the book, her friend told on the Army and Chao didn’t understand what the big deal was.)
I wish they could have slipped in a bit more of what went on with the house elves.
Gee wiz, they actually filmed Dudley making up with Harry and cut, what, 15 seconds of runtime not to show it, why?
And why did they bother to bring up any problem between Abeforth and Albus Dumbledore if they weren’t going to discuss any of it at all? Again, it all made no sense.
But enough complaining. All in all, I adore the movies. In fact, I just ran the entire series again a couple of weeks ago, and just Wednesday night and last night several of them played in the background while we did other things with The Grandson while he visited. Honestly, I have no idea what number times this was that I have seen Prisoner of Azkaban, since it seems to be nearly everyone’s favorite of the series.
Suffice it to say, the Potters are much more faithful to the books than most others.
What do you think of my choices?