Some years ago Steven Spielberg was asked why some of the classic movies were so great and he never hesitated when he replied, "Because they come from great books!" I know that when I was first introduced to movies and through the years following, I knew that most of the blockbuster movies and those that were most popular came from novels. The original screen play was much more rare in those days. Today, probably because it costs a lot more to pay an author for their work, then hire someone to turn a book into a screen play, and then on and on, there are far fewer books that make it to the movie screens and when they do, they are somehow changed to make them funnier, sexier, more acceptable to the stars to whom they are paying millions to show up every day. So I have been thinking about some of the classic movies that are out there, most of which are faithful for the most part to the text of the novels.
Of course, the quintessential classic movie made from a novel is Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I believe that was the only novel she ever wrote and the entire movie was shot on a sound stage including the scenes showing the burning of Atlanta during the Civil War. It was made in Technicolor which was a very expensive process--sort of layering the color over each scene, but because it was a very precise process, more movies made in Technicolor have had their beautiful colors survive the ravages of time than those made in the cheaper color processes since. Curiously, in 1939 when the movie was released, book sales skyrocketed. That was the way for decades following. Every girl in America fantasized about Clark Gable as Rhett Butler and envisioned themselves being forcefully carried up that grand staircase to be ravaged by him. It was sex 1939 style, but without nudity and raw language, it caused proper maidens of every social strata to take out their hankerchiefs and fan their blushing cheeks.
There were, of course, the movies that were made to showcase the careers of particular stars. Movie studios looked for books whose stories were taylor made for a particular actor who happened to be "big boxoffice" at that particular time. Sometimes those screen plays weren't as good as they could have been, and perhaps the actors didn't fit the role as well as could some other actor, but they got made anyway. Of course, there were movies that just simply pulled at one's heart strings and seemed to tunnel into the emotions better than others. Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights was one of those kinds of movies. With Lawrence Olivier, one of Hollywood's great actors and Merle Oberon who had the fluttering, fainting, wilting lily kind of character down to a tee, who wouldn't like that movie. I know I still love to watch it on Turner Classic Movies channel and wonder that our present generation hasn't experienced such intensity
Emily Bronte's sister, Charlotte, along with their sister Anne and brother Branwell lived in their home in Yorkshire, children of a minister. I don't think any of them married but all had a literary career. The sisters started out writing under pseudonyms because of the prejudice against women authors at the time. You may remember that the author George Sand, contemporary of Chopin, wrote under this masculine name because of the same prejudice against female authors. Charlotte's novel Jane Eyre was emmensely popular both in Britain and in the U. S. where it was made into a very popular movie in 1944, starring Joan Fontaine and Orson Welles. It was dark andGothic in tone, didn't contain nearly as much of the story as versions made in the later decades, but it still stands as one of the classics of its time. Perhaps it would be interesting to note that the movie poster came out in color but the movie was made in black and white. It is still one of my favorites--I think I had a crush on Orson Welles in those days. Such a marvelous voice!
Last, but not least, one of my favorite authors and whose books I have read for many years was Anya Seton, known best for her historical novels mostly because they were so well researched that they could easily have passed for history texts. But a couple of her books were made into movies that were quite popular. One was Dragonwyk, a film noir with a very dark plot and almost bordering on the fantastic--as in fantasy literature. But my favorite was Foxfire starring Jeff Chandler and Jane Russell, and I might add, who in American wasn't in lust with Jeff Chandler? Tall, muscular, with a gravelly voice that drove women wild, and a full head of platinum blonde hair that looked almost white against his tanned skin. Yum!! I think I saw this film about 25 times, but remember that was back in the days of "continuous run" at the theaters so you could pay your $2 in the morning and stay all day, watching your favorites over and over.
So there you have it . . . some of the movies that have wowed us through the years. I am sure you all can think of others -- The World According To Garp comes to mind that is a book-related movie made in recent decades. Would love to get your thoughts on this and see what you all can come up with. Until next time . . .