Thoughts for Thursday – Favorite film adaptations

It’s Thursday, I’ve the bilious type of hangover, and surely this fluorescent overhead light is bad for my reproductive system. So, it’s time for a list. Nothing like a list to restore order to chaos.

Today’s list: Favorite film adaptations of books. Pretty easy. I’ll do my Top 5. What makes all of these films work for me is that they don’t detract from my enjoyment of the novels. I can watch the movies and enjoy the film genre, and I can go back to the book without the film version interfering. Pretty nifty. Now, I “tag” you to do your own list.

1. Jane Eyre (1944). Tagline: A Love Story Every Woman Would Die a Thousand Deaths to Live! Most memorable scene: When the young Jane wakes up to find Helen Burns dead.

Come on: Orson Welles, Joan Fontaine, Elizabeth Taylor, Margaret O’Brien, Agnes Moorehead. You can’t beat the casting. And the cinematography evokes a grim stark Bronte-ness. Add a Bernard Hermann score–magic.

2. Gone with the Wind (1939). Tagline: The most magnificent picture ever! Most memorable scene: Scarlett entering the hospital ward in Atlanta, as the camera pans to show the hundreds of wounded men.

This is a no-brainer. Okay, after nearly 70 years, the film is starting to become dated, and, yes, with all of our newfound racial sensitivity, the treatment of blacks in this film makes one cringe. And, as for Clark Gable…frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn. But Scarlett is still a compelling, flawed heroine, and Vivien Leigh does the mythic role justice.

(By the way, you notice I did not include another great film from 1939, Wizard of Oz. That’s because I never read the book!)

3. A Christmas Carol (1938). Tagline: Greater than “David Copperfield” ! Most memorable scene: The skeletal finger of The Ghost of Christmas Past pointing to Scrooge’s tombstone as Scrooge cringes on his knees.

You know, Dickens would have made a great screenwriter. There are myriad versions of this novella — which just begs to be filmed — but this one is my favorite. You can’t beat its evocation of Victorian London. Sure, I would rather have seen Lionel Barrymore as Scrooge (he was originally cast, then I believe broke a foot). But Reginald Own fills the bill nicely. Look for a young June Lockhart among Bob Cratchett’s brood.

4. Persuasion (1995). No tagline. Most memorable scene: The girl falling and clonking her head on the waterfront.

I actually saw the film before I read the novel — which I normally avoid. But, the film did not detract from my discovery of the novel, yet it was also a very credible interpretation. No frills, no mainstream actors. Just a good, sensible, brooding rendering. Sort of like the book in the Austen canon.

5. A Room with a View (1986). No tagline. Most memorable scene: Lucy fainting in George Emerson’s arms.

It’s tough to live up to the book, but this film version does. Helena Bonham Carter perfectly captures Lucy Honeychurch’s blend of snobbish affectedness and rebellious honesty, and Maggie Smith as Charlotte Bartlett is priceless. Daniel Day-Lewis (what the hell ever happened to him?) steals the show as Cecil. And the soundtrack is to die for. One of those movie experiences that leaves me sighing and reaching for a Baedeker.


And, just to jerk your train of thought around like a carnival ride, I like this, from James Hynes. (Weird, ‘cos just yesterday I ordered his book on a whim from Twilight Zone theme here.)

I had an epiphany one soporific mid-morning when I stood up in my cubicle to stretch myself awake. Turning slowly in place, I scanned a complete 360 of the cube horizon. The scene was slightly underlit, and while I could hear all sorts of human activity—talking, phones ringing, keyboards clattering—I couldn’t see another living person. I felt as if I was working in a room full of ghosts. The alienation of cube life was suddenly revealed to me as something gothic, a variation on the creeping dread of a Poe character. I could be walled up alive inside my cubicle and no one would even notice—the Cube of Amontillado. Immediately I dropped to my seat and jotted down a paragraph that appears almost without revision in my new book, Kings of Infinite Space.

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15 Responses to Thoughts for Thursday – Favorite film adaptations

  1. Kate S. says:

    What fun! I would have thought that this would be a short list for me but, on reflection, I find that I can think of quite a few good ones. I agree with you about <>Gone With the Wind<> and <>A Christmas Carol<> (if the version you mention is the one with Alistair Sim in it, that is). I would also add Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies, the first Harry Potter movie (though not the subsequent ones), <>I Capture the Castle<>, <>Cold Comfort Farm<>, and <>The Tempest<> (the 1980something version with John Cassavettes). That I can come up with all of those quickly off the top of my head suggests that I’m better disposed to film adaptions than I thought… In line with your richly deserved Thinking Bloggers Award, you’ve made me think!


  2. LK says:

    Nifty, Kate, you gave me some new film titles to check out. Haven’t seen any HP films (gasp!), nor the other 3 you mentioned. The Tempest sounds wonderful.


  3. i was so happily shocked whe I saw Room with A View and it followed the book …Gone with The Wind, I almost wish they had included Scarlett’s little son Wade in the film– Scarlett’s relationship with Wade…I just always remembered that.


  4. Re(Gone with the wind) Oh and I never understood this: the scene where Melanie is reading to the other ladies while they wait for the men to come home from the raid:Melanie is reading Les Miserables, but in the movie she read David Copperfield instead–why the change?


  5. ted says:

    Boy the movie version of <>A Room with a View<> is fantastic. Have you ever seen < HREF="" REL="nofollow"><>Howard’s End<><>? The cast is just as good — no Daniel Day Lewis, but check out this line-up: Emma Thompson, Anthony Hopkins, and freaking Vanessa Redgrave! Totally amazing.I’m also of your opinion that <>Persuasion<> is the best of the Jane Austen movies: the bits in Portsmouth are very pretty, and the critical letter-writing meeting in the street scene is wicked awesome.That was an exciting comment for me to write.


  6. ted says:

    Oh, and about Daniel Day-Lewis: he doesn’t act too much any more — the standard reason put forth to explain this is that his roles take too much out of him. He’s a method actor to the max, and goes deeper into his characters than anyone since Brando (this is my opinion, of course). Scorsese talked him out of retirement to do <>Gangs of New York<>, in which he delivered one of my favorite acting performances of all time.There’s a good explanation of this career trajectory on his < HREF="" REL="nofollow"> Wikipedia site<>.Speaking of Scorsese and Day-Lewis — < HREF="" REL="nofollow"><>The Age of Innocence<><> is one of my very favorite book-to-movie adaptations.


  7. LK says:

    Interesting about DDLewis. Too bad, he rocked. I will never forget how he blew me away in My Beautiful Laundrette — and when I saw Room with a View, I didn’t even recognize him.Lots of good films here — Howard’s End, great, yes. (Excellent cast.) And always will vouch for Scorcese (both counts, hell, if the man filmed a toilet paper commercial, I’d pay admission.)I don’t know why they changed Melanie’s book, except that David Copperfield probably “read” better on film than did Hugo.Hmmm, might be a good weekend for hitting the DVD store…


  8. Lesley says:

    My favorite Christmas Carol film is the one with Alastair Sim playing Scrooge.I loved A Room With a View! I saw it when I was a teenager and it’s what led me to read EM Forster. My favorite scene is when George kisses Lucy in the field. Is that when she faints as well? It’s been so long – now I want to see it again!


  9. verbivore says:

    This is a great idea – I’d have to go with <>The Pledge<>, based on the book of the same title by Swiss writer Freidrich Durrenmatt. The cast is wonderful: Robin Wright Penn and Jack Nicholson.


  10. danielle says:

    I have never seen Gone with the Wind the whole way through! I loved A Room with a View and Persuasion, too!! The quote is great–a cube of amontillado–hah! Luckily my department doesn’t have cubes–just normal desks!


  11. Stefanie says:

    I loved Room With a View, though I have never read the book (must get to that one of these days). It was a Merchant Ivory film wasn’t it? They made a string of fantastic movies. I like the movie of Gone With the Wind better than I liked the book, probably because I saw it in an old movie theater where I sat in the balcony on a red velvet seat.


  12. The Age of Inocence–I can watch that film over and over again. DDLewis is superb. I like the film the Shining better than the book–because the book has slow patches and the hokey scenes where the Topiary beast come to life. I also liked the quirky casting (which the author hated) oh well…


  13. I meant to say beasts plural –


  14. Dark Orpheus says:

    This is fun – I’m doing my own list as we speak – trying to think what movies to include.


  15. Tai says:

    Iain Softley’s adaptation of Henry James’ novel, “The Wings of the Dove.” I was very skeptical that this highly nuanced and subtle book could be filmed, but he pulled it off! It’s a gem of a movie.


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