Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Books Into Movies---Except Not Quite

Louise Brooks reading.



The Guardian ran an interesting feature on Hollywood Changes. I had just watched In a Lonely Place, where Dorothy Hughes' ending was changed-perhaps for the better. It certainly made the character more complex for me.

I guess the most common reason for changing an ending is to give the audience something more palatable to go home with. Many, if not most, novels seem to end sadly. Readers are used to this; movie goers, not so much. What movies were especially egregious in their changes? Where did it work well?

Also be sure to look in on The Guardian's choices of 1000 Books You Have to Read, running all last week.

19 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

hum, I hardly ever think about this topic. Once I've read a book I don't often have the urge to see the movie. I have read novelizations before, though, and have liked some of those.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Yes, seeing the movie is often disappointing if not maddening. But my love of movies is as great as my love of books so I never pass it up.

Cullen Gallagher said...

Donald Westlake made a small but significant change to the ending when he adapted Jim Thompson's THE GRIFTERS to the screen. (If you haven't seen/read both, I don't want to give it away.) While it isn't what Thompson intended, I think Westlake's decision adds depth and ambiguity to the character. And Angelica Houston handles the scene marvelously!

Randy Johnson said...

The only example I can think of right off hand is for a movie I haven't seen. I thought Hannibal was one of the worst books I've ever read(while the previous, Silence of The Lambs, was one of the best). I won't see the movie for that reason, but have been told by friends that the movie was a considerable improvement over the novel.

David Cranmer said...

The Godfather? Maybe, this isn't a good example because you are talking about endings. I wasn't a big fan of the Puzo book but love every aspect of the movie.

Scott Parker said...

I'm with Randy: Hannibal the book wasn't good. The movie wasn't great, either, but then that's another story.

The Dark Knight changed the Joker and I think it worked well.

Many of the little details in the Harry Potter books didn't make it to the screen. I think of them now as two distinct entities, each having their own good and bad qualities.

pattinase (abbott) said...

The Puzo book was almost a romance-his earlier book was better along these lines. Fortunate Pilgrim???
The movie was a million times better and Godfather II better yet.
Randy-also liked the earlier film made from his source material-Manhunter.
Boy, I wish I could remember the ending of The Grifters. Been too long.

Michael said...

I loved Scott Smith's "The Ruins". The movie, also written by Smith, makes a significant change in the ending that I didn't like at all, although the whole movie was pretty awful. But fidelity to the source isn't everything. Yates' "Revolutionary Road" is one of my favorite novels, and the recent movie is very faithful to it, but there's just something about it that doesn't work. I don't know what. And the classic example is Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining", which works as a movie as well as King's novel worked as a novel, even though they're quite different.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I think Revolutionary Road didn't quite work due to MAD MEN exploring the same turf with the leisure of a TV show. And also, it couldn't get across what was going on in his head. A classic problem.
I remember being vaguely upset with THE SHINING because it made Jack humorously insane right off the bat almost. Never sure if that was JN's interpretation or Kubrick's.

John McFetridge said...

The tacked on "happy ending" in Out of Sight was laughable.

Too bad, it was a good movie up till then. Oh well, when I watch in on DVD I just stop where I think it should end.

That's an interesting point about the TV show Mad Men having the leisure to play out its themes better than a movie. Makes me wonder why I like John Cheever short stories more than novels?

pattinase (abbott) said...

Cheever was brilliant, wasn't he? I often wonder who reads him now. I don't think he quite became part of the canon, and now that has shifted further away from WASP writers. Now, there's a Cheever story they did a great job with THE SWIMMER with Burt Lancaster. Amazing.

Lisa said...

I definitely have to agree with the HANNIBAL comments. I was almost physically sick reading the book.

I love Cheever and I think people will continue to read him.

The novel and movie I immediately thought of when I read this was THE GRAPES OF WRATH. The book is one of my favorites of all time and the movie was exceptional, but the filmmaker changed the theme of the story significantly, in my opinion. I don't think the movie really provides a sense of what the book was about at its core.

Todd Mason said...

And the low budget but often interesting anthology series TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE did a version of Cheever's "The Enormous Radio" that I'm not sure wheter I saw or not.

Cheever's writing, like Chekhov's (as far as I can tell in translation), lent itself to the euggested rather than fully explicated, one of the strengths of the short story. Not that reading Cheever's novels is painful.

Much of THE SHINING the film was merely silly (the child talking to his finger) and much underdeveloped (the entirety of the Scatman Crothers role, and his fate)...but it's notable, I suppose, that I remember those facts clearly. I'd already pretty much given up on King novels by then.

Todd Mason said...

Well, not facts, but aspects.

Todd Mason said...

Writing of Cheever's colleagues and of films that change the fiction they are based on (notably the trimming of the misogyny of THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK), John Updike died of lung cancer today.

pattinase (abbott) said...

My God, I had no idea he was sick. Excruciating.
Enormous Radio is one of his best. Love to see it.
Yes, THE GRAPES OF WRATH was Hollywood when it paid no attention to the original work. It should have been called PATHOS.

Lauren said...

I enjoy seeing the different interpretations between book and film, but then again I am both a reader and a (sort of) actor.

Typically I like the book better because there is more time for the writer to delve into deeper topics and often the movie tries to fit a book into a time box that isn't appropriate (but is the only option for the medium).

I typically prefer books made into mini-series.

Martin Edwards said...

Alfred Hitchcock's Suspicion completely reversed the ending of the source book (the fascinating Before the Fact by Francis Iles). For me, the book was much better.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Yes, Martin. The ending was ridiculous in the movie. I guess they couldn't bear to have CG be a villain but it completely ruined what came before.