Film & Stage Adaptations of Classic Novels

Miniseries and Film Adaptations of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

If you’re the kind of Jane Austen fan who reads Pride and Prejudice every year or two, chances are good that you’ve seen at least one of its miniseries or film adaptations. Considering the unabated reverence for this novel, it’s somewhat surprising that there haven’t been more. For many devotees, there can never be Too Much Jane.

In addition to the miniseries and film adaptations of Pride and Prejudice listed here, there was also a 1967 British TV adaptation which seems to have been lost to time. Which of these have you seen? Which do you think is most faithful to the original spirit of the novel? Read More→

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The Birds – 1963 Film Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

I made the mistake of seeing The Birds, a 1963 film by Alfred Hitchcock when I was young. Not being a fan of all things scary, I never quite recovered enough to give it a second view as an adult, especially since it’s based on a novella of the same name by Daphne du Maurier, an author I admire (Rebecca is one of my favorite classics).  The following article/review about the film reveals the surprising fact that the masses of birds were — real birds! Of course, in today’s world it would have been done digitally. 

From the Galveston Daily News, April 28, 1963: New Technique For ‘Birds’ Unites Music, Shock Effect: Alfred Hitchcock understated it when he said of his latest thriller, The Birds, “It could be the most terrifying film I’ve ever made.”

It is. Opening day audiences, even those who expect shock and excitement from a Hitchcock work, were stunned by never-before-seen passages showing tens of thousands of birds in massed attacks on people. Read More→

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The Little Foxes by Lillian Hellman (1939)

The Little Foxes by Lillian Hellman is a 1939 stage play considered a  classic of twentieth centuryAmerican theater. Set in small Southern town 1900, it centers on Regina Hubbard Giddens, who conspires with her brothers for control of a family business belonging to her husband, in an era when men were seen as the only legal heirs. The play has been staged and in revival ever since it was first opened on Broadway in 1939. We’ll look at some of those performances (and a film version) after the following description.

This description is from the 1939-1969 Dramatists Play Service Acting edition of The Little Foxes by Lillian Hellman: Picture a charming home in the South. Into this peaceful scene put the prosperous, despotic Hubbard family — Ben, possessive and scheming, Oscar, cruel and arrogant; Ben’s deep, Leo, weak and unprincipled; Regina, wickedly clever — each trying to outwit the other. Read More→

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The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1968 film)

The 1968 film version of The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, based on the 1940 novel by Carson McCullers, aimed for a faithful adaption. Though it had its merits, it got mixed reviews. It featured strong performances, especially by Alan Arkin as Singer and Sondra Locke as Mick (her film debut), earning both of them Academy Award and Golden Globe nomination. Verdict — read the book before you see the film. Here’s a review from when the film premiered in 1968:

From the review by Frank Daley of The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, from the Ottawa Journal, Friday, October 4, 1968: The film stars Alan Arkin and Sondra Locke, based on the novel by Carson McCullers. Directed by Robert Ellis Miller. Read More→

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How Gentleman’s Agreement (1947 film) Smashed Hollywood Taboos

When Darryl Zanuck was considering making Laura Z. Hobson’s 1947 best-seller about “genteel” anti-Semitism, Gentleman’s Agreement, he faced a common dilemma: At the time, there were significant number of powerful Jews in Hollywood. As studio heads, they were reluctant to plead for Jewish causes. They even avoided the topic of what had happened with the genocide of European Jews, before, during, and just after the war. Serious social issues were generally avoided because they weren’t good box office business. In tough times, especially, audiences wanted an escape.

Zanuck wasn’t Jewish, but he found the book compelling. Though it was thought-provoking, it managed to avoid making readers too uncomfortable. Coming out right on the heels of the book, the film also managed to straddle entertainment and enlightenment. In an in-depth 2017 article on the film, the year in which it celebrated its 70th anniversary, Saul Austerlitz wrote, “it was a strange mix of daring and cowardice.” Read More→

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