Film & Stage Adaptations of Classic Novels

Babette’s Feast: The 1958 Short Story by Isak Dinesen, and the 1987 film

It may be fair to say that the acclaimed 1987 film, Babette’s Feast, is better known than the short story by Danish author Isak Dinesen upon which it’s based. In fact, it’s possible that fans of the movie aren’t aware that it’s based on Dinesen’s story, nor even anything about her.

Isak Dinesen (1885 – 1962) was the nom de plume of this writer, best known for her 1937 memoir Out of Africa, which details her life as the owner of a coffee plantation in colonial Kenya. Born Karen Christenze Dinesen into a family of aristocrats, merchants, and landed gentry, she was later known after marriage as Karen von Blixen-Finecke. The marriage conferred on her the title of Baroness, but didn’t last. Her ex-husband’s philandering left her with the lifelong effects of syphilis.

Dinesen eventually had to give up the coffee plantation. She was above all else a storyteller, and her first book, Seven Gothic Tales (1934), was published soon after she returned to Denmark from Africa, broke, and alone. This collection of short stories was a surprise hit both in the U.S. and Europe. Short form fiction remained Dinesen’s mainstay throughout her writing career. Read More→


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The 1994 Film Adaptation of Little Women, Louisa May Alcott’s Timeless Classic

Little Women, the beloved 1868 novel by Louisa May Alcott (1832 – 1888), follows the lives of the four March sisters — Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. The 1994 film adaptation of Little Women highlighted the coming of age of strong-willed, tomboyish Jo, who was as much of its standout character as she was in the novel. 

With a screenplay by Robin Swicord, and directed by Gillian Armstrong (also the director of the wonderful 1979 film version of My Brilliant Career) , this was the fifth feature film adaptation of Alcott’s classic Little Women. It followed silent versions released in 1917 and 1918; director George Cukor’s 1933 film; and a 1949 adaptation by Mervyn LeRoy. The film was released nationwide on Christmas Day of 1994 by Columbia Pictures.

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The Enduring Power of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide by Ntozake Shange

“Through my tears I found god in myself and I loved her fiercely” is perhaps the most iconic quote from For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf  by Ntozake Shange (1948 – 2018). For Colored Girls has touched many hearts since it premiered in 1976. The 2019 production of For Colored Girls  at SUNY New Paltz was one such powerful and emotional presentation of Shange’s play.

For Colored Girls was Shange’s first work and remains her most acclaimed theatre piece, consisting of twenty captivating poetic monologues representing black sisterhood in a racist and sexist society. Shange describes her work as choreopoem, a form of dramatic expression incorporating poetry, dance, music, and song. This term was coined in 1975 by Shange herself to describe this work. Read More→


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Giant, the 1956 film based on Edna Ferber’s Epic Novel

Giant, the 1956 film, was based on the epic 1952 novel of the same title by Edna Ferber. The saga of a wealthy Texas ranching family, the film starred Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and James Dean, with appearances by Chill Wills, Mercedes McCambridge, Carroll Baker, Jane Withers, Dennis Hopper, Sal Mineo, and Rod Taylor.

Giant was notable for being James Dean’s final film performance before his tragic death in a car accident. He was nominated posthumously for an Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of Jett Rink, a poor but ambitious ranch hand. Read More→


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Jane Eyre — 1943 film based on the novel by Charlotte Brontë

How can Charlotte Brontë’s masterwork, be crammed into a time frame of just over an hour and a half? This feat of compression was accomplished by Hollywood for the 1943 film version of Jane Eyre. To clear up any confusion, the film was released at the end of 1943 in Britain, and had its American release of February, 1944.

Nearly a quarter of the film covers young Jane’s torturous experience at the Lowood School, based on the actual place that Charlotte and her sisters attended in Yorkshire. The experience proved fatal for one of the Brontë sisters, Maria, who became gravely ill and died. Read More→


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