Quiz: Who Are the Women Authors Behind These 12 Classic Films?

101 Dalmatians 1996 film poster

Lots of us know that the film version of Gone with the Wind was based on the epic novel of the same title by Margaret Mitchell, and that To Kill a Mockingbird was a faithful rendition of Harper Lee’s classic.

Little Women has been the subject of a number of film versions, and most of us, at least us book nerds, know Louisa May Alcott by name quite well. Will there never be an end to filmed versions of the Brontë sisters’ novels, or those of Jane Austen?

There are many other classic films based on classic novels by women, whose titles are firmly planted in cultural history. But the connection to the authors who created them is often lost. See if you know who wrote the novels upon which these twelve classic films were based — you’ll find the answers at the very end.

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Frankenstein film poster 1931

1  Frankenstein: The 1931 horror flick starring Boris Karloff might be considered a bit cheesy today, but it cemented the image of the monster in the public imagination. It wasn’t very true to the more sensitive and thought-provoking book, Frankenstein, whose author was barely 21 years old when the 1818 novel was published.

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The Little Princess 1939 film with Shirley Temple

2  The Little Princess: The 1939 film starring the adorable Shirley Temple, who cheered up the masses during the Depression, departed a bit from the novel, similarly titled A Little Princess. Still, this movie satisfies; tears of sorrow and joy are wept.

Among several other film adaptations, the 1995 version moved the setting from London to New York, and though it was well rated, it does seem like quite a departure in setting.

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Rebecca 1940 movie poster

3  Rebecca: In moody black-and-white, this 1940 film follows the story of an ostensibly bereaved widower. The titled Rebecca, his dead first wife, cannot be forgotten as his naive second wife tries to take her place as the mistress of Manderlay. The head housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, defines the word “creepy.”

This was Alfred Hitchcock’s first American project, and one of three of this controversial director’s films on this list. This story based on the classic book also titled Rebecca has since been revisited in at least two mini-series versions.

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National Velvet 1944 film

4  National Velvet: The 1944 film (based on the 1935 novel) starred Elizabeth Taylor in her very first film role. She simply leaps off the screen at the age of only 12 in this story of a girl and a jockey who transform an unruly horse into a champion.

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A Tree Grows In Brooklyn film 1945 film Poster

5  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn: The casting of the 1945 film based on the classic 1943 coming-of-age novel sparked nearly as much interest as that of the Gone with the Wind film some years earlier. And thought the film was successful, fans of the book might not like how the movie’s storyline was compressed into one year, rather than the seven or so in the book.

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Gentleman's Agreement 1947 movie poster

6  Gentleman’s Agreement: Released in 1947, this post World-War II film came out hard on the heels of the novel, which looked at “genteel” anti-semitism in America. Starring Gregory Peck as a journalist posing as a Jew to get the inside view, it won multiple academy awards.

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Strangers on a Train 1951 film poster

7  Strangers on a Train: Perhaps the most iconic line from the 1951 Hitchcock thriller is “I do your murder, you do mine! Criss-cross …” The film is about the mind of a sociopath, the type of character often featured by the author who wrote the 1950 book (her first) that inspired the film.

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Giant 1956 film poster

8  Giant: This big, sprawling 1956 film about a wealthy Texas ranching family starring Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, and James Dean (in his final film role before his untimely death). It was based on a big, sprawling 1952 novel by a prolific author who wrote a number of such blockbuster novel-to-big-screen extravaganzas.

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Peyton Place 1957 film poster

9  Peyton Place: The 1957 film based on the scandalous-for-its-time novel (1956) came out just a year after the scandalous novel, so eager was Hollywood to capture the buzz. Secrets of a typical small American town were unearthed in fictional fashion, and this author was shunned by her local townspeople. A soap opera-style TV series based on the film ran from 1964 – 1969.

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One Hundred and One Dalmatians 1961 movie poster

10  The One Hundred and One Dalmatians and 101 Dalmatians: Disney produced this children’s classic twice — the former as an animated film in 1961 and in 1996 as live action. Cruella de Vil was equally scary in both, though of course she gets her comeuppance by the scores of spotted dog! We shouldn’t forget that these films were based on a lively children’s novel by a talented British author.

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The birds (Hitchcock) movie poster, 1965

11  The Birds: I couldn’t sleep for weeks after the first time (and last) I watched this 1963 Hitchcock classic about our feathered friends gone deranged and violent. It’s based somewhat loosely on a long short story (or short novella) of the same title (1952). I still get chills when I see large groups of migrating dark-feathered birds!

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Mary Poppins movie poster 1964

12  Mary Poppins: This immensely popular 1964 film about a magical nanny appealed to children of all ages. It was based on a series of books launched in 1934, and which continued spinning out sequels for decades, by a rather crusty British author. Mary Poppins Returns (2018) is loosely based on subsequent books in the series.

Answers:

1  Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
2  A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
3  Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
4  National Velvet by Enid Bagnold
5  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
6  Gentleman’s Agreement by Laura Z. Hobson
7  Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith
8  Giant by Edna Ferber
9  Peyton Place by Grace Metalious
10  The One Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith
11  The Birds by Daphne DuMaurier, once again
12  Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers

For more films based on the books of classic women authors, as well as films about them, see our Filmography.

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