One of this morning's questions on "That's My Answer" was "What book have you read the most times? How many times have you read it?" I suppose there are books from my childhood that I read countless times (the Black Stallion series, for example), but in my adulthood, there are so many books and so little time to re-read them, that only one leaps to mind: "Marjorie Morningstar." I think I read that book in high school and it was my "go to" book to read whenever I needed comfort food of books for many years. My copy became so dilapidated that Marta once borrowed it and, as a surprise, had it rebound and gave it to me for Christmas. Like me, Marta is an avid reader -- much more voracious than I -- and she understands the relationship between a reader and her beloved book!
"L'empress," one of the regulars on "That's My Answer" (and commenter on my blog posts) posted a reply to my answer of "Marjorie Morningstar," which said I'll bet one reason you liked it was because it was better than the movie.
Well, no...that's not the reason I liked it. I had read it several times before the movie came out and I remember being excited to see the book brought to the big screen. Natalie Wood seemed the perfect choice for Marjorie and while Gene Kelly might not have been my first choice to play Noel, her lover, I liked him as an actor, so I had high hopes for the movie.
But the movie was terrible. It was one of those "it seemed like a good idea at the time" movies that changed the entire point of the story by casting handsome young Martin Milner as Marjorie's friend Wally Wronkin, with whom, at the end of the movie, she realizes she has been in love. But it was wrong...wrong...wrong. Marjorie would never have ended up with Wally (and, in fact, she married an attorney sometime after the point where the movie ends). I wanted to throw things at the screen when I saw I saw Marjorie look in the bus driver's mirror and see Wally in the back of the bus and smile in that knowing way. They had completely ruined my favorite book.
But how many times does Hollywood get it right anyway. How many wonderful books have been ruined or trivialized or completely misunderstood by getting the Hollywood treatment. Barbra Streisand is a person I admire. She is a multi talented actress who has also had much success with producing and/or directing big blockbuster movies, but there are two for which I cannot forgive her. You all know that I hate what she did to A Star Is Born, but even more, perhaps, I hated what she did to A Prince of Tides, another of my favorite books.
Prince of Tides is a coming of age story in which the hero, Tom Wingo, is meeting with his sister's psychiatrist in order to help the psychiatrist make sense of the sister's childhood, following the sister's suicide attempt. The book is a series of long flashbacks to the Wingo children's growing up in South Carolina. It is filled with memorable escapades, including pivotal one involving a white tiger, which was conveniently just dropped from the movie entirely. Streisand made the psychiatrist (the role she played) the center of the story and the flashbacks just little vignettes that assumed less importance than her growing relationship with Tom (not a part of the book either). I was so angry with that movie.
We recently saw The Help on our last "family movie night" when Jeri was in town. I had loved the book and so I liked the movie. Jeri and Walt were less enthusiastic about it and when I stopped to think about it, the reason I liked the movie is that I knew the back story of a lot of the action in the movie, and they did not. I knew, for example, why toilets appeared all over Ms Hilly's front lawn. It was a funny scene in the movie, but difficult to place in context. There were a lot of things like that that I realized later you appreciated and enjoyed if you knew the story, and which wouldn't really have the same importance to you if you did not.
One of my favorite David Gerrold books is "The Martian Child," a loosely fictionalized account of his adopting of his son. Right off the bat I was angry with the movie for wimping out. Gerrold is gay and the issue of a gay man adopting a child was significant in the book. In the movie the character of "David" is a widower. The movie was otherwise not all that bad though, knowing David personally, Walt and I both guffawed at the magnificent home that fictional David lives in and the finale was just cheesy and not up to the level of the book.
I still don't know how Hollywood managed to take a book as gripping as "The DaVinci Code" and make it into such a boring movie. Or maybe I just couldn't get past Tom Hanks' hair. I'm sure there are a lot of classics that I have forgotten, or that I never read the book, so I can't really speak to how they were transformed to the silver screen....I'll bet a lot of you can.
I realize it's not possible to include every incident that is in a book in a movie, but it would be nice to at least stay faithful to the book. Gone with the Wind is one of those movies that I feel did credit to the book. Yes, there were things that were omitted, but basically I think that the movie itself does not disappoint people who love the book.
Likewise, Like Water for Elephants, while taking liberties with the story, ended up being pretty faithful to the book, in the circus parts of the story, though you missed the back and forth of the old man and what is going on in his life today, which was a big part of the book.
I've seen several movie versions of "Little Women" and each one seems to stay pretty faithful to the original book, as do the many screen versions I have seen of "Of Mice and Men."
So it can be done. It is possible to take a beloved book and put it on screen without having book lovers tearing their hair out about the liberties taken with a familiar plot. It's just a shame that when a big blockbuster book makes it onto the screen, so often it is a disappointment. I would never see a movie of a book I wanted to read without reading the book first. And if I happen to see the movie first, I might skip reading the book, for fear of being angry with the movie.