Books Into Movies - Classics of the 1950s - Part 3
Did You Read the Book or See the Movie?
Popular books have been made into movies since the beginning of the film industry. I was taking a survey on Facebook where you identified which of the BBC Top 100 books you had read and realized that I was not sure if I had read the book or seen the movie. And, I wasn't the only one to make this comment.
So, let's go to the movies and see which books were the source for a feature film. And in this hub we will explore the 1950's.
Marjorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk
In the 1955 novel Marjorie Morningstar, young Marjorie Morgenstern desperately wants to be an actress and changes her name to Marjorie Morningstar because Morgenstern is "too Jewish". She lands the title role in Hunter College's performance of The Mikado and afterward is offered a job as a dramatic counselor at a summer camp. It is during this summer that Marjorie meets Noel Airman who is in charge of another camp. He has some notoriety for composing, but he is a bohemian and wants nothing to do with a traditional Jewish lifestyle. Marjorie and Noel begin a passionate romance that finally ends when Noel breaks down and offers to marry Marjorie. At that time she realizes that her romance is a girlish fantasy and finally marries someone named Milton Swartz and ends up with a traditional Jewish lifestyle.
The 1958 movies stars Natalie Woods and Gene Kelly in the title roles. The film is known for its depiction of many Jewish religious scenes and ends up giving Natalie the image of a ground breaking Jewish actress although she is not Jewish and there have been plenty successful Jewish actresses. The film also has several departures from the book - notably the ending where Marjorie is not married, but it is obvious that she is going to marry Wally Wronkin. In the book she considers marrying Wally, but feels that her affair with Noel would break his heart and she therefore chooses to marry someone else.
The film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Music, Original Song.
Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis
The 1955 comedic novel Auntie Mame is currently undergoing a revival. In 2009 an Italian publisher reprinted the book hoping to sell 5,000 copies. It was a huge success and ended up selling 3,000 copies a day! Plans were made in England to re-release the book and talk is underway to make a new movie.
The book is about an orphan 10-year-old boy who lived with his flamboyant and outrageous Anutie Mame. Patrick Dennis wrote the book based on his own Aunt Marion whom he did not live with as the little boy in the book did. The book spent 112 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller List. Dennis's life is almost as interesting as the book. He was a "tormented" bisexual who eventually left his family for a male costume designer. He wrote 16 novels under two different pen names (his real life name is Edward Everett Tanner III), but he eventually abandoned writing to work as a butler. His most famous client was the Ray Kroc - the founder of McDonalds. Kroc never knew the background of his butler.
In 1957 a Broadway play of Auntie Mame starred Rosalind Russell as the title character. A film of the same title was released in 1958 with Russell playing the title role. A musical version opened on Broadway in 1966 titled Mame and starred Angela Lansbury and Bea Arthur. A film of the same name opened in 1974 and starred Lucille Ball, Bea Arthur, and Robert Preston.
The original movie was nominated for six Oscars, including Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Picture.
In the movie Mame's motto was "Life is a banquet, and most poor sucker's are starving to death!"
Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan
Bonjour Tristesse is a coming of age story of a French 17-year-old girl Cecile who is spending the summer on the French Riviera with her father Raymond and Else - one of Raymond's many mistresses. When Anne Larsen, one of Cecile's mother's old friends, visit things change. Anne is mature, wise, and sophisticated, something that Raymond has avoided. Anne and Raymond end up spending the night together and announce their engagement. The starts a destructive response by Cecile who is determined to break them up. Her plan results in tragedy.
Bonjour Tristess translates into "Hello Sadness". Francoise Sagan was only 17 years old when she wrote this novel and many people say it is her best novel.
The 1958 movie is directed by Otto Preminger and stars Deborah Kerr, David Niven, and Jean Seberg. The movie follows the plot line of the book.
The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit by Sloan Wilson
The Man if the Gray Flannel Suit follows the life of Tom and Betsy Rath in the years after WWII. It was meant as an autobiographical novel by Sloan Wilson but it has grown to represent a generation of Americans who fought in the war and returned home to handle the rat race. Tom has a beautiful wife and three children, but has dreams about his war days in Italy. He also decides that he needs to get ahead and changes job to work in public relations as a speech writer for a millionaire. There is a plot twist that forces Tom to review his life and either start confiding in Betsy or lose her. In the end he has to either decide on success or work life balance.
The movie stars Gregory Peck and Jennifer Joans as Tom and Betsy Rath. Other actors are Frederic March, Lee J. Cobb, and Keenan Wynn.
Something of Value by Robert Ruark
Something of Value takes place in British Colonial Kenya during the Mau Mau uprising. Several reviews state that Ruark captures the brutality of the uprising and call this book a historical novel. The title is supposedly taken from the old African saying: " When you take away the customs, culture and religion of a people, we better replace it with something of value.”
The book pits the gentleman farmer Peter McKenzie against his childhood friend Kimani. Peter tries to understand what caused his friend Kimani to side with the Mau Mau.
Director Richard Brooks is credited with a meticulous adaptation of the book in his 1957 movie. Rock Hudson and Sidney Poiter star as Peter McKenzie and Kimani.
Ten North Frederick by John O'Hara
Ten North Frederickis about the rise and fall of Tom Chapin, a distinguished lawyer in Pennsylvania who had allusions of becoming President. It is about the underside to the polished image seen by all. The book follows the history of the Chapin family for 50 years before Tom Chapin was born and 50 years of his life. It shows how he is reduced to seeking love in a meaningless manner with a younger woman. The book was the 1956 National Book Award winner.
The movie is directed and written by Philip Dunne. He is accused of limiting the scope of the book and rushing to the romance with the younger woman. In the book the younger woman was a minor character while she is a much larger character in the movie. Gary Cooper plays Tom Chapin, Diane Varsi plays his wife, and Suzy Parker plays the younger woman.
Don't Go Near the Water by William Brinkley
What would you do if you were an advertising man who was pressed into service during WWII without any military training? This is the basis for this book and the meaning of the title. Whereas the Navy motto is "Don't give up the ship", these PR geniuses make their motto "Don't go near the water." This is a light-hearted look at their life and loves. For instance, they create a "Typical Young Navy Man" campaign and choose their candidate site unseen just because his name is a mix of John Paul Jones and Admiral Farragut. Of course, this candidate ends up being a foul-mouthed, slovenly navy man.
The 1957 comedy film starred Glenn Ford, Gia Scala, Earl Holliman, and Anne Francis. It was the first of many "service comedy" movies that Glenn Ford would star in.
The Last Hurrah by Edwin O'Connor
The Last Hurrah is about a mayoral campaign by ex-governor Frank Skeffington. He has been mayor and everyone thought he would retire at the end of his current term. At the age of 72 he decides that he wants to run for one more term. He is part of a well oiled political machine and probably a bit corrupt. He is defeated by newcomer Kevin McCluskey - a man without any previous political experience but a decent war record, good manners, and a handsome face. Skeffington experiences two heart attacks after his loss and doe not survive.
The 1958 movie stars Spencer Tracey and Frank Skeffington. It was directed by John Ford.
Peyton Place by Grace Metalous
Peyton Placeis about a fictional town in New Hampshire. The story was considered quite risque in 1956 which did not hurt the book because it sold like hot cakes. The main characters are Constance MacKenzie and her illegitimate daughter Allison who pose as a widow and her daughter. Selena Cross is the girl from across the tracks. Then there are the the mill owner Leslie Harrington and his spoiled son Rodney. Some of the themes include incest, lust, adultry, abortion, and murder. The term "Peyton Place" has come to mean any small town with its own secrets.
The 1957 film starred Lana Turner as Constance MacKenzie and Diane Varsi as Allison MacKenzie. The movie received 9 Oscar nominations, but had no winners. There was also a TV series from 1964-69 that starred Dorothy Malone, Mia Farrow, Ryan O'Neal, and Barbara Parkins.
A Certain Smile by Francoise Sagan
Fresh on the heals of the successful Bonjour Tristesse, Francoise Sagan's second book, A Certain Smile, was another best seller. This novel is about a student's love affair with a married man. Dominique's lover Bertrand introduces her to his Uncle Luc and Aunt Francoise. There is an immediate attraction between Dominique and Luc which they try to avoid, but have a two-week interlude together. During this time they say they won't fall in love - sadly, that ends up not being the case for Dominique. In the end she must learn to live without Luc.
The 1958 film stars Rossano Brazzi, Joan Fontaine, Bradford Dillman, and Christine Carere. It had four Oscar nominations.
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