Books Into Movies - the Classics of the 1950's - Part 4

Read the Book or Seen the Movie?

Many of the books on the best-sellers list make their way into the theaters. It is so common that you often wonder if you read the book or saw the movie. Here are the books from the list of Top 10 Best Selling List that were made into movies.

By Love Possessed by James Gould Cozzens

By Love Possessed follows 49 hours in the life of Arthur Winner, the leading lawyer in a small Pennsylvania town in the 1950s, "By Love Possessed" portrays all the myriad aspects of love: between parent and child, brother and sister, inside marriage and out, and the brotherly love among the law partners in Winner's firm. "The best of Cozzens' novels".--"The New York Times". Although the time-frame of the book is limited to 49 hours, there is generous use of flashbacks in this work. James Gould Cozzens won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel Guard of Honor and is considered by many as one of the great American authors.

Lana Turner and Efrem Zimbalist Jr. star in the 1961 film. The film picks up the more "Peyton Place" themes and focuses on an affair between Arthur Winner and his business partner's wife Marjorie. The movie is not rated highly and did not receive any Oscar nominations.

Compulsion by Meyer Levin

The 1956 novel Compulsion is a fictionalized account about the Leopold-Loeb murder where two University of Chicago graduates kidnapped a child at random and killed him for the intellectual challenge. Meyer Levin covered the trial as a student reporter and years writes a fictionalized book about the case that includes going into the minds of the killers. This was the first book to use this technique and it would be successfully used by Truman Capote later when he wrote In Cold Blood.

The 1959 film stars Dean Stockwell and Bradford Dillman as Steiner and Straus, the Leopold-Loeb characters - and Orson Welles stars as the attorney based on Clarence Darrow who made a plea to the jury based on the evils of capital punished that spared the lives of the murders. Stockwell, Dillman and Welles won the Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival.

Rally 'Round the Flag Boys by Mac Shulman

Rally 'Round the Flag Boys is an adult comedy by Mac Shulman that has the Army deciding to build a Nike Missile base in the middle of an upscale Connecticut commuter town. Shulman manages to parody the 1950's culture and makes everyone ridiculous. The results are hilarious.

Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, and Joan Collins star in the 1958 movie. Joanne Woodward insists on attending every civic meeting to her husband Harry Bannerman's (Paul Newman) despair. When the missile base is announce Joanne's character Grace is a member of the committee to stop the base while Harry is made a liaison for the military. The movie did not deliver on Shulman's comic genius and does not receive above average viewer ratings.

Eloise in Paris by Kay Thompson

Kay Thompson wrote a series of books starring Eloise a 6-year-old resident of the Plaza Hotel in New York City. Eloise in Paris is the second book in the series of four and became an instant best seller in 1957. Eloise is summoned by her mother to come to Paris with her Nanny. Between telling everyone that she is going to Paris and the trip to Paris Thompson captures the fun and character of the little six-year-old that everyone adores.

Although two othe Eloise books were adapted into made-for-TV-movies by Disney, this book has never been adapted - yet. It is scheduled to be made into a movie starring Jordanna Beatty as Eloise and Uma Thurman as her Nanny.


The Scapegoat by Daphne du Maurier

Scapegoat is a novel about double identity. John is a French History teacher and is in France on a vacation. He meets his double - Jean who is a French count. Jean's life is everything that John wants. When offered a chance to change lives with Jean, John declines. However, after a night of drinking he passes out and the next morning he finds himself in his French doubles's clothes and the chauffeur is at the door. John spends the rest of his time trying to keep up his identity and unraveling the reasons that Jean wanted to leave his life.

Alec Guinness plays John/Jean in the 1959 crime film. The ending of the film differs from the book - you need to see the movie to find the difference. Irene Worth plays John's wife and Better Davis plays his mother the Countess.

On the Beach by Nevil Shute

On the Beach is an end-of-the-world novel that was written in 1957 by Nevil Shute. The only place in the world that has survived a nuclear war is Australia, but the winds are bringing the radiation to Australia within eight months. A signal is received from Seattle, so an American submarine that has been taking refuge in Australia travels north to investigate. Everywhere they go the radiation levels are too high to sustain life. When they arrive in Seattle they discover that part of the power is on and the signal is coming from the movement of a window sash in the wind as it brushes against a telegraph key. Even a trip to the Gulf of Alaska shows that the radiation has not lessened. The sub returns home and everyone prepares for the end.

The 1959 film has one of the most iconic scenes where everyone is on the beach singing Waltzing Matilida as the end nears. Even though the film is faithful to the book it is more powerful than the book. The movie stars Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire, and Anthony Perkins. The movie was nominated for Academy Awards in Best Film Editing and Best Music, Scoring of a Drama.

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

Atlas Shrugged is the book that created the iconic phrase "Who is John Galt?", and can best be described by Ayn Rand's books store:

Ayn Rand's epochal novel, first published in 1957, has been a continual bestseller as well as an intellectual landmark. It is the story of a man who said that he would stop the motor of the world—and did. Was he a destroyer or the greatest of liberators? Why did he have to fight his battle, not against his enemies but against those who needed him most—and his hardest battle against the woman he loved? What is the world's motor—and the motive power of every man?

Tremendous in its scope, this novel presents an astounding panorama of human life—from the productive genius who becomes a worthless playboy to the great steel industrialist who does not know that he is working for his own destruction to the philosopher who becomes a pirate to the composer who gives up his career on the night of his triumph to the woman who runs a transcontinental railroad to the lowest track worker in her Terminal tunnels." (Source: Ayn Rand Bookstore)

The film of this epochal novel has been a long time in coming. It is to be released on April 15, 2011. The original plans for the movie was to have Angelina Jolie star, but these plans were dropped as the producers were about to lose the rights to the book. It has been filmed using some unknown actors and the producers still do not have a distributor.

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak

Doctor Zhivago is a sweeping epic of the life of Yuri Zhivago in Russia as his life is defined by the Bolshevik Revolution and its aftermath. The book opens when Yuri's father commits suicide before the Russian Revolution. The story follows Yuri as he becomes a young man, a physician and marries his childhood sweetheart. Throughout the movie there is another woman - Laura. He sees her several times before they meet and fall in love.

Boris Pasternak wrote the book in Russian and he submitted it to a Russian journal. It was rejected because it was viewed as being anti-Marxist. It was eventually smuggled out of Russia by an Italian publisher in 1957 and was published in both Russian and Italian. It was published in English in 1958. Pasternak was offered the Pulitzer Prize but declined the award after being pressured by Russian authorities.

The 1965 movie of the same name is loosely based on the novel. The movie is told from the viewpoint of Yuri Zhivago's half brother who is trying to find Yuri's illegitimate child with his mistress Lara. The movie stars Omar Shariff, Julie Christie, Geraldine Chapline, Rod Steiger, and Alec Guiness. Doctor Zhivago won 5 Oscars and was nominated for an additional 5 more. The film has remained popular and as of 2010 it was the eighth highest grossing film of all times in the U.S.

Anatomy of a Murder by Robert Traver

Anatomy of a Murder is based on an actual murder that took place in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in 1952. In the book there is no doubt that Lt. Manion is guilty of killing bar owner Barney Quill because many people saw him commit the murder. The defense was based on Lt. Manion's culpability - was he truly guilty of murder in the legal sense? The second half of the book is spent in the courtroom and has been credited with perfecting the court room drama genre.

Robert Traver is a pseudonym for John D. Voelker. Voelker was a Michigan attorney who used a pen name when writing to show people that his two professions were separate. Voelker was asked to defend Army Lt. Colman Peterson, who was accused of killing bar owner Mike Chenowith. After a six day trial Peterson was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Voelker started turning over the events in his mind and decided to write a book. During that time he was asked to fill a vacant position as an associate judge on the Michigan Supreme court, and even won an election to continue in that term.

Otto Preminger picked up the rights to the book and had a hit movie. Jimmy Stewart plays the defense attorney, Ben Gazarra plays Peterson and Lee Remick is Peterson's wife. Eve Arden also plays a sardonic secretary. The movie was nominated for 7 Oscars and receives very high viewer ratings.

Leonard Maltin Talks about Anatomy of a Murder

Lolita by Vladimir Nabakov

Lolita is about a middle-aged man who becomes obsessed with and later sexually involved with a 12-year-old girl. The protagonist is Humbert Humbert, a European adrift in America, who becomes obsessed with Delores Haze. Although the topic is quite erotic it is also a bit humorous. The term "Lolita" has become a generic term in the English language to mean a sexually precocious girl.

Lolita has been made into a film twice. The first being in 1962 by Stanley Kubrick and the second in 1997 by Adrian Lyne. They 1962 version has higher viewer ratings. It raises the age of Delores to 14 and Humbert Humbert is a college professor. James Mason played Humbert Humbert, Sue Lyon played Lolita and Shelley Winters played her mother. The movie was nominated for one Oscar.

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Have you read the book or seen the movie of any of these? 1 comment

Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 5 years ago from Virginia

A great list of books and movies....On the Beach is one of my favorite Gregory Peck movies....Lolita seems to be Stanley Kubrick's forgetten movies...and it is great...voted up

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