Books into Movies - The Classics of the 1950s - Part 1

Did I 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.

Jubilee Trail by Gwen Bristow

Jubilee Trail, a story by Gwen Bristow about Garnet Cameron, was published in 1950. Garnet was from a wealthy, upper-class family in New York and she meets and falls in love with Oliver Hale. Oliver Hale is in town to buy supplies from the estate of a recently murdered man. Oliver fills Garnet with stories about California and she falls in love with him. They marry and start to travel to California. Once in California Garnet meets Oliver's brother Charles. Charles is a wealthy land owner who wanted to expand his landholdings by having Oliver marry into a wealthy Spanish family. Now he vows vengeance on Oliver's bride.

The movie based on this popular book was directed by Josephy Kane and starred Joan Leslie as Garnet Hale. Other actors were Forrest Tucker and Vera Ralston. Although the movie had a big enough budget, it was never mover than a B-picture.

The Cardinal by Henry Morton Robinson

The Cardinal was a best-selling book of 1950 and 1951, but didn't get made into a movie until 1963. The movie was directed by Otto Preminger and was nominated for 6 Oscars and won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture - drama and Best Supporting Actor (John Huston).

The novel was based on the life of Cardinal Francis Spellman who was then Archbishop of New York. The movie followed the life of a fictional Irish Catholic priest named Stephen Fermoyle from his ordination until his appointment as a cardinal right before World War II.

An interesting note is that the Vatican's liaison officer for the film was Joseph Ratzinger. And in real life Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict the XVI.

The Cardinal - Book or Movie?

Did you read the book or see the movie?

  • I read the book
  • I saw the movie
  • I read the book and saw the movie
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The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk

The Caine Mutiny was not only a best selling book in 1951 and 1952 but became a major motion picture. The book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1952 and the movie had 7 Oscar nominations in 1954. The list of actors include Humphrey Bogart, Jose Ferrar, Van Johnson, Fred MacMurray, E.G. Marshall, and Lee Marvin.

The author Herman Wouk spent time aboard a destroyer-minesweeper during World War II and the fictious vessel in Caineis that class of ship. The book and movie both explore the moral and ethical decisions made at sea by Ship Captains. The highlight of both works is a trial for mutiny, as the first officer relieved Captain Queeg of his command during a typhoon that endangered the ship.

The iconic movie scene occurs when Queeg (played by Humphrey Bogart) is called to testify and snaps under brutal cross-examination and gives paranoid testimony.

The Caine Mutiny - Book or Movie?

Did you read the book The Caine Mutiny or watch the movie?

  • I read the book
  • I watched the movie
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From Here to Eternity

Another blockbuster book from 1951 was From Here to Eternity by James Jones. From Here to Eternity won the National Book Award for fiction. James Jones loosely based his novel on his pre-World War II experiences with the Hawaiian Division 27th Infantry.

The movie won 8 Oscars in 1953, including one for best picture, and had 5 other unsuccessful nominations. The movie deals with the troubles of soldiers stationed in Hawaii leading up to the months before Pearl Harbor. The soldiers are played by a solid gold cast of Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Frank Sinatra, and Ernest Borgnine. The iconic scene from this movie is the beach scene kiss between Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr as the surf washes over them.

The Cruel Sea by Nicholas Monsarrat

 Nicholas Monsarrat spent most of World War II on convoy duty in the Atlantic.  During this time he wrote several short stories based on his experiences and six years later wrote The Cruel Sea, the story of the British ships Compass Rose and Saltash and of their desperate cat-and-mouse game with Nazi U-boats.

The book was made into a British movie with little concession to the American audience.  It was nominated for Best Writing and Screenplay in the 1954 Academy Awards. 

My Cousin Rachel by by Daphne Du Maurier

Philip Ashley has be raised by his cousin Ambrose and inherits his Cornish estate up Ambrose's suspicious death. Before Ambrose's death Philip had been traveling in Italy and met another cousin, Rachel, who is the penniless widow of an Italian count. Rachel returns to England and Philip is feeling contradictory forces as he falls in love with her.

The movie was made in 1952 and starred Richard Burton and Olivia DeHaviland. There were four Oscar nominations including one for Richard Burton for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. Burton won the Golden Globe for Best Newcomer - Male although he had been in a few minor movies and TV appearance at the time.

My Cousin Rachel was made into a TV mini-series in 1983 and a TV movie in 1969.

Giant by Edna Ferba

Giant was written by Edna Ferber as a satire on the old Texas versus the new Texas. How the cattle empires are being taken over by the oil tycoons. Ferber did her own research and captured much of what made Texas Texas. The book was a success, but it paled in comparison to the 1956 movie.

This is the movie that James Dean was making when he had his fatal auto accident. Other stars in the movie include Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, Carroll Baker, and Chill Wills. It was nominated for 10 Oscars and won for Best Director. Reading reviews of the movie and book make me believe that this is the case where a "bad" book made a great movie.

The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway wrote An Old Man and The Sea while in Cuba in 1951 and published it in 1952. It was his last major piece of fiction and one of his most popular pieces. The plot revolves around an aging Cuban fisherman who struggles with a giant marlin far out in the gulf stream. The book received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1953 and was cited as a reason in receiving his Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954.

The movie version was released in 1958. It starred Spencer Tracy and was nominated for 3 Oscars, winning the Oscar for Best Music, Scoring of a Picture. A made for TV Movie was done in 1990 and starred Anthony Quinn.

The Saracen Blade by Frank Yerby

 Frank Yerby, the author of The Saracen Blade, was the first African American to write a best-selling novel and to have a book purchased by a Hollywood studio for screen adaption.  The first book purchased for screen adaption was The Foxes of Harrow published in 1947.  He wrote over 30 novels.  He researched each and was known for including many footnotes in his book.  One review I read indicated that this book was very hard to read.

In the 1954 movie Ricardo Montalban plays an intellectual in the 13th century who is an avenger by evening.  He has vowed to kill the evil Count Siniscola and the Count's son Enzio for murdering his father.  He even ends up in the middle of the Crusades in his quest.

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

 East of Eden was not only a best seller in 1952, it was an Oprah Book Club choice in 2003.  From the Oprah Book Club website: "Three generations, two love triangles, one timeless story. East of Eden is an epic novel full of good and evil, love and hatred, failure and redemption." The story is an intricate study of two families, the Trasks and the Hamiltons, and their interwoven story.  The action starts in the Salinas Valley in California right before WWI.

The 1955 movies stars James Dean, Julie Harris, Raymond Massey, and Burl Ives.  Directed by Elia Kazan the movie is loosely based on the second half of the book.  It is about a wayward young man who vies for the affection of his Bible-toting father against his favored brother.  A modern version of the story of Cain and Abel.

Jo Van Fleet won an Oscar in 1956 for Best Actress in a Supporting Role and the movie had three other nominations. 


The Silver Chalice by Thomas B. Costain

The Silver Chaliceis a fictional story about the making of a silver chalice to hold the Holy Grail. Costain was tired of all the Arthurian Legend about the Holy Grail and he imagined his own story where a slave was commissioned to fashion a beautiful silver casing to hold the plain original cup that Jesus used at the Last Supper. The book is complete with many historical figures.

The movie is most notable for being the first movie for Paul Newman. He has apologized about his acting in the movie and when it was shown on TV in in 1966 he took out a full page ad asking people not to watch the movie. Of course, that backfired and it had very high ratings.

The set designer Rolfe Gerard used semi-abstract settings and décor which was a huge departure from the normal practice.

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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

Good hub.....I seen most of the movies, read some of the books....I would have to say The Caine Mutiny is my favorite of those listed movies....also Giant is considered to be James Dean's pinnacle...I actually liked Rock Hudson better in the film

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