Books into Movies - The Classics of the 1950's - Part 2

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.

Desiree by Annemarie Selinko

Desiree was originally published in Germany in 1951 and was immediately a best seller. It was released in the United States in 1953. This is a story about Napoleon's first love - Desiree Clary, the daughter of a wealthy silk merchant. This was the love before his fabled Josephine. Napoleon and Desiree were engaged, but her parents objected and Napoleon needed more money and social status than Desiree could deliver. The engagement was broken and Napoleon immediately married Josephine de Beauharnis. Interestingly, Desiree did marry Jean-Baptiste Jules Bernadotte who was one of Napoleon's ablest Generals. Jean-Baptiste was adopted as the heir apparent by the royal house of Sweden and Norway and crowned King Carl XIV making Desiree Queen Desideria.

The 1954 film starred Marlon Brando as Napoleon and Jean Simmons as Desiree Clary.  Reviews of the movie were rather cool stating "The only thing missing is a story of any consequence."  There are historical aspects to the movie, but the story of Desiree and Napoleon is  forced.  The film did have two Oscar nominations - one of for Set Design and the other for Best Costume Design.

The High and the Mighty by Ernest K. Gann

 The High and The Mighty is a novel based on a real life trip that author Ernest K. Gann flew as a commercial airline pilot for United Airlines from Honolulu, Hawaii to Portland, Oregon.  Author Gann wrote the screenplay for the movie.

In the film John Wayne plays the co-pilot to Robert Stacks pilot.  This is an American disaster film and deals with the crew's and passenger's experiences and interactions when a trans-Pacific flight develops engine trouble resulting in a serious fuel leak.

The film won an Oscar for Best Music and received 5 other nominations.  The music score is constantly whistled by co-pilot John Wayne during the film and the song became a huge seller.

Battle Cry by Leon M. Uris

Author Leon M. Uris was in the 6th Marine Regiment during World War II and used his experiences when writing Battle Cry. From the 1953 book cover: "Moving, shocking, tense, and glorious, here is a magnificent saga of men at war--Leon Uris's famous novel about life in the jaws of death, in the U.S. Marine Corps. Here are the men from the cities, farms, and whistle-stops. Here are the tough kids and the mama's boys, the liars and the lovers, the goldbricks and the heroes. Here are the men who made up the most courageous fighting force on the face of he earth--in the best novel about them ever written."

Uris went to Hollywood to write the screenplay for the 1955 movie. It starred Van Heflin, Tab Hunter, James Whitmore, and Raymond Massey. It did receive one Oscar nomination for best movie. Contrary to the title of the book and movie, there was not much fighting in the movie. Many reader reviews have indicated that it was really like what most of the men in the war experienced -- a lot of hurry up and wait, loneliness, and boredom.

Not as a Stranger by Morton Thompson

The 1954 novel, Not as a Stranger, is a drama about a medical student who marries to have his bills paid, and becomes a doctor who feels that he is infallible. He eventually faces in own infallibility and breaks down in his wife's arm. This 1953 novel spent most of the year at the top of the best seller list.

The 1955 film stars Robert Mitchum, Olivia de Haviland and a cast rich with popular actors. Frank Sinatra plays the best friend in this movie fresh from his career-reviving role in From Here to Eternity. This movie is noteworthy for being Stanley Kramer's directorial debut. The movie is hard to find on VHS or DVD.

The Egyptian by Mika Walteri

Mika Walteri is a Finnish novelist who wrote The Egyptianin his native language in 1945. Naomi Walford translated the English Version in 1949, and it must have spent some time gaining popularity because the book makes it to the top of the book charts in 1954. The namesake of The Egyptianis Sinuhe, the royal physician. Sinuhe tells his story while in exile after the fall of Pharaoh Akhenaten of the 18th Dynasty. The name Sinuhe was taken from an ancient Egyptian text commonly know as The Story of Sinuhe. In the book it is elaborated that the title character was named after the character in the book The Story of Sinuhe by his adoptive parents, but that distinction is not made in the movie. That is important because the book character Sinuhe did not live during the time of Akhenaten. Walteri takes great care to make the story as historical as possible.

Marlon Brandon was to play Sinuhe, but read the script and turned it down. It was then offered to Farley Granger with the same result. Finally the role was played by a new actor Edmund Purdom. Edmund Purdom did end up with a long if not recognizable career. Major stars in the movie were Jean Simmons, Victor Mature, Gene Tierny, Michael, and Peter Ustinov.

Several major characters in the book we omitted as the film only covered about half of the book. Some of the sets, costumes, and props were re-used by Cecile B. DeMille for The Ten Commandments. Since The Ten Commandments occurs 70 years after the story of The Egyptian this lent some unintended continuity to the stories.

No Time for Sergeants by Mac Hyman

No Time for Sergeants started life as a best-selling comic novel by Mac Hyman. Hyman continued worked on his novel for years, with several publishers rejecting it before it was finally picked up and published in 1954. The book is narrated by the country bumpkin Will Stockdale, a young man drafted into the service. He has many misadventures and he drives his sergeant crazy.

The book was developed into a stage play, but was first produced as a one-hour TV presentation on The United States Steel Hour in March of 1955. The TV production starred the up-and-coming actor Andy Griffith. Griffiths recreated his role when the play opened and other actors involved were former child star Roddy McDowall and it was the debut of comedic actor Don Knotts.

The 1958 movie also starred Andy Griffiths as Private Will Stockdale. Don Knotts also made his screen debut and Knotts and Griffiths would continue a partnership in the TV Show The Andy Griffith Show. After the success of the movie a TV series was spun off, but Andy Griffith already had his popular TV show and did not participate.

View From Pompey's Head by Hamilton Basso

 In The View From Pompey's Head Anson Page is called back to his hometown of Pompey's Head, South Carolina to investigate a mystery surrounging one of his client's authors.   He still sees the same problems of racial and class prejudices that had once prompted him to leave Pompey's Head to be an attorney in Manhattan. This novel spent 40 weeks on top of the New York Times Bestseller List.

The 1955 film was written and directed by Philip Dunne.  The film starred Richard Egan and Dana Wynter.  DeForest Kelley of Startrek fame had an small role in the film.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

 Nobel-prizing winning author William Golding wrote about a group of British schoolboys who were stuck on a deserted island.  It is a brutal look at how their society developed.  The book was published in 1954 and did not get made into a movie until 1963 and again in 1990.  The popularity of this book continued because it was reading material in several high school Literature classes.

The 1963 film tranfers the intent of the book to film and is praised for the in review after review.  The film stars James Aubrey, Tom Chapin, Hugh Edwards, and Roger Elwin.  It was directed by Peter Brook.

The 1990 film version has been updated.  They are no longer just British schoolboys who are on the island, but a group of military students.  In the original a fire was not tended and they missed being seen by a ship - in this one they are missed by a helicopter.  This film stars Balathazar Getty, Chris Furrh, Danuel Pippoly, and James Badge Dale.

Live and Let Die by Ian Fleming

The 1954 novel Live and Let Die was the second novel in the James Bond series although it was the eighth movie and was released in 1973. This is the first time James is in the United States and he is investigating "Mr. Big" (also a member of SMERSH) who is suspected of selling gold coins that were part of a pirate's treasure. In this book Felix Leiter, Bond's CIA counterpart, is dangled in a shark tank and his legs are eaten. Bond gets him to the hospital in time to save his life. After spending the first part of the book in Harlem the action continues in the Jamaica. The book ends as the femme fatale Solitaire and Bond are tied up behind Mr. Big's yacht and going to be dragged over coral and into an area infested with sharks. They are save when the limpet mine that Bond had planted earlier.

The movie adaptation was loosely based on the book. Instead of smuggling gold coins it is heroin, and instead of Jamaica it is a small Caribbean island called San Monique. Felix Leiter was not fed to the sharks until License to Kill. Some scenes were used later in  For Your Eyes Only

After the successful Diamonds Are Forever Sean Connery declined to play James Bond again. The part was offered to Clint Eastwood who declined because he thought James Bond should be played by an Englishman. The part finally ended up with Roger Moore. It was the big break for Jane Seymour who played Solitaire.  Yaphet Kotto played the evil Mr. Big/Kananga and Geoffrey Holder as Baron Samedi.

The music was written by Paul and Linda McCartney and performed by Paul's group Wings. The movie received an Oscar nomination for Best Music, Original Song.

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Have you read the book or seen the movie of any of these? 2 comments

Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 5 years ago from Virginia

No Time for Sargeants is one of my favorites....interesting hub


revybaby profile image

revybaby 5 years ago from On the Road Author

No Time for Sargeants was a, book, comic, play, TV show -- it was everything. I was amazed at how many people got their start or made their career with that. Thanks!

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