Dr. J.C. Bowlin, Film and Literature Professor, and Contemporary Film Buff

        Dr. J.C. Bowlin walks into his first day as professor of English 213: Film and Literature class to a room full of undead, uninspired faces. He wonders if there will be any way to open the eyes of students to the magic that is not only the classic film, but also their classic literary counterparts. He approaches the pulpit like an excitable Baptist preacher, ready to blast an exciting soliloquy on the wonders that is classic film and literature. Now the learning begins.

        Three hours later, Dr. Bowlin arrives home, contemplating his teachings over a mid-priced Pilsner beer and a cigarette. He reaches down to retrieve the latest issue of Golf Digest, when he happens to pull out an old syllabus from when he himself was enrolled in English 213: Film and Literature.

        “That class was good, but I'm glad I made the changes to it I did.” he pointed out to his cat, named Leonidas. Dr. Bowlin then began to compare his syllabus to the coffee-stained relic of his collegiate youth. He then spotted some of the same films and books that are present in both syllabi that were his favorites.

        George Bernard Shaw’s 1913 Pygmalion, filmed in 1938 by Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard.

        Its amazing story about a Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle (Wendy Hiller) and hard-nosed phonetics professor Dr. Henry Higgins (Leslie Howard) drives the “diamond in the rough” cliché right through the heart of the audience. The use of intense scenes of discourse (for instance the montage of Higgins training Doolittle) creates a Zen-like balance to the softer and more elegant scenes (Eliza and Higgins at the Higgins' residence) between the two most proud characters one will ever read about.

        Pygmalion has a lot to teach about the period of which it is written about: its culture, social norms, and the outrageous ill-treatment of women and commoners. The settings run the gamut of British society, showing just how poor and just how rich people were. The plot is wrought with anger and frustrations from both Eliza and Higgins, creating a tangled and confusing bond between them. Oh, that ends up being love? One would not think it without seeing the ending, and even then it is still questionable. It hearkens the “opposites attract” cliché, that of which is a cliché for a reason.

        Tennessee Williams’ 1947 A Streetcar Named Desire, filmed in 1951 by Elia Kazan, Streetcar is the film-book combination that most people seemed to pay attention to more than the rest. Besides its amazing star power (Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski, Vivien Leigh as Blanche DuBois, and Kim Hunter as Stella Kowalski), Streetcar's portrayal of New Orleans in the 1940s creates a realistic feel that sucks the audience/readers into the screen/page, respectively. Though the Kowalski's seemed to be front and center for most of the movie, in the background old Blanche is transforming into a raving lunatic. This transformation is saddening yet cerebrally satisfying in a twisted way.

        The plot is simple, and yet it is not the focus. While viewing the film one thinks, “My, what a weak story!” However, the characters are aging and ripening for one of the best shouting matches of cinematic history. Streetcar's cinematography is excellent, has amazing scenery that fits an extremely realistic film, and is based on one of the best plays written by an American playwright. These points would be the focus of study. The literature is what made this film great. The film portrays the story almost truthfully, without showing its true pedigree as a play. Another point also made is that it is not always the story that has to take center stage. Streetcar is filled with dynamic, deep, and surprising characters, one specifically that jumps out of nowhere to the limelight for one of the best performances by a female actress ever. These would be the film-book combinations that I would best like to teach.

        While looking at both syllabi, Dr. Bowlin found that one word summed up his thoughts when he compared them: modern. He noticed that there was quite a lack of modern soon-to-be classics in the old syllabus. So, when he took the reigns, he substituted added just a few fresh pieces of modern work to the class’s repertoire:

        A Doll's House for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

         The Turn of the Screw for Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

        These new additions promoted the idea, “Hey, there are some really amazing books that spawn some great films! This will bring but the butts to the seats! The students will love them!”

        Yet, at the same time, he noticed how empty some of the films felt; how lifeless the plots felt sometimes! How drawn out are the stories! How ridiculous is the amount of exposition in Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring. Looking at the both of them, Dr. Bowlin began to realize that movies have lost their pizazz to the over-the-top CGI effects that try to mask flaws

.         As he finished his trip down memory lane, Dr. Bowlin had this final thought as he turned off his tableside lamp: “Without the literature that inspired the first films, cinema would not be here today. I'm glad they exist. I would have had an extremely boring childhood otherwise.”

Joseph Chad Bowlin