Final Work

     As I look back over the semester's film adaptations of the literature selections, I have come to a number of conclusions about the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of each one.

     Probably the best film, or most effective, adaptation was William Wyler's 1949 The Heiress in relation to Henry James's 1880 novel Washington Square. While I thoroughly enjoyed the novel, the film adaptation truly brought Dr. Sloper, Catherine, Morris, and all the other characters to life and gave them both dimension and personality. Because of the movie, the despair Catherine (Olivia de Havilland) feels after finding out the truth about Morris (Montgomery Clift) and her father (Ralph Richardson) is really brought across powerfully and helps one better understand her decision she makes in the end.

     The least successful adaptation of its literary counterpart was by far and away Joseph Losey's 1973 A Doll's House, based on Henrick Ibsen's 1979 play. By no surprise, I am sure, this adaptation truly wrecked any liking I had for the play to begin with. In my essay "You Go Girl," I made the comment that Losey had done a poor job of developing Nora's character. By the end of the play, almost everyone I know was cheering for Nora and proud that she had gone out on her own. By the end of the movie, almost everyone needed to be woken up! Also, the aspect that Nora is a pretty smart girl was never even hinted at, as played by Jane Fonda, in the movie--big disappointment!

     The actors that I felt best conveyed the intent of the original work comprised the cast of A Streetcar Named Desire, the 1951 cinematic adaptation of Tennessee Williams' 1947 play. Whoever Elia Kazan had to pick his cast truly knew what he or she was doing. Marlon Brando, Vivien Leigh, and the actress who played Stella, Kim Hunter, all did a wonderful job of conveying Tennessee Williams' play and the ideas he had for each character. It is no wonder why they all received Academy Awards (except Brando) and got my pick for best actress, actor, and movie in the Ginny L. Snow awards.

     While I hate to admit it, and I am a big musical fan, George Cukor's 1964 My Fair Lady, based on George Bernard Shaw's 1913 Pygmalion, was the most successful in the areas of costumes, music, sound effects, and settings. Maybe it is so because the film makers had a bigger budget or just more ideas, but all of these elements really helped to bring across Eliza Doolittle's (Audrey Hepburn) and Henry Higgins' (Rex Harrison) characters. Probably my favorite part of the movie was the use of costumes or wardrobe. One can really see the detail and time that went into every stitch and especially those crazy hats they wore. While I did not mention this in class, Madonna borrowed the idea of the costumes from the "horse race" scene and used them in her "Girlie Show" world tour. Hey--I figure, if Madonna likes it, there has to be something there to offer.

     The scripts used in both 1973 film adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House, directed by Joseph Losey and Patrick Garland respectively, were the most successful in conveying the literary work's original intent. Since the original work was a play itself, I would hope that the film adaptations would stay close to home with little elaboration in hopes of creating the ideal adaptation from the stage to the screen.

     The least obnoxious attempt at pandering, by means of censorship, was in A Streetcar Named Desire. To bring such a "ball-sy" play to the screen took a great deal of effort, I am sure.by the director, Elia Kazan. Not only does the play portray alcoholism, homosexuality, and rape, but it also describes an abusive, lower-class couple set up to suggest couples in real life. Such a movie/play would be one that people even of today might have a problem with. For the time, I feel the movie was very realistically done. While we never see Stella (Kim Hunter) and Stanley (Marlon Brando) in bed together or the actual rape, and are never really told the truth about Blanche's husband, the movie still stays as true as possible to the play.

     In my opinion Jane Fonda's A Doll's House was not in the least successful in its attempt to convey "women's lib" for the 1970s woman. Instead, a more effective approach would have been to have actually set the movie in the present day. In that way more people would have understood both Nora and Jane in their attempts to liberate themselves. As it was, Jane Fonda's A Doll's House would have to be the least successful cinematic attempt to "open up" the original play for today's audience. Most would argue that the play adaptation itself was so bad that, by the end, the audience would have more than likely could have cared less about what had happened to Jane's Nora. Also, the attempt at giving Nora more dimensions by adding those extra scenes, especially at the beginning and out in the snow so much, was really unnecessary.

     On the contrary, the second version of A Doll's House, the one by Patrick Garland was much better at conveying the attempt of Claire Bloom's Nora to liberate herself from her claustrophobic and soffocating marriage with Anthony Hopkins' Torvald.

     Elia Kazan, the director of A Streetcar Named Desire was by far the best, or most successful, director in presenting the original intent of the work. This director had many obstacles to overcome due to the time's censorship rules that most directors would have shied away from. Instead, this director challenged them and tastefully skirted the more tabooed subjects and gave us a wonderful and award-winning adoption that I am sure made Tennessee proud!

     After having watched Marlon Brando portray Stanley Kowalsky, I would like to see him play Heathcliff instead of Laurence Olivier in a movie adaptation of Emily Brontė's Wuthering Heights. After he had tackled such a tough role of Stanley Kowalski, I feel he would have a great deal to offer in undertaking such a dark and mysterious role as Heathcliff and would have helped to have make a much more effective film adaptation than was William Wyler's 1939 version.

     As one can see by the above comments, there are a lot of different factors that go into making a film adaptation of a literary work effective or not so effective.

Ginny L. Snow

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