On the Money and Way Out in Left Field

         Some film adaptations of classic literature do an impressive job of bringing the printed story to life on the big screen. Then there are other adaptations that take a well-written classic and transform it into a film that should have been axed on the table well before it was made.

         Some of the film adaptations that kept the true essence of the pieces of literature they were derived from include My Fair Lady (directed in 1964 by George Cukor), A Doll's House (directed in 1973 by Patrick Garland), and A Streetcar Named Desire (directed in 1951 by Elia Kazan). These three film adaptations do indeed hit the mark.

         Even though My Fair Lady was a musical and Pygmalion, written in 1913 by George Bernard Shaw, was a play, the musical kept almost every aspect of the play the same. Scenes were altered or left out when the play was turned into a movie. The changes made in My Fair Lady were so small or not important that the alterations do not take away from the original idea behind Pygmalion.

         In Patrick Garland's version of A Doll's House, the film stays on track and follows the story laid out by Henrik Ibsen in his 1879 play, A Doll's House. The movie starts around the same time as the play. Patrick Garland understood that the events leading up to the opening are told throughout the play. He knew there was no reason to start the play with an unneeded background story.

         It must have been easy for Elia Kazan to bring A Streetcar Named Desire, written in 1947 by Tennessee Williams, to the big screen since he had directed the stage version and worked closely with Williams. Not much had to be changed from the play to the film. The scenes that were added into the film that are not in the play do not take away from the story but only to the character development. This adaptation to film worked very well.

         Now there are a few film adaptations that did not go well. A couple of these are Wuthering Heights (directed in 1939 by William Wyler) and A Doll's House (directed in 1973 by Joseph Losey). These two film adaptations took so much or added so much that the titles of these films should have been named after something else other than the pieces of literature which they are supposed to be based on.

         The film adaptation of the novel Wuthering Heights, written in 1847 by Emily Brontë, did not do this classic justice. Removing some of the parts that they chose to edit out of the story only hurt the film. Some of the important characters that made up Brontë's novel were removed completely from the film. There are so many more changes like the one mentioned that the title of the film should have been Something Like Wuthering Heights, But Not Quite.

         In Joseph Losey's adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's play A Doll's House, Losey, for some strange reason, felt that the viewing audience needed to know how things ended up the way they had. The original play is so well-written that those details are brought forth by the characters as the play pans out.

         As has been stated, sometimes an adaptation is on the money, and sometimes it is way out in left field.

Jack Becker

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