William Wyler's Version of Washington Square--Yes
Jack Clayton's Version of The Turn of the Screw--No

     Several of the films viewed this semester were excellent adaptations of the underlying literary work. My favorite was William Wyler's 1949 film The Heiress. Contrastingly, I never did like Jack Clayton's 1961 film The Innocents.

     I suppose Wyler has turned out to be my favorite director of the class. But this film was very true to the underlying works upon which it is based. The screen adaptation comes from both the 1947 stage version by Ruth and Augustus Goetz and the 1880 novel Washington Square by Henry James.

     As I read the excellent book, I viewed a mental play I created in my mind. Then, when we read the play and watched the film it was if I had written the play and directed the film. I appreciate films this true to the original works. I would have even liked reading the book and play after having seeing the film, something I normally do not do. This written works would have allowed me to "rerun" the actual film in mind.

     On the other hand, I did much like Jack Clayton's The Innocents. The underlying work, James's 1898 The Turn of the Screw, was my least favorite book of the class. Much of the book was hard to read. Thus, for the most part, I had a hard time forming that mental image as I read the work. Unfortunately, I did not find the corresponding 1950 play by William Archibald and the later movie much help along that line either. In fact, I came to the conclusion that had I read the play and watched the film first and read the book at a later date, I might not have made the connection between the novel and the two later two versions very well.

     When literary works and their corresponding film versions clarify and complement each other, as in the case of Washington Square and The Heiress, there is a satisfactory artistic resolution. However when they confuse and collide with each other, as happened with The Turn of the Screw and The Innocents, there is no such successful artistic resolution.

Bradley Haley

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