Tuesday, June 1, 2010

New Personal Challenge: Classic Movie Books

It's likely that you've realized that I have a bit of a thing for classic movies.  The other night, as I lay in bed watching a favorite (Laura), I found myself wondering if it was based on a book.  And then that expanded a bit to wondering how many of my favorite classic movies are based on books or plays that I haven't read.  And, of course, I was still thinking about Simon T.'s recent post asking if anyone reads plays.  So, the next morning, I made a list of book/movie pairings and was glad to see that I have read quite a few of the original works that my favorite films are based on.  Here are the ones that I've already read --

Breakfast at Tiffany's (1960, Audrey Hepburn) - novel by Truman Capote - read March 2009
The Thin Man (1934, William Powell and Myrna Loy) - novel by Dashiell Hammett - read July 2009
The Maltese Falcon (1941, Humphrey Bogart) - novel by Dashiell Hammett - read November 2008
Rebecca (1940, Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine) - novel by Daphne Du Maurier - read May 2009
Wuthering Heights (1939, Laurence Olivier) - novel by Emily Bronte - read last in July 2008
Gone With the Wind (1939, Vivian Leigh and Clark Gable) - novel by Margaret Mitchell - read many times
The Big Sleep (1946, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall) - novel by Raymond Chandler - read once
The Woman in White (1948, Sidney Greenstreet) - novel by Wilkie Collins - read once

And yet, there are still so many stories that I love that I've only seen in film form.  So my ongoing challenge for myself will be to fill in this list by reading the novels or plays that were adapted into films.  This is something that I could do for all films but I'm just going to start with the "classic" films from the 1930s through the 1950s.  Here is the list I came up with the other day which I may add to as things come to mind.

The Philadelphia Story (1940, Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant) - play by Philip Barry (1939)
The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942, Sidney Greenstreet and Bette Davis) - play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart (1939)
The African Queen (1951, Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart) - novel by C.S. Forester (1935)
Laura (1944, Gene Tierney) - novel by Vera Caspary (1942, 1943 - ran in Collier's magazine)
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947, Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison) - novel by R.A. Dick (1945)
Arsenic and Old Lace (1944, Cary Grant) - play by Joseph Kesselring (1939)
Imitation of Life (1934, Claudette Colbert and 1959, Lana Turner) - novel by Fanny Hurst (1933)
Sabrina (1954, Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart) - play by Samuel A. Taylor (1953, Sabrina Fair)
To Catch a Thief (1955, Cary Grant) - novel by David Dodge (1952)
Strangers on a Train (1951) - novel by Patricia Highsmith (1950)
Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948, Cary Grant and Myrna Loy) - novel by Eric Hodgins, illustrated by William Steig (1946 - originally a short story in Fortune magazine)

Some of these will be written as book reviews and some as Book v. Movie posts so stay tuned!  If you have any suggestions for other fantastic pairs, please let me know.  Also, if anyone else has an interest in this, let me know and I might make a button up and make this an actual challenge.  I think this will be a fun project regardless!

Going to the source,


  1. I like the idea of reading the original source for a movie, and have read several recently, including two by Philip K Dick: Blade Runner (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) and Total Recall (We can Remember It For You Wholesale). But if I really like a film I don't like the idea of becoming dissatisfied with it because the novel is so much better. In the same way, if I really love the novel, I'm reluctant to watch the movie based on it unless I know that it's a really good adaptation. Ideally, the two complement each other, but that isn't always the case.

    And yes, I think it would make an excellent challenge, Kristen!

  2. I bet you can get some interest in this!!! Great idea .. I'm sure you'll have fun with it!

  3. This sounds like fun! I'm looking forward to The Philadelphia Story particularly - I love that film! As for The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, I've no idea what the movie was like (my library had a copy but the DVD was scratched and wouldn't play), but I found the book very sweet.

  4. Tracy - I know what you mean about being a bit worried. I'm thinking that I will be safe with the plays but the novels will be a gamble. Still, I love these movies so much that I think it would be hard to change my opinion of them.

    Jenners - I'm pretty excited about it!

    Jenny - I adore The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. It's one that I fall asleep to because I can close my eyes and see it playing in my head -- I've watched it too many times! I'm so glad that someone has read and liked the book!