Top Ten Tuesday: Page to Screen

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. For the rules see her blog.

This week’s topic is Page to Screen Freebie (Books that became movies/TV shows, movies that became books, great adaptations, bad ones, books you need to read before watching their movie/TV show, movies you loved based on books you hated or vice versa, books you want to read because you saw the movie or vice versa, etc.)

I don’t often enjoy an adaptation if I’ve read the book first, but the other way round works well. So my choice this week includes examples of both.

First film/TV adaptations I saw before I read the books – and I loved both:

The Shining by Stephen King – I saw the film first with Jack Nicolson as Jack Torrance, which terrified me. I remember his crazed face as he rampaged through the hotel, the sense of evil and terror, and I decided that was enough – I wouldn’t read the book. Then later on I changed my mind. An I thoroughly enjoyed the book, picturing the characters as they are in the film.

Gone with the Wind I saw the 1939 film many, many years ago and my memories of it are vague, not much beyond its setting, Clark Gable as Rhett Butler and Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara, and a few quotes: ‘Tomorrow is another day‘ and ‘Frankly, my dear I don’t give a damn‘. The book, which I read only a few years ago is very readable, although long, and I loved it – still seeing Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh as Rhett and Scarlett.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett – I watched the film at my local cinema. The audience laughed, and then sighed at the poignant moments as the film rolled on and even if I couldn’t quite catch all the words I thought it was brilliant. Then I read the book – as good as the film is, the book is even better because there is so much more in it, the characters are so well-defined, so believable, and the tension caused by the contrast between the black maids and their white employers is so appalling that I didn’t want to stop reading.

When we began watching the HBO TV series, A Game of Thrones I was hooked and once we finished watching I immediately wanted to read the series and began with A Song of Fire and Ice George R. R. Martin’s first book in the series. The actors and scenery were perfect for my reading of the book, although there are some differences (the ages of the Stark children for example). I loved both the book and the TV series.

Way back in 2008 I watched The 39 Steps on TV with Rupert Penry-Jones as Richard Hannay, so inevitably as I read The Thirty-Nine Steps I could see Penry-Jones as Hannay. The dramatisation, however, although there are similarities, is different from John Buchan’s book. There are a number of historical inaccuracies and some artistic licence was used – none of which I was aware of as I watched the film and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It made me want to read the book.

Next a couple of films that I watched that have made me want to read the books they are based on, but I’ve yet to read the books:

Lincoln – with Daniel Day Lewis as Abraham Lincoln. The film is loosely based on the biography by Doris Kearns Goodwin – Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. I enjoyed the film so much I just had to buy the book.

I watched The Theory of Everything, with Eddie Redmayne playing the part of Stephen Hawking.  It’s adapted from the memoir Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen by Jane Hawking. I think it’s a brilliant film and I’m hoping the memoir will be just as good.

Books I read first and then watched the TV version:

Raven Black by Ann Cleeves, a 2006 novel that I read  in 2010, listened to on the radio and watched The BBC adapted Raven Black for television in 2014, as the first and second episodes in the second series of Shetland, starring Douglas Henshall as Jimmy Perez and Brian Cox as Magnus Tait (renamed Magnus Bain). I prefer the book and her later Shetland books although, of course, the locations are beautiful in the TV adaptations.

I loved Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford when I read the book. The TV adaptation disappointed me even with Judy Dench’s wonderful performance as Missy Matty. As I watched it I kept thinking that’s not how it is in the book and that’s because it’s an amalgamation of three books – CranfordMr Harrison’s Confessions and My Lady Ludlow. The cast includes many well known actors and I enjoyed all their performances, although at one point it did feel a bit like spot the stars.

Partners in Crime is a collection of Tommy and Tuppence stories by Agatha Christie. Tommy and Tuppence Beresford first appeared in Agatha Christie’s The Secret Adversary (first published in 1922) when they had just met up after World War One, both in their twenties. Their next appearance is in Partners in Crime, a collection of short stories, first published in 1929.  I was very disappointed by the TV version, with David Walliams playing Tommy as a bumbling fool and Jessica Raine as a meddling and determined Tuppence. Most of it bore no resemblance to the original.

16 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Page to Screen”

  1. I’m with you on The Shining, Margaret. Seeing the film was quite enough for me! I listened to The Help on audiobook before I saw the film. I loved the book and I’m glad I came to that before the film. I have yet to read Cranford. I know I’ll have all those wonderful characters in my head with their associated actresses and I wonder if that will intrude.

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    1. Sandra – I always find that I have the actors in my head if I’ve seen the film first, which I don’t find a problem. But if I’ve read the book first it is a problem when that interferes with the pictures of the characters that I’ve imagined from reading – for example Vera in Ann Cleeves’ books is physically not at all like the TV Vera (Brenda Blethyn) and what is even worse for me the plots get changed and the even the culprit can be a different person.

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      1. Oh gosh, that does sound difficult! Almost like two separate entities really. And thinking about it, I agree with your point on actors first, which should mean I shall enjoy Cranford without frustration or any mismatches!

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  2. You’ve chosen some fine films/books, Margaret. I have to admit, I much prefer it when a film adaptation is as close as possible to the original, as I invariably prefer the book. But there are always exceptions, aren’t there?

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    1. I have to admit Margot, that I am a purist in thinking that a film adaptation should be as close as possible to the original – which is why now I tend to avoid watching film/TV adaptations if I’ve read the books first. And right now I can’t think of any example where the adaptation is better than the original book. Any suggestions?

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  3. One of my book groups has an annual meeting where we discuss a book in the morning and then see the film in the afternoon. We have been doing this for sixteen years now and have yet to find a really good adaptation. I think out favourite would have to be Empire of the Sun.

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  4. I agree the Stephen Hawking movie is brilliant, I did not know it was based on a book. Normally, I would prefer the book, but now you mention Agatha Christie, I thought the BBC Miss Marple series with Joan Hicks was pretty good.

    The Shining was terrifying – watched it when I was very young and never quite recovered from the experience 😉

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  5. Interesting! Thinking about it, I suspect I also prefer to see then read. If I read first, then I have my own idea of the characters and the cast never quite match up even if they’re excellent. But like you, if I watch first, then I see the actors in the roles while reading. However, even Clark and Vivien couldn’t make me like the book of Gone of the Wind… 😉

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