We’re always a little wary when we hear a favorite book is being adapted and possibly destroyed by Hollywood. Some, like “The Hunger Games.” “One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Silence of the Lambs,” and “Brokeback Mountain,” come out splendidly. Unfortunately, others don’t do the same, they’re over-the-top, or weird and off, or just fail to capture the emotional depth of a book we loved. With the movie versions of “The Fault in Our Stars,” “Palo Alto,” “Gone Girl,” “The Giver,” and “This Is Where I Leave You” on the horizon, I think we’re all praying that they don’t go the way of so many other great books that were adapted into truly terrible movies like the following.
The Great Gatsby
The American literary classic “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald has been “adapted” by Hollywood 5 times! Yes, FIVE! The book, published in 1925, tells the story of a summer in the fictional West Egg on Long Island in 1922, following Daisy and Tom Buchanan, Nick Carraway, and the mysterious Jay Gatsby. The book is a masterpiece that simply cannot be touched. That’s what made it a classic. Then came the dreaded movie adaptations. In 1926, a silent film was made starring Warner Baxter, Lois Wilson, and William Powell. It was said to be a “light hearted” adaptation, however there is no way to tell how bad or good it really was because no copies are in existence. In 1949, GG was adapted again, this being the first one with real production value…and sound, with Alan Ladd, Betty Field, and Shelly Winters. Curiously, that film isn’t available to view, for copyright reasons yet again. In 1974, came the adaptation with Sam Waterston, Mia Farrow, and Robert Redford, written by Francis Ford Coppola, which was met with mixed reviews (most critics said the movie lacked any depth and emotion). A&E made an adaptation with Paul Rudd and Mira Sorvino in 2000 that fizzled in a cable TV no man’s land. Finally, there was the 2013 semi-disaster by Baz Luhrmann, starring Toby Maguire, Leo Dicaprio, Carey Mulligan, and Joel Edgerton. The movie did well financially, but certainly lacked the depth of the book — despite the stunning costumes, sets, and music.
Memoirs of a Geisha
In 1997, Arthur Golden wrote the novel “Memoirs of a Geisha.” The book, narrated in first person, tells the story of a geisha working in Kyoto, Japan before and after WWII. The book was authentic, meticulous, and beautiful in its simplicity. The movie, shall we say, was not. Receiving mixed reviews in the US, the film was slammed in Asia over casting controversies and the over-production of every element. The movie left simple beauty on the side of the road and went all in with a big over-the-top budget which was all wrong for the story.
The Cat In The Hat
I love “The Cat in the Hat,” you love “The Cat in the Hat,” we all love “The Cat in the Hat!” Dr. Seuss wrote the genius children’s book in 1957 and it has not dropped in popularity one bit. That’s quite an achievement! And then … Why, Mike Myers, WHY!!!! Why did you destroy our childhood favorite with this creepy and oddly crude 2003 adaptation! Shame on Hollywood for this one.
The Scarlet Letter
In 1850, Nathaniel Hawthorne penned “The Scarlet Letter.” Set between 1642 and 1649 in Boston, Massachusetts, “The Scarlet Letter” refers to the scarlet “A” that Hester Prynne, a young adulterer, must wear pinned to her clothing. Winner of multiple Razzie awards, the 1995 movie, starring Demi Moore, was kind of a disaster. Not only was the story completely lost, but the performances were a little melodramatic and over the top. Easy A, another adaptation for the modern day, was a vast improvement from the ’95 flick.