Discussion Forums - Classic Literature

Topic: Movies and tv shows based on classics

Club rule - Please, if you cannot be courteous and respectful, do not post in this forum.
Page:   Unlock Forum posting with Annual Membership.
Subject: Movies and tv shows based on classics
Date Posted: 8/22/2007 5:09 PM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2007
Posts: 5,935
Back To Top

I kind of hate to say it, but several of my favorite classic novels were first brought to my attention by movies and tv miniseries.  I definitely read the book after if it captures my interest.  Most recently I saw a BBC series based on Honore de Balzac's Cousin Bette, and one on Anthony Trollope's The Way We Live Now.  They're really good.    Some people I know consider it "cheating" to only read the book after you see the movie, but if it gets more people into the book, I think its a good thing. So I was wondering if any one knows of any other good screen-interpretations of classic lit or was introduced to a beloved classic via tv or movies?

Date Posted: 8/23/2007 10:15 PM ET
Member Since: 3/31/2006
Posts: 28,608
Back To Top

You know, sometimes it helps to see the movie, mini-series, etc., especially for books written in a older style of English.  Sometimes you lose the gist of the story.

Wuthering Heights was one where I saw the movie first (with Laurence Olivier).  The Three Musketeers was another.  I'd seen the old versions a few times as a kid.  I read the trilogy as an adult and loved it.

Another was the Indian classic, the Mahabharata was beautiful as a public television mini-series.  The book made very little sense to me.  LOL

Date Posted: 8/24/2007 12:13 PM ET
Member Since: 8/20/2006
Posts: 1,930
Back To Top

I like watching film versions of my favorite classics. It is interesting to see what parts of the story they emphasize and what parts they decide to eliminate. The only thing that bothers me is when they change major plot lines/themes.

I especially enjoy the film adaptions of some of Jane Austen's books - Pride & Prejudice (the A & E and recent Keira Knightley ones) and Persuasion (BBC). I also liked the Jane Eyre 2 part film the BBC made last year.

I will have to watch for the BBC Cousin Bette version - I would like to see that one.

Date Posted: 8/26/2007 6:19 PM ET
Member Since: 5/4/2007
Posts: 17
Back To Top

I have to agree that the movies help.  I never had any intention of reading Austen's or any of the Bronte sisters' works.  I thought they were filled with simpering women and outdated social ideas (I'm guessing that someone put that idea in my head at some point).  Then I half-watched the movie Jane Eyre while decorating the Christmas tree.  Later, I happened upon Pride & Prejudice (w/ Keira Knightly) one night and was enthralled.  I have to admit, had it not been for good movie versions I would never have read the books, and now my shelves are filled with works by these ladies.  I do wish that someone had warned me about Wuthering Heights, though.  That book was utter torture.

Date Posted: 9/5/2007 11:38 AM ET
Member Since: 9/25/2006
Posts: 316
Back To Top

I think these are good screen-interpretations of classic lit

1. The Postman Always Rings Twice by James Cain. With Jack Nicholson and Jessican Lange. Steamy

2. Double Indemnity by James Cain. With Babs and Fred MacStoneFace. Noir at its best.

3. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. With Daniel Day-Lewis and Michele Pfeiffer. Dir by Scorcese. Beautiful period settings, clothes, manners.

4. The Sand Pebbles by Richard McKenna. With Steve McQueen. Prestige epic: violence plus ideas, what a rare combo for Hollywood.

5. The Painted Veil by Somerset Maugham. With Naomi Watts. Superb production values, excellent acting.

Re "movie takes you to the book is cheating." No way for two reasons. Movie versions are often so loosely based on the source novels that inevitably the book is better than the movie on almost every score, plot, incident, believablity of characters and motivation, etc. Second, one right as a reader is the right NOT to have to defend our taste. We avid readers read to develop our own unique authentic tastes and it is not for anybody else to be passing glib judgements on what we read or how we came to read it (or how much we read but that is another thread). Naysayers would sneer at including McKenna, Cain, and Maugham on a list of writers of classic lit, but frankly my dear I don't give a - hey, how could I forget

6. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.  

Last Edited on: 9/5/07 1:30 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 9/6/2007 7:10 AM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2007
Posts: 5,935
Back To Top

Oh, I totally agree with you about Gone With the Wind, that's one of those rare occasions where the movie just transcends everything else.  Not that the book is lesser, just that the movie is so monumental.  And i think youre right about Maugham and the noir writers too, they're so often overlooked.

Date Posted: 9/6/2007 5:47 PM ET
Member Since: 4/7/2007
Posts: 335
Back To Top
I liked the film version of The Golden Bowl. Also, the Oscar Wilde films that were done a couple years ago with Rupert Everett: An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest.
Date Posted: 9/9/2007 3:53 PM ET
Member Since: 4/20/2007
Posts: 60
Back To Top

I usually read the book first then feel compelled to see how close the movie matches what I had envisioned. Then when I rent the movie I have to fill in the gaps for my husband (who does not read the book) when he gets confused.

A little while ago Masterpiece Theatre aired Dickens' Bleak House. I had to watch it twice and download info from the internet in order for me to make sense of all the plots. But I loved it. I still haven't read the book, but I'm sure it would have helped if I had read it before I watched the movie.

Date Posted: 9/10/2007 10:31 PM ET
Member Since: 2/9/2007
Posts: 121
Back To Top

Masterpiece Theatre's Kidnapped is hands down the BEST.

I read the book first, and love it. Afterwards I watched several different versions of the story but never saw one that really fit the book well. THIS ONE DOES.

Although it does not follow all of the plot of the original story, the characters are exactly how Robert Louis Stevenson meant them to be. I HIGHLY recommend it.

Date Posted: 9/27/2007 5:02 PM ET
Member Since: 4/5/2007
Posts: 796
Back To Top
One of my favorites is Jane Eyre staring Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine. Wonderful movie and book. Another great movie/book is Sense and Sensibility. I can watch both over and over.......
Date Posted: 10/2/2007 5:45 PM ET
Member Since: 1/9/2007
Posts: 119
Back To Top

Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South was also adapted into a BBC series in 2004.  It is excellent!  I read the book after watching the series and it definitely helped me understand the plot much better.

I second the recommendation for Masterpiece Theatre's Bleak House.  I haven't read the book yet either, but it's on my TBR pile.

Date Posted: 10/12/2007 9:51 PM ET
Member Since: 10/2/2007
Posts: 120
Back To Top

My favorite movie just about of all time just happens to be an adaptation of a classic... Sense and Sensibility with Emma Thompson, who I also think adapted the screenplay.  It gets me bawling like a baby every time!  I have never read the book, I'm afraid to be disappointed.  When I was in high school I was required to read Mansfield Park, urgh it put me off Austen for a long time - maybe it was just my age.  I'm just starting Pride and Prejudice and it's cracking me up, Austen's sense of humor is so great ... I would have loved to see what she would write in modern times.

Date Posted: 10/16/2007 1:32 PM ET
Member Since: 4/5/2007
Posts: 796
Back To Top
I've read Sense and Sensibility and Loved the movie. Believe me, read the book.
Date Posted: 10/19/2007 10:51 AM ET
Member Since: 4/20/2007
Posts: 60
Back To Top

Recently I read David Copperfield and of course felt compelled to watch a film adaptation of the book. I chose the Masterpiece Theatre's version. I thouroughy enjoyed the movie and thought it kept on track with the book. The only character I missed from the book was Tom Traddles. And I thought the Steerforth character was much more predominant in the book compared to the movie. But the movie was already 3 1/2 hours long... I can understand why these things were cut.  But overall it was fun to see Dickens' eccentric characters come out of my mind and onto the screen.

Date Posted: 10/27/2007 8:35 PM ET
Member Since: 7/6/2005
Posts: 404
Back To Top

The old black and white movie "War of the Worlds" was better than the book.  I read the book first.

Date Posted: 10/29/2007 2:23 PM ET
Member Since: 9/7/2007
Posts: 35
Back To Top

I agree with Scotgirl about Sense and Sensibility and I read the book first and thought I would love to see this on screen and lo and Behold it was. I really enjoyed Alan Rickman in the movie - I think it is so beautiful of a movie and it was fun to watch especially after watching the movie

Pride and Prejudice comes in a close second......

Date Posted: 10/29/2007 4:32 PM ET
Member Since: 10/2/2007
Posts: 3
Back To Top

I don't think it is cheating to read the book after seeing the movie.  That way, you already have an idea of what the characters and surroundings look like and you arent dissappointed because of that.  When I first read Lord of the Rings, I had totally different images of Frodo and Gandalf in my mind.  I was not dissappointed to see Ian McEllan play Gandalf, he did a great job, but he wasn't exactly what I was expecting.  I actually pictured him looking the same way that I imagined Dumbledore looked like.

Date Posted: 11/17/2007 2:13 PM ET
Member Since: 2/28/2006
Posts: 64
Back To Top

House of Mirth by Edith Wharton, movie version with Gillian Anderson (so well acted but very depressing).

To Have and To Have Not by William Faulkner, movie with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall (for some reason I find Faulkner almost impenetrable but the movie was great).   

Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe, movie with Alex Kingston (really brought the story to life for me).

Generally I read the book then watch the movie.  In almost every case I like the book better.  However there are excellent screen adaptions and once in a while the movie turns out to be faithfully adapted.  Often the movie changes the book, sometimes almost unrecognizably (the recent Bourne movies, based on Robert Ludlum books and starring Matt Damon are an excellent case in point). When that happens I have to look at the movie as a whole different unrelated piece of entertainment and take it on its own merits.


Date Posted: 11/17/2007 6:17 PM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2007
Posts: 5,935
Back To Top

actually, To Have and Have Not was originally a novel by Hemmingway, Faulkner just did the screenplay.  But you're right, it was an amazing movie and Bogey and Bacall are smokin'.

Date Posted: 11/21/2007 4:11 AM ET
Member Since: 11/11/2007
Posts: 469
Back To Top

I was always taught, you first read the book and THEN watch the movie. If a movie came out that was based on the book, my mother wouldn't let me watch the movie until I read the book. (Most times, I just opted out entirely, and completely missed reading... well, everything. LOL)

At any rate. I homeschool my boys, the oldest of whom is 8. He's a reluctant reader (or was, until recently, YAY!) and also a visual learner. I've discovered that he is much more likely to read (and complete), and enthusiastic about doing so, if he watches the movie first.

He's now reading Old Yeller because of this very reason. ;-) I'm ecstatic!

Date Posted: 1/18/2008 6:13 PM ET
Member Since: 6/15/2006
Posts: 25
Back To Top

One instance for me is "A Room With a View," by E.M. Forester, where I am absolutely fell in love with the the Merchant-Ivory movie, and then went to the novel to discover more of the story. I think a really good adaptation always has that potential, even though I cringe a lot these days whenever I hear a favorite book is on its way to the silver screen.


Date Posted: 1/21/2008 11:48 AM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2007
Posts: 5,935
Back To Top

I just started watching the complete Jane Austen series on PBS (so far they've done Persuasion & Northanger Abbey) and I really like them.  I just read Northanger and now I'll try to get to Persuasion which I always avoided before.  Also, I recently saw the BBC version of Gaskell's Northa and South and it was wonderful!  Again, had to pick the book up after seeing it.  And I'm not sure if this counts as classic, but the movie Atonemet was so heartbreaking I'm now reading & loving the book.

Subject: Hardy novels &
Date Posted: 1/24/2008 8:32 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
Posts: 1,427
Back To Top

I saw a film version of Far from the Madding Crowd, and one of The Return of the Native, by Thomas Hardy, and found no fault with either of them.  They were British productions.

But I found that when  A. S. Byatt's novel, Possession, was made into a film that a LOT of the novel had to be left out.  The film was "streamlined"  probably because the book introduced so many characters and incidents that if the film attempted to leave them in it would have led to an overlong, confusing movie.

I thought They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, Horace McCoy's strange novel about the desperation of people competing in a dance marathon during the Great Depression, was turned into an intense, memorable film.  The cast included Jane Fonda and Red Buttons.

Last Edited on: 7/3/14 3:29 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 1/24/2008 9:33 PM ET
Member Since: 2/28/2006
Posts: 64
Back To Top

Oh yeah, that was "They Shoot Horses Don't They".  Never saw the film, the book put me off it.  Also "The Postman always Rings Twice": classic novel, been made into a movie several times, but it's so depressing I just didn't like it.

Date Posted: 1/25/2008 11:48 AM ET
Member Since: 1/4/2008
Posts: 389
Back To Top

I also love the black and white version of "Jane Eyre' with Orson Welles.  I must have seen it years ago and later read the book.  I still love the movie, but I also love the depth of the book, which could never all be fit into a movie!  '

I think I read "P&P" before seeing the movie.  I loved the book.  As someone mentioned, you have to get a feel for the language, then it just flows.  I also love the Colin Firth version of the movie and didn't really expect it to be as complex as the book, just enjoyable.  (Of course, at 4+ hours it's pretty complex!)

I just got "The Complete Novels by Jane Austen".  I had already read P&P, S&S and Northanger Abbey.  I'm not sure which one to try next!  Any favorites?