Monday, December 8, 2014

Book to Film: Eleven Favorites Plus One

Inspired by this post at Clothes in Books, I came up with a list of favorite books with film adaptations. I do love it when a book is adapted, and I am on a mission to read and watch as many as I can. This list includes many that I read and watched years ago. Listed in no particular order.

The Pelican Brief by John Grisham

I must have seen the film first. We like thrillers, and I like Julia Roberts. Denzel Washington and Julia Roberts, what more can you ask for? (I know there are those who would disagree.) I liked the film very much, so decided to read the book. The only book I have read thus far by John Grisham. To be honest, even though I have read the book twice, I don't remember how much the book and film align. But I liked both of them so they have to be on the list.

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

Another one where I saw the film (many times) before I read the book. Although the book and the film end differently, it could be said that both are so confusing plot-wise that it doesn't really matter. Except for the ending, reading the book is very much like seeing the film and vice versa. My book review here; my film review here.

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

This is one of my favorite Christie novels. I love novels or films set on a train. The only adaptation that I have seen is the one starring Albert Finney as Poirot, and I am very fond of it. My post on the book and the film is here.

The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett

Adapted into a film starring William Powell and Myrna Loy. The original film was followed by five sequels, some of which had a screenplay written by Hammett. I had seen the film many times before I read the book. The film is a very entertaining murder mystery, light and fun. The book is much darker and grittier, although not as dark and gritty as Hammett’s other novels (I hear). Nick and Nora drink just as much or more in the book as in the films. My book review here; I reviewed the film and its sequel, After the Thin Manhere.

The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy
I am not a big Tom Clancy fan but I am a fan of this book and its film adaptation. I have watched the film multiple times. It has been a good while since I saw the film or read the book, so I don’t remember how closely they align, but I don’t care. Sean Connery is wonderful as the Russian captain, even with his Scottish accent. Other favorite actors in this are: Alec Baldwin, Sam Neill, Scott Glenn, James Earl Jones, Joss Acklund, Tim Curry, Jeffrey Jones, and Fred Dalton Thompson. And Courtney B. Vance as “Jonesy.” Director John McTiernan also directed Die Hard, another family favorite.

A quote from the review at DVDTalk:
Connery was a last-minute replacement for his Never Say Never Again costar, Klaus Maria Brandauer. Brandauer would have given a more ambiguous performance, perhaps, but Connery has exactly the right leadership charisma the character needs. One hardly notices or cares about that thick Scottish accent.

The Great Train Robbery by Michael Crichton

The novel is a fictionalized retelling of a famous train robbery in England in 1855. The film stars Sean Connery, Donald Sutherland and Lesley-Anne Down and was directed by Michael Crichton, who also wrote the screenplay. It is a heist story, which is a favorite in our household. I love watching the planning, the rehearsals to check the timing, and the surprises along the way.

Enjoy a review of the film at Sergio's blog, Tipping My Fedora. (He did not like it as well as I do.)

In the Heat of the Night by John Ball

I saw the film long before I read the book. I liked the story and the actors, especially Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger. I did not read the book until this year. The book was published in 1965, and the film was released in 1967.

The basic story of the book and the film are the same. The book was set in Wells, South Carolina; the movie is set in Sparta, Mississippi. The detective, Virgil Tibbs, is from Pasadena, California in the book, and has a much milder manner. In the movie he is from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and is much more confrontational. I note other differences between the two in my film review. However, both were very good and each had its own strengths.

My review of the book is here.

The Longest Day by Cornelius Ryan

The book was published in 1959, and tells the story of D-Day, the first day of the invasion of Normandy. The film was released in 1962. I did not see it then, but I remember a friend going to see it with her father, who had participated in D-Day. I read the book years ago, probably around 1990. We love watching the movie, with its ensemble cast.

One of my favorite parts of the movie is the assault on the Pegasus Bridge near Caen. It is especially interesting because Richard Todd participated in the British airborne operation. He was among the first British officers to land in Normandy as part of Operation Overlord. He later met up with Major John Howard on Pegasus Bridge. In the movie, Richard Todd played the role of John Howard.

Casino Royale by Ian Fleming

The first book in the James Bond series. I had read books in this series years ago but it has been long enough that I want to revisit them. After watching the 2006 film version starring Daniel Craig, I decided to check out the novel and see how the two compared. I was surprised that the book and the novel were very close. And I enjoyed both of them.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

The Millenium Trilogy features Lisbeth Salander (a researcher and computer hacker) and Michael Blomkvist (a journalist). In this first book, they work together to find out what happened to Harriet Vanger, niece of Henrik Vanger, retired head of a large corporation. Each book in the series was very long (over 600 pages each) and had an extremely involved plot. There were two adaptations of the first book, and both were quite good. I prefer the Swedish adaptation directed by Niels Arden Oplev and starring Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapace. There were Swedish adaptations of all three novels in the trilogy and I liked them all. This one was the best of the three.

And one more…

The Light of Day by Eric Ambler (filmed as Topkapi)

The Light of Day was the winner of the Best Mystery Edgar in 1964. The narrator of this book, Arthur Simpson, is a thief and a con-man. He isn't as smart as he thinks he is, and ends up being forced to cooperate in a heist. It was also made into a movie, Topkapi, in 1964. That film is a favorite in our household, and I had seen it many times before I read the book. The movie does differ from the book substantially, but they both have their good points. If you have a choice, read the book first. The movie is great, although it feels dated now, but the book is better.

My post on the book and the film is here. Two things that make the film so entertaining: The film was shot on location in Istanbul, Turkey. And the actors: Melina Mercouri, Peter Ustinov, Maximilian Schell, and Robert Morley.

Honorable mention: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

This movie is a mixture of genres: a noir thriller with comedy and romance, with allusions to Raymond Chandler's books and based partly on Brett Halliday's novel Bodies Are Where You Find Them.

The chapter titles in the movie are all taken from Raymond Chandler novels or stories: "Trouble is My Business", 2. "The Lady in the Lake", 3. "The Little Sister", 4. "The Simple Art of Murder", and the epilogue, "Farewell, My Lovely".

The poster for Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is from enigmabadger via Flickr.


Bill Selnes said...

TracyK: I have a hard time with watching movies of books I have read. I spend too much time comparing them.

You have a fine list of good movies and good books.

I liked The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo as a book better than either movie. Of the movies I like the American Lisbeth and the Swedish Mikael. I would have been interested in seeing them together in a film version of any of the trilogy.

TracyK said...

I agree, Bill, I also compare book to movie too much and get too picky. Both versions should be enjoyed for their own good points. I like to put more time between them so that my memories can blur but I often get too impatient.

That is an interesting idea, mixing the various actors in the Dragon Tattoo adaptations.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Tracy, I have read a few of these books as well as watched their film adaptations and my favourite book-to-movie from your list would be IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT. I liked Tom Clancy's novel more than the movie because I loved the way the author wrote out the intrigues in a Cold War scenario below the Atlantic and the Barents Sea as well as abroad aircraft carriers. Besides, I didn't find Alec Baldwin convincing as Jack Ryan.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

"aboard" and not "abroad" — a slip of the keys, Tracy.

Mac n' Janet said...

I seldomly like the movie as well as the book with one big exception. I think The Godfather was better as a movie and I put off seeing it for years because I feared it wouldn't live up to the book and to my amazement it was better.

Carl V. Anderson said...

I finally got around to reading The Thin Man a few years ago and I enjoyed it. After years of enjoying the films, I figured it was about time.

I read Casino Royale after the Daniel Craig version came out and loved it, have read several of the other Fleming novels because of that.

The Lord of the Rings films are by far my favorite book to film adaptation, but again I didn't read the books until after seeing the films. Now they are some of my favorite books and it has just enhanced the experience of watching the films.

Anonymous said...

Tracy - You've got quite a fine list of book-to-film adaptations here. Some such adaptations work really well, especially if one embraces the fact that film is a different medium, so there have to be changes from a book plot. That said though, I'm a bit of a cranky purist, so I like it best when a film stays true to the book.

pattinase (abbott) said...


col2910 said...

I'd have THE GHOST, LA CONFIDENTIAL and another Ellroy one on my list BLOOD ON THE MOON, filmed as COP with James Woods.

Anonymous said...

For some of these I read the book but haven't seen the movie version. Only three or four titles in your list I recognize as read. I know I want to watch The Big Sleep. I did read the book but I think the movie might just be better. The others I'll have to look up. The Thin Man I started reading earlier in the year but set it aside. I know I want to read it. Not sure when I will read it. The story of my life these days....just not enough hours in the day.


TracyK said...

I like the Tom Clancy novel better than the movie too, but I can still watch the movie over and over. I do like Alec Baldwin in that role.

TracyK said...

Mac and Janet, In the case of The Godfather I have only seen the movie, so I am eager to read the book.

TracyK said...

Carl, I forgot about The Lord of the Rings. I read the books so long ago it is hard to remember much, but they did a great job with the movie. I read my son's copy of The Thin Man. He doesn't read many mysteries, so he must have decided to read that book because of seeing the movie first too.

TracyK said...

Margot, I like that... a cranky purist. That is why I like to put some time between book and movie if I can wait that long; then I will forget how close the adaptation is to the book.

TracyK said...

Patti, I have problems with TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, I grew up in the South and both book and movie make me uncomfortable. Not just the treatment of blacks but also the expectations of women and manners and... anyway, the book and movie are both good but just can't place them in my favorites.

TracyK said...

Col, I have not read The Ghost or seen the movie, but I look forward to both of them. I do like the movie LA Confidential but have not read the book. I will some day. I will have to look into Blood on the Moon.

TracyK said...

I know exactly what you mean, Keishon, about not enough time. I do hope you like The Big Sleep. I love that movie but it could be Bogart and Bacall that I like. Another one I have to read is The Maltese Falcon. That movie I have seen many, many times too.

col2910 said...

I ought to mention the Lehane books and films......MYSTIC RIVER, SHUTTER ISLAND, GONE BABY GONE......both formats of each were enjoyable

TracyK said...

I have a hard time with his books, Col. Very well written, but I get too involved, too tense. I read Mystic River, and we have the movie but have not watched it. The opposite with Gone Baby Gone... We did see the movie and I like both the actors, Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan. Watched Shutter Island but it was confusing to both Glen and I.

Anonymous said...

I did enjoy The Maltese Falcon but you know, I loved Red Harvest more. But I don't think they made that one into a movie so never mind. I guess I just like The Continental Op stories and his wisecracks. Have you read Hammett yet or will The Maltese Falcon be your first time? I love Bogart. I've watched Sabrina many, many times. :-) but have not watched any of his others but I hope to get to them one day.


TracyK said...

I do remember you liked Red Harvest a lot. I think I have a copy of that, I will have to try it. The Thin Man is Hammett but different from his other books, I have heard.

And Sabrina, I have never seen that but I need to some time.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, The Thin Man is very different from his other books. Different tone and style and they drink a lot :-)


Anonymous said...

I've seen several of these films, but this is a reminder to rewatch several. I haven't seen Topkapi in decades, but did years ago because Melina Mercouri was a favorite in my family's house. My mother lived in the Bronx neighborhood where her spouse, Jules Dassin, lived, and they went to the same high school.

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

A fantastic list TracyK - THE PELICAN BRIEF is the only one that I might not entirely concur with (and have not been able to find an affordable copy of the Brett Halliday yet)

Clothes In Books said...

A great list Tracy, and I am proud to have inspired it! I share your love for many of these, and am interested in KIss Kiss Bang Bang - it is one of my favourite films, but I didn't know it was based on books...

Anonymous said...

Link to your website on my blogpost 'A Christmas Carol
I read the book AND reviewed the first of 5 movie versions.
Hope you like the mention and review!

TracyK said...

Kathy, that is a very interesting story about your mother and Jules Dassin. How cool. This is a favorite movie of my husband, who introduced it to me. It took me a while to warm to it.

TracyK said...

Sergio, the reason I left Kiss Kiss Bang Bang until the last is because I haven't read the Brett Halliday book either, so don't really know how much it relates to the movie. But I love the way the movie features pulp novels and just about everything else about it... so I could not leave it out.

TracyK said...

Moira, had my husband not pointed out to me the connection to the pulp novels in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and the Raymond Chandler titles, I would have missed them entirely. And we have re-watched the movie many times. I pride myself on noticing details but he is much better at that than I am.

TracyK said...

Nancy, I loved your post on A Christmas Carol. You did such a great job in covering so many aspects of both the book and the movie. And yes, thanks for mentioning my blog there.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Morris High School in the Bronx was where my mother and Jules Dassin went, although a few years apart. But they were in the neighborhood.

He was blacklisted in the U.S., and he managed to make some movies in Europe.

Anyway, I haven't seen The Great Train Robbery so that's going on my list.

TracyK said...

Very interesting about Jules Dassin, Kathy. I am not that familiar with his career. I looked him up and he and Melina Mercouri had very interesting lives.

I hope you enjoy The Great Train Robbery.

Anonymous said...

And I put Kiss Kiss Bang Bang on my library reserve and will rewatch Topkapi, which I haven't seen in decades.

TracyK said...

I hope you enjoy both, Kathy. It will be interesting to see what you think of Topkapi after all this time.