To Kill a Mockingbird
To Kill a Mockingbird was a very meaningful book for me. The book was published in 1960 and the movie came out in 1962. When I first read it in high school, there were no video store rentals and even when they emerged a few years later, older movies like this one weren’t available. I had to scan the T.V. Guide to find out when it might be shown on Television. I finally found it in 1982 or so and watched it with great interest. The movie did a decent job of following the book. The casting was very good, especially Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch. I remember reading that Harper Lee, who was present at the shooting, was so captivated by Gregory Peck’s portrayal of Atticus, a character modeled after her father, that she gave him her father’s pocket watch which he wears in the movie.
The Godfather (novel) was published in 1969. It covers the events in the Corleone crime family of New York from 1945-1955. This was the first ‘adult’ novel that I ever read in about 1972. I was only 10. I remember the book being passed among my mom’s brothers and sisters in anticipation of the movie. They went to see it as a group. It seemed to spur a lot of conversation my family. I had to read the book as soon as I could and I was captivated from the beginning. I finally got to see The Godfather and The Godfather Part II in about 1980. I was amazed at how true to the book (almost scene for scene) the movie was. The casting was brilliant and did justice to the storytelling in the book. It went to show the painstaking detail that a director can go to to recreate an author’s vision.
Of Mice and Men
John Steinbeck’s book was written in 1937. It has inspired 5 wide-release film versions spanning from from 1939 to 2014. I read this book in my senior year of high school and was struck by the sadness of the tale of the lovable Lenny who didn’t know his own strength and had to be taken down by his best friend, George, for his own survival and for those around him. The book was a captivating read even though it is one of the most challenged books in history due to its profanity. I have seen all of the film iterations and I still favor the original 1939 version with the great Burgess Meredith and Lon Chaney, Jr. as George and Lenny respectively. The story is simple, yet poignant and is well told via film.
Harry Potter Series
The seven Harry Potter books span the time period from 1997 to 2007. The eight movies span from 2001 to 2011. Even though the books were considered young adult, I read them all as my older children were becoming interested in them. I heard the stories how they were anti-Christian and promoted witchcraft. I knew from the first page that they were something special and that J.K. Rowling’s gift for telling a story spanned generations and genres. The books were fantastic and I sped through each as soon as they were released. The movies were very well done and, though many details were left out, they were a loving tribute to the writing and very well done. I have read other YA book series like The Hunger Games. Rowling set the standard but also opened the door for this level of writing to become mainstream with adults and children alike.
This is an unusual entry, but I have it here for a reason. Jaws is the only entry on this list where I saw the movie before reading the book. The book is more about the relationships among the characters and the shark is secondary. The movie, which I saw in the theater in 1975 when it came out, is more of an action/horror adventure that centers on killing the shark. Much of the intricacy of the book’s relationships are not part of the film making it very different from the book. Jaws, for me, was an example of how an author’s work can be diluted in a movie. Peter Benchley, the 1974 book’s author, was a screenwriter on the film which indicates that he was likely in agreement with much of the change from the book to the film. I’m sure Benchley made a fortune from the film and its sequels. As an author, I suppose he had to make a decision between being true to his vision and cashing in on the opportunity.
So how about you? What movie/book combinations have inspired you? These are just a few of mine, but they were among the most meaningful for various reasons.