My posts during April form part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. I will be writing to a theme: book genres, largely taken from the comprehensive Goodreads list.
By a series of lucky co-incidences, I worked for a short time at Goldcrest Films - a British film company who had a few years flying high, before it all came to a sad end. I was a junior secretary, learning about the world of work. Some years later, I read a review of "My indecision is final: the rise and fall of Goldcrest Films" by Jake Eberts. I bought and read the book immediately, even though it's a piece of serious business writing and not a gossip piece. It receives consistently high reviews as a learning device for anyone interested in the industry.
My own memories are of Jake - a charismatic and charming Canadian - whose office walls contained a sequence of framed original sketches from "Watership Down". The film's producer was a friend whom Jake - in his days as a investment banker - had helped to find investers. The film made money, Jake had invested personally, and Goldcrest was born. I've no doubt, this is a rather simplistic version of the tale, but it's one I like!
Goldcrest put their names to some wonderful films and although I read scripts that became films, I was never fortunate enough to have read the books upon which they were based.
As a reader, I do try to make it a policy to read the book first - mostly that's a good thing but it can back-fire. I read "Doctor Zhivago" in school shortly before the David Lean classic film was released. Unfortunately, my mental image of Zhivago wasn't Omar Shariff, nor his portrayal of the character. So, I enjoyed the cinematography (Freddie Young was the grandfather of one of my class mates) and that was it. A sad state of affairs that was only rectified decades later when I watched it again, with the book only a faint memory.
When Peter Jackson was working on the "Lord of the Rings" films, I decided that it wa time to sit down and read the book; something I'd avoided for years, having dubbed it 'boy's reading'. I know, forgive me, but I knew not a single female who'd read it then. Shortly thereafter, I was consigned to bed after a back injury and took the opportunity to plough through it. I'm sorry to say, it's not a book I will return to. I do admire the world-building, let alone the creation of elvish, but it all felt like hard work. Its possible that my medical state didn't help but ... the films didn't do that much for me either. I enjoyed the first film - but, thereafter, my interest dwindled. The cinematography was - once again - without peer in all three, but it remains a 'I'm glad I read/saw it once, but not an experience to repeat'.
Plenty of well-known books have been faithfully filmed: "To Kill a Mockingbird" is one. Is there anything more perfect than Gregory Peck as Atticus? And that moment in the courtroom when the pastor says "stand up children, your father is passing" ... is even more powerful on the screen. In "Gone with the Wind", the capriciousness and determination of Scarlett is beautifully captured by Vivien Leigh and as for Clark Cable as Rhett Butler ... perfection! "The Godfather", or rather the first film in the series, was a terrific depiction of the book. The casting was spot on and it's hard not to see those actors when you read the book again. I've not watached films 2 or 3, as my experience is that it's almost impossible to achieve the same high standard in follow-ups, so I prefer not to risk spoiling the high quality of the original.
Favourite reads such as "Pride & Prejudice" and "Little Women" have been made more than once. Some versions are better than others, some of the casting is more astute than others.
With large, information-rich tomes such as "Lord of the Rings" and the "Harry Potter" series, some compromises have to be made in film-making. Lovers of Harry Potter were mollified when J K Rowling was closely involved with the filmmakers. Even so, there was much grumbling amongst the hardcore about what was left out. But - like all film versions of much loved books - I decided to watch the films knowing they'd be an abbreviated version of the book. When a book is rich in detail and background information, it's almost impossible to make just one film to tell the whole story, so you'd have to move in to the cinema for a whole week for a faithful depiction.
It will always be books before films for me. But how do you feel?