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message 1: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1004 comments Most readers, if they like a book, tend to be intrigued by adaptations of it to the screen, and find it fun to compare the two (I know I do!). And it works the same way in reverse: seeing a movie or miniseries version (if I like it) of a book I haven't read is a sure way of getting the book on my to-read list. What are some of the screen adaptations, of books by British authors, that you've seen and particularly liked, or thought were especially well done?

For me, some of the films in this category that I've really liked happen to be of books I haven't read, so I can't evaluate them as adaptations (though I may post about some of them sometime, anyway!) But a few in the category of adaptations of books I have read, that IMO are real standouts, include: the 1951 B & W version of Dickens' A Christmas Carol with Alastair Sim as Scrooge; the 1995 Sense and Sensibility starring Emma Thompson and Hugh Grant (Thompson won an Emmy for the script, which she wrote herself); and the Pendragon Pictures production of H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds, directed by Timothy Hines and starring Anthony Piana. (The latter is not to be confused with the better-known 1950s version with Gene Barry, which completely changed the setting and much of the plot!) And I think the BBC miniseries of Pride and Prejudice starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth is the absolute gold standard for Austen adaptations. (Speaking of the BBC, did anybody else eagerly watch every episode of the late 60s Forsyte Saga miniseries -another gold standard for British fiction adaptations?) All of these have in common that they follow the letter and spirit of the originals pretty closely, and are also (sometimes with quibbles) very well-done in terms of acting, visual qualities, etc.


message 2: by Barbara (last edited Jun 05, 2010 07:00PM) (new)

Barbara (sema4dogz) | 62 comments Yes yes, loved the 1967 Forsyte Saga. Nyree Dawn Porter beautifully played Irene, a character I struggled to like/appreciate in the books and failed . As I did in the TV adaptation. Much as I wanted to forgive her on feminist grounds , I couldn't......

And I also agree re S and S, though Emma T was really too old to play Elinor Dashwood, she is such a good actress you could forget it almost all the time.


message 3: by [deleted user] (last edited Jun 07, 2010 10:03AM) (new)

Werner wrote: "Most readers, if they like a book, tend to be intrigued by adaptations of it to the screen, and find it fun to compare the two (I know I do!). And it works the same way in reverse: seeing a movie ..."

When I was in England Poldark was all the rage so I never missed it on the telly which at that time had a superior picture to here. Poldark was kinda like Edward Cullen is now. He went to the Revolutionary War and when he got back his sweetheart had married his cousin. So we have the triangle right off. I bought all the books too and when I got back to the states it was just starting up here so I watched it again. Then I can't believe I spent $150.00 for the complete videos. I only watch them about every two years. I enjoy the music as much as the story line. I could easily read all the books again whenever I find the time. Winston Graham also wrote Marnie. I can't recall if I saw the Alfred Hitchcock movie first with Sean Connery or read the book first. As is usual the book is far better.
When I was in my teens I read Random Harvest which made a big impression on me. I believe there is a movie too as I have a black and white picture in my mind. It is a story about severe amnesia and seemed to have much deeper meassages but I need to read it again.


message 4: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1004 comments Barbara, I can relate to what you wrote; I never liked Irene either (though I felt sorry for her a couple of times in the book), but I did like Nyree Dawn Porter's portrayal of her! Eric Porter (no relation) was a perfect Soames, too, IMO; and Susan Hampshire is one of my favorite actresses, so you can imagine that I liked her as Fleur --though I didn't much like Fleur as a person, either. :-)

Alice, I knew about the Poldark books (and have often thought I should sample the series someday), but until you posted about it, I didn't realize there was a miniseries adaptation. I'll have to watch for it if it ever runs again in the U.S.!

Some other great movie adaptations of British books, which I inexcusably didn't mention above, are the three recent Lord of the Rings trilogy films directed by Peter Jackson; all of the Harry Potter films through Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (does anybody know if Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is released yet?); and the also recent The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe made by Disney and Walden Media. The Jackson films and the Narnia movie will stand in film history, I think, as THE definitive screen adaptations of those works. (Can you tell that I like British fantasy and supernatural fiction/cinema? :-))


message 5: by Barbara (last edited Jun 09, 2010 07:13PM) (new)

Barbara (sema4dogz) | 62 comments Werner , yes, on occasion I did think "poor Irene, she didnt know what she was promising " and had there been any indication that Soames was perverted or brutal or even overly demanding , I would have been totally on her side. As it was, I just felt that she had been rather dishonourable.
And I totally agree re Susan Hampshire and Fleur - and Fleur as a character . Somehow, however, I never feel that Trollope despised his women, nor had a Dickensian madonna/whore thing going either


message 6: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1004 comments Actually, Barbara, The Forsyte Saga was written by John Galsworthy. With Trollope, you're thinking of the Barchester novels. BTW, I've also read and really liked The Warden and Barchester Towers --and I was inspired to read those two by seeing most episodes of a great Masterpiece Theater version, that aired back in the 80s (which also featured Susan Hampshire!), of the two of them back-to-back. So many British (and other) classics have been brought to life in that venue!

Personally, I've never picked up the impression that any of these three novelists --Galsworthy, Trollope, or Dickens-- despised their female characters as such, though they could create some very unlikable (as well as likable) ones. Some females in their novels may come across as madonna types and some are certainly looser than they should be; but most aren't really representative of either alternative, nor really suggest (to me) that the writer was thinking of that as a rigidly exhaustive dichotomy of the feminine. (Of course, I haven't read all of Dickens' work, by a long shot!)


message 7: by Barbara (last edited Jun 11, 2010 08:44PM) (new)

Barbara (sema4dogz) | 62 comments I;m covered with confusion, yes , Galsworthy of course !!! And yes, I must have had the Barchester series in mind.

I certainly agree with you re Trollope and Galsworthy re depictions of females , I think, as you say they created characters that may or may not have been worthy or pleasant, but gender was not a relevant criterion in that . I like Thomas Hardy even more , his female are wonderful!

I have to disgree re Dickens however , all are milksops or harridens. I don't think he have dared do a whore , in case Her Majesty didn't like it

Have you ever read his Child's History of England btw? It a perfectly remarkable thing, ostensibly written for children and a very model of Victorian, Protestant, Empire idealogy.
He says things like " and then dear children, came King Charles the 2nd who was not a Bad Man, but did some very silly things which it is of no use to talk about now"


message 8: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1004 comments No, Barbara, I haven't read Dickens' Child's History of England, though the BC library has it. It sounds like it fits very well into the context of 19th- century historiography for children --which is to say, not a book I'd have used to educate my kids. And yes, like all English monarchs, Queen Victoria had a big influence on the social standards of her day, and hers was quite different than, say, Charles II's. :-) The reticence about sexual matters in Victorian society was such that all Victorian writers, not just Dickens, tended not to explore the subject very deeply (Hardy did so more than most, and practically got ostracized for his efforts) and would never have made a prostitute a significant book character. (Though even in Dickens, there's plenty of recognition that illicit sex and out-of-wedlock births exist.)

My view of Dickens' females is more positive, though; some of them are milksops and harridans (and we encounter those figures in real life, too), but I wouldn't say they all are. Nancy in Oliver Twist is neither, for instance --she's a girl in rough circumstances who has the guts to do the right thing, even if it costs her her life. And other examples could be added. Of course, that's just my take on it!


message 9: by Gail (new)

Gail Mmmmm...great discussion. I was always under the impression that Nancy was, in fact, a whore, in addition to her other little pecadillos, although that may be just my take on it. I've always admired her greatly, while wishing she were anywhere except where she was.

I think Dickens' biography would bear out the idea that he was, at best, conflicted about women, though. I'd never thought about it, but he doesn't have any female heroines in a huge body of work, does he? Of course his men, with some few exceptions, are one-note wonders as well: weak heroes, comic turns, genuinely evil, or fairly bad guys saved by the love of a good woman.

I think the very best adaptation I've ever seen was Brideshead Revisited. I'd always considered Waugh a comic author without much depth until I saw the show (the original, mind, with Jeremy Irons) and was mesmerized by the whole atmosphere and story. I was of course impelled to read the book as soon as I could, and it became one of my all-time favorite books. Just amazing.

Running a very close second would be The Forsyte Saga, which has already been discussed here, and the maginificent The Pallisers series. Oh, and I, Cladius, my first introduction to the incredibly talented and versatile Derek Jacobi.


message 10: by Barbara (last edited Jun 12, 2010 06:58PM) (new)

Barbara (sema4dogz) | 62 comments Gail, yes of course Brideshead ( in fact) I just found it on iview recently and started all over again. Oh yes sigh .....
Has there been a remake ? If so I don;t want to see it, I want the youthful Anthony Andrews and Jeremy Irons enshrined in my memory for ever . I did hear somewhere that origainlly they were cast the other way round and engineered the change themselves.

I think you are right that Dickens' Nancy might well have been technically a whore - tho my understanding was that she was much more Bill Sikes' 'creature ' and if he had pimped her out she would have done it for love of him. Which is classic stuff even today I believe . Sigh ( of a different sort)


message 11: by Werner (last edited Jun 13, 2010 11:35AM) (new)

Werner | 1004 comments When it first ran back in the late 60s or early 70s, I saw, and really liked, some of the episodes of the I, Claudius miniseries. We have the whole series on VHS at the BC library, and I should watch it, if I ever get time. (Derek Jacobi is also great as Brother Cadfael on the Mystery! adaptations of Ellis Peters' medieval mysteries!) I've never read the Robert Graves novels it's based on, though my English prof friend here highly recommends them. It's the other way around with Brideshead Revisited; I loved the Waugh novel, but never got a chance to see the adaptation. Maybe they'll rerun it someday!

In his preface to one of the early (though not the first) printings of Oliver Twist, which was reproduced in the edition I read, Dickens complained about the inconsistency of critics who beat him up for the "unrealistic" portrayals of Sikes and Nancy; he said words to the effect that, after complaining that a girl like the latter couldn't possibly have had any humane qualities, they turn around and abuse him for painting Sikes as too black because he lacks any of the good traits found "in his mistress." That pegs how he viewed the relations between the two; but in the novel itself, in Victorian fashion, he says nothing at all explicit about Nancy's present or past sex life --he just assumes that readers, knowing that she's a friendless and impoverished young female adrift in 1830s London, will take it for granted that she's also a sexually exploited young woman. Of course, when I read the book as a pre-teen kid, I didn't make the same assumptions --I didn't actually know what a mistress was, except that it had something to do with "sex" (whatever that was!) and was therefore "bad." :-))


message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

Werner wrote: "When it first ran back in the late 60s or early 70s, I saw, and really liked, some of the episodes of the I, Claudius miniseries. We have the whole series on VHS at the BC library, and I should wa..."

Victor watched I, Claudius but I was unable to watch it not sure why. It was on PBS a few years ago. I also do not like it if a character is painted too bad or too good as to me it seems unrealistic. One that comes to my mind is the villain in The House of the Baskervilles. For me that villain was just too unbelievable.


message 13: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1004 comments The Hound of the Baskervilles has been adapted for TV/movies more than once. Two productions I've watched and consider excellent, and pretty faithful to the written original, are the Mystery! two-part episode starring Jeremy Brett (my favorite cinematic Sherlock!), and the 1990s movie version featuring Matt Frewer as Sherlock.

Alice, what did you find specifically unbelievable about the murderer there? Personally, I didn't find him too bad to be believable; human nature being what it is, there actually are some people who will kill even their own relatives for an inheritance, if it's large enough.


message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

Well, I would have to get the book to be real specific but at the time I was reading it six months ago (?) something like that I just thought he seemed too wicked to be believed. He just went to such lengths I found it too fantastic. But I read The Stranger Beside me about a momth ago by Ann Rule and I could hardly believe what I was reading so I guess there are unbelievably wicked people. I have a very active imagination but it was just too much for me. We are all different.


message 15: by Barbara (last edited Jun 14, 2010 01:09AM) (new)

Barbara (sema4dogz) | 62 comments Werner
"something to do with sex ie 'bad'" made me laugh. I read Oliver Twist too young to even do that . I think I thought they were bad merely because of being thieves ( and Sikes being cruel) and passed over the other aspect in incomprehension that there even WAS an aspect...

I do remember feeling sorry for the dog though; some things never change. Had Black Beauty ever been made into a TV series I might have simply died drowning in floods of tears .My mother said she used to rush to put the radio off if Danny Kaye's "There Once Was An Ugly Duckling' came on when I was really young .


PaNdORa   (gökçe) (pandora-m) | 15 comments dracula ,frankenstein


PaNdORa   (gökçe) (pandora-m) | 15 comments vanity fair


message 18: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1004 comments Pandora, there have been quite a few movie adaptations of Dracula, starting with the classic B & W one back in the 1930s starring Bela Lugosi. Was that the one you meant? (It was made around the same time as the Frankenstein movie that featured Boris Karloff as the "monster;" since you mentioned the two titles together, I figured those might be the ones you were talking about.) Louis Jourdan also did a convincing job as Dracula in a TV miniseries adaptation in the 80s.


PaNdORa   (gökçe) (pandora-m) | 15 comments yes you are right I have just watched it's latest film version


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