MARTHA: And it was an accident . . . a real, goddamn accident!
(GEORGE takes from behind his back a short-barreled shotgun, and calmly aims it at the back of MARTHA’s head.)  (p 57)

My Top 10:

  1. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf
  2. A Man for All Seasons
  3. Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment
  4. The Professionals
  5. The Russians are Coming, the Russians are Coming
  6. Alfie
  7. Red Beard
  8. You’re a Big Boy Now
  9. The Shop on Main Street
  10. Georgy Girl

Note:  Back up to 12 films on my list this year.  One is reviewed below as a WGA nominee (Harper) and the final one is on a separate list at the bottom.
Note:  No less than five reviews in this year were lost when my computer died and three of them (Morgan, Alfie, Shop) were of sources that had been a pain to get the first time and so I have tried to write them again as best as possible from memory.

Consensus Nominees:

  1. A Man for All Seasons  (304 pts)
  2. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf  (152 pts)
  3. The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming  (152 pts)
  4. Alfie  (112 pts)
  5. The Professionals  (80 pts)

Note:  Even without being WGA eligible, A Man for All Seasons sets several new records.  It ties the record for most nominations (4), is the first film to reach 4 without multiple WGA noms, sets a new record for wins (4), most points (304) and largest percentage of the total points (30.65%).  Julia will beat its percentage in 1977, Kramer vs Kramer will beat the nominations total in 1979 and while Kramer and Terms of Endearment will tie the wins mark no film will win more than 4 awards until Schindler’s List in 1993.

Oscar Nominees  (Best Screenplay – Adapted):

  • A Man for All Seasons
  • Alfie
  • The Professionals
  • The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming
  • Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf

WGA Awards:


  • Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf
  • Harper
  • The Professionals
  • The Sand Pebbles


  • The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming
  • How to Steal a Million
  • You’re a Big Boy Now

Nominees that are Original:  The Fortune Cookie, Our Man Flint


  • no Musicals this year (thank god)

Golden Globe:

  • A Man for All Seasons
  • Alfie
  • The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming
  • The Sand Pebbles
  • Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf

note:  A little oddity here.  Not that they are all Adapted (which they also were in 1965) but that these five films would go on to all earn Best Picture nominations at the Oscars.  This is the first of four times that the Globes Screenplay category would predict 5/5 the eventual Oscar Picture nominees (1982, 1984, 1994).

My Top 10

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

The Film:

There are few films that match this one, especially when it comes to the acting.  All four credited actors earned Oscar noms and they all deserved the Oscar themselves (the females won, the males did not).  It is a long dark night of the soul and when you come out the other side you aren’t certain what to think.  I wrote this about it when I reviewed the film seven years ago for my Best Picture project: “Certainly what George does to conclude the night could be considered horrifying were it not for the night that drove him to it and the horrifying truth behind it all in the first place.”  That pretty much sums it up.

The Source:

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?: A Play by Edward Albee (1962)

This was the sixth play by Edward Albee and yet he was only 34 when it first went on stage in 1962.  Imagine that type of success.  Albee would continue to be a successful playwright throughout his career but nothing again would ever come close to this kind of success.  But, then again, very few plays in the 55 years since have come close to this kind of success.  It brings four powerhouse characters to the stage and when they are coupled with great acting, it is really a sight to see.

The Adaptation:

Ernest Lehman really wouldn’t have to do much with this film.  He could basically take the script and put it on film.  The biggest difference between the film and the original play is that while the play is broken up into three acts, the location never changes.  By moving things into the car and then the diner (with some actual other people in the film even if they aren’t credited), it opens things up a bit (as do the scenes outdoors).  It is so well adapted by Lehman, moving things around and directed by Nichols, that even though this entire movie is basically over two hours of four people talking it never feels staged.   But that’s what great films do.

The Credits:

Directed by Mike Nichols.  Screenplay by Ernest Lehman.
note: The only mention of the source in the opening credits is with the title: Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

A Man for All Seasons

The Film:

If you are like me you watch this film and you see high art in it.  It is exquisitely dignified, smart and refined.  It has a great script, excellent directing, phenomenal acting and all of those were rewarded with Oscars.  It is exactly the kind of the thing that Oscar voters look at and think, “yes, that’s a Best Picture.”  But there is also a lack of fiery emotion at its core.  It is a movie that I greatly admire but not one that I love.  It is a reminder that in years like 1966, 1980 and 1990 while the Oscar voters went for the clear Oscar film (and made good choices every time), they didn’t make my choice, the choice of raw emotion.  That being said, this is a great film and I don’t want anyone to think I think otherwise.  It is the best evidence that Paul Scofield really was a born actor and that Robert Shaw, when held properly under control, could be a burst of energy and not a hopeless ham.  You can read a full review here.

The Source:

A Man for All Seasons by Robert Bolt  (1960)

I write the date 1960 up above but that is not the whole story.  This began as a BBC radio production in 1954.  After that, it was a one hour BBC television special in 1957.  Following the success of both versions, Bolt retooled his work yet again to arrange it for the stage, where it landed in 1960.  Perhaps it was that original work that ended up with the version seen on stage.  To allow us access into the historical aspects of the story, Bolt creates the character of The Common Man, a semi-narrator who also takes part in the play.  That character allows us to get into the story and understand all of the historical and theological complications from the period.  When the play moved to Broadway in 1961 it was a massive hit and won the Tony for Best Play (as mentioned in my film review where I noted it is one of the few works to win the Tony and the Oscar).  The play is certainly compelling but something about the staging of it (at least as I read it, since I have never seen it on stage) doesn’t quite work and I think I prefer the film version.

The Adaptation:

The biggest shift from the stage to the screen is the dropping of the Common Man and allowing the film to be told in a more standard film narrative.  Leo McKern, who had played the Common Man in London had moved to Cromwell on Broadway and would actually play Cromwell again on film, joining Paul Scofield who had played Thomas More on stage, both in London and in New York and would win the Oscar for playing him on screen.  Because the Common Man is cut out, there are a few scenes that are added into the film that weren’t in the stage version that actually show us events that were told to us on stage (such as the death scene of Cardinal Wolsey).  Any scenes in which the Common Man actually interacted with characters has the character simply replaced by normal characters.

The Credits:

Produced and Directed by Fred Zinnemann.  Screenplay by Robert Bolt.  From the play by Robert Bolt.

Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment

The Film:

I have already reviewed this film in full as one of the five best films in what is, admittedly, a very weak year.  There is something about Morgan that speaks to me, something in his character that I like in spite of the fact that he’s really rather unlikeable.  It’s not a film for everyone and it’s definitely not one I would try to convince people on if they have already decided they don’t like it.  But it is a fairly original film with some very good performances from David Warner and Vanessa Redgrave.

The Source:

A Suitable Case for Treatment” by David Mercer (1962)

Did the film keep the sub-title because it would remind people of where they had seen the story once before?  Perhaps.  The original television production had aired in 1962 and appears to be unavailable on video (not surprising considering BBC’s old policy of wiping) but you can get held of the original teleplay in a collection by David Mercer.  That’s where I read it, getting it from another library and writing my original review that unfortunately was eaten in the death of my computer and I’m trying to do this from memory so I don’t have to get the book again.

The Adaptation:

The original television production only ran one hour and while Morgan is not a particularly long movie (97 minutes), it still had to come up with other scenes to fill the time.  Part of that is done by expanding the scenes of Morgan’s life, by having him interact more with people outside of his wife and the the man his wife is now sleeping with (such as the cop or his mother) but also by inserting a lot of scenes that seem to be coming from Morgan’s psyche.  But, since all of this is also written by David Mercer, who wrote the script, it’s safe to say that it all works with authorial intent.

The Credits:

Directed by Karel Reisz.  Written by David Mercer.  (no mention of source in the opening credits)

The Professionals

The Film:

I have already reviewed this film as one of the best films of the year.  I also gave it a small review here as well as my example film for Richard Brooks when I included him in my original Top 100 Directors list (to be fair, I should mention he no longer makes the list).  The Directors branch recognized that this film was better than three of the films actually nominated for Best Picture (all of which are included below).  It is one of the great all-time fun Westerns, funny and action-filled and with some great camaraderie.  If you read some of the behind-the-scenes stuff on the film (mentioned in my review) you can be even more amazed at how well the final version turned out.

The Source:

A Mule for the Marquesa by Frank O’Rourke  (1964)

This is a small little Western (just over 200 pages) about a group of men who are hired to go down to Mexico and rescue the woman of a rich man who has been kidnapped and held to hostage.  They have a deadline because they need to get her out before the required ransom date.  There’s not much to it other than the blueprint for a film.

The Adaptation:

“In doing so with A Mule for the Marquesa, Richard immediately recognized that the ending – the husband’s private army saves the mercenaries in the nick of time – was a cliche and would have to be rewritten.  He also determined that five mercenaries were one too many if each were to have a strong presence and not be lost in a crowded cast.  In keeping with mission-driven movies like The Guns of Navarone (1961), he decided that each would be a man with a specialty: a munitions expert, a dynamiter, a wrangler and a tracker.  Other changes in the O’Rourke story gave Richard’s screenplay more punch and the feel of a caper movie.  A standoff between one of the mercenaries and the revolutionaries comes in the middle of the book.  Richard turned an attack on the Mexican camp into the film’s main action sequence and moved the ensuing pursuit and standoff closer to the end of the movie.” (Tough as Nails: The Life and Films of Richard Brooks, Douglass K. Daniel, p 162)

All of that pretty well sums up that the book only ended up being used as a blueprint.  There is the basic plot that comes from the book and a couple of details (the dynamite arrows for one).  But almost everything else was changed for the film, including the personalities of the mercenaries (they have very little in the book), the fact that it’s Raza, the man who kidnapped her, who is in love with her (and her with him) and the ending, which is drastically different.  Really, this is a good example of not needing to read the book because the film is vastly superior in every way.

The Credits:

Written for the Screen and Directed by Richard Brooks.  Based on the novel, “A Mule for the Marquesa” by Frank O’Rourke.

The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming!

The Film:

Alan Arkin is Yuri Rozanov, a Political Officer on a Soviet submarine (well-suited as Arkin grew up speaking Russian).  He has been tasked, as the only decent English speaking member of the crew, to go on to the island and get a boat to tug the sub off a sandbar where it has been stranded.  But what he really wants to do is get away from this crazy island, from its crazy people, from it ridiculous name that doesn’t seem to be pronounced correctly.  Arkin became an instant star (and Oscar nominee) with this film, a hilarious bit of Cold War satire that actually manages a considerable amount of sympathy for the Soviets and never lets up on the laughs.  It’s the perfect example of Roger Ebert’s maxim that people trying to act funny aren’t funny but people trying to act serious and failing are very funny.  To read more, my original review can be found here.

The Source:

The Off-Islanders by Nathaniel Benchley  (1961)

A little amusing book about a group of Russians on a submarine who end up stranded on a sandbar off an American island and have to find a way to get their sub off the sandbar and get off the island without starting a war.  It’s decently humorous, but more as a concept (especially in that all the islanders react to the Russians less as Russians and more as people who aren’t from the island, thus the title) than in actual execution, as there isn’t much depth to any of the characters.  Benchley’s son would later write a far more successful novel dealing with a small island and what happens just offshore, with Jaws.

The Adaptation:

“What was lacking in the ending was a moment of enlightenment, a catalyst that makes both groups realize that they have more in common than they realize. When I asked Bill to change the ending, I knew he might have problems with my request. … Bill got to work on the ending and produced a brilliant solution.”  (This Terrible Business Has Been Good to Me: An Autobiography by Norman Jewison, p 121)

If all you do is read that quote, you would wonder if most of the film comes from the book and they changed the ending simply so that they would have a better moment for the ending, but really, like the previous film on this list, the novel really only provides a blueprint for the film.  Almost all of the details and the personalities come from the screenwriters and not from the original novel.  In fact, the whole family that starts off the film (the playwright who is stuck and his wife and children) don’t even exist in the novel.

The Credits:

Produced and Directed by Norman Jewison.  Screenplay by William Rose.  Based on the Novel “The Off Islanders” by Nathaniel Benchley.


The Film:

This film and the performance from Michael Caine that is the key to the film reminds me of a couple of lines in a couple of very different films than this one.  “He said that he may be an… ‘a-hole’. But he’s not, and I quote, ‘100% a dick’.”  “I thought you were an asshole.”  “Oh, I’m an asshole alright, but I’m your kind of asshole!”  The first is from Guardians of the Galaxy and the second is from Die Hard 2 and the only notion they share with Alfie is what kind of an asshole Alfie is.  What’s amazing is that he’s the kind of asshole that you can tolerate watching an entire movie about.  He’s charming and he knows how to score sexually but he leaves a trail of destruction in his wake.  Yet, the film is really very good and Caine’s performance was a star in the making.  It says something about how good the performance is and the writing is that when you get to the end of the film you’re not really sure if you want Alfie to find some measure of happiness or not.  It’s not quite a great film (the directing isn’t all that up to snuff and most of the technical work leaves something to be desired) but it’s a very good one and it’s worth watching just for Caine’s performance alone.  There’s more in my original review here.

The Source:

Alfie by Bill Naughton  (1966)

You think of breaking the fourth wall and usually you think of film, but it happens in theater as well.  It specifically happens in Alfie, when he turns away from the characters and starts talking directly to us.  That’s actually part of his charm.  We allow him to win us over even when we are repulsed by his actions because he’s interacting directly with us and that creates a connection that we can’t really ignore.  The play follows Alfie, a ladies man, but one who knows his limitations (he goes for older well-to-do women and in a bit of stupidity actually sleeps with the wife of his roommate from his time in a sanatorium).  He just wants a life where he can have what he wants and not have to worry too much about it.  In the end, you wonder if he’s learned anything at all and perhaps he hasn’t and it’s remarkable how much we can accept it.  On stage, the role was originally played by Terrence Stamp but Stamp refused to play the role on film, instead insisting Caine (his friend and roommate) that he should do it.  This is one of those rare cases where I really wish I could have seen it on stage, not because I care about the staging but because I really would have liked to have seen Stamp in the role.

The Adaptation:

Alfie and Morgan have a lot of similarities and I’m not just talking about the titles being their names.  They are about people who are hard to like and yet somehow make a connection with the audience anyway, they both helped catapult good young British actors to bigger and better things and both of them rely chiefly on their writing because the directing and the technical aspects aren’t all that impressive.  But also, in both cases, their screenplays are adapted by the original authors.  In both, scenes are expanded and added and things that we just heard about in the original version are actually shown to us, though neither is substantially altered and the characters remain basically the same even if we do see more of what they do.

The Credits:

Produced and Directed by Lewis Gilbert.  Screenplay by Bill Naughton.  Based on the play Alfie by Bill Naughton.

(Red Beard)

The Film:

Though this is not of Kurosawa’s great films (I have it as a high ***.5 and the strength of the film comes more from Mifune’s powerhouse performance than from the usual things we would attribute to Kurosawa like his magnificent direction and strong writing).  The film is very good but this is Kurosawa that we’re talking about.  Never the less, it has already been reviewed in full because this is also 1966 that we’re talking about and it’s a very weak year for film and this film managed to slide into the Top 5.

The Source:

Akahige sinryotan by Shugoro Yamamoto (1958)

This collection of short stories, sadly, is not available in English.

The Adaptation:

Without being able to get the original, I can’t really know what was changed.  There are parts of the film that don’t come from the original novel:

“The script is quite different from the novel. One of the major characters, the young girl, is not even found in the book. While I was writing I kept remembering Dostoevsky and I tried to show the same thing that he showed in the character of Nelli in The Insulted and Injured.” (Kurosawa, quoted in The Films of Akira Kurosawa, 3rd ed., Donald Richie, p 171)

The Credits:

Directed by Akira Kurosawa.  Original Story by Shugoro Yamamoto.  The credits are from the Criterion Collection as played on TCM and there is no credit for the screenplay (at least in English).

You’re a Big Boy Now

The Film:

I have never been a fan of Godard, though his first film, Breathless, is a very good one.  To me, the problem is that Godard’s films, while different and new, aren’t very good.  But perhaps it’s just that he was working in the wrong genre.  His style of editing and storytelling, to me, undermined any attempt at a narrative and made his films a mess.  Yet here, in a style very similar to Godard (at least his early work) we have a charming, refreshing comedy that would herald the real arrival of a bold new filmmaker, one who would become almost a poster boy for the 70’s, both in its success and its excess.

This is the story of Bernard Chanticleer, a young page at the NYPL who skates around pulling books for patrons.  He’s shy, inexperienced at sex, forced to deal with a nosy landlady when his father forces him to move out of the house and into an apartment in Manhattan and he falls hopelessly for a brusque actress who doesn’t care about him while the girl who’s had a crush on him since grade school is trying to get him to notice her.  All of this is told at times at breakneck speed with constant editing jumps and a glorious Lovin’ Spoonful soundtrack.

This is the announcement of a major talent in Francis Ford Coppola.  He had made two films before, one of them just a re-editing job and the second a small little film for Roger Corman.  But here, with his own script (basically the story he was interested in telling married a bit to a pre-existing novel because of various circumstances listed below) and his own directorial style, he really creates a film that is very much his own.  He brings in such talents as Julie Harris, Rip Torn and Geraldine Page (earning her fourth Oscar nomination, this time for playing Bernard’s uptight mother who mails him bits of her hair after he gets his own place) and discovering future multiple Oscar nominee Karen Black.  If Peter Kastner is a bit bland as Bernard, that’s also because he’s kind of supposed to be and it perfectly suits the character.  He’s just the right actor to play the kind of schlub who would get stuck filling glasses of milk because the machine is stuck or getting knocked down by a mannequin leg in the hands of a former girlfriend that he was never able to sleep with because of a failure to perform.

This film is really almost unlike any other that Coppola would make.  He wouldn’t make a straight Comedy again for 20 years and this is the only one that he would make that he would also write, that would be his own movie through and through.  You might never have expected this director to make The Godfather or Apocalypse Now but you could tell you were looking at something new and fresh.

The Source:

You’re a Big Boy Now by David Benedictus  (1963)

I haven’t been able to get hold of the Benedictus’ novel, which is really hard to find, at least in the States (it’s a British novel).  Over 40 years later, Benedictus would be the author who would continue the Pooh series, writing Return to the Hundred Acre Wood.

The Adaptation:

Even without having read the book, I can give a pretty good idea of the changes that Coppola made from the original novel thanks to two different biographies.

“When [Coppola] had begun writing the script in paris, he was writing an original screenplay largely based on the events of his life, but he immediately realized that, as an employee of Seven Arts, he would be obligated to turn the script over to the company – a prospect he did not relish.  He figured he had found a loophole when he read David Benedictus’s novel and noticed the similarities between his script and Benedictus’s book.  He purchased the film rights to the book and began to adapt portions of the work into his screenplay.  The result a strange sort of hybrid, only vaguely resembling the literary source.”  (Francis Ford Coppola: A Filmmaker’s Life, Michael Schumacher, p 47)

“Coppola had optioned Benedictus’s novel for a thousand dollars and set about transplanting the story to New York City because he had always wanted to portray the life of a teenager living in new York, where he had grown up.”  (Godfather: The Intimate Francis Ford Coppola, Gene D. Phillips, p 37)

“Coppola had always been fascinated by the young people, called pages, who get books for patrons at the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue by sailing down the eighty miles of library stacks on roller skates, and so he gave that job to his hero rather than making him a shoe clerk as in the novel.”  (Phillips, p 39)  Note:  The NYPL’s fun facts page lists this film as one that “perpetuates the myth” that the pages wear roller skates.  The quote from Phillips also seems to perpetuate that, as it implies that they really do wear skates.

“Benedictus’s novel concludes with Bernard having lost both Barbara and Amy, but Coppola’s screenplay reunites Bernard with Amy.  Benedictus points out that his book concludes with Bernard living a solitary life, whereas Coppola supplied a happy ending: ‘Instead of being scarred for life by this sadistic Barbara Darling, the young hero will get a nice girl in the end . . . Still I think there have been fewer concessions to public taste than in most American films.’  As a matter of fact, Coppola’s script does have a serious dimension underlying the plot, despite the happy ending.  Like the novel, the script presents a young fellow on the brink of manhood who matures by finally summoning the gumption to defy his overbearing parents and outgrow their influence.”  (Phillips, p 40)

The Credits:

Written for the Screen & Directed by Francis Ford Coppola.  Based on a novel by David Benedictus.

Obchod na korze

The Film:

Where do we have to make our stand against evil?  What is the line that must be drawn?  And when it comes on gradually, incrementally moving forward, how do we even see that line?  None of those questions are explicitly asked in The Shop on Main Street but they hang over the film nonetheless.  Tono is a poor carpenter.  He is browbeaten by his wife and he isn’t able to bring much into the household.  He lives in a small town in the Slovak Republic, a Nazi controlled country during World War II.  His brother-in-law, who is also the commandant of the town, offers Tono the chance to take over a sewing store.  He doesn’t think too much about why he is being offered this chance.  He takes it.

But he will start to realize not only why he has been offered this chance but also what it means to have taken it.  The store belong to an old, almost deaf, Jewish woman.  He keeps her on and she moves through her days under the delusion that she’s still in charge of the store.  But it’s been taken from her because she’s Jewish and it’s losing money, relying mostly on charity.  Tono then has a chance for something different when the local community offers him that same charity to stay in charge of the store so that it is not passed on to someone worse.  By staying in the position is he selling his soul for a few meager dollars or is he actually doing something that benefits not only himself but also his community?  He isn’t asking himself this, but it is the question at the very heart of the film.

But this is, while not explicitly a Holocaust film, it is implicitly one and these films don’t move towards happy endings.  Things in the town start to get worse and while the old woman has been ignorant of what has been going on around her before, things will finally penetrate her fog.  She will react to what she sees and Tono will also react and things will take a quick turn towards tragedy.  In the countries controlled by the Nazis what other course could we find it taking?

This film was an unqualified success.  It won Best Foreign Film at the Oscars (and earns a nomination from me) and 66 year old Ida Kaminska earned a surprise Oscar nomination for her performance as the old woman.  It is not a Czech New Wave film, per se, but director Ján Kadár would actually train many of the directors that would become identified with the New Wave.

The Source:

Obchod na korze by Ladislav Grosman  (1964)

A rather short simply story of a carpenter who is given the chance to run a sewing store after it is taken away from the Jewish woman in charge of it because the pogrom that was taking hold in the Slovak Republic during World War II.  There is a spare poetry to it, perhaps because it was really designed to already be a screenplay, though not published in the format that most screenplays usually are published.

The Adaptation:

Because it was actually written to be a screenplay rather than a novel (even though its published format resembles a novel more than a script), almost nothing was changed from the novel to the film.

The Credits:

natocili resiséri Ján Kadár a Elmar Klos.  ve filmu podle novely Ladislava Grosmana.  scénár napsali L. Grosman, J. Kadár, E. Klos.
note:  I think that is the directorial credit for Kadár and Klos but can not be certain.  I also can’t be certain of the spelling because the on-screen lettering is hard to read.

Georgy Girl

The Film:

The Redgrave sisters didn’t spring out of nowhere.  Vanessa was already well-known on stage and younger sister Lynn had done several film roles before 1966.  But in 1966, they would both leap upon the scene, with Vanessa’s prominent topless scene in Blow-Up and the two of them competing with each other at the Oscars in the Best Actress category (they would both lose to Elizabeth Taylor).  It was the Oscar nominations that were important, because it was clear that both of them, though very different (Vanessa was the bombshell while Lynn was more of the “ugly duckling”) were both extremely talented.  Lynn would never be the film star that her sister was, partially because she stuck to mostly television and the theatre for a stretch of 20 years before returning to film with highly lauded performances in Shine and Gods and Monsters, and partially because she didn’t have her sister’s looks and, sadly, looks are highly valued in the film industry.  But in 1966, it was Lynn who was the more accomplished actress, giving a great performance in Georgy Girl and showing that she belonged on the screen.

Georgy is a bit of a mess.  She’s the kind of girl who decides, on a whim, to get an expensive new hairdo, only to have it rain on her as soon as she comes out and have her hair fall like a mop all over her face.  She’s the kind of girl who attracts a man like her father’s boss who wants her for a mistress now that he’s helped pay for her to go to school.  Or a man like Jos, who is a young man and seems interested in her, except that he’s also getting married to Georgy’s gorgeous, irresponsible flatmate that he has just knocked up.  It would seem that Georgy just can’t sort out the mess of her life.  At the moment that Jos is running after her is the same moment where his wife is going into labor.  But that turns out to be just what Georgy needs.  She doesn’t really care about Jos.  She doesn’t care about her flatmate.  She cares about the baby.

This is the key to happiness for Georgy and it turns out to be exactly what she needs.  As soon as little baby Sarah arrives, her parent just want to get rid of her.  No one cares about her except Georgy and she is the only thing that Georgy cares about.  It gives her new meaning in life.

Given the simplicity of the plot, this film is surprisingly effective.  Part of that is that it is actually well written and intelligent about the way that young people act and the choices they make (or have forced upon them).  Part of it is the smart performance from James Mason as the older man who will eventually marry Georgy and provide her with the security she and little baby Sarah need.  But really, most of the credit for this film moving from *** into the lower ends of ***.5 is from the remarkable performance of Lynn Redgrave, who so brilliantly brings Georgy to life in every way.

The Source:

Georgy Girl: A Novel by Margaret Forster (1965)

This is a decent enough novel about a young woman (Georgy) who is making quite a mess of her life, not knowing what she wants to do, rejecting the advances of her father’s boss (who paid for her schooling) and even having an affair with her flatmate’s husband after he marries the flatmate because he knocked her up and she decides to have the baby (she’s already aborted multiple times).  But once the baby arrives, she finds her purpose in life: to love that baby with every ounce of her being, and she ends up following a course so that she will be able to keep the baby and end up with a life that will make that easier.  A decent and quick little read.

The Adaptation:

The novel really is fairly faithfully adapted into the film.  The only real change is that the premise that social services will come take the baby away isn’t present in the book – she wants a father to provide her with security, but it’s more plot-driven to keep her with the baby in the film.  Other than that, it’s a very faithful rendition of the original novel.

The Credits:

Directed by Silvio Narizzano.  Screenplay by Margaret Forster and Peter Nichols.  Based on the novel “Georgy Girl” by Margaret Forster.

Multiple Nominations

The Sand Pebbles

The Film:

Steve McQueen was the most interesting man in the world.  He was the big star who did nutty things like racing cars.  He was charismatic and enjoyable on screen and at times he really showed that he could act.  Sadly this is the only film that would earn him an Oscar nomination (I rank his performance in Love with the Proper Stranger slightly higher and his great action roles in The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape and Bullitt are much more important to watch) and it’s dreary as can be.  I broke watching the film up this time into several bike rides (I watch while riding on the stationary bike) and it just seemed like the film wasn’t ever getting anywhere.  McQueen is quite good (as are Mako and Richard Attenborough) but the film itself is just so damn flat and we can blame that on director Robert Wise, screenwriter Robert Anderson and editor William Reynolds.  They just don’t provide any energy to the film and because McQueen’s performance is more subtle and less of a star turn like his action films they needed to compensate it with some more life and they just never do.  You can read a longer review here because this is another year where all five of the Best Picture nominees are also adapted.

The Source:

The Sand Pebbles: A Novel by Richard McKenna  (1962)

Richard McKenna had an idea of what he was writing about.  He had not only served in the Navy, but he had also served in the Far East, including two years on a Yangtze River gunboat.  He hadn’t been around during the Chinese Revolution (he was still a teenager in Idaho at the time) but he heard about it firsthand from the people who were.  So he had an idea but the idea didn’t really have enough development to last the 600 pages that McKenna draws it out into.  It’s ostensibly the story of a gunboat (the Sand Pebbles of the title) but it’s really the story of Jake Holman, an engineer assigned to the boat.  He ends up involved in the revolution, somewhat falling for a missionary’s daughter and ending up in a position where he is forced to kill his own native assistant to spare him a worse death from his own people.  In the end though, the book takes a turn towards what would be called tragedy if not for the fact that it easily could have been prevented earlier in the novel.

The Adaptation:

“I’ve often wondered if maybe I tried to tell too many stories in The Sand Pebbles.  It was a multiple story film – the story of the ship and the Captain, the story of Holman, the story of Frenchy and Maily, the story of the mission and the missionaries.  I’ve wondered if, in terms of interest and length, I should almost have cut out the Frenchy / Maily story.  Maybe I would have saved time, but I liked the story and thought that Dick Attenborough and Marayat Andriane were very touching.  Also, I wanted to try to do the book and that was a very important part of it.” (Robert Wise on His Films, p 190)

The film does follow the book fairly closely.  It does move a few things around (watching the film as I was reading the book, I hit the death of the assistant at the same time in both and was surprised because it happens much earlier in the book than in the film) but the biggest actual change is at the end.  In the book it ends with the death (the last line is “The flailing storm of lead crumpled and threw Jake Holman like a giant hand wadding newspaper.”) so we never actually see if the missionaries make it out safe like they do in the final shot of the film.

The Credits:

Based on the novel by Richard McKenna.  Screenplay by Robert Anderson.  Directed by Robert Wise.

WGA Nominees


The Film:

In the 1940’s, with the birth of film noir, detectives had been a big thing.  The Maltese Falcon had its definitive adaptation and the Marlowe novels by Raymond Chandler started making it to the screen.  But they had to work around the Production Code, because these were cold men, men who will kill if they had to, who would slap people around, who would sleep with the girl.  Now, with the middle 60’s, things were changing and filmmakers could go back to those cold-hearted detectives.  Except, for some reason, they didn’t.  With this exception.  It came about because producer Elliot Kastner said to William Goldman “I’d like to do a movie with balls.” (supposedly in response to the film The Professionals, but Goldman is likely mis-remembering, as The Professionals was just finishing production when Harper was released in February of 1966).  So Goldman suggested making one of the Lew Archer books and when Kastner gave him free reign to pick, he picked the first one.

So, enter Paul Newman as the latest in the long line of hard-boiled detectives.  This film isn’t a noir film, though, as its filled with so much California sunshine, shots of Newman driving on 101 on the California coast and his kind of pathetic attempts to connect back to his ex-wife.  But still, he is a detective and very much in the vein of Marlowe.  In fact, just like Marlowe, he shows up at the rich mansion of someone in a wheelchair and deals with Lauren Bacall.  Except this time, Bacall is the one in the chair and she wants her husband back.  There is again a problematic flirtatious daughter, though not nearly as deadly as in The Big Sleep.  Mostly, what we have is a kidnapping scheme, one that he is eventually able to figure his way through, following the men, following the money, following the motivations.

The film works primarily for two reasons.  The first is the solid script from Goldman, his first real experience in Hollywood and a good summation of the novel, keeping to the plot-line until the end and making the character of Harper (they changed it because they only bought the right to the one book, not the character) interesting.  Some of that came from the opening credits scene, something which Goldman added on after the film was basically done (both that story and the one above come from his description of making the film in Adventures in the Screen Trade: A Personal View of Hollywood and Screenwriting).

The other thing, of course, is the performance from Paul Newman in the title role.  In fact, in a film filled with good actors (aside from Bacall, there’s Robert Wagner, Shelley Winters, Janet Leigh and Strother Martin), it’s surprising how much Newman’s performance carries the film.  He’s been hired to do one thing and he’s determined to do that thing: find the missing man and return him to his wife (his single-mindedness about this presages Lee Marvin in Point Blank the next year).  This film didn’t exactly revive the detective film on screen (Goldman says they were out of vogue because television had taken over the genre) but it is a solid addition to the genre.

The Source:

The Moving Target by Ross MacDonald (1949)

If you had simply given me this novel to read without a name attached to it, I would have assumed it was a later Raymond Chandler novel.  We have a detective who is hired by a rich client and goes through a strange mystery trying to figure everything out, which includes shenanigans among the members of the household.  It doesn’t do a lot of characterization but has a pretty solid story that keeps moving at a good pace and doesn’t overstay its welcome.

That said, of course, it’s a not a Chandler novel, but the first novel by Ross MacDonald (actually published as John MacDonald originally).  It shows the Chandler influence and it’s clear that MacDonald is a solid successor to the two early California greats (Hammett being the other one).  I haven’t read any other MacDonald novels, but it does seem that as time went on, he started going for much character development, showing his own style and not just being a later version of Chandler.

The Adaptation:

For the most part, the film follows fairly closely to the novel.  Until we get towards the end of the film, the only major difference between the original novel and the film is the addition of the cult group that is involved with the illegal aliens.  None of that was in the book (but isn’t so strange an addition in the mid-60’s).  However, towards the end, there are several changes, including how Harper knows who the real culprit is (well, not the kidnapping one, but the one responsible for a death) and how the final scenes play out.  They are a lot more complex in the book and we get a fuller conclusion, while here things kind of basically just end.  It’s an interesting way to end it, but definitely far less conclusive than in the original novel.

The Credits:

Directed by Jack Smight. Screenplay by William Goldman. From the novel “The Moving Target” by Ross MacDonald.

How to Steal a Million

The Film:

If you were doing a film like this today, things would get far more intricate.  There would be double-crosses and more double-crosses and you would be hard-pressed to keep track of who is really trying to steal what and why.  You would have to wonder about everyone’s motivations.  But in fact, while there are many people in this film who aren’t what they seem to be at first glance, it never really gets too detailed or tries to trick us too much.  It’s just a good old-fashioned heist movie married to a romantic comedy and it works so well because the actors in it are so perfect for their parts.

First off we have Audrey Hepburn.  Now Hepburn (b. 1929) had, by this time, been playing opposite actors like Gregory Peck (b. 1916), William Holden (b. 1918), Rex Harrison (b. 1908), Cary Grant (b. 1904), Gary Cooper (b. 1901) and even Humphrey Bogart and Fred Astaire (both b. 1899).  We know she can charm older men.  But here we get reminded that she can charm a younger man as well as she gets to play against Peter O’Toole (b. 1932).  Hepburn discovers O’Toole stealing a painting one night.  The problem is that the painting is a fake and Hepburn knows that because her father (played with nice energy and humor from Hugh Griffith) is a forger.  In fact, his current forgery of Cellini’s Venus is on display at a museum and an American tycoon is in town and wants it.  He’s played by Eli Wallach and he’s so instinctively untrustworthy that Hepburn figures that he knows it’s a fake but really he just wants the fake (he doesn’t know it’s a fake) and he wants Hepburn as well (he’s b. 1915 by the way).  So, she’s got the wrong idea about him, he’s got the wrong idea about the painting and in the middle of this is O’Toole as the most charming thief ever (who actually robs a house while wearing a coat and tie).  After accidentally shooting O’Toole and helping to clean him up, she drives him home and a kiss leads them both in a different direction.  Instead of turning him in, she turns to him when she decides that the way to keep the Venus from being discovered as a fake is to steal it.  So they set out to steal it.

This is where things in a modern day film would get really complicated.  Danny Ocean would have an intricate and expensive plan for how to break in and steal it.  O’Toole’s expenditures come to the price of a toy boomerang.  It’s such an ingenious little plan and one that requires O’Toole and Hepburn to stay hidden in a broom closet in the museum for long stretches at a time that we remember that this isn’t just a heist film but also a romantic comedy and they quickly fall for each other.

After that, there will be one final revelation that in fact one character isn’t what the character appears to be at first sight.  But when we learn that, everything falls into place and it just streamlines towards the happy ending that anyone watching the film will want.  To add on a little cherry at the top, we get a charming little ending that also works for both genres and brings a smile to your face.  This was not a great film from William Wyler, when you consider what he had made before and it’s even quite a drop from The Collector from the year before but it’s a low level ***.5, a very enjoyable film that crosses multiple genres and it’s far better than the last few films Wyler would make.

The Source:

“Venus Rising” by George Bradshaw  (1962)

Actually, I can’t confirm the 1962 date.  That’s when the short story collection Practise to Deceive was published but the copyright page in the copy that I read didn’t distinguish when the stories were originally printed.  Actually reading this story was almost pointless.  It’s a forgettable story about an art forger and his daughter who’s in love with a man who could expose him.  I was only even able to read it because of a bit of strange circumstances involving Veronica that I won’t go into.  I’m glad I didn’t have to write that I couldn’t get hold of it, but I’ve already forgotten it and I just read it yesterday.

The Adaptation:

This doesn’t even hold up to the notion of “similar in general, different in specifics” like so many adaptations do.  Other than the basic facts I mention above, nothing in the story is at all like the film that would be made out of it.  You could easily read the story and have no idea it was made into this film.  Possibly the forger having a daughter would clue you in, but since almost everything else is different, it might not.

The Credits:

directed by William Wyler.  based on a story by George Bradshaw.  screenplay by Harry Kurnitz.

Other Screenplays on My List Outside My Top 10:
(in descending order of how I rank the script)

  • This Property is Condemned  –  The second film directed by Sydney Pollack is the first of seven that he directed starring Robert Redford.  Adapted from a Tennessee Williams one-act play.

Other Adaptations:
(in descending order of how good the film is)

  • A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum  –  Stephen Sondheim’s musical becomes a film with its star, Zero Mostel, intact as the lead.  Worth watching just for the opening number and for the early Michael Crawford performance.  Comedy tonight!  It has a happy ending, of course.
  • The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse  –  The fourth and final Mabuse film from Fritz Lang though others would pick up the character in later years.  Based on the original character by Norbert Jacques.
  • The Sleeping Car Murders  –  The first film from Costa-Gavras, a stylish thriller based on the novel by Sébastien Japrisot.
  • Gambit  –  The old database had listed this as adapted but it seems it’s just based on a screen story by Sidney Carroll, not an actual previously published story.  Fun Michael Caine heist film.
  • The Saragossa Manuscript  –  A 1965 Polish film based on the classic Polish novel from 1815 (though published in French).  Solid high *** film.
  • La Terra Trema  –  A 1948 Luchino Visconti film finally getting its U.S. release.  Loosely based on the novel I Malavoglia.
  • 7 Women  –  A bit of a different film for the last in John Ford’s career, a drama set in 1930s China.  Still a solid ***.
  • Funeral in Berlin  –  The second Harry Palmer film with Michael Caine.
  • King and Country  –  Bleak World War I Drama from Joseph Losey.  Based on the  novel Return to the Wood and its subsequent stage adaptation.
  • Born Free  –  True life drama about a naturalist couple (the Adamsons) raising a lioness and then releasing her to the wild.  Based on the book by Joy Adamson
  • The Group  –  Sidney Lumet adapted Mary McCarthy’s massive selling novel about a group of friends at what is pretty much Vassar.
  • Fahrenheit 451  –  Given the brilliant source material and that it’s directed by Truffaut, disappointing at mid ***.  His first color film and his only English language film.
  • Is Paris Burning?  –  Rene Clement’s film about the liberation of Paris had an all-star cast.  Based on the book by Larry Collins an Dominique Lapierre.
  • Dracula: Prince of Darkness  –  The third Hammer Dracula film and the second with Christopher Lee.  Whether you believe Lee (“I said to Hammer, if you think I’m going to say any of these lines, you’re very much mistaken.” or screenwriter Jimmy Sangster (“Vampires don’t chat. So I didn’t write him any dialogue.”), either way, Lee has no lines (and is still effective because he’s Christopher Lee).  The best of the Dracula sequels from Hammer and fully reviewed here.
  • Seconds  –  Solid thriller based on the novel by James Ely that could have been better if it hadn’t starred Rock Hudson.
  • Walk Don’t Run  –  Cary Grant’s last film is a remake of The More the Merrier except instead of Washington in wartime, it’s Tokyo during the 1964 Olympics.
  • A Man Could Get Killed  –  A James Garner Comedy based on the novel Diamonds for Danger.
  • The Wrong Box  –  Another Michael Caine film, this one a Comedy based on the first of three novels that Robert Louis Stevenson wrote with his stepson.
  • Up to His Ears  –  Jean-Paul Belmondo Comedy about a man who is bored and hires someone to kill him.  Based on a Jules Verne novel, the idea was recycled for Bulworth.
  • Le Amiche  –  A 1955 Antonioni Drama coming to the States.  Based on Tra donne sole by Cesare Pavese.
  • A Fine Madness  –  Between Bond roles, Sean Connery stars in this Comedy based on the novel by Elliott Baker.
  • La Mandragola  –  An Italian Comedy from Alberto Lattuada based on a 16th Century Italian play.
  • Hotel Paradiso  –  I’ve seen this one because director Peter Glenville was once nominated for an Oscar.  Based on the play L’Hôtel du Libre échange.
  • The Blue Max  –  The BAFTAs reward their own, giving the film Best British Art Direction and nominating it for Best British Cinematography and Costume Design.  A World War I dogfight film based on the novel by Jack D. Hunter.
  • A Big Hand for the Little Lady  –  A Western Comedy with Henry Fonda.  Based on a teleplay called Big Deal in Laredo.
  • Hawaii  –  Epic-length James Michener novel (937 pages) becomes epic-length George Roy Hill film (189 minutes).  We’re into low-level ***.
  • The Face of Fu Manchu  –  The first of five films where Christopher Lee plays Fu Manchu.
  • 10:30 P.M. Summer  –  Jules Dassin directs this Drama based on the novel Ten-Thirty on a Summer Night.
  • The Shameless Old Lady  –  French Drama based on a Brecht short story.
  • Any Wednesday  –  The play ran for two years but the film, in spite of a young Jane Fonda, is less than stellar.
  • Stop the World I Want to Get Off  –  Successful West End and Broadway Musical becomes less than successful film.
  • Mister Buddwing  –  One of the last films to earn Oscar nominations just because of the black-and-white / color split (it was nominated for Black-and-White Art Direction and Black-and-White Costume Design).  Delbert Mann Drama with James Garner based on the novel Buddwing by Evan Hunter (who wrote Blackboard Jungle and later wrote as Ed McBain).
  • Arabesque  –  Stanley Donen tried to pull off Charade again but Gregory Peck isn’t Cary Grant and Sophia Loren is definitely no Audrey Hepburn.  Comedy thriller based on the novel The Cypher.
  • The Man Called Flintstone  –  We’re into **.5 range now.  Hanna-Barbera’s second feature film concludes the run of the television show.  The animated team was always more successful on television and wouldn’t make another film until Charlotte’s Web in 1973.
  • An American Dream  –  Bland adaptation of a subpar Norman Mailer novel with Janet Leigh.
  • The Appaloosa  –  A mediocre Marlon Brando Western based on the book by Robert McLeod.
  • Ten Little Indians  –  You can skip this adaptation of the novel by Agatha Christie and just watch the 1945 version instead (or the 2015 television version).
  • Modesty Blaise  –  Joseph Losey adapts the British comic strip into a feature film.
  • The Liquidator  –  John Gardner’s thriller gets made into a low **.5 film starring Rod Taylor.
  • The Silencers  –  The first of the Matt Helm films with Dean Martin based on the series by Donald Hamilton.
  • Frankenstein Conquers the World  –  Not, in fact, a Hammer film as you might have expected here but instead a Japanese kaiju film.  Is it really adapted? thought so, perhaps because the concept of Frankenstein’s Monster was adapted.
  • Lord Love a Duck  –  Now we’ve hit ** films.  Dumb Comedy based on the 1961 novel that attempts to be a satire of popular culture but is just bland and stupid.
  • The Oscar  –  A lot of former Oscar winners in this terrible film about someone trying to win an Oscar.  Based on the novel by Richard Sale.
  • Tarzan and the Valley of Gold  –  Mike Henry takes over as a James Bond-type Tarzan.  The film itself was novelized by Fritz Leiber, the first authorized Tarzan novel not by Burroughs.  Low **.  By far the worst Tarzan film to this point.
  • Moment to Moment  –  The last film from Mervyn LeRoy is a disaster, a Suspense film with Jean Seberg based on a short story called “Laughs with a Stranger”.
  • Batman: The Movie  –  Campy and terrible.  For a full review you can read this.
  • Mudhoney!  –  Russ Meyer adapts a novel (Streets Paved With Gold).  Why?  The third worst film of the year, a .5 film.

Adaptations of Notable Works I Haven’t Seen:

  • Macbeth  –  A 1960 television version of Shakespeare’s play that must have received a U.S. theatrical release because used to list it back when the database was live.
  • School of Love  –  Apparently little-seen (no votes on the IMDb) 1965 film version of a lesser known (in other words, I haven’t read it) Yukio Mishima novel.