Books that Became Films from Between The Covers
Between The Covers presents Books Into Films.
By Michael Stillman
Curtains up! Now appearing on the big screen (or small screen if that is what your computer is equipped with) is a review of a catalogue for those who appreciate both books and movies. It comes from Merchantville, New Jersey, bookseller Between the Covers, and the title is Books Into Films. Was the movie really not as good as the book? Here is your chance to find out. This is a collection of over one hundred books that have been made into movies. They range all the way from books that were converted to silent films in the first quarter of the 20th century to some which are likely playing in theaters in your neighborhood right now. Many of these were great literary masterpieces in themselves. Steinbeck didn't need actors and directors to make his work great or famous. Others are perhaps as forgettable as the "B" movies they spawned. It doesn't matter. They're all here waiting for their audience to be seated. Get your popcorn quickly. Starting time is now.
There is almost always a difference between those who starred in these movies and those who wrote the book. Here is the exception. Item 87 is Diamond Lil, and the author was none other than the film's star, Mae West. On the screen, the title became "She Done Him Wrong." West was the brilliant actress and comedienne whose bawdy jokes made her a film sensation, the idol of many a wandering-eyed male though she was hardly the most beauteous of actresses to ever cross a stage. With this book, West used her writing talents to launch her career, first in the story's portrayal on the stage, and then on film. "She Done Him Wrong" starred West and a young Cary Grant, who would go on to have a most notable career himself. The movie is best remembered for the line, "Why don't you come up and see me sometime," though Mae West never uttered those words (she actually said, "Why don't you come up sometime and see me"). This first edition book is priced at $850.
"King Creole" may well have been Elvis' best film. Released in 1958, before the "King" left for the army, and before the series of trite romances that brought in lots of money but afforded no opportunity for development as an actor, Presley starred in this critically respected movie. Other actors included the dour Walter Matthau as a mobster and club owner. Presley and Matthau - now that's an odd couple. "King Creole" was based on the Harold Robbins book, A Stone for Danny Fisher. Presley played Danny Fisher, but there were many changes from book to movie. The setting moved from New York to New Orleans, Fisher became a singer rather than a boxer, and the original Danny was a Jewish boy from Brooklyn, an incongruous role for Elvis Presley. Nevertheless, the adaptation was a good, solid film, displaying the never fulfilled acting potential of Presley. It reportedly was the favorite performance of the superstar, who regretted not being allowed by his handlers to pursue more serious roles. Item 2. $400.
Books that Became Films from Between The Covers
Mae West was both author and actress for this comedy.
In the early days before Presley became a star, there was another young country singer also recording at Sun Records in Memphis. Along with Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins, the four would be known as the "million dollar quartet." That singer, of course, was Johnny Cash, and if his career didn't rise to the sudden dizzying heights of his label mate, it continued solidly for another fifty years, and the great recognition he finally received was well deserved. In 1975, Cash published his autobiography, Man in Black. Material from this book helped create the script for the recent very successful film about his life, "Walk The Line." Ladies and gentlemen, Johnny Cash. Item 56. $175.
Windfall was Robert Andrews' novel about ten people who are given a gift of $1 million each. It is a series of vignettes of what each does with his/her windfall, the story being converted to a movie the following year by the title, "If I Had a Million." Among those who appeared in this film were Gary Cooper, Charles Laughton, George Raft, and W.C. Fields. A couple of decades later, it would also serve as the inspiration for the television series "The Millionaire." I don't know about you, but I'm still waiting for Michael Anthony to knock on my door. Item 6. $1,000.
Presley and Cash weren't the only superstars to come out of the 1950s. That was also the zenith of the career of the great actor Francis. Indeed, Francis would go on to star in almost as many movies as Presley, seven in all. For those who have forgotten Francis, or the book Francis, by David Stern, he was the loquacious star of the movie and series, "Francis (The Talking Mule)." The nominal star of this series was Donald O'Connor, but anyone who ever watched these films understood that Francis was the real celebrity. O'Connor stumbled his way around military and civilian occupations, while thankfully having the more intelligent mule to help him out. Of course, all of this proved embarrassing when O'Connor would turn to Francis in front of an acquaintance to have him repeat some pearl of wisdom, and Francis would stand silent, like a dumb (take that word either way) mule. Francis would win the first Patsy Award (Picture Animal Top Star of the Year), the Oscar for animals in 1951, for his outstanding performance (actually, Francis was not a he but a cross-not-dressing she). Sadly, the inimitable Francis proved to be imitable, and was replaced in the hearts of his nation by the copycat, or copyhorse, the "famous," but totally unoriginal, Mr. Ed. Item 86 is the book Francis. $275.
How does one transition from Francis the Talking Mule to The Grapes of Wrath? What could they possibly have in common? Well...they are both in this catalogue. John Steinbeck's 1939 masterpiece of an Oklahoma family, forced to migrate west during the dustbowl days of the Depression, won a Pulitzer as a book, and Academy Awards as a movie. However, despite his masterful portrayal of Tom Joad, Henry Fonda, unlike Francis, did not win one of those awards. That does not diminish the book, movie, or Honda's performance one bit. Item 80 is a first edition of this classic. $5,000.
We have just scratched the surface here. You will find much more, including a Lord of the Rings trilogy first edition set in pristine condition. Between The Covers can be found online at www.betweenthecovers.com or reached by phone at 856-665-2284.