A couple of weeks ago I wrote that a movie is never as good as the novel it’s based on. I cited two examples: “Jaws” and “The Godfather,” two very good movies, but in my view the books were even better. Also, I asked readers to contact me with their opinion on this subject, especially if they thought a particular movie was better than the book.
Apparently, we have a lot of literati movie fans in western Connecticut, because my email inbox was so jam-packed, it looked like AARP was doing one of their periodic membership drives — which they do about every 90 minutes.
Susan L. opined that “Gone With the Wind” was better than the book. (I was, of course, compelled to reply to her note with this comment: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”)
Joe S. was surprised that “Die Hard” was on a Variety magazine list of movies that were better than the novel. “‘Die Hard’ was a book?!?!” he exclaimed. Good point. The movie was somewhat entertaining, but it seems like it either was based on a comic book, or they didn’t actually have a written script and just told Bruce Willis to shoot guns for a few days and then they’d try to piece together something in the editing room.
Here is a summary of many replies I received, listing the name of the respondent and the movies he or she thought were better than the original book: Barb N., “Life of Pi.” Michelle L., “Slaughterhouse 5.” Jenn B., “Contact.” Doug H., “The Long Hot Summer,” “Sunset Boulevard,” “The Bridge on the River Kwai,” “Dr. Zhivago,” and “The Great Escape.” (By the way, Doug is a friend of mine and the fact he has read that many novels struck me as, um, kind of surprising.)
I also received notes from: Doug O., “Where Eagles Dare,” “Guns of Navarone,” and “Ice Station Zebra.” Maureen M., “The Perfect Storm.” William F., “To Have and Have Not.” (Ooh, Lauren Bacall sizzled in her screen debut.) Rex L., “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Shawshank Redemption.” Larry W, “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.” (Larry pointed out that he’s referring to the TV version, not the horrible Jim Carrey movie, because the music in the TV special “had a good beat and you could dance to it.” Because of Larry’s clever “American Bandstand” reference, I bet he gets as much junk mail from AARP as I do.)
A few additional observations about this exercise. My original column appeared in the newspaper when the Red Sox vs. Yankees playoff series was taking place. Many of the notes I received offered brief references to movies and books, but long paragraphs about baseball. One note particularly stood out. Mike M., a passionate Yankees fan, gave this heartfelt wish to me, a passionate Red Sox fan: “Every time you travel I hope you get the middle seat.” Thanks, Mike. The last time I was on a business trip, I was in the middle seat between two overweight and sweaty guys. (Which meant on that delightful flight to Chicago our row had three overweight and sweaty guys.)
Another observation: a few people took umbrage with the fact I stated that Jaws and The Godfather were terrific novels. Hey, I never said I was a high-brow literature snob. I like what I like, and for me those two books were enjoyable page-turners.
Finally, because of all the emails I received, I now have at least 25 movies I need to see and 50 books I need to read. I suppose I can do that at my office. If my boss complains, I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.