Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Top Ten Literary Film Adaptations Never Made

Here is our contribution to The Great Imaginary Film Blogathon, a celebration of all the wonderful classic films that us movie bloggers wish were made but never were. For today and tomorrow, classic movie fans will be writing fantasy reviews to movies that exist only in their imaginations. Be sure to check out all the great submissions here

Below you see some of our favorite "Why didn't they make that??" films. We would love to hear comments and suggestions on alternative castings/ideas on how these films could have been made. 


The Adventures of King Arthur ( 1941 )

Plot : The life and times of Camelot's most famous king, from his humble beginnings, the pulling of the sword in the stone, to his meeting with Merlin the Wizard and his eventual downfall.
Studio: Warner Brothers Pictures
Director : Michael Curtiz
Cast : Errol Flynn ( Arthur Pendragon ), June Duprez ( Guinevere ), Gale Sondergaard ( Morgan Le Fey ), David Manners ( Mordred ), Patric Knowles ( Sir Tristam ), Evelyn Veneble ( Lady of the Lake ), Alan Hale, Burt Lahr.

"The Adventures of Robin Hood" was a box-office success upon its release and so Jack Warner decided to go ahead and follow it up with another great Howard Pyle adventure. This one was based on Pyle's four book saga on the rise and fall of the legendary King Arthur. The film focus on the exploits of Arthur himself and on the noble manhood of Lancelot but appropriately stays clear of indulging in too much romance surrounding Guinevere. Like Pyle's series, the film only hints at Lancelot's impending relationship with the queen in order to progress the story line towards the fall of Camelot. An excellent historical swashbuckler, with Warner Brother's usual stamp of high production values. 


Anne of Green Gables ( 1967 )

Plot:  The stories are about the young red-headed orphan Anne and her uninhibited thirst for enjoying the beautiful in life as well as her adventures in growing up and becoming a schoolteacher on Prince Edward Island.
Studio: Walt Disney Studios
Director: David Swift
Cast: Shani Wallis ( Anne Shirley ), Michael Anderson Jr. ( Gilbert Blyth ) Agnes Moorehead ( Marilla Cuthbert ), Shirley Jones ( Minister's Wife ) Walter Brennan ( Matthew Cuthbert ), Rosemary DeCamp ( Rachel Lynde ).

When L.M Montgomery wrote "Anne of Green Gables" in 1908, little did she know that the book would become as popular as it did, but not one to ignore success, she quickly followed it up with a sequel, "Anne of Avonlea". In 1934, Anne Shirley ( who took her screen name from the book character ) starred in the RKO film version of the novel, which became a surprise hit for the studio and one of their top-grossing films of the year. "Anne of Windy Poplars" In the 1950s several Canadian production companies produced television adapations of the books and in 1965 a musical was made for the Canadian stage. It has since become Canada's longest running musical. 

However, it was time it was brought to the screen in full-color and so in 1965 Walt Disney purchased the rights to the stories and to the musical score and production began in late 1966. Walt's premature death did not put production on hold and it was released the same year as the studio's animated classic, "The Jungle Book". Shani Wallis, who became famous a year later in the Lionel Bart musical version of Oliver! starred as the young Anne Shirley and Agnes Moorehead, who had become a TV sensation as Samantha Steven's mother Endora, was perfectly cast as Marilla Cuthbert. 


Howard's End ( 1947 ) 

Plot : Margaret Schlegel does an act of kindness to the aging Mrs. Wilcox, who in turn leaves her her beloved Howards End cottage to her when she dies. Wilcox's businessman husband and greedy son refuse to give the cottage to Schlegel but events take a turn for the better.
Studio : Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Director : Clarence Brown
Cast : Greer Garson ( Margaret Schlegel ), Joan Fontaine ( Helen Schlegel ), Ronald Colman ( Henry Wilcox ), Peter Lawford ( Leonard Bast ) , Mary Astor ( Mrs. Wilcox ).

E.M Forester's novel "Howard's End" fit right into MGM's line of novel adaptations they had selected for their leading lady, Greer Garson..films such as "Pride and Prejudice", "Blossoms in the Dust", "Mrs. Miniver" and "Random Harvest". This film also included her Random Harvest costar Ronald Colman, but unlike Harvest he portrays a rather dismissive businessman. A welcome change from his usual roles however. Joan Fontaine and Peter Lawford are perfect as the young couple, but it is truly Ms. Garson who steals the picture. The lovely Greer Garson personifies the gentle Margaret Schlegel and we can't help delighting in her gift of Howard's End. 


Death on the Nile ( 1942 ) 

Plot : A passenger is murdered while on board a cruise through the Nile and Hercule Poirot must sift through the shipload of suspicious tourists to uncover the culprit.
Studio : 20th Century Fox
Director : George Waggner
Cast : Marcel Dalio ( Hercule Poirot ) Betty Field, Richard Denning, Reginald Gardiner, Lynn Bari, Douglass Montgomery, Mary Boland, Maria Ospenskaya, Martin Kosleck.

20th Century Fox's "Death on the Nile" brought Agatha Christie's thrilling Mediterranean set murder mystery to the screen with a dazzling cast of performers and it gave Paris-born character actor Marcel Dalio his first lead role as the inimitable detective Hercule Poirot.


The Adventures of Baron Munchausen ( 1946 ) 

Plot : In a tavern in Bavaria, Baron Munchausen tells wild tales of his adventures around the world and during his days in the army. Hauptleute Boehmer calls Munchausen a fraud and sets out to prove his stories false...but surprisingly he finds many a strange tale to be true!
Studio : London Films
Director : Alexander Korda
Cast :  Ralph Richardson ( Hauptleute Boehmer ), Marius Goring ( Baron Munchausen ), Merle Oberon, Conrad Veidt, and Jean Simmons.

This is a wonderful and strangely amusing film from the fabulous Korda brothers. It evokes the bravado spirit of their previous successes, "The Four Feathers" and "The Thief of Bagdad" and yet has a childlike quality of humor about it that makes it very appealing. The scrumptious sets and vivid Technicolor filming add to its brilliance. In 1957, Danny Kaye added his signature comedic touch along with clever songs written by his wife, Slyvia Fine, to the Paramount remake of "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen". 


The Mutinous Wind ( 1939 ) 

Plot : A young woman learns powers of witchcraft from an old book found in a captured Spanish galleon on Massachusett's Cape Cod. She then hides on a remote island where she comes across pirates while waiting for her sailor lover. 
Studio : Columbia Pictures
Director : Charles Vidor
Cast : Miriam Hopkins ( Mistress Maria Hallett, the Sea Witch ), Douglas Fairbank's Jr. ( Black Sam Bellamy ), Ida Lupino, Dean Stockwell.

Elizabeth Reynard's moodily evocative tale of old Cape Cod folklore comes to vivid life in this glorious black and white Fox film adaptation. Dean Stockwell and Miriam Hopkins are excellent, but Douglas Fairbanks Jr. seemed a bit miscast in our opinion. We would have liked to have seen Louis Hayward, or even Errol Flynn in this role instead. 


The Legend of Sleepy Hollow ( 1942 ) 

Plot : A timid schoolteacher comes to the quiet village of Sleepy Hollow, falls in love with one of his students and wishes to marry her, but must first contend with the village prankster who also desires her hand in marriage and seems to be using a disguise as a headless horseman to scare him away...or is the phantom rider real?
Studio : Universal Studios
Director : Erle C. Kenton
Cast : Lon Chaney ( Ichabod Crane ), Evelyn Ankers ( Katrina Van Tassel ), Nigel Bruce ( Van Tassel's father ), Brom Van Brunt ( Victor MacLagen ), Claude Rains ( The Sheriff ).

"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" is not one of Universal's most recognized works today and many people overlook this little gem but the studio pulled out all the stops for their rendition of the Washington Irving classic short story and brought it to vivid life. Great special effects, atmospheric sets, a snappy screenplay ( Leonard Lee's original screenplay bore little resemblance to the Irving story ) and a steady handling by "House of Frankenstein" director Erle C. Kenton ensured a box-office hit for the studio. 


The Golden Compass ( 1972 ) 

Plot : A young girl, living with her uncle at Jordan College, hears rumors of a magical dust that could unite whole universes. With the aid of a band of gyptians and armored polar bears she seeks to find this substance before her unknown enemy gets their hands on it.
Studio : MGM
Director : Ken Annakin
Cast :  Kim Richards ( Lyra Silvertongue ), Christopher Plummer ( Lord Asriel ), Anna Quayle ( Mrs. Coulter ), Anthony Newley ( King of the Gyptians ).

A beautiful scoring by the Sherman Brothers highlights this colorful film adaption of Philip Pullman's beloved children's story. After the success of "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang", producer Albert "Cubby" Broccoli decided to invest in another children's film and this was the result! Little Kim Richards, who stars as Lyra, gained popularity on television as the daughter of Professor Everett in "Nanny and the Professor" and later, with the Walt Disney Studios, in the Witch Mountain films. Although the animation sequences - especially of the polar bears - are not up to par with Disney's standards they still remain a beautiful addition to this adventurous film. 



The Riddle of the Sands ( 1938 )

Plot: While doing mapping studies onboard his yacht on the northern coast of Germany in 1908 a young man meets a rich German family and discovers a sinister plot against England! 
Studio: Archer Productions
Director: Michael Powell
Cast: John Mills, John Clements, Valerie Hobson, Anton Walbrook, Ludwig Stossel. 

Before Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger made a name for themselves in the mid-1940s with their beautiful Technicolor productions, they were carving quite a niche writing and producing spy thrillers. Riddle of The Sands was one of their most popular and it starred some of their favorite studio players, including Anton Walbrook and Valerie Hobson. John Mills and John Clements would later make names for themselves in "Goodbye Mr. Chips" and "The Four Feathers", respectfully. Erskin Childer's novel, one of the first spy adventure stories ever written, was later remade in 1979 with Michael York and Simon McCorkindale.


The Life of Edward Bok ( 1936 ) 

Plot: An autobiographical account of Edward Bok, editor of the Ladies Home Journal, founder of Bok Sanctuary and an influential man in American history. 
Studio: MGM
Director : 
Cast: Robert Donat ( Edward Bok ), Charles Laughton ( publisher of the Ladies Home Journal ), Ida Lupino (Mary Curtis Bok ), Donald Crisp ( Frederick Law Olmsted ), and Spring Byington ( Bok's mother ). 

When Edward Bok wrote "The Americanization of Edward Bok" in 1920, he was amazed to find that it rose to the top of the bestselling book list. His humble account of coming to America and his subsequent rags-to-riches-rise to national fame through his editorials captured the imagination of readers everywhere. It was no surprise then that in 1935 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer purchased the rights to Bok's autobiography and began rewriting his life for the silver screen. In all fairness though, Metro did a very good job on selecting the best parts of his life to highlight. The first half of the film focus on Bok's struggles and his desire to make a difference in America, and the second half covers the opportunities he had to do this as well as the building and designing of his beloved sanctuary, Bok Gardens. Donald Crisp has a wonderful, but all too brief, appearance as landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted. 


  1. These are all great entries. I have to admit, though, I can't really see Lon Chaney Jr. as Ichabod Crane. And how about Adolphe Menjou as Hercule Poirot?

    1. Adolphe Menjou...that's super!! To tell you the truth, Death on the Nile was the last film we cast and our brains were getting rather fried at that point. For the life of us we couldn't even remember Betty Fields name or any film that she played in! As for Lon Chaney...we picked him because we were envisioning a Sleepy Hollow that barely resembled the original story. Chaney plays a professor ( as in "Weird Woman" ), falls in love with this student Evelyn Ankers ( as in "The Wolf Man" ) and then from there on end the story changes to a traditional Universal horror flick with the town searching for the headless horseman that is roaming the village. Darn...I wish we could travel back in time to persuade the Universal execs to have made a film version of TLOSH!

  2. You rascals, you went ahead and cast The Mutinous Wind. I'm going to apply my brain to this and let you know what I really a couple of days.

    1. Aw shucks, you caught that one! Yes, we just had to sneak it into the lot. I wasn't really happy with Miriam Hopkins as Maria...Ida Lupino would be a better choice for that part..but then Maria has blonde hair ( or was it red? ), so that kinda rules Lupino out. And YES, you better let us know your choices instead. I want to hear those!!

    2. Hair colour doesn't present any problems for me in casting, just pop a wig on top and I think that either Jean Parker or Anne Shirley could have made a sweet Maria. And how about the dashing Jon Hall for Black Sam?

    3. Hmm...I'm not sure I can see Anne Shirley in the role, but Jean Parker would have been great! And Jon Hall would have been a wonderful Black Sam too..although I admit we haven't seen to many of his films and I always forget he he acts. Was he ever separated from Maria Montez on screen? ;-)

  3. The one that sounds the most intriguing to me out of this list is Howard's End. I haven't read the book yet, but your casting and the studio seem so right.

    A Disney Anne of Green Gables? Interesting...I don't know your lead actress so I can't comment on her, but Moorehead and Brennan don't quite fit my idea of Matthew and Marilla. The first actress for Marilla in a '60s adaptation that popped into my head was Jeanette Nolan. (But Shirley Jones would have been lovely as Mrs. Allan.)

    I almost tried my hand at casting a favorite novel for this blogathon. Almost. I'm not sure if the reason I didn't join in was because I couldn't fill a couple roles, or if I just chickened out. :) Perhaps if you do it again next year I'll have gotten up the nerve by then.

    1. Mrs. Allan!! So that was her name! I couldn't think of it for the world. Jeanette Nolan is a great choice for Marilla. We picked Agnes Moorehead mainly because we believe she can fill ANY role, she was so talented. ( Can you tell we're fans? ) As for joining the blogathon, there was no need to chicken out!!...we would have accepting anything that you would have contributed, short or long. We've had several people suggesting that we revive this next year..maybe we will. :-)

    2. Well, it was partly because I have a writing blog—I was afraid I'd startle my readers! :) If you do it again I may very well join in, though. Now I've got a whole bunch of ideas!

  4. I love the Disney Anne of Green Gables! Very cool

  5. Baron Munchausen jumped out at me from this list. A nice imaginary two-fer, Korda's version and Danny Kaye. Yes, I definitely see Danny Kaye doing this!

    Speaking of real films, Czech director Karel Zeman's version, Baron Prasil (1962), is one of the most joyous, hallucinatory fantasies every committed to film. Saw it at a comic convention in NYC in 1971, and have never forgotten it. Recently acquired a copy, and I'll probably review it sometime over the winter...

    1. Now that we got to see! I never heard of Baron Prasil and we have yet to see the Baron Munchhausen that Hans Alber made so famous as well.

  6. I can't choose which I'd like more. Maybe The Adventures of King Arthur with Errol, it'd be a big hit. And Jne Duprez would gain more recognition, she is so beautiful and so unknown.
    Thanks for the wonderful event, gals!

  7. So, about that Golden Compass Movie. I can't find anything about it anywhere else, so I checked on the publication date of the book, and it wasn't released until 1995? I'm just wondering if anyone knows anything about this.

    1. All of these "literary film adaptations" are apart of the Great Imaginary Film Blogathon, where bloggers write about films that they WISH were the form of an actual review. In other words, we just made this film up. :-) Philip Pullman probably would have been a little boy in 1972, but his story sure would have made a great Disney film!

  8. OMG, I'm heart broken. I found a link to this page, but it didn't open at the top of the page, so I thought these were real movies! I was so excited to see THE MUTINIOUS WIND as a movie, only to find it's not real. The film synopsis doesn't match the book's, but still would have LOVED to have seen it!!!

    1. Yes, I wrote this review prior to reading the book...but after reading the book I, too, wished that a film version had indeed been made. Do you agree with our casting or would you have swapped actors?