Oscar Books

Academy_Award_trophySo later tonight are the Oscars.  Even though this house is mostly a book house, we like the Oscars, even when we have seen zero of the movies nominated during the year–as we did (or didn’t) this year until last night when we watched Ladybird.  It is entertaining, and I personally like the red carpet when I am looking for “fashion forward” gowns, wink wink, if you know what I mean.

Anyhoo.  This is a big topic when book lovers get to talking.  Book or the move, right?  And, generally, the book is better.  Right?  In fact, novelists tend to disown the movies adapted from their work.  On the other hand, Barb has posted on this and notes that sometimes the movie is better.  A movie is a completely different art form, for good or ill, and what makes a great book rarely makes a good movie.  And vice versa.

Below is a list of all the movies that won Best Picture that were based on books, short stories or novellas.  I have excluded plays.  If you want to include West Side Story because it was based on Romeo and Juliet, you can STFU.

What’s interesting is how few of them are based on really well-known books or books by well-known authors.  There are some, but you are just as likely to come out of relative obscurity to get the Oscar as you are to be a big-time author.  Maybe more.  Without the movies, most of the books on this list would have been lost to time.

Obviously, there’s Gone With the Wind, maybe the best example of all.  All Quiet on the Western FrontLord of the Rings is not my cup of tea (more of a Lord of the Flies guy) but clearly a beloved set of works.  All the King’s Men was a huge book.  But 25 of the authors on this list I had literally never heard of until I was writing this post.  Edna Ferber and James Leo Herlihy can compete for the least known and most likely to be a made up name.

This is a tribute to something that Hollywood is famous for, which is the incredibly thorough story development process which seems to find every book and story written.  Many novels are optioned for movies but rarely turn into one.  Nonetheless, it would appear as if they will find you if the story is right.  (This leads me to The Player, one of my favorite movies.  It was based on a novel, BTW.  I can’t stop).

For this year, if you are interested, here are the nominees for adapted screenplays.  I don’t think any of them were well-known books.

“Call Me by Your Name,” James Ivory (novel by Andre Aciman)
“The Disaster Artist,” Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber (book by Greg Sestero and Tom Bisell)
“Logan,” Scott Frank & James Mangold and Michael Green (Comic book)
“Molly’s Game,” Aaron Sorkin (Book by Molly Bloom)
“Mudbound,” Virgil Williams and Dee Rees (Novel by Hillary Jordan)

And the best picture nominees.  Here we find only one that was not an original screenplay.  (By the way, this makes total sense to me.  It is far easier to envision a story that goes to the screen right from the beginning).

“Call Me by Your Name” (novel by Andre Aciman)
“Darkest Hour” (Original)
“Dunkirk” (original)
“Get Out” (Original)
“Lady Bird” (Original)
“Phantom Thread” (Original)
“The Post” (Original)
“The Shape of Water” (Original)
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (Original)

Anyway, enjoy the show.  And the Red Carpet doesn’t start until 6, so read a book before that.

Historic List:

12 Years a Slave
Based on: Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

Based on: The Master of Disguise by Antonio J. Mendez and “The Great Escape”by Joshuah Bearman

Slumdog Millionaire
Q&A by Vikas Swarup

No Country for Old Men
Based on: No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

Million Dollar Baby
Based on: Rope Burns: Stories from the Corner by F.X. Toole

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Based on: The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien

A Beautiful Mind
Based on: A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar

The English Patient
Based on: The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

Based on: The Actes and Deidis of the Illustre and Vallyeant Campioun Schir William Wallace (epic poem) by Blind Harry

Forrest Gump
Based on: Forrest Gump by Winston Groom

Schindler’s List
Based on: Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally

The Silence of the Lambs
Based on: The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris

Dances with Wolves
Dances with Wolves by Michael Blake

The Last Emperor
Based on: From Emperor to Citizen: The Autobiography of Aisin-Gioro Pu Yi by Aisin-Gioro Pu Yi

Out of Africa
Based on: Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen; Isak Dinesen: The Life of a Story Teller by Judith Thurman; Silence Will Speak: A Study of the Life of Denys Finch Hatton and His Relationship with Karen Blixen by Errol Trzebinski

Terms of Endearment
Based on: Terms of Endearment by Larry McMurty

Ordinary People
Ordinary People by Judith Guest

Kramer vs. Kramer
Based on: Kramer vs. Kramer by Avery Corman

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Based on: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

The Godfather Part II
Based on: The Godfather by Mario Puzo

The Godfather
Based on: The Godfather by Mario Puzo

The French Connection
Based on: The French Connection by Robin Moore

Based on: Patton: Ordeal and Triumph by Ladislas Farago; A Soldier’s Story by Omar N. Bradley

Midnight Cowboy
Based on: Midnight Cowboy by James Leo Herlihy

Based on: Oliver! (musical) by Lionel Bart, which was based on Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

In the Heat of the Night
Based on: In the Heat of the Night by John Ball

The Sound of Music
Based on: The Sound of Music (musical) by Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II, Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, which was based on The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria von Trapp

Tom Jones
Based on: The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Henry Fielding

Lawrence of Arabia
Based on: Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T.E. Lawrence

Based on: Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace

Based on: Gigi (novella) by Colette

The Bridge on the River Kwai
Based on: The Bridge Over the River Kwai by Pierre Boulle

Around the World in 80 Days
Based on: Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne

From Here to Eternity
Based on: From Here to Eternity by James Jones

All About Eve
Based on: “The Wisdom of Eve” (short story) by Mary Orr

All the King’s Men
Based on: All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren

Gentleman’s Agreement
Based on: Gentleman’s Agreement by Laura Z. Hobson

The Best Years of Our Lives
Based on: Glory for Me (novella) by MacKinlay Kantor

The Lost Weekend
Based on: The Lost Weekend by Charles R. Jackson

Mrs. Miniver
Based on: Mrs. Miniver by Jan Struther

How Green Was My Valley
Based on: How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn

Based on: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Gone with the Wind
Based on: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

The Life of Emile Zola
Based on: Zola and His Time by Matthew Josephson

Mutiny on the Bounty
Based on: Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall

It Happened One Night
Based on: “Night Bus” (short story) by Samuel Hopkins Adams

Grand Hotel
Based on: Grand Hotel (play) by William A. Drake, which was based on Menschen im Hotel by Vicki Baum

Based on: Cimarron by Edna Ferber

All Quiet on the Western Front
Based on: All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

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