Screening the Stage: Case Studies of Film Adaptations of Stage Plays and Musicals in the Classical Hollywood Era, 1914-1956

Screening the Stage: Case Studies of Film Adaptations of Stage Plays and Musicals in the Classical Hollywood Era, 1914-1956

Screening the Stage: Case Studies of Film Adaptations of Stage Plays and Musicals in the Classical Hollywood Era, 1914-1956

Screening the Stage: Case Studies of Film Adaptations of Stage Plays and Musicals in the Classical Hollywood Era, 1914-1956

Synopsis

Introduced by a comprehensive account of the factors governing the adaptation of stage plays and musicals in Hollywood from the early 1910s to the mid-to-late 1950s, Screening the Stage consists of a series of chapter-length studies of feature-length films, the plays and musicals on which they were based, and their remakes where pertinent. Founded on an awareness of evolving technologies and industrial practices rather than the tenets of adaptation theory, particular attention is paid to the evolving practices of Hollywood as well as to the purport and structure of the plays and stage musicals on which the film versions were based. Each play or musical is contextualized and summarized in detail, and each film is analyzed so as to pinpoint the ways in which they articulate, modify, or rework the former. Examples range from dramas, comedies, melodramas, musicals, operettas, thrillers, westerns and war film, and include The Squaw Man, The Poor Little Rich Girl, The Merry Widow, 7th Heaven, The Cocoanuts, Waterloo Bridge, Stage Door, I Remember Mama, The Pirate, Dial M for Murder and Attack.

Excerpt

The proliferation of books and articles on film adaptations has been a feature of the last two decades. Preceded by the publication of Novels into Films by George Bluestone in 1957, the study of film and other media adaptations has grown slowly, then at an ever-gathering pace as it has become institutionalised in colleges, schools and universities, and as the number of books, journals, conferences and websites devoted to the subject has expanded. in her blog, Imelda Whelehan states that ‘adaptation studies is the analysis of a text and its adaptation, whether that “text” is a novel, film, dance, play, comic strip, musical score, sculpture, video, game, etc.’. But while rightly seeking to be open, expansive and non-judgemental, a purely text-based approach such as this can all too easily ignore the institutions and practices that produce or mark or site them – hence the ever-expanding number of theoretical concepts that tend to dominate Adaptation Studies. This book does not eschew Adaptation Studies as such. But instead of inventing more terms and concepts, it focuses in detail on twelve Hollywood films produced between 1914 and 1956, their remakes where applicable, the twentieth-century plays or musical shows on which they were based, and the generic, stylistic, technological and institutional factors that either marked or governed them. Each chapter is preceded by a detailed summary of the play or show on which it was based and followed by an equally detailed account of the film or films. the similarities and differences that mark them are noted, the key personnel are cited, and the stages in the process of adaptation are outlined where possible.

Among the factors that governed the production of feature films in this period was the constant need for story material, and here the major and minor studios alike frequently drew on published and unpublished novels, short stories, and musicals and plays, including those, like Sorry, Wrong Number, that were written for radio. Some of the novels were bestsellers, some of the short stories were well-known, and some of the plays and musicals were Broadway hits, and the rights to these properties usually cost more than the less well-known ones. But in all cases these rights would be purchased on the understanding that they would be adapted for the screen in ways . . .

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