Now a Major Motion Picture: Film Adaptations of Literature and Drama

By Raw, Laurence | Journal of American Culture (Malden, MA), September 2008 | Go to article overview

Now a Major Motion Picture: Film Adaptations of Literature and Drama


Raw, Laurence, Journal of American Culture (Malden, MA)


Now a Major Motion Picture: Film Adaptations of Literature and Drama Christine Geraghty. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2008.

Now a Major Motion Picture offers a new agenda for adaptation studies, one in which the source text no longer plays a significant part. Instead Geraghty focuses on how the conventions of popular cinemathe interplay of genres, the organization of space and time through editing and camerawork, the presentation of performers and stars, and the practices of reviewing and publicity-create a series of layers, all of which should be analyzed in detail if one is to understand how an adaptation works on screen.

The book offers a series of case studies to prove the point. One chapter ("Tennessee Williams on Film") discusses how A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) employ different techniques of spatial organization. Streetcar makes a deliberate attempt to represent the play as a theatrical event through camerawork and editing; Cat combines the dramatic space of theater with a realistic setting. Another essay on popular adaptations of Edna Ferber's Cimarron (1931, 1960) and Pearl S. Buck's The Good Earth (1937) focuses on how the producers emphasized faithfulness to the original texts in an attempt to deal with "big" themes of nationality, ethnicity, and social change. However, these films were also adapted to suit prevailing cinematic conventions of the western, the woman's film and the maternal melodrama.

Geraghty turns her attention to a classic American genre-the western-to show how The Last of the Mohicans (1992) and Brokeback Mountain (2005) place considerable importance on setting and landscape. …

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