“Film as Art” – Script 3

Part III of the slide/cassette presentation of “Film as Art” moves into the

realm of film as literature. In this section you will see how film makers have

utilized literary sources as the basis of many outstanding movies.

Ask your instructor for “Fiction into Film: Literature Goes to the Movies,”

Part I.

Follow the slide presentation which coincides with the attached script.

Take Test 3.




“The movies” are everybody’s ticket to fantasyland. Yet one of the reasons for their popularity is that a great many of them have been based upon successful books, plays and short stories. As the motion picture evolved into an art form in its own right, it became increasingly adept at translating subtle literary material into visual form. In time, film took over from books the function of deepening our awareness of life.

Early in the twentieth century, when film was in its infancy, it was used merely as an extension of the still camera, to document simple actions: a train entering a station, people swimming. The first action-stories were accounts of historical events—“Orphans of the Storm” was based on the French Revolution—or dramatic episodes from real life, such as the fifteen-minute film made in 1899 on the Dreyfus Affair.

D.W. Griffith is credited with having made the greatest individual contribution to the development of the motion picture. His masterpiece was “The Birth of a Nation.” Based upon a racist novel entitled The Clansman, the film undertook the Titanic task of depicting the nation during the Civil War. Griffith provided the “grammar”—close-up, montage—that expressed written words in film terms.

The books of Charles Dickens have often been used as the basis for films because they adapt to the medium with very few alterations. Dickens was a highly visual writer and an inventor of elaborate plots. Shakespeare’s plays, also strongly plotted, have been the basis for more than two hundred screenplays in a great variety of treatments.

The psychological novel presents special problems to the filmmaker because much of the action takes place within the character’s mind. One of the most successful film adaptations of a psychological novel was that of Liam O’Flaherty’s novel The Informer. Here the screenwriter invented a series of symbols which made the psychological action visual.

While an occasional film adaptation of a novel or a story succeeds better than the original, something is usually lost in translation. It is the author’s voice. Film skims the action from the surface of a book and concentrates on the story line. But in a pure adventure story, like Jaws, film provides a visual impact far more powerful than anything which can be suggested by the printed word.



Time: 16 Minutes


(1)“Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye allTARZAN CALLING

The first and last and only callfrom “Tarzan and the Slave Girl”

film still

(2)“For the most gigantic, TitanicSCARLETT AND RHETT

stupendousfrom “Gone with the Wind”

Colossal affair of the agefilm still

(3)“Come along with meCINDERELLA AND PRINCE

To a jubileefrom “Cinderella”

With a hop and a hip hurrayanimation still

(4)“It’s gonna be great, let’s make itSHARK

a datefrom “Jaws”

For a Hollywood Holiday”film still

(5)“Every King and QueenAPE COUPLE

Of the silver screenfrom “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes”

Will be there for the matineefilm still

(6)“We’ll meet all the frillsFRANKENSTEIN STALKING

From Beverly Hillsfrom “Frankenstein”

On a Hollywood Holiday”film still



LITERATURE GOES TO THE from “Frankenstein”

MOVIES, PART 1film still


(8)Hollywood means movies, andGOING TO A MOVIE

since the beginning of this century,from “Days of Thrills and Laughter”

film has held a fascination for thefilm still

public. Movies mean entertain-

ment, excitement, romance.

(9)One of the reasons that movies have“PRIDE AND PREJUDICE”

been so successful is that they havepublicity poster

built upon the popularity of other

entertainment media—particularly

literature and drama.

(10)At the turn of the century,Left:

novelist Joseph Conrad and filmJOSEPH CONRAD

pioneer D.W. Griffith indepen-New York Public Library

dently made almost identicalphotograph

statements concerning the pur-

pose of their respective mediums:Right

they wanted, above all, to makeD.W. GRIFFITH

their audiences “see.”New York Public Library


(11)Both film and literature haveTARZAN DEFENDS JANE

many of the same aims—provid-from “Tarzan Escapes”

ing escape, offering insight andfilm still

evoking emotional response—but

they obviously use different

techniques to achieve these aims.

(12)Through the addition of sight andTARZAN AND ELEPHANTS

sound, movies can add a new di-from “Tarzan and his Mate”

mension to literature. Althoughfilm still

the basic story and characters

may remain intact, the experience

of the work can change dramatically.

(13)Movies can use literary sources inKING AND QUEEN

a number of ways. At times theyfrom “Macbeth”

can adhere very closely to thefilm still


(14)In other instances, elements of“JOE MACBETH”

the novel, play or short story arepublicity poster

changed radically, altered or

deleted completely in the film


(15)In examining the relationship of MOVIE CREW FILMING

film and literature, it may be“ORPHANS OF THE STORM”

helpful to understand some of thephotograph

early stages of the movie industry,

before it had the technical know-

how needed to translate literature

into film


(16)The earliest movies experimented FILM OF TRAIN

with film simply as a form of docu-from “Arrival of a Train”

mentation. This film, made byfilm slide

Louis Lumiere around 1896,

records a train entering a station.

Its aim is to capture a single inci-

dent and record it permanently.

(17)The same is true with another earlyJUMPING INTO WATER

movie that just records peoplefilm still

jumping into the ocean and


(18)In order to make longer and moreACCUSED

interesting movies, filmmakersfrom “The Dreyfus Affair”

turned to historical events forfilm still

story content, like “The Dreyfus

Affair” made in 1899. This sus-

tained narrative dramatizes an

important event of the time—in

twelve scenes and fifteen minutes.

(19)Historical themes continued to be NEAR DEATH

primary movie sources throughoutfrom “Orphans of the Storm”

the silent era, as in the 1921 superfilm still

spectacle “Orphans of the Storm.”

(20)This film focuses melodramaticallyRAGGED POOR

on the French Revolution,from “Orphans of the Storm”

film still

(21)complete with a cast of thousandsCROWD GOES WILD

from “Orphans of the Storm”

film still


(22)In 1915, motion-picture history‘THE BIRTH OF A NATION’

was made by D.W.Griffith’s filmpublicity posters

“The Birth of a Nation.” The film

is important because it is one of

the first to use a literary work as

its primary source. It is also one of

the first full-length motion pictures

to be seen by the public, running

over four hours.

(23)The source for the picture was aKLAN RIDING AND SHOOTING

racist pulp novel called Thefrom “The Birth of a Nation”

Clansman, but Griffith’s interpret-film still

tation was nothing less than


(24)He is credited with providing theSHOOTING SCRIPT

so-called “grammar” of the moviesfrom “The Birth of a Nation”

--the many camera and editingscript and film still

techniques, such as close-ups and

montage, that express written

words in film terms.


from “The Birth of a Nation”

film still


from “The Birth of a Nation”

film still

(27)Griffith also went to great lengthsMARCHING SOLDIERS

to assure historical accuracy, par-from “The Birth of a Nation”

ticularly in the scenes of the Civilfilm still

War. Before staging key battle

sequences, he studied document-

tary photographs of the events.

(28)And before filming his re-enact-LINCOLN ASSASSINATION

ment of Lincoln’s assassination,from “The Birth of a Nation”

he researched historical engravings.film still

(29)Unfortunately, “The Birth of a KLAN AND PRISONER

Nation” reflects many of the Jimfrom “The Birth of a Nation”

Crow sentiments of the originalfilm still

source, yet it remains a landmark

in cinematic history.


(30)D.W. Griffith gave much of the“HOW BELLA WAS WON”

credit for his film techniques topublicity poster

novelist Charles Dickens, whose

writings inspired filmmakers from

the very beginning of the silent

era. Dickens is still considered a

very “optical” writer since his

prose so easily lends itself to

visual translation.

(31)Movies based on Dickens’ novelsTHOUGHTFUL

are often almost literal adaptationsfrom “David Copperfield”

and, in many cases, can readilyfilm still

substitute for the original work

for study purposes.

(32)Such is the case with David Lean’sPIP AS A DANDY

film of “Great Expectations” madefrom “Great Expectations”

in 1947. The film retains most offilm still

the story line, characters and

themes of the original novel with

only minor changes.

(33)The movie parallels the book inPIP AT GRAVE

many interesting ways. It wasfrom “Great Expectations”

photographed, for example, on thefilm still

exact location that Dickens describes.


“Ours was the marsh country,

down by the river, within, as the

river wound, twenty miles of the


(34)“My first most vivid. . . impressionDetail of slide 33

. . .(was). . . gained on a memor-

able raw afternoon towards eve-

ning. . . I found out for certain,

that this bleak place overgrown

with nettles was the churchyard;

. . . and that the dark flat wilder-

ness beyond the churchyard was

the sea: (then)

(35)“’Hold you noise!’ cried a terriblePIP STARTLED

voice, as a man started up fromfrom “Great Expectations”

among the graves. . .’Keep still youfilm still

little devil, or I’ll cut your throat!’

(36)“(He was) a fearful man, all inPIP AND CONVICT

coarse grey. . . with no hat, andfrom “Great Expectations”

with broken shoe. . . A man whofilm still

had been soaked in water, and

smothered in mud, and lamed by

stones, and cut by flints. . . and

torn by briars;

(37)“who limped and shivered, andPIP SEIZED BY CHIN

glared, and growled and whosefrom “Great Expectations”

teeth chattered in his head as hefilm still

seized me by the chin.”


(38)But film can also go beyondUPSET WOMAN

literary sources and powerfullyfrom “The Birth of a Nation”

visualize emotions, thoughts andfilm still


(39)Film often focuses on complexFAMILY GROUP

events and translates them intofrom “Grapes of Wrath”

visual terms with an immediacyfilm still

not possible in words.

(40)In these ways, film images takeGYPO AND KATIE

over part of the function of words,from “The Informer”

and this capability becomes veryfilm still

important in adapting certain

kinds of literature.

(41)The Informer, written by Irish“THE INFORMER”

novelist Liam O’Flaherty, had topublicity poster

be altered to fit the film medium,

and was brought to the screen in

1935 by noted director John Ford

and screenwriter Dudley Nichols.

(42)The film adaptation sharpens the CHARACTERS FROM “THE INFORMER”

plot and focuses on the centralby Mike Gothland

moral dilemma faced by GypoCourtesy of Pratt Institute

Nolan—a man caught betweenmixed media

desire for money and loyalty to


(43)The time is 1922 in Ireland duringGYPO AND FRANKIE

a period of revolution and politicalfrom “the Informer:”

upheaval. Gypo, a powerful butfilm still

slow-witted man, yields to the

temptation of a twenty-pound

reward and informs on his best

friend, a fiery revolutionary wanted

by the British.

(44)The friend is trapped and killed,GYPO ACCUSES

and in order to protect himself,from “the Informer”

Gypo accuses another man of thefilm still


(45)But his treachery haunts him, andGYPO DRINKING

he tries to drown his conscience infrom “The Informer”

a long night of drinking. The rebelsfilm still

watch Gypo, however, and note

down the money he spends. Each

pound comes closer to the reward

money given to informers. At last,

there is no doubt of his guilt.

(46)He is taken before the rebel courtCOURT OF INQUIRY

of inquiry to be faced by the deadfrom “the Informer”

man’s sister.film still

(47)Gypo goes from denial to despairGYPO BREAKS DOWN

and finally breaks down and from “The Informer”

confesses.film still


“’I can’t remember, I’m drunk, I

tell ye! I can’t remember nothin’.’


‘Confess, man—and ease your



(48)“’I didn’t know what I was doin’!GYPO CONFESSES

I didn’t know what I was doin’!from “The Informer”

Can’t ye see what I mean? Is therefilm still

no man here to tell him why I did

it? Me head is sore! I can’t tell



‘Lock him up!’”


(49)Gypo, however, manages to escapeGYPO SEEKS REFUGE

and finds refuge with his girlfriendfrom “The Informer”

Katie. Katie vainly pleads with thefilm still

rebel leader for Gypo’s life, but

Gypo is hunted down and mortally


(50)Dragging himself to a church, heGYPO DIES

meets the dead man’s mother andfrom “The Informer”

sister. After receiving their for-film still

giveness, he dies.

(51)Certain problems confronted theGYPO CONFRONTED

screenwriter when adapting thisfrom “the Informer”

novel. As Dudley Nichols explained:film still


“. . . some new method had to be

found by which to make the psycho-

logical action photographic. . .

(52)“(So) I. . . found a series of sym-GYPO BROUGHT TO COURT

bols to make visual the tragic psy-from “The Informer”

chology of the informer, in thisfilm still

case a primitive man of powerful


(53)In the screenplay, the action isFOGGY NIGHT

played out in one foggy night, thefrom “The Informer”

fog acting as a symbol of Gypo’sfilm still

groping mind.

(54)This sign, advertising ocean passageSIGN

to America, gives visual expressionfrom “The Informer”

to Gypo’s longings for escape.film still

(55)While contemplating the sign, GypoSHIP TO AMERICA

imagines Katie and himself happilyfrom “The Informer”

married and aboard the ship--film still

escaping from the life they know.

(56)Gypo’s hat is a visual image usedSYMBOLS

over and over to express his emo-from “The Informer”

tional state. When he feels strongfilm still

and sure of himself, the hat is

perched jauntily on his head. When

he is remorseful and after he has

confessed the betrayal, Gypo’s

hat is either twisted in his hands

or missing altogether.


(57)In their search for suitable literary“ROMEO AND JULIET”

sources, it is not surprising thatpublicity poster

many filmmakers have turned to

Shakespeare. Over two hundred

movies have been based on

Shakespeare’s plays, with more

than half of them coming from

the silent era.

(58)These early films based on the“ROMEO AND JULIET” (1908)

Bard were not only successfulfilm still

commercially, but gave an aura of

respectability to a new industry

anxious to attract contemporary

writers and actors.

(59)“KING LEAR” (1916)

film still

(60)There is one film version of Hamlet,“HAMLET”

made in 1921, which explains thefilm still

conflicts within the main character

in a very original way. The Prince

of Denmark, you see, was a woman.

(61)The first full-length Shakespearean“THE TAMING OF THE SHREW”

film with sound was made in 1929: film still

“The Taming of the Shrew,” star-

ring Douglas Fairbanks and Mary


(62)And in much more contemporary“THE TAMING OF THE SHREW”

history, Burton and Taylor starredfilm still

in a very popular remake.

(63)Throughout the many films using“HAMLET”

Shakespeare as a source, the mostfilm still

consistent problem has been adapt-

ing and presenting the material

so that it is interesting to a mass


(64)One of the most critically acclaimedHENRY AND QUEEN

Shakespearean films of all times isfrom “Henry V”

Laurence Olivier’s production offilm still

“Henry V,” made in 1944.

(65)Olivier succeeded in adapting thisDINING SET

chronicle of fifteenth-centuryfrom “Henry V”

English history into an entertain-film still

ing movie, while retaining the spirit

of Shakespeare’s prose.

(66)The beginning action takes place inOPENING AT GLOBE THEATRE

a replica of Shakespeare’s Globefrom “Henry V”

Theatre, complete with an audiencefilm still

seen in the foreground. But the

movie soon transcends the events

of a filmed play.

(67)It reaches its ultimate departureTO BATTLE

from stage convention during thefrom “Henry V”

scenes leading up to and includingfilm still

the battle of Agincourt.

(68)In this part of the film, Olivier, forHENRY AT NIGHT

the first time ever in a Shakespear-from “Henry V”

ean film, treats a soliloquy asfilm still

thought—with the words heard

on a voice track as opposed to

being spoken by the actor.

(69)Soon the viewer is plunged into aBATTLE OF AGINCOURT

recreation of the battle fought infrom “Henry V”

the open air—complete withfilm still

pageantry, horsemen and hand-to

hand combat.

(70)The action of the play then returnsCURTAIN CALL

to the stage setting and ends withfrom “Henry V”

the player’s final curtain call.

(71)Film is asked to transcend theBATTLE