Great Movies that Started as Books or Plays

By on September 20, 2013

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You’ve probably never thought of Disney as a giant recycling company, but it’s one of the best in the entertainment business at taking old classic tales such as “Cinderella,” or books such as “101 Dalmatians,” and turning them into feature films. Its popular movies are then spun into television shows, Disney books and ice skating shows. A few, including “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Lion King,” and now “Aladdin,” have also been recreated as Broadway musicals

Of course, Disney isn’t the only studio to adapt books and plays into movies. In fact, most film production companies today prefer to work from proven material. According to Vanity Fair, this wasn’t always true. In 2002, 114 original material scripts — also known as spec scripts — were sold to studios. By 2010, that number had been cut to 55. For a variety of reasons, studios have decided it is just safer to spend their millions on material that already has a built-in audience. The following are three excellent films that were adapted from just such material.

‘Seabiscuit’

This bestselling book about one of the most famous racehorses of all time was also a critical movie success. The film, which starred Tobey Maguire as Seabiscuit’s jockey Red Pollard, and Jeff Bridges as the horse’s owner Charles S. Howard, received seven Academy Award nominations, including one for Best Picture.

While the movie was beautifully made, the book actually gives its readers a much-more detailed look at the Depression era in which this underdog horse ran and also the hardships he, as well as the men in his life, faced during this period. The book also gives you a better sense of why the little horse became so popular with his fans.

‘A Streetcar Named Desire’

This classic film, which made Marlon Brando famous, actually started life out as a 1947 play written by the incomparable Tennessee Williams. The story relates the tale of two sisters, Blanche and Stella, and the latter’s husband, Stanley — the role played by Marlon Brando. Williams won a Pulitzer Prize for writing the play, and Brando’s anguished cries of “Stella!” has become a cultural touchstone.

As great as the film is, seeing this play live and in person is a true treat. It is a very emotional piece, and audiences can better feel the anguish and pain of the characters on stage than they can while viewing them on film.

‘Les Miserables’

Many fans of “Les Miserables” had waited for years for a movie to be made of this popular musical, which holds the record as the fourth-longest running Broadway show in history. Most were not disappointed by the 2012 film version, which follows the story of Jean Valjean, a peasant who is arrested for stealing bread, and the police inspector who pursues him after he escapes from prison. The play, set against the French Revolution, was itself based on a book by Victor Hugo.

The original Broadway production won nine Tony awards, including Best Musical, and the 2012 movie won three Oscars, including one for Anne Hathaway as best supporting actress. In addition, the London musical holds the record for being the longest-running production in the world.

While the original Broadway production closed in 2003, a new production is set to return to a Broadway theater in March 2014. Check Telecharge for tickets to this production and other Broadway plays and musicals. Seeing “Les Miserables” live, feeling the music in your chest, and hearing the audience reaction is something you should experience at least once in your life.

Guest post written by Luke Davidson.

Luke is an entertainment reporter who covers Hollywood happenings.

About Sarah Sommer

Sarah is a journalist and an artist who lives in the city. She loves movies and television. She reads early and often. Sarah also helps out over at BSCkids.com and our other sites!

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