Books v. Movies: 5 Close Calls

I’ve only seen one of the films nominated for an Academy Award this year, Les Mis, so I didn’t realize that half of them were based on books until I read this article on Goodreads today.  Of those five books, I’ve read one, Life of Pi.  I listened to portions of Team of Rivals on last summer’s road trip, but I admit I slept through more than I heard (we drive through the night – well, my husband drives, while I drift in and out of sleep).  I have not read Les Miserables, the one movie I’ve seen.

So I have no idea how any of this years books compare to the movies they inspired.  I love both books and movies.  Usually, if I’ve read the book, I don’t go to the movie, but I sometimes want to read the book after seeing the film.  Although I usually find that movie adaptations of books fall short, there are exceptions.   Here are five moves that are worth watching, based on books that are worth reading.

Rebecca, book and movie


1.  Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier was adapted into film by Alfred Hitchcock, winning him his only Oscar for best picture.  (It also won for its cinematography.)  Both Du Maurier and Hitchcock were masters of suspense, and Judith Anderson’s Mrs. Danvers was pitch perfect.  She should have one best supporting actress.  She still gives me the creeps.

Breakfast at Tiffany's book v. movie2.  The iconic Breakfast at Tiffany’s directed by Blake Edwards was adapted from the novella by Truman Capote.  I can see why he was unhappy with the resulting film.  His novella about a troubled  and promiscuous teenager did not have the Hollywood happy ending, or even romance.  His was the better story, but who can resist Audrey Hepburn, either bedecked in jewels or  singing Johnny Mercer’s Oscar winning “Moon River?”

To Kill a Mockingbird book v. movie

3.  To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee should be required reading, and the film should be watched for its Oscar winning performance by Gregory Peck.  (The screenplay adaption won a well deserved Oscar, too.)  Classic book, classic movie.  What else can I say?  Fifty years from now, nobody will remember The Help, but To Kill a Mockingbird will still be relevant.


Sleeping Beauty grimms v. disney4.  I unabashedly love fairy tales, in all their good and evil glory, and Sleeping Beauty is Disney’s best adaptation of one of the classics.  Here, Disney retained all the original elements of the story, while heightening the drama and romance.  Why have an unknown prince hack through some thorns when you can have true love fighting a dragon/evil witch?  Add a score adapted from Tchaikovsky, and you have fairy tale nirvana.   On second thought, this one should be listed as “movie better than original story.”  It’s a shame it flopped at the box office, putting Disney off fairy tales and subjecting us to animated Robin Hood.

5.  I am torn about including Gone with the Wind.  Gone with the Wind book v. movieGrowing up in the days before video recorders or cable tv, Gone With the Wind was an annual two-night event.  I’d seen it many times before reading the book in my teens.  However, I never liked Scarlett until I read it.  Vivien Leigh, for all her beauty and charm, did not convey a sixteen year old girl with a childhood crush.  She captured the strength and conniving, but I always wondered, “What does she see in Ashley?”  Reading it, I understood the concept of being emotionally stuck, even when you appear to be intelligent, ruthless, and driven to success.  I enjoy the movie more for having read the book.

What book-movie pairs would you add?

Have you seen any of this year’s Oscar nominees?


18 thoughts on “Books v. Movies: 5 Close Calls

  1. I felt the same way about To Kill a Mockingbird and Gone With the Wind. Did you read “Scarlett”? I actually loved it and thought it was a great follow-up. I’ve only seen one of the movies, Silver Linings, but haven’t read the book. (Loved the movie!)

    • I didn’t read Scarlett because I like to believe that she chased after Rhett the next morning, finding him at Belle’s, humbled herself, and he forgave her a few months later, and they had two more children, a boy and girl. Scarlett might ruin that for me.

  2. I loved Life of Pi, both the book and the movie. Loved Les Miz but didn’t read the book. Loved To Kill a Mockingbird..think I liked the book better. Saw Gone with The Wind but it didn’t thrill me. Scarlett annoyed me, maybe it was the acting. Sleeping Beauty is great! I’m brain dead right now and can’t think of any except Lord of the Rings….They didn’t always stay true to the books but they did capture the spirit.

  3. i love your list and agree with it. i don’t usually watch a movie if i’ve read the book and i tend to read more than watch movies. i love Lonesome Dove and the made for tv series was spot on. even a lot of the dialog was verbatim. Sleeping Beauty was my parents first date.

  4. I took my Mom to the Phil Donohue show years ago and Vivien Leigh was the guest, so Mom was thrilled. I remember seeing To Kill A Mocking Bird on TV and reading the book.

  5. I have only seen Lincoln. I watched part of the Oscars last night. I did not even recognize most of the stars or know who they were. In just a few short years I seem to have lot touch with the culture at large.

    Gone With The Wind was such a good book. I have read it more than once. I want to read Life Of Pi.

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