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Friday, April 15, 2011

The Friday Five, April 15, 2011

Really! It's Tennessee Williams!

The Play's the Thing?
Theatre and cinema - not always a match made in Heaven
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

This week we're going to have a bit of fun.
We all like theatre. Most of us like film. But do the two work together? How about when it's made for TV?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Sometimes you see a movie—like Boys in The Band, say—and think, "This must have been a play because it pretty much still is." Other times you see movies that have little or nothing to do with their theatrical source material (was Othello more interesting when it became O...or worse?). And then there is the Goldilocks moment: source and medium are juuuuuuuust right.

Here are three (highly personal) lists of five. They go all over the place because, as usual, we want you to discuss.

Five worst adaptations of plays
Equus (Richard Burton is his nasal-voiced dramatic, the film is a mess)
Chorus Line (If you like the show, you will hate the film)
Phantom of the Opera (The show, at least, was theatrical - the movie: ick)
Boom! (High camp with Liz and Dick based on Williams' Milktrain...)
The Wiz (Diana Ross and Michael Jackson easing painfully down the road)

Lemmon, Matthau - magic. My Dad made me nearly as embarrassed, 
at the cinema when we saw this, with his shrieking laughter

Five adaptations better than the plays
Cabaret (The only film on this list where the director - Bob Fosse - elevated the source. The other four here, it's all about the actors)

Doubt (Streep chews scenery)
Wit (Right into Emma Thompson's face, makes the story more intimate)
Odd Couple
(Lemmon and Matthau - brill!)
Sunshine Boys (Matthau and Burns - rise from the wreckage of a play)

Five Adaptions just right
Streetcar Named Desire (Not as dirty as the source, but Brando makes it sexy)
Angels in America (Perfect)
Arsenic and Old Lace (No one does double-takes like Carey Grant)
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (Liz and Dick - sometimes a little too real)
Tea and Sympathy
(Deborah Kerr makes the sissy a man and whispers into your head)


  1. Adding to your "just right" list, I love the film version of "Glengarry Glen Ross" and Lawrence Olivier's "Hamlet."

  2. Oh yes on GGR! I'd have to see Hamlet again. Did not like Branaugh's - pretty and empty.

  3. Driving Miss Daisy was pretty darn good as a film, also

  4. better as a film but pretty stagebound. thank god for Freeman/Tandy.

  5. Your dead on re: Cary Grant double takes. Wonderful mix of zany and debonair!

  6. I'd add "Chicago", "West Side Story", "Fiddler on the Roof" as "acceptable" movie adaptations - and the film adaptations of "Nine" and "Godspell" under the "Burn Every Copy In Existence" list.

    And the film version of "Noises Off" is pretty good too!

  7. Chicago, not so much, but West Side Story opened my eyes to the possibilities of music/dance in film. Noises off, I saw hechtman's production and laughed my head off, the movie not so much.

    SLEUTH! Olivie/Caine...great fun!

  8. Just wanted to add "Rabbit Hole," by David Lindsay-Abaire. It was the recipient of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

    Well worth watching as a film.


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