Literary adaptation is the adapting of a literary source (e.g. a novel, short story, poem) to another genre or medium, such as a film, stage play, or video game.
It can also involve adapting the same literary work in the same genre or medium just for different purposes, e.g. to work with a smaller cast, in a smaller venue (or on the road), or for a different demographic group (such as adapting a story for children). Sometimes the editing of these works without the approval of the author can lead to a court case.
It also appeals because it obviously works as a story; it has interesting characters, who say and do interesting things. This is particularly important when adapting to a dramatic work, e.g. film, stage play, teleplay, as dramatic writing is some of the most difficult. To get an original story to function well on all the necessary dimensions—concept, character, story, dialogue, and action—is an extremely rare event performed by a rare talent.
Perhaps most importantly, especially for producers of the screen and stage, an adapted work is more bankable; it represents considerably less risk to investors, and poses the possibilities of huge financial gains. This is because:
- It has already attracted a following.
- It clearly works as a literary piece in appealing to a broad group of people who care.
- Its title, author, characters, etc. may be a franchise in and of themselves already.
Works of literature have been adapted for film from the dawn of the industry. Some of the earliest examples come from the work of Georges Méliès
, who pioneered many film techniques. In 1899, he released two adaptations—Cinderella
based on the Brothers Grimm
story of the same name and King John
, the first known film to be based on the works of Shakespeare
. The 1900 film Sherlock Holmes Baffled
, directed by Arthur Marvin
featured Arthur Conan Doyle
's detective character Sherlock Holmes
intruding upon a pseudo-supernatural burglary. The film, considered the first detective movie, ran for only 30 seconds and was originally intended to be shown in hand-cranked Mutoscope
The most celebrated of the early adaptations is Erich von Stroheim
, a 1924 adaptation of the 1899 novel McTeague
by naturalist writer Frank Norris
. The director intended to film every aspect of the novel in great detail, resulting in a 9½-hour epic feature. At studio insistence, the film was cut down to two hours and was considered a flop upon its theatrical release. It has since been restored to just over four hours
and is considered one of the greatest films ever made.
One book that has been adapted very frequently (in one form or another) is Charles Dickens
' 1843 Christmas story A Christmas Carol
, which has around 20 film adaptations to date.
Plagiarism occurs in every genre
, and throughout history, but such literary rights violations can be challenged in court. In the case of Hollywood films, judgments for the plaintiff
can run into the millions of dollars, but these have typically been for outright theft of a screenplay idea rather than for fraudulent adaptations (see Buchwald v. Paramount
Because of the importance of telling a story with a limited number of characters
, short stories often make better sources for adaptable material than do novels.
For the stage, in addition, theater audiences tend to accept and prefer works of a more conceptual, thought-based nature,
meaning their preferences need to be considered when selecting a work for adaptation, but also when determining how best to adapt it. The stage imposes physical limits of size and technology. Not every illusion
that can be made to appear real on the movie screen
can be made to appear so on stage.
- ^ Dirks, Tim. "A Trip to The Moon". FilmSite.org. Archived from the original on 17 January 2007. Retrieved 2007-01-08.
- ^ Alice in Wonderland at IMDb
- ^ THOMAS, KEVIN (1999-12-03). "A 'Greed' More as Stroheim Had Intended". Los Angeles Times (in American English). ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2017-07-06.
- ^ "'A Christmas Carol' Adaptations Ranked from "Bah Humbug!" to "God Bless Us Everyone!"". Collider (in American English). 2015-12-25. Retrieved 2017-07-06.
- ^ "5 Reasons Short Stories Are Easier to Adapt Than Novels". ScreenCraft (in American English). 2015-11-13. Retrieved 2017-07-06.
- ^ "What "Fences" Misses About Adapting Plays for the Screen". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2017-07-06.
Last edited on 28 November 2021, at 22:47
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