Official Nominations: Midnight Cowboy. Anne Of The Thousand Days. Goodbye Columbus. They Shoot Horses Don’t They. Z.
As the turbulent 1960s drew to a close, filmmakers were continuing to trawl through recent and distant history’s literary works for something they could transform into a cinematic experience which modern audiences would want to see. Waldo Salt’s adaptation of Midnight Cowboy stays roughly in touch with the source material by James Leo Herlihy – keeping the tone of outsiders finding companionship where they could – it proved to be a hit with critics and movie-goers, picking up the official win. They Shoot Horses, Don’t They is a more absurd and existential take on American culture, with James Poe and Robert Thompson’s script taking the key ideas and themes of McCoy’s original but allowing room for the actors to transform the characters and for Pollack to accentuate the mania. Based on the novel by Vassilis Vassilikos, Costa Gavras and Jorge Semprun’s adaptation is just as unflinching in its rage and realism, merging dark humour with prescient political debate. Philip Roth isn’t the first name you think of when it comes to romantic comedies, but his novella Goodbye, Columbus is naturally more of a satire on the wealthy – with Arnold Schulman loosely adapting one particular facet of that collection for the screen. Finally, Anne Of The Thousand Days is adapted from Maxwell Anderson’s earlier play into an overlong and not interesting enough film by Bridget Boland, John Hale, and Richard Sokolove.
My Winner: Z
My Nominations: Midnight Cowboy. They Shoot Horses Don’t They. Z. The Assassination Bureau. Army Of Shadows. Castle Keep.
Michael Relph and Wolf Mankowitz adapt Jack London’s (and Robert Fish’s) unfinished novel The Assassination Bureau, Ltd for the screen, moving the action to Europe and giving it a slightly more humourous tone. Joseph Kessel’s semi-fictional Army Of Shadows is an uncompromising and unsentimental view of the French Resistance, with Melville’s movie presenting events in a matter of fact way. My final personal nomination is for Castle Keep – another Sydney Pollack movie with a screenplay by Daniel Taradash and David Rayfiel. Based off William Eastlake’s novel, the film is an entertaining, thought-provoking, and ultimately surreal siege movie featuring a ragtag group of soldiers defending a castle filled with priceless art in WWII.
My Winner: Z
Let us know in the comments what your pick is for the Best Adapted Screenplay of 1969!
Official Nominations: The Lion In Winter. Oliver! Rosemary’s Baby. The Odd Couple. Rachel Rachel.
A strong group this year with a varied array of genres – costume drama, musical, horror, comedy. The most notable aspect this year is how rigidly each movie sticks to its subject material. Rachel Rachel, the adaptation of Margaret Lawrence’s novel, is the obvious weak link here – a poignant drama with some good dialogue but it can’t stand up against the other nominees. The Lion In Winter was the official winner, though I can’t honestly select here given that it is essentially the same as the stage play from which it was adapted, and one which doesn’t particularly grab me. Oliver! is a much more impressive choice even though it basically follows suit from the stage play. The Odd Couple is another stage adaptation, once again following the script from the play, but is the most entertaining of the nominations. My winner though has to be Rosemary’s Baby – with Polanski adapting Ira Levin’s terrifying novel. In all honesty, we have five strong films here with strong screenplays, although much credit should go to the original writers given that the adaptations rarely vary.
My Winner: Rosemary’s Baby
My Nominations: Oliver! Rosemary’s Baby. The Odd Couple. Rachel Rachel. Bullitt. The Planet Of The Apes. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
Almost all the official nominations make it over to my list, joining Planet Of The Apes, Bullitt, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Each of those movies features some quotable dialogue and smart writing, but my winner remains the same.
My Winner: Rosemary’s Baby
Which film of 1968 do you think deserves the Best Adapted Screenplay award? Let us know in the comments!
Official Nominations: In The Heat Of The Night. Cool Hand Luke. The Graduate. In Cold Blood. Ulysses.
Stirling Silliphant picked up the win this year for his adaptation of John Ball’s novel, including a number of lines and scenes which would be seen as important for the Civil Right’s Movement in the 60s. Featuring its own famous one-liner’s is Donn Pierce and Frank R Pierson’s adaptation of Pierce’s own novel Cool Hand Luke. Throw in the obvious Christian imagery with Luke being beaten down and sacrificing himself, as well as a surprising amount of realistic violence and anti-authoritarian statements and we have another strong entry. Keeping close to the source material is Calder Willingham and Buck Henry’s take on The Graduate, by Charles Webb, and although there are plenty of humorous lines and moments the power of the film is in its performances. It takes a brave person to tackle Joyce’s Ulysses, but Joseph Strick and Fred Haines give it their best shot using predominant dialogue from the novel, but the film isn’t particularly memorable. Capote’s tale of theft and murder In Cold Blood is brought to the big screen by Richard Brooks who, unlike the other nominees this year, makes several important changes from the source which pay off successfully.
My Winner: Cool Hand Luke
My Nominations: Cool Hand Luke. In Cold Blood. In The Heat Of The Night. The Jungle Book. The Dirty Dozen. You Only Live Twice.
I add three movies to my list – Nunnally Johnson and Lukas Heller adapted E M Nathanson’s successful novel, making several key changes and splitting the movie into more clearly defined acts, while Roald Dahl essentially abandoned most of Flemming’s original novel and crafted a unique Bond tale in You Only Live Twice. Finally, a host of writers came together to cut down Kipling’s set of stories into a simple story of man and animal, though keeping plenty of the darker tone in place.
My Winner: Cool Hand Luke.
Let us know in the comments which movie you think has the best Adapted Screenplay of 1967!
Official Nominations: A Man For All Seasons. Alfie. The Professionals. The Russians Are Coming. Who’s Afraid Of Virgina Woolf?
The usual assortment of stage adaptations take the lead this year, with Who’s Afraid Of Virgina Woolf? deservedly picking up the win. The ridiculously popular A Man For All Seasons is a fairly straight adaptation, as is Bill Naughton’s own Alfie. The Professionals is a more loose retelling of Frank O’Rourke’s novel, as is The Russians Are Coming.
My Winner: Who’s Afraid Of Virgina Woolf?
My Nominations: Who’s Afraid Of Virgina Woolf? Born Free. The Sword Of Doom. Hunger. Farenheit 451.
Only two of the official nominations make it over to my choices, and I add a trio of foreign hits to the list. Henning Carlsen and Peter Seeberg adapt Kunt Hamsun’s Hunger in an equally stark and unflinhing depiction of the desperation we suffer when fighting through poverty and hunger. Truffault’s take on Bradbury’s dystopian future may not be as powerful and imaginative as the novel and makes several noteworthy changes, but it admirably translates much of the paranoia and tyranny from the pages to the screen. Originally planned as a trilogy (leading to much confusion at the film’s end) Shinobu Hashimoto’s adaption of ‘the longest novel ever’ is a triumph due to condensing so much into a single work. Obviously there was more to be said, but the planned future films never happened. The script twists much of what audiences usually encountered in Jideigeki films by making the protagonist an antagonist, and watching his descent into insanity.
My Winner: Who’s Afraid Of Virgina Woolf?
What is your pick for the Best Adapted Screenplay of 1966? Let us know in the comments!
Official Nominations: Dr. Zhivago. Ship Of Fools. A Thousand Fools. Cat Ballou. The Collector.
This year’s nominees roughly echo the nominees for Best Picture, with Zhivago, Ship Of Fools, and A Thousand Clowns getting double pokes. Robert Bolt’s Zhivago picked up the official win and it is difficult to argue against this considering the scope of Pasternak’s novel and the monumental success of the film. Herb Gardener successfully adapted his own play (A Thousand Clowns) and retains the charm, humour, and tragedy for the big screen. Walter Newman and Frank Pierson bring an interesting, deranged twist on Roy Chanslor’s serious The Ballad Of Cat Ballou, largely turning the film into a completely standalone piece. Mann and Kohn’s adaptation of the dark John Fowles novel, The Collector, almost suffered from a changed ending until Wyler stepped in and insisted on keeper the more authentic, original conclusion, although unfortunately other scenes were cut. Abby Mann’s adaptation of the Porter novel downsizes the scope and loses much of the obvious Nazi themes among others topics, but is a largely faithful retelling of a story of uncertainty, searching, and disappointment.
My Winner: The Collector.
My Nominations: The Collector. Cat Ballou. The Ipcress File. Thunderball.
I’m adding The Ipcress File and Thunderball to my list. Thunderball may not be a highlight in the Bond series, but have a look at the mess that is Never Say Never Again, and be thankful that McClory, Whittingham, and Fleming wrote a decent screenplay. The Ipcress File is a mostly faithful adaptation of the Deighton novel, though there is more humour on screen than on the page.
My Winner: The Collector
What is your pick as the best Adapted Screenplay of 1965? Let us know in the comments!
Actual Nominations: Becket. Zorba The Greek. Dr. Strangelove. Mary Poppins. My Fair Lady.
This year saw the usual mix of adapted plays and musicals, with Becket picking up the official win. My choice goes to Kubrick, George, and Southern’s loose adaptation of Peter George’s own Red Alert. Kubrick deftly turns the story into a black comedy and adds in a heavier satirical element, as well as completely re-writing the ending.
My Winner: Dr. Strangelove.
My Nominations: Dr. Strangelove. Goldfinger. The Killers. Zulu. The Outrage.
Only Kubrick’s satire makes it over to my personal list this year, joining an unexpected foursome. Richard Maibum returned yet again to adapt another Ian Fleming novel, this time crafting the script which many others would use as a template over the following decades. With rewrites and additions by Oscar winner Paul Dehn, the script is peppered with iconic one liners and scenes. Based on Kurosawa’s classic Rashomon, which was in turn based on earlier Japanese short stories, Michael Kanin gives a grandiose, yet filthy air to Ritt’s The Outrage, while Gene L Coon’s take on Hemmingway’s short story was so violent for a Teleplay that it was released to great success on the big screen instead. My final nomination is for Cy Enfield and John Prebble, for their rip-roaring script Zulu, based on a previous media article Prebble had written. With plenty of innocent inaccuracies, and some completely fabricated stuff to present both a tale of high adventure for Britannia, and a basis for heavy historical criticism, Zulu is a story which always provokes debate.
My Winner: Dr. Strangelove.
Which film from 1964 do you think has the best adapted screenplay? Let us know in the comments.
Official Nominations: Tom Jones. Lillies Of The Field. Captain Newman MD. Hud. Sundays And Cybele (magically appearing two years in a row).
My Winner: Hud.
My Nominations: The Birds. From Russia With Love. The Haunting. Jason And The Argonauts. The Sword In The Stone. The Great Escape.
Lots of great films missed out on nominations this year, most notably The Birds and The Haunting which took strong original material and added many dimensions for the big screen adaptations. The Great Escape pumped a lot of fun into what was obviously in reality a desperate situation, whilst Jason And The Argonauts remains 50 years later the definitive screen version of the story. My winner though, thanks to Hitchcock and Hunter’s deft touches and psychological handling of the source is The Birds, another winning combination between Hitchcock and Du Maurier.
My Winner: The Birds.
Let us know what your picks for the Best Writing (Adapted) award are in the comments below!