With school back in session in many parts of the country, we thought it’d be a good time to take a look at some great works of literature that are often part of a school’s curriculum and that have been translated to the screen and are part of the Warner Bros. Film Library. Got all that?
For those not wishing to actually read the books for your class assignments, take heed as many celluloid adaptations can stray from the original works. In the meantime, here are seven great works of literature that also made for great movies.
We kick things off with that ancient tome, attributed to Homer, The Iliad. This epic poem written during the 8th Century BC relates a portion of the ten-year battle over the city of Troy by the Greeks. In 2004, director Wolfgang Petersen adapted Homer's work and brought this epic battle to the screen in Troy, featuring an all-star cast including Brad Pitt as the warrior Achilles, Eric Bana as Troy’s prince Hector and Orlando Bloom as Hector’s brother Paris.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic 1925 novel about a mysterious millionaire named Jay Gatsby was written during a time when being a “millionaire” was equivalent to today’s “billionaire,” so the guy was rich, kids! This sordid tale of excess, decadence and romance takes place on the East Coast during the Roaring Twenties and has lost none of its appeal. The 2013 film adaptation featuring Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role was the fifth adaptation of the book for the big and small screens, but also the grandest in both sheer size and scope.
John Steinbeck’s epic novel from 1952 detailed the lives of two families—the Trasks and the Hamiltons—and was largely influenced by the biblical story of Cain and Abel. Steinbeck tellingly named the brothers engaged in sibling rivalry Cal and Aron. The 1955 film adaptation, which focused on the second-half of Steinbeck’s book, starred James Dean in his first starring role (and the only one of his three films that he lived to see). He died in an infamous car accident only six months after this film’s release.
Ernest Hemingway’s 1952 Pulitzer Prize winning novel about one fisherman’s epic three-day battle with a giant marlin got the cinematic treatment in 1958 with Spencer Tracy’s Oscar-nominated portrayal of Hemingway’s old man. Hemingway, himself, was very proud of the film adaptation, saying he was “pleased with the transference of his material to the screen.”
Sir Walter Scott single-handedly revived the world’s interest in the Middle Ages with this 1820 novel of romance and chivalry. Taking place in England during the 12th Century, the book spotlighted the class struggle and battles between the Normans and the Saxons. Proving the timelessness of Scott’s work, it would be more than 100 years after the book was first published that the blockbuster 1952 film hit the screen. Hugely popular in both America and England, Ivanhoe featured such top stars as Robert Taylor, Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Fontaine and George Sanders.
Mark Twain’s “Great American Novel” was first published in the 1880s and faced much controversy for what many felt was “course language” (today, we call it “un-PC”). When the 1939 film adaptation, starring Mickey Rooney, was brought to the big screen, the language was toned down and scenes were included that were not part of the original story, Despite that it was still a box-office success that remains a family favorite today.
Speaking of controversial novels, Oscar Wilde's late 19th Century twist on the tale of Faust brought about scorn and ridicule for Wilde upon its release, but time has been kind to Wilde and his sole novel. Nearly 50 years later, in 1945, this tale of hedonism run wild entered movie theaters featuring an impressive cast, including George Sanders, Donna Reed and Angela Lansbury, who won the Golden Globe for her performance as the ill-fated Sibyl Vane.