Jun 7, 2023

Movies Are Being Turned Into Plays: Welcome To Backwards World

And yes, it worked for “The Producers.” But name another

By Ed Goldman

A friend of mine since high school, Steve Schweitzer, recently pointed out the biggest trend on Broadway was the morphing of successful movies into plays and musicals.

This bit of reverse engineering—plays and musicals used to be adapted into movies—intrigues me. It also indicates the absolute dearth of imagination on New York City’s self-anointed “Great White Way” (which sounds like the name of an intersection in Shark City).

Edgy Cartoon

Sure to Sleigh the Critics

But it’s a real thing. And with the 96th Academy Awards just 10 breathless months away, this might be a good time to make note of recent movies that have been reconfigured as plays or musicals with varying success: “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “The Graduate” (both of which began life as books), “Legally Blonde,” “The Full Monty,” “Sunset Boulevard,” “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” “Hairspray,” “Billy Elliott,” and “Beetlejuice,” among others.

The reasoning goes like this: If something was a success in one medium, it will bring a lot of initial goodwill (and advance ticket sales) to another, reducing financial risk. This is why a sales pitch to film producers or book publishers should never start with, “Nobody’s ever done this before.” (These people want to be wealthy, not pioneers.)

The most notable failure of this movie-to-theatre thinking was when “Gone With The Wind” (which was a best-selling book, of course) debuted as a musical in Los Angeles in 1973. It featured Pernell Roberts—the smug eldest son on “Bonanza” and later the smug Korean veteran “Trapper John” on the show of the same name—in the Clark Gable role of Rhett Butler. “In addition to being irrefutably handsome, Gable brought a combo of swagger, menace, mischief and humor to the role. By comparison, Roberts brings a toupee lacking only chinstraps, knows all of his lines and doesn’t trip on the furniture, not even once,” one critic wrote at the time. Alas, Dear Reader, I was that critic.

Here are some movies that probably shouldn’t be reinterpreted for the stage:

BREATHLESS. The late Jean-Luc Godard’s experimental, quirky, black-and-white take on American gangster movies and the youth culture of the late 1950s featured rapid cutting, some non-linear story-telling and even rated a 1983 remake starring Richard Gere—whose dimples are reportedly insured by Lloyd’s of London since without them, his acting career would be in serious peril. While turning this into a play would be an arduous task because it constantly shifts locations and points of view, turning it into a musical would be as ill-advised as doing a film called “A Muppets Murder Mystery.” Granted, by simply adding an exclamation mark to the title, “Breathless” would at least look like a musical (think “A Christmas Carol” changed to “Scrooge!” and “Oliver Twist” morphing into “Oliver!”). But let’s just put this idea on hold, shall we?

CITIZEN KANE. Every film lovers’ most-loved film, this panoramic saga of a megalomaniacal media tycoon’s downfall is in reality a magnificently photographed satire about politics and narcissism (but I repeat myself). I imagine “Rosebud!” could be a catchy musical title but if I told you why I’d be sent to Spoiler Hell. What’s worse is I would deserve to be. (Of possible interest to movie buffs is that “Rosebud” is the unlikely name of a 1975 thriller directed by Otto Preminger. He’s the same guy who directed “Anatomy of a Murder,” which I also doubt would be appropriate film-adaptation fodder.)

KISS THE BLOOD OFF MY HANDS. Yes, this is the actual title of a film noir and as a play or musical probably wouldn’t be an ideal destination on a first date. While the 1948 movie stars one of my favorite film actors, Burt Lancaster, I’m not sure anyone would get past that title to concentrate on its storyline. 

I could be wrong, natch. I mean, “Urinetown” was a big hit musical. But it didn’t start out as a movie. I can’t imagine any producers would have greenlit a film with that title—even if it had starred Richard Gere and his dimples.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).

Yes, Virginia

A Weekly Blog by Virginia Varela

President, Golden Pacific Bank, a Division of SoFi Bank, N.A.

photo by Phoebe Verkouw

(Part 3 of a 3-Part Series)

What are the warning signs of financial abuse? The key to spotting it is a change in a person’s established financial patterns. Watch out for these “red flags,” from a to q:

a. Unusual activity in an older person’s bank accounts, including large, frequent or unexplained withdrawals.

b. ATM withdrawals by an older person who has never used a debit or ATM card.

c. Changing from a basic account to one that offers more complicated services the customer does not fully understand or need.

d. Withdrawals from bank accounts or transfers between accounts the customer cannot explain.

e. Seeing new “best friends” accompanying an older person to the bank.

f. Sudden non-sufficient fund activity or unpaid bills.

g. Closing CDs or accounts without regard to penalties.

h. Uncharacteristic attempts to wire large sums of money.

i. Suspicious signatures on checks, or outright forgery.

j. Confusion, fear or lack of awareness on the part of an older customer.

k. Refusal to make eye contact, shame or reluctance to talk about the problem.

l. Checks written as “loans” or “gifts.”

m. Bank statements that no longer go to the customer’s home.

n. New powers of attorney the older person does not understand.

o. A caretaker, relative or friend who suddenly begins conducting financial transactions on behalf of an older person without proper documentation.

p. Altered wills and trusts.

q. Loss of property.

At Golden Pacific Bank, a division of SoFi Bank, NA, we are committed to helping seniors protect their money and assets. Golden Pacific Bank staff have been trained on how to spot, prevent and report financial elder abuse.

I’m proud to report that we offer qualified seniors special GOLDEN REWARDS CHECKING ACCOUNTS. For more information—including customer qualifications, terms and features—contact a branch manager at a Golden Pacific Bank branch most convenient to you: www.goldenpacificbank.com

I close this 3-part series with a Presidential proclamation:

“NOW, THEREFORE, I, JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 15, 2021, as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. I call upon all Americans to work for elder justice by building inclusive communities that welcome people of all ages and abilities; by learning the warning signs of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation; and by challenging age-related biases.”


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