The troubled route from page to screen

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The Independent Culture

*Gone With the Wind

In the novel, published in 1936, Rhett Butler plainly said to Scarlett O'Hara "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn", with all the emphasis on "damn". But that was a bit strong for film audiences, so in the 1939 film, Rhett Butler said "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" – as if he might be minded to lend one.


Made in 2002 by Charlie Kaufman, it is probably the most memorable failed attempt to turn a book into a film. Kaufman wanted to adapt Susan Orlean's novel The Orchid Thief. The trouble was that nothing much happened in the book, and Kaufman was afraid of offending Orlean with an inferior adaptation. So he made a film about himself trying to make a film about her book. Nothing much happened in the film either.

*The Color Purple

The 1982 novel by Alice Walker was filmed by Steven Spielberg, who simplified the storyline, conflated characters, and gave the whole narrative a chronology that was easy to follow. Walker's first reaction was that the film was "terrible... it looks slick, sanitised, and apolitical ... like a cartoon". Later, she mellowed and confessed there was much to like in it.

*Notes on a Scandal

Richard Eyre's 2006 adaptation of Zoe Heller's novel got rave reviews, not least because of Judi Dench's performance as Barbara, the manipulative teacher. But Patrick Marber, who wrote the screenplay, was accused of softening the ending. The novel concluded with the main character, Sheba, trapped in Barbara's home, her future uncertain. The film ended with Sheba escaping.