More on Hollywood remakes (Part 3 of 3)

For example, more than one remake has originated with the original’s director. Whether the producer wanted to see if lightning could strike twice or the director desired to say something he hadn’t in his first effort, several same director remakes exist. Alfred Hitchcock directed The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) and The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), and film critics debate which is better. William Wyler first made These Three (1936) for producer Samuel Goldwyn, but later produced a more faithful version of Lillian Hellman’s play The Children’s Hour (1961) with his older brother Robert; though both include outstanding casts (and Miriam Hopkins plays a different character in each), most agree that the original is better. Frank Capra chose to remake his delightful Damon Runyon based comedy Lady for a Day (1933) as his last production Pocketful of Miracles (1961), and his last directorial effort was not on par with his original. John Farrow produced his own remake of (the original “Survivor” story?) Five Came Back (1939) as Back From Eternity (1956) which adds 25 minutes, and feels even longer. Leo McCarey dusted off his Academy Award nominated original story Love Affair (1939) to pair Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr in An Affair to Remember (1957); both are equally good romance dramas. And Howard Hawks was convinced to work once again with producer Samuel Goldwyn to remake their earlier Thomas Monroe-Billy Wilder written (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs-like) comedy Ball of Fire (1941) as a vehicle for the many talents of Danny Kaye in the comedy-musical A Song is Born (1948), which amuses but falls short of the original.

Sometimes a remake doesn’t even have to be better than its original to be a great film in its own right or to find an appreciative audience, sometimes it’s a matter of accessability! For example, many American studios and directors found success by borrowing from foreign film-makers, whether it be from the British, the French, or even the Japanese:

- MGM remade Gaslight (1944) just four years after the Patrick Hamilton play was produced in England as Gaslight (1940), and both are great movies

- MGM also plucked Colette’s novel about a young French girl come courtesan, which had been released as a comedy nine years earlier in her country, for their musical remake (and Academy Award winning Best Picture) Gigi (1958), which outshines the original

- Literary Nobel Prize winner George Bernard Shaw’s exceptional play was not only made into the terrific British film Pygmalion (1938) with Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller (earning Shaw a unique distinction when he shared the screenplay Oscar) but Warner Bros. also made it into the Academy Award winning Best Picture (and Musical) My Fair Lady (1964) starring Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn

- Producer John Sturges borrowed from fellow director Akira Kurosawa (who was influenced by the legendary John Ford) and his Japanese film The Seven Samurai (1954), to make the essential Western The Magnificent Seven (1960) which (propelled Steve McQueen to stardom and) Elmer Bernstein blessed with his unforgettable Oscar nominated Score.

So it is possible, despite the fervor one hears/reads when it’s announced that yet another classic movie will be remade (or reinterpreted), that it can be done right. It’s just a shame that these are the exceptions to the rule.

14 Responses More on Hollywood remakes (Part 3 of 3)
Posted By Sandy : November 1, 2006 12:21 pm

I do not object to remakes but what I do object to is once they remake a movie then the old versions are not made available in media forms such as DVD's or even VHS's. All versions of a movie should be made available to anyone that wants them. Take for example Wuthering Heights-used to be the best version was with Laurence Oliver, they remade it and now you can't get the 1939 version. Also until just recently you couldn't get the 1960's version of State Fair. All versions should be available since everyone has their own opinion of which version they like.

Posted By Sandy : November 1, 2006 12:21 pm

I do not object to remakes but what I do object to is once they remake a movie then the old versions are not made available in media forms such as DVD's or even VHS's. All versions of a movie should be made available to anyone that wants them. Take for example Wuthering Heights-used to be the best version was with Laurence Oliver, they remade it and now you can't get the 1939 version. Also until just recently you couldn't get the 1960's version of State Fair. All versions should be available since everyone has their own opinion of which version they like.

Posted By Ken Loar : November 1, 2006 5:58 pm

Although the past ten years have seen a great number of remakes that modernize the original (as with "The Haunting", 13 Ghosts" and "The House on Haunted Hill" to name a few) Peter Jackson has honored us with a retelling of "King Kong".  He did not try to bring Kong into our era (as with the 70s remake), he kept him where he belongs.  With his attention to detail, his obvious affection for the source material AND some real kick-butt technological advances, he has given us the greatest homage available.    I just wonder if remakes of this caliber actually, lessen the memory of the original.  I know that as a kid, "The Haunting" was one of the scariest movies that I can remember. I was not very impressed by the remake because of my memories of the original, but a recent viewing left me less impressed.    

Posted By Ken Loar : November 1, 2006 5:58 pm

Although the past ten years have seen a great number of remakes that modernize the original (as with "The Haunting", 13 Ghosts" and "The House on Haunted Hill" to name a few) Peter Jackson has honored us with a retelling of "King Kong".  He did not try to bring Kong into our era (as with the 70s remake), he kept him where he belongs.  With his attention to detail, his obvious affection for the source material AND some real kick-butt technological advances, he has given us the greatest homage available.    I just wonder if remakes of this caliber actually, lessen the memory of the original.  I know that as a kid, "The Haunting" was one of the scariest movies that I can remember. I was not very impressed by the remake because of my memories of the original, but a recent viewing left me less impressed.    

Posted By MDR : November 1, 2006 6:52 pm

I agree Sandy, it's very frustrating that so many classic films aren't yet available on DVD.  Of course, in some cases, it's a source material (e.g. quality, format, or even missing footage) problem.  But in many cases, it's the fact that the studios seem to be spending more money putting newer films (and even TV shows) on DVD instead! Ken, it's funny you should mention it; I had this paragraph in my original three part essay (before I removed it due to space constraints):One of the best recent remakes was Peter Jackson’s homage to Merian C. Cooper    & Ernest B. Schoedsack’s 1933 original, King Kong (2005).  Keeping the story much the same (and in the same era), Jackson used Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) technology to update this classic, even restoring/recreating the long lost spider sequence, which was removed from King Kong (1933) after it had horrified early audiences.  Earlier this year, his team’s efforts were rewarded with three Academy Awards including Sound Editing and Visual Effects, two categories which didn’t even exist when the original was released.

Posted By MDR : November 1, 2006 6:52 pm

I agree Sandy, it's very frustrating that so many classic films aren't yet available on DVD.  Of course, in some cases, it's a source material (e.g. quality, format, or even missing footage) problem.  But in many cases, it's the fact that the studios seem to be spending more money putting newer films (and even TV shows) on DVD instead! Ken, it's funny you should mention it; I had this paragraph in my original three part essay (before I removed it due to space constraints):One of the best recent remakes was Peter Jackson’s homage to Merian C. Cooper    & Ernest B. Schoedsack’s 1933 original, King Kong (2005).  Keeping the story much the same (and in the same era), Jackson used Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) technology to update this classic, even restoring/recreating the long lost spider sequence, which was removed from King Kong (1933) after it had horrified early audiences.  Earlier this year, his team’s efforts were rewarded with three Academy Awards including Sound Editing and Visual Effects, two categories which didn’t even exist when the original was released.

Posted By EM : November 17, 2006 12:52 am

A great movie that could be remade from the 1930s would be 'Merrily We Live.'   Even though this movie was made in 1937, you could see a movie like this being remade today with Jude Law as the main character perhaps.

Posted By EM : November 17, 2006 12:52 am

A great movie that could be remade from the 1930s would be 'Merrily We Live.'   Even though this movie was made in 1937, you could see a movie like this being remade today with Jude Law as the main character perhaps.

Posted By EH : November 20, 2006 4:18 pm

Re remakes.  Why, oh why, Stagecoach and/or High Noon?

Posted By EH : November 20, 2006 4:18 pm

Re remakes.  Why, oh why, Stagecoach and/or High Noon?

Posted By apartments warsaw : December 12, 2006 12:40 am

For example, more than one remake has originated with the original’s director. Whether the producer wanted to see if lightning could strike twice or the director desired to say something he hadn’t in his first effort, several same director remakes exist. Alfred Hitchcock directed The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) and The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), and film critics debate which is better. William Wyler first made These Three (1936) for producer Samuel Goldwyn, but later produced a more faithful version of Lillian Hellman’s play The Children’s Hour (1961) with his older brother Robert; though both include outstanding casts (and Miriam Hopkins plays a different character in each), most agree that the original is better. Frank Capra chose to remake his delightful Damon Runyon based comedy Lady for a Day (1933) as his last production Pocketful of Miracles (1961), and his last directorial effort was not on par with his original. John Farrow produced his own remake of (the original "Survivor" story?) Five Came Back (1939) as Back From Eternity (1956) which adds 25 minutes, and feels even longer. Leo McCarey dusted off his Academy Award nominated original story Love Affair (1939) to pair Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr in An Affair to Remember (1957); both are equally good romance dramas. And Howard Hawks was convinced to work once again with producer Samuel Goldwyn to remake their earlier Thomas Monroe-Billy Wilder written (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs-like) comedy Ball of Fire (1941) as a vehicle for the many talents of Danny Kaye in the comedy-musical A Song is Born (1948), which amuses but falls short of the original. I do not agree. Go to http://www.apartments.waw.pl/

Posted By apartments warsaw : December 12, 2006 12:40 am

For example, more than one remake has originated with the original’s director. Whether the producer wanted to see if lightning could strike twice or the director desired to say something he hadn’t in his first effort, several same director remakes exist. Alfred Hitchcock directed The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) and The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), and film critics debate which is better. William Wyler first made These Three (1936) for producer Samuel Goldwyn, but later produced a more faithful version of Lillian Hellman’s play The Children’s Hour (1961) with his older brother Robert; though both include outstanding casts (and Miriam Hopkins plays a different character in each), most agree that the original is better. Frank Capra chose to remake his delightful Damon Runyon based comedy Lady for a Day (1933) as his last production Pocketful of Miracles (1961), and his last directorial effort was not on par with his original. John Farrow produced his own remake of (the original "Survivor" story?) Five Came Back (1939) as Back From Eternity (1956) which adds 25 minutes, and feels even longer. Leo McCarey dusted off his Academy Award nominated original story Love Affair (1939) to pair Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr in An Affair to Remember (1957); both are equally good romance dramas. And Howard Hawks was convinced to work once again with producer Samuel Goldwyn to remake their earlier Thomas Monroe-Billy Wilder written (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs-like) comedy Ball of Fire (1941) as a vehicle for the many talents of Danny Kaye in the comedy-musical A Song is Born (1948), which amuses but falls short of the original. I do not agree. Go to http://www.apartments.waw.pl/

Posted By Richard : August 30, 2007 4:20 am

I may have missed it but I think everyone overlooked my pet problem with the remake issue.  They (remakers et al) change some key item(s) that make the new version less a remake and more like a thinly veiled plagiarism:  Obviously a copy but not an updated version.  I always wonder: "Have they (writers) run out of new, fresh ideas that can be translated into scripts?”.   With over 3 million books published last year surely something is worthy of the big screen.  King, Clancy, and Grisham get their share of celluloid from paper.  Why not others?American TV has begun to follow suit.  Bad enough they have been stealing from the BBC for years now they dishonor their own history.  “Battlestar Galactica” writers decided to make Starbuck a girl.  This changes all the chemistry between that character and Apollo.  Flash Gordon has a juvenile Zarkoff (hardly the mentor-like character of the original) and Ming is slick and thirty-something instead of the classic bearded antagonist with bad grammar.‘Coming to Dinner' switches black with white and loses the edge of the racial tension that made Tracy and Poitier shine in a situation that was very controversial at the time.  Where's the message in the new version? Where is the acting quality? Aston (unemployed) is certainly no Sidney (a doctor).  Too much poetic license?The "Thing": this is hardly worthy of comment.  The Film that provided the characters that give this blog its name was excellent in its original version, poor in the new one.  HG would not be amused.  Why provide a new version of Herbert's "Dune"?  Like the "Time Machine"…why?I could go on ad nauseum (Manchurian, Bullitt, Fly, Count of Monte Christo, etc., etc.,….) some with the same titles, some renamed to what, fool us?  However, I'd prefer to hear some feedback to my notions.Two issues:  First, should these newer versions be allowed the Poetic License and latitude to change genders, races, and other major items and issues while keeping original titles; Second:  Is there agreement that there is enough new fodder for film that make all the copies a waste of time for movie goers and an insult to real movie lovers?  Turning a 4 star film into a B grade flick should be a “crime”

Posted By Richard : August 30, 2007 4:20 am

I may have missed it but I think everyone overlooked my pet problem with the remake issue.  They (remakers et al) change some key item(s) that make the new version less a remake and more like a thinly veiled plagiarism:  Obviously a copy but not an updated version.  I always wonder: "Have they (writers) run out of new, fresh ideas that can be translated into scripts?”.   With over 3 million books published last year surely something is worthy of the big screen.  King, Clancy, and Grisham get their share of celluloid from paper.  Why not others?American TV has begun to follow suit.  Bad enough they have been stealing from the BBC for years now they dishonor their own history.  “Battlestar Galactica” writers decided to make Starbuck a girl.  This changes all the chemistry between that character and Apollo.  Flash Gordon has a juvenile Zarkoff (hardly the mentor-like character of the original) and Ming is slick and thirty-something instead of the classic bearded antagonist with bad grammar.‘Coming to Dinner' switches black with white and loses the edge of the racial tension that made Tracy and Poitier shine in a situation that was very controversial at the time.  Where's the message in the new version? Where is the acting quality? Aston (unemployed) is certainly no Sidney (a doctor).  Too much poetic license?The "Thing": this is hardly worthy of comment.  The Film that provided the characters that give this blog its name was excellent in its original version, poor in the new one.  HG would not be amused.  Why provide a new version of Herbert's "Dune"?  Like the "Time Machine"…why?I could go on ad nauseum (Manchurian, Bullitt, Fly, Count of Monte Christo, etc., etc.,….) some with the same titles, some renamed to what, fool us?  However, I'd prefer to hear some feedback to my notions.Two issues:  First, should these newer versions be allowed the Poetic License and latitude to change genders, races, and other major items and issues while keeping original titles; Second:  Is there agreement that there is enough new fodder for film that make all the copies a waste of time for movie goers and an insult to real movie lovers?  Turning a 4 star film into a B grade flick should be a “crime”

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