In my latest Wall Street Journal “Sightings” column, I talk about how good plays get turned into bad movies—and who’s to blame. Here’s an excerpt.
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The universal critical acclaim that greeted George C. Wolfe’s superlative Netflix screen version of August Wilson’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” is rare. First-rate plays, after all, almost never get turned into equally good films, and on occasion the result is a duck-and-cover disaster. What’s more, virtually all such disasters are caused by the same fatal error in judgment: Somebody in Hollywood thought he knew better than the playwright, and so decided to rewrite the very play whose excellence is the main reason people thought it should be made into a film.
In such fiascoes, the question, then, is not so much what went wrong as who deserves the blame. Since filmmaking is a collective art, it can be tricky to tag the guilty party, but in most of the truly ignominious cases, you can pin the tail on the donkey with embarrassing ease.
Here are four of the most notorious offenders, categorized by culprit….
* * *Read the whole thing here.
The original theatrical trailer for Arsenic and Old Lace: