Playwriting

Stage to Screen

I came across this CBC article about successful transfers from stage to screen. Read the comments too, they bring up even more possibilities. I totally agree with Virginia Woolf being an equally great movie as it was a play. I wonder about the lack of Neil Simon on the list – I have fond memories of watching Brighton Beach Memoirs. But then perhaps my memory isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I also remember liking the movie version of A Chorus Line. I know. Embarrassing. Mock me, I can take it.

I absolutely adore adaptations. (You may have noticed I have a couple in our catalogue, with another in the hopper) Taking a story from one medium to another fascinates me – both the successes and the failures. What works so completely on stage rarely has the same exact impact in a movie format. I love that tightrope of paying attention to the source, but also addressing the needs of the new genre. Sometimes being too faithful to the source material is what brings about a project’s downfall, and sometimes straying too far is what takes the heart out of the piece.

Sometimes the movie makers get the balance just right: I think the movie version of Glengarry Glen Ross keeps the best intentions of the play and adds one of my favourite moments with the Alec Baldwin monologue. ‘A-Always, B-Be, C-Closing’ is in my repertoire of oft repeated movie lines. To the point where I often say “Always Be Writing” in my playwriting workshops, and then chuckle, to myself, cause no one else has a clue what I’m referencing.

Here’s a successful stage to screen transfer on my list: West Side Story. And some of that success has to do with the re-arranging of a couple of musical numbers. Probably because I was exposed to the movie many, many times before seeing the stage musical, it never made sense that the Jets would sing ‘Officer Krupke’ after Riff’s death, which is where it’s placed in the theatrical version. Along the same lines, check out this review of the changes between stage and movie versions of The Sound of Music.

You can find a more complete list of plays to movies here. Some may surprise you. I didn’t know Casablanca was based on a play….

What do you think? What plays do you feel have successfully made the leap to the silver screen?

About the author

Lindsay Price

1 Comment

  • I am a fan of a few that I do not see on the list. I love Pinter’s adaptation of his play, Betrayal. I enjoyed McPherson’s Marvin’s Room. I like Lucas’ Prelude to a Kiss, but not the film version of Reckless. I also thought Crimes of the Heart worked well.(Finally, I am glad to see someone else share a little love for A Chorus Line.)