Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Tom Clancy, 1947-2013

I was very surprised to turn on the TV news at lunch today and hear about the death of Tom Clancy at the age of 66. Clancy of course is the author of thrillers such as The Hunt for Red October, his very first book, which was turned into the 1990 film of the same title starring Alec Baldwin as Jack Ryan and Sean Connery as a Soviet submarine commander who tries to defect via the submarine he commands.

Ont thing that surprised me in looking up Clancy on IMDb is that only four of his novels have been turned into movies, with the last of those being 11 years ago. There's a new movie, Jack Ryan: Shadow One, scheduled for a Christmas release, but if I understand correctly, it's only the Jack Ryan character (and others) being here that gets Clancy a credit.

Clancy was just the latest in a long line of authors of popular literature who were able to sell the film rights to their works. Nowadays, it's not uncommon for a bok to be successful and almost immediately set off a sale for the movie rights, with the movie coming out only a year or two after the book. That process goes back at least as far as Gone With the Wind, and even further for plays. I was trying to think of the earliest case where a movie was made from a novel because the novel was reasonably fresh and popular, and I'm not certain what it would be. My guess would have been Birth of a Nation based on the novel The Clansman, but I was surprised to see that The Clansman dates to 1905, a good nine years before production on Birth of a Nation would have begun. I notice that there was a 1925 silent version of Stella Dallas, which apparently survives, based on the popular 1923 novel.

Of course, adapting from successful literature goes back almost to the very beginning of movie making. There are two-reel silent versions of The Wizard of Oz and Ben-Hur dating back to the first decade of the 20th century. Those, being in the public domain, have made it to Youtube.

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