Thursday, January 25, 2018

Thursday Movie Picks #185: Books to TV

This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of "Thursday Movie Picks", the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. This week being the last Thursday of the month, it's time once again for a TV version, this month focusing on books turned into TV series. I was thinking of going with a theme within a theme and picking books that had been turned into movies first, but there were some shows I hadn't seen such as the TV version of Peyton Place (which I suppose also would have been appropriate with the recent death of Dorothy Malone) or the long-running TV western The Virginian. So two of the TV shows had movie versions first but not the third:

Perry Mason (1957-1966). The show that made Raymond Burr a good guy, based upon the books by Erle Stanley Gardner. Burr plays defense attorney Perry Mason, who solves mysteries and getting his defendants off by the use of theatrics in the courtroom. Before Perry Mason, Burr played a whole lot of bad guys in a lot of really good movies I've blogged about before, like Rear Window, Pitfall, or Red Light. The theme is one of the more iconic TV themes, although I was a bit surprised to see it be a bit brief over the opening credits. I always thought it was longer on TV, although that might be the closing credits.

Hotel (1983-1988). Good old Arthur Hailey. The same author who brought us Airport also wrote the book Hotel about the workings of a hotel, which was turned into a movie back in 1967 starring among others Rod Taylor, Melvyn Douglas, Karl Malden, and Catherine Spaak (remember her?). The idea was brought out of mothballs and the hotel moved from New Orleans to San Francisco for the TV show. Two interesting bits of trivia: Bette Davis was originally supposed to play the owner of the hotel, but she suffered one of her strokes and had to back out of the project. She was replaced by... Anne Baxter. Not only shades of All About Eve, but Baxter would die of a cerebral hemorrhage herself during the series' fourth season. Also, the bellhop (Michael Spound) and the desk clerk (Heidi Bohay) fell in love during the series' run, and married not long after production wrapped in 1988. They're still married nearly 30 years on.

The Love Boat (1977-1987). In the mid 1970s, cruise director Jeraldine Saunders (still alive at 94) wrote a book called The Love Boats, going behind the scenes of what really happens on cruise ships. The book was optioned into a TV movie, and that TV movie was so popular that much of the cast was brought back for a weekly TV series, which of course we know as The Love Boat. Telling the story of the Pacific Princess, a working cruise ship (that was eventually scrapped about five years ago), the show brought a bunch of old Hollywood actors as well as people promoting their other TV show on hiatus in an anthology-style series telling usually three stories a week about people finding love on the ship, for the most part. Half the fun is missing the opening credits and trying to identify the guest stars:


joel65913 said...

I think between happening upon them and my Dad watching them faithfully every day in reruns I've seen all the Perry Masons. It might not be the most inventive series around but its beats worked well, the main cast had a good chemistry and there was usually several familiar faces per episode and in some cases future stars like Robert Redford paying their dues.

The film version of Hotel is a bit of a trial but I watched the TV series semi regularly. Again it was pure formula but I loved Anne Baxter, I remember it being shocking when she died so suddenly, and they had some decent guest stars.

I had friends who just LOVED The Love Boat but it irked me more than most others. Though to be honest I would watch if some particular older star was on that I was fond of. I do recall that Cruise Director Julie had a major drug problem that got her fired from the show.

I went with the book to miniseries route with my trio. Love all three of these, both book and show.

East of Eden (1981)-Comprehensive telling of the John Steinbeck masterpiece itself a twist of the Cain and Abel parable is effectively rendered if slightly weakened by a mushy performance by Timothy Bottoms as main protagonist Adam Trask. But it is entirely worth seeking out for Jane Seymour’s virtuoso turn as one of the most venal females in literature. Her work as the soulless Cathy/Kate is a revelation-she is by turns vindictive, coy, feral, enchanting and chilling. It is one of THE best pieces of acting in television history. For her work alone this is a must see but it is a very effectively told tale with many other fine performances especially Lloyd Bridges as a version of the author’s own grandfather Samuel Hamilton.

Tales of the City (1993)-Based on Armistead Maupin’s first book in his Tales series this is a bittersweet look at the denizens of the bohemian apartments of 28 Barbary Lane in swingin’ 70’s San Francisco whose owner Anna Madrigal (Olympia Dukakis) is the freest of spirits. Full of wonderful period detail and fine acting from at the time rising performers such as Laura Linney as na├»ve new girl in town Mary Ann Singleton and Chloe Webb as nonconformist Mona Ramsey as well as Parker Posey, Paul Gross, Thomas Gibson and a wealth of others. Followed by several sequels.

The Stand (1994)-Solid rendering of Stephen King’s chronicle of a nearly annihilating plague followed by a battle of good versus evil features an excellent cast (Gary Sinise, Laura San Giacomo, Ruby Dee etc.) and involving story telling though it does have some ill-conceived special effects even for the time. Outside of that misstep this is about as good a version of the story as can be had.

Wendell Ottley said...

I had no clue The Love Boat was based on a book. Wow. I used to watch that all the time as a kid. I watched a bit of the others as well, but not nearly as much.

Sonia Cerca said...

I didn't know Perry Mason was based on a book. Anyway, I only saw an episode here and there when I was a kid and I don't remember much about it.

Ted S. (Just a Cineast) said...

Jeraldine Saunders' name is in the closing credits. I've never read the book, but I wouldn't be surprised if the TV show were more "suggested by" the book than actually based on real people Saunders worked with.

Closing credits (specifically for The Brady Bunch) was also where I learned about "Music by DeVol". I always thought it sounded pretentious, and then I learned as an adult that Frank DeVol was a serious film composer who was nominated for the Oscar four (I think) times.

I think for the Americans that reruns of Perry Mason are still on MeTV. I know that The Love Boat is on Sunday during the dinner hour. At least for me since I eat an early dinner.

Birgit said...

I love all of these and watched them all. Perry mason was always fun and I liked the re-boots also. Hotel was like the Love boat but in a Hotel and I always thought it was an All About Eve thing but Davis and Baxter were, apparently, friends. It was shocking when Baxter died but i knew someone who dropped dead at the age of 36 from a cerebral hemorrhage. I do remember Catherine Spaak:) I would so watch The Love Boat if it was on today since so many older stars were on it. That ginger Rogers showcase made me wince even when it first aired