When opportunity arises, I feature Movie Monday. I recognize few people have the time or desire to read the amount I do, especially when it comes to the 100 Best Novels list. Luckily, Hollywood loves adapting a classic and I love a good story in any form.
In my experience thus far, the movie adaptations of classic novels can be just as hit or miss as the novels themselves. No one wants to debate their intrinsic cultural value...just, perhaps, their entertainment value.
When I read Theodore Dreiser's novel Sister Carrie, this past fall, I was thrilled to discover I liked it! It wasn't one of the ones from the list I had to push through painfully. Instead, I loved the rise and fall of Dreiser's characters, the realness with which they are portrayed. His plot is anything but cliché, although, arguably, what is not cliché on the page is in real life.
As with any book I enjoy, my hopes for the film adaptation were reserved. I have seen plenty of old school adaptation that simply did not live up to their inspirations (I am looking at you Orson Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons). So, I sat down to the 1952 black and white adaptation of Carrie with trepidation and a critical eye.
My verdict? Exactly what I expected - and not in a bad way. The movie captured the characters decently well and, while a lot of detail was left out for the sake of time, they captured the general feel of the story. I took a LOT of notes while watching. In an effort to suss them out for you, making them more readable and concise, here's a list of the Top Ten Things I Thought While Watching Carrie:
- I liked that you saw her say goodbye to her family. Puts her in that "Sister" Carrie position right from the start.
- Drouet really comes alive from his very first scene. He's such a scoundrel and the movie makes it easier to understand how easily Carrie falls into his trap. She's so naive.
- Drouet's sketchiness (yep - it's a word) also makes it easy to see how Hurstwood is such a relief for Carrie. Hurstwood is much more likeable than he is is in the book. I guess that's what happens when you cast Laurence Olivier.
- Carrie's visual transformation throughout the movie was wonderfully intentional. Her appearance directly reflects her financial stability and self-confidence. That hairstyle in the middle part, though...just wretched.
- I really hate that old school, Gone with the Wind style kissing pose where the girl throws her head back. It seems so forced and awful.
- Her rich friend in NYC is totally missing and reposed as Mrs. Oransky. This annoys me.
- They really did skip a lot of the storyline (Carrie job-hunting, performing in the Chicago play, etc.), but how else could they possibly fit it all into one movie?
- This music makes everything SO dramatic.
- They really miss the part of how little decisions keep taking them in each direction. I thought that was one of the best parts of the book.
- The end is so depressing. I think their scene together at the end is changed. I don't remember her being so repentant and giving. He definitely didn't give that whole speech and take only a coin or get the idea for suicide from her dressing room. Also, I'm not surprised they didn't show the suicide. I didn't expect them to do so.