The History of Literature #106 – Literature Goes to the Movies Part Two – Flops, Bombs, and Stinkeroos

LOGO-COVERS

Ah, the sweet smell of success… and the burning stench of failure. Continuing their two part conversation on literary adaptations, Jacke and Mike choose ten of the worst book-to-movie projects of all time. How could so many people, working so hard and with such great source material, go so wrong? And why is Gary Oldman screaming that he is in hell? We’ll find out!

Works discussed include The Dead, Battlefield Earth, Portnoy’s Complaint, the X-Men movies, The Golden Compass, The Human Stain, The Girl on the Train, Zardoz, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Enduring Love, Dune, Gone with the Wind, Beauty and the Beast, The Cat in the Hat, Anna Karenina, Alice in Wonderland, Bonfire of the Vanities, The Scarlet Letter, Watchmen, and Jules and Jim.

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Show Notes:  Continue reading

Female Action Movie Stars… in the 1910s!?!?

Wow. It has been a long time since an article has made me think (and rethink and rethink) as much as this piece in The Atlantic, The Forgotten Female Action Stars of the 1910s. I can’t get over it.

Just take a look at this publicity shot from 1918::

heroine-roland-1918

Here’s the description:

A city editor orders an armed female reporter to chase down a con man and “get the story.” A railroad telegrapher seeks vigilante-style justice against two robbers who attacked her. An adventure-seeking heiress outruns a giant boulder Indiana Jones-style … decades before Harrison Ford was ever born.

What? Did you know that this existed? Me neither!

More please!

In the current movie landscape, female action heroes tend to be so few and far between that their mere existence seems like an accomplishment (think: Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road, Rey in Star Wars, or the four stars of the upcoming Ghostbusters reboot). But more than a century ago, before women had even won the right to vote in many countries, actresses headed up some of the U.S’s most popular and successful action movies—even if they performed stunts in skirts that ended only a few inches above their ankles.

Incredible. So what happened? How did this come about?

And more importantly: why did it end?

The author of the piece, Radha Vatsal, has some ideas.

I invited Radha Vatsal onto the History of Literature podcast to discuss the article. She has her own book coming out, too: a murder mystery with a plucky female journalist at the center. In New York City. In 1915. What a fantastic idea – I can’t wait for my copy of the book to arrive (it’s available now for pre-order at Amazon.com).

Radha and I talk about her research process, the rise of female journalists in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the changes in the film industry, and developing the character of Kitty Weeks. Oh, and she picks four book recommendations. We discuss those too.

I’ll be posting the episode the first week of May. In the meantime, check out the Atlantic article. And imagine a time when Hollywood didn’t quite have such a stranglehold on the industry…and we could see different kinds of movies…maybe in the past…maybe in the future…