Short Stories to Film
So I’ve been working on a short story collection, and it got me thinking about the short story greats. And because I so love film as well as the written word, that got me thinking about short stories that were made into films. Yes, we’ve kinda talked about this before–we all know there’s no shortage of incredible novels made into movies. But being that short stories are so often underrated, I thought it would be interesting to find out what short stories (or novellas) had been recognized by the film industry. That being said, the market was kinda loaded–by Stephen King. And why wouldn’t it be? His work is the stuff of written genius, whether or not you like being terrified to death. So here is a short compilation of amazing short stories successfully converted to award-winning film.
1. Securing Tom Cruise as your leading man seems to be the first ingredient in the recipe for success. In Minority Report, he surfaces as a futuristic, ambitious chief of police of the Precrime Unit, eager to clear his name when the “pre-cogs”– psychic beings who detect premeditated murders–foresee him killing a man he has never met. The film is only loosely adapted from a short story of the same name by Philip K. Dick.
The movie is a home-run of sci-fi excitement, satisfying with both action and drama. The author is also responsible for the movie adaptations of Blade Runner (1982) starring Harrison Ford, based on his short story Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?; and Total Recall (1990), based on another sci-fi short story We Can Remember It for You Wholesale. Philip Dick is known for his engaging futuristic sci-fi premises, and captures audiences with inventive plots and mutant characters living alongside their human counterparts.
2. Washington Irving’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow has been adapted for film so frequently that I think even the industry has lost count. The short story is about Ichabod Crane, a lanky school teacher in the town of Sleepy Hollow who is abducted by the Headless Horseman, a phantom ghost rider whose favorite pastime is swiping heads off innocent townspeople. Each adaptation has different variations due to producer vision, and none ever sticks very closely to the original work. However, my two favorite versions are Sleepy Hollow (1999) starring Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci, and Disney’s The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949), a short film combining Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Grahame) and Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
The Johnny Depp version is so appealing for its dark comedic wit, typical of its director, Tim Burton, with whom Depp has worked frequently in his career (Edward Scissorhands, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Alice in Wonderland to name a few). Being a big kid at heart and a huge fan of animated films, I largely enjoy the Disney adaptation, delightful for its colorful characters, narration and innovative music. The video included is of the signature song in Ichabod, sung by Brom Bones, the town bully, about the Headless Horseman’s yearly visit to the Hollow.
3. Everyone is pretty familiar with Stephen King’s work, but there are many who don’t know that King is responsible for many works which don’t have fear and horror as an undertone. Fall from Innocence: The Body is a novella originally published by King in his compilation work Different Seasons in 1982 and spawned the cult classic Stand by Me (1986), starring Corey Feldman and the infamous River Phoenix. In the story, the narrator reminisces about he and his childhood friends finding the body of a missing boy on the outskirts of town.
There are some who feel the King work is done little justice in the movie, but I beg to differ. Of course, I feel written works allow for more detail and integrity, but that doesn’t imply that done correctly a movie can’t emulate both visual and poetic mastery. Stand by Me certainly holds up to King’s novella and adequately earns its placement in cult history.
4. Stephen King again accomplishes creative genius with Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, also included in the Different Seasons compilation. Many critics find this novella to be King’s greatest work: the story is about Andy Dufresne, a banker wrongly imprisoned for the murder of his wife and her lover. Told through the eyes of Red, a fellow inmate and eventual friend of the banker, Andy’s life, ambition, and influence on the prison and inmates is illuminated. The film, The Shawshank Redemption (1994), starring Tim Robbins (Andy) and Morgan Freeman (Red), is also lauded as one the greatest films in history, earning seven Oscar nominations, including Best Picture.
I am in love with this movie, easily one of my favorites–and mostly my favorites are musicals! This film has so many great moments and the cast blends magically. Tim Robbins really demonstrates his acting chops in this film, and the drama of the character’s struggle is emotionally engaging. While the film deters in many places from the original story, both are classic depictions of the human heart and soul.
There are, of course, a few more short story/film conversions that I’d love to include here, but for now, these are enough. I’m sure you’ve found plenty here to comment about, and I can’t wait to see and hear what you have to say!
What are some of your favorite short stories? Which do you think should be or have been made into film?