The Fountainhead (1949), dir. King Vidor, based on the 1943 novel of the same name by Ayn Rand (who also adapted the story for the screen)
Synopsis: Howard Roark is an individualistic and stubborn young architect. Though warned that his reluctance to conform will do nothing but stop him from finding success, Roark chooses to stick to his values and maintain his artistic vision. Throughout the book and film, Roark struggles to make his style of architecture more well-known and accepted in a field that’s set in tradition.
Best casting decision: Gary Cooper. He’s stern, steadfast, and not too over-the-top, which can’t exactly be said for costar Patricia Neal (though her performance is still quite good).
Which is better – book or film?: The film, thanks to Gary Cooper.
Gone With the Wind(1939), dir. Victor Fleming, based on the 1936 novel by Margaret Mitchell
Synopsis: This Pulitzer Prize winning novel is set in the South during the Civil War. Scarlett O’Hara, the central character of both the novel and film, is a spoiled Southern belle from a well-off family that owns a plantation. But as the war progresses, Scarlett finds herself falling into poverty and must do everything she can possibly fathom in order to bring herself back to financial security. The story is told chronologically and covers over ten years of Scarlett’s life.
Best casting decision: Vivien Leigh. I can’t picture anyone else as Scarlett. She was absolutely perfect for this role.
Which is better – book or film?: I have to side with the film on this one. I do enjoy the book. I first read it in middle school, when my Rhett/Scarlett obsession was just beginning and I was in a “let’s tackle the biggest books we can find” phase – the bigger the book, the more I was determined to read it. But the film is so beautifully done, and the roles so perfectly cast that I always prefer to see this story play out on screen.
Love Story (1970), dir. Arthur Hiller, also published as a novel of the same name by Erich Segal (who scripted the film before being asked by Paramount to publish it in book form prior to the film’s release)
Spoilery Synopsis: Oliver Barrett IV is your typical ivy league jock. He comes from a rich family and is expected to follow in his father’s footsteps in terms of career choice. While in college, Oliver meets Jenny, a music major studying at nearby Radcliffe College. Unlike Ollie, Jenny comes from a humble family and is the daughter of a Rhode Island baker. The two fall in love and decide to marry after graduation, much to the chagrin of Oliver’s father, who becomes estranged from his son as a result. After a number of struggles, the two finally end up in New York, where Oliver takes a job with a successful law firm. But things take a turn for the heartbreaking when they discover that Jenny is ill and will soon die.
Best casting decision: Ryan O’Neal as Oliver Barrett IV. He was pretty successful at capturing what I saw in Segal’s character.
Which is better – book or film?: The book! I do love the film, but I feel like it kind of took the beauty of what the story was on paper and cheesed it up just a little a bit.