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Thursday Thirteen #4

For this week’s Thursday Thirteen we’re taking a look at children’s books that were turned into¬†academy award winning and/or nominated films. I tried to pick a variety of them, from older films to newer ones, and from live action to animated films. And no, they’re not all Disney films either.

I’ve linked the titles of the films to the record in our catalog (with the exception of the 1938 Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which we don’t own.) There are links to the book records as well.

1. The Yearling 1946

From the book by Marjorie Kinna Rawlings

Won:
Best Art Direction
Best Cinematography

Nominated:
Best Actor, Gregory Peck
Best Actress, Jane Wyman
Best Director
Best Editing
Best Picture

Believe it or not, this novel one the Pulitzer Prize in 1938. Shooting on the film began in 1941 with Spencer Tracy playing Pa Baxter. There were nothing but problems with the production from the start and eventually, the picture was shelved. When the project was picked up again in 1944, Gregory Peck was in the part Tracy had started. Not only that, but the boy who had been cast to play Jody Baxter was by this time too old to play the part (too bad for him) and so they had to find someone else. That someone was Claude Jarman, Jr., who won an honorary Oscar that year for the outstanding child actor of 1946.

2. Little Women 1949

From the book by Louisa May Alcott

Won:
Best Art Direction

Nominated:
Best Cinematography

This is the technicolor version of the story, very bright, very vivid. I think the color really gives this one a dimension and special atmosphere that the black and white version with Katherine Hepburn didn’t have. I must say that I like the movie versions of this much better than the book, which I think is a bit slow moving. This 1949 version has June Allyson as the tomboyish March sister; to me, June is really the qunitessential Jo. They changed Amy and Beth around in this one to suit the actresses they cast in the roles. Beth, played by Margaret O’Brien, is the baby and Amy is played by a young and very beautiful Elizabeth Taylor (as a blond) who sleeps with a clothespin on her nose.

3. Mary Poppins 1964

From the book by P.L. Travers

Won:
Best Actress, Julie Andrews
Best Editing
Best Original Score
Best Song
Best Visual Effects, Peter Ellenshaw
Best Visual Effects, Eustace Lycett

Nominated:
Best Art Direction
Best Cinematography
Best Costume Design
Best Director
Best Picture
Best Sound
Best Writing, Screenplay

Yes, Julie Andrews really did win the Oscar for this one. This movie came out the same year as My Fair Lady, which, of course, had Audrey Hepburn in the title role, the role that Julie Andrews had created on the stage. Now, when they were casting the movie, they felt like they needed some real star power in the lead part, so they passed up Julie Andrews, despite her amazing singing voice, and cast Hepburn because of her box office appeal. Hepburn, of course, didn’t have the greatest singing voice (although in 1957 she had sung in the movie musical Funny Face and of course did a nice job on Moon River in Breakfast at Tiffany’s), and apparently, there were some hard feelings all around about the casting of Hepburn in My Fair Lady; it’s odd anyways that she didn’t even get nominated for her work in the film.

4. Pollyanna 1960

From the book by Eleanor H. Porter

Won:
Honorary Award To Hayley Mills for ‘Pollyanna,’ the most outstanding juvenile performance during 1960

I remember watching this movie over and over again, to my little brother’s extreme annoyance, one summer when I was nine or ten years old, because I had the hugest little girl crush on Richard Egan. Looking back it’s amazing how many classic film stars are in this movie: Jane Wyman, Nancy Olson, Agnes Moorehead, Adolph Menjou, Donald Crisp. I mean, it’s a kids’ film, yes, but with all these really great actors and actresses who really do give marvelous performances.

5. Polar Express 2004

From the book by Chris Van Allsburg

Nominated:
Best Sound Mixing
Best Sound Editing
Best Music (Original Song)

The amazing thing about this book is, of course, the illustrations; I mean, it won the Caldecott Medal for crying out loud. If you want to learn more about Van Allsburg, check out his website. Peruse, peruse; I’m sure you’ll find something neat.

6. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 2005

From the book by Roald Dahl

Nominated:
Best Costume Design

Okay, so this is a classic children’s book, but does anyone else find it a little creepy? I mean all this bizarre stuff happening to these children; it’s almost surreal. I get the same sort of feeling reading Cat in the Hat. The really amazing thing to me about this movie is who was apparently considered for the Grandpa Joe role: Richard Attenborough, Kirk Douglas, Albert Finney, Paul Newman, Anthony Hopkins, Richard Griffiths, Max von Sydow, Armin Muella-Stahl, and David Warner. That’s some group of rejected thespians.

7. The Wizard of Oz 1939

From the book by Frank L. Baum

Won:
Best Score
Best Song

Nominated:
Best Art Direction
Best Cinematography (1940)
Best Picture
Best Special Effects (1940)

In 1977 the American Film Institute placed¬†this movie tenth on the list of the Greatest American Films of All Time. Not bad for a movie that started out with all the problems this one did. Apparently, the film went through three directors and had a grand total of sixteen people contribute to the script, thirteen of whom went uncredited. Then there were all those troubles with the “munchkins” and what about Margaret Hamilton (a.k.a the Wicked Witch of the West) almost being burned up for real in her fiery exit from Munchkin Land. Still, this is one of those movies that hooks me every time it’s on; no matter how much I swear I don’t want to watch it again, I always do-

8. The Jungle Book 1967

From the book by Rudyard Kipling

Nominated:
Best Song

Although Kipling is probably best remembered now for the stories about Mowgli, he was really a prolific writer of short stories, poems and other novels, winning the Nobel Prize for literature in 1907 (he was the first English0language recipient to win since the prize had been established in 1901). His poem If- probably contains some of his most well-known verses. You’ve doubtless heard it before: “If you can keep your head when all about you/Are losing their’s and blaming it on you…” Click here if you’d like to read the whole thing.

9. James and the Giant Peach 1996

From the book by Roald Dahl

Nominated:
Best Music (Original Musical or Comedy Score)

This is one of those books that I read as a child, but don’t remember liking all too well. Something a little creepy about all those giant bugs in that peach maybe. I guess I’m a bit squeamish about creepy crawlies. In Charlotte’s Web, I was kind of able to get past the whole spider thing and really love the book, but it just didn’t work with James.

10. Howl’s Moving Castle 2005

From the book by Diana Wynne Jones

Nominated:
Best Animated Feature Film

Jean Simmons is the voice of Grandma Sophie in the English version of this film, and by the way, today, January 31, is also her birthday. She is an absolutely wonderful actress, and very versatile. I love her in Guys and Dolls and The Big Country. She also has a small part, terribly miscast it seems to me, as a native girl in a somewhat neurotic and yet breathtaking Michael Powell film called Black Narcissus.

11. Doctor Dolittle 1967

From the book by Hugh Lofting

Won:
Best Song
Best Visual Effects

Nominated:
Best Art Direction
Best Cinematography
Best Editing
Best Music, Original Dramatic Score (1968)
Best Picture
Best Score
Best Sound

Interestingly, this film almost had Christopher Plummer in it. Rex Harrison had backed out of playing the title role, and the studio had hired Plummer as a replacement. They still paid him though, when Harrison changed his mind and agreed to play Dolittle. Probably not the wisest choice he’d ever made. Apparently the filming of this movie was fraught with all kinds of problems, mostly of the animal variety. After all, the majority of the cast were animals, and it’s pretty hard to direct a bunch of squirrels and goats and sheep and pigs and ducks and on and on and on…you get the idea.

12. Adventures of Tom Sawyer 1938

From the book by Mark Twain

Nominated:
Best Art Direction

One of my absolutely favorite books from growing up; I read this book every summer for years. I didn’t mind that I remembered what happened; it was the mood it put me in and how it made me feel like I was coming back to some old friends. Max Steiner, one of my favorite film composers, did the score for this film, and none other than James Wong Howe did the cinematography. Howe was just amazing; he worked on so many films (black and white, color, and technicolor) and had ten Oscar nominations, of which he won two, for The Rose Tattoo (1955) and Hud (1963).

13. National Velvet 1944

From the book by Enid Bagnold

Won:
Best Editing
Best Supporting Actress, Anne Revere

Nominated:
Best Art Direction
Best Cinematography
Best Director

I remember really liking this movie when I was a child. Elizabeth Taylor was so beautiful, even at such a young age, and there is something just sort of timeless in the plot and the way things do and don’t work out for everyone. Favorite quote: Mrs. Brown says,”That’ll be a dispute till the end of time, Mr. Brown: whether it’s better to do the right thing for the wrong reason or the wrong thing for the right reason.” Apparently, Elizabeth Taylor was in the running for a special Oscar for 1944 for best juvenile performance, but ultimately lost out to Peggy Ann Garner who won for A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

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