As early as ten years ago, Film Academy of the Philippines Director-General has stressed that the main reason why he persisted in pursuing his Sine Panitik project was his firm belief that the main source of good films is literature.
Finally, we have in the can the first Sine Panitik trilogy that adapted three Filipino short story masterpieces (in both Tagalog and English) into film. These are Gregorio Brilliantes’ Faith, Love, Time and Dr. Lazaro, Rogelio Sikat’s Tata Selo and Fanny Garcia’s Sandaang Damit.
Equally important, continuous research has confirmed that indeed the greatest films in world cinema history are adaptation from world literature—from novels, to short fiction, to plays and even Broadway musicals.
And the most significant findings we uncovered is that films adapted from literature are literally predominant as best pictures of the most prestigious film awards in the world—the Oscar.
In the 86 years of the Oscar, there are actually 60 instances when the best film turned out to be adapted from literature. In fact, during the decades of the 1940s and the 1960s, nine of the ten years featured best film winners adapted from literature.
And this trend has persisted to the present second decade of the 21st century.
From the year 2000 to 2013 or a span of 14 years, the best film turned out to be literary adaptation nine times. The best picture winners included:
2013—12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup/directed by Steve McQueen;
2012—Argo (The Master of Disguise by Antonio J. Mendez and The Great Escape by Joshua Bearman)/directed by Ben Affleck;
2008—Slumdog Millionaire (Q and A by Cormac McCarthy)/directed by Danny Boyle;
2007—No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy/directed by Joel & Ethan Coen;
2006—The Departed (Internal Affairs by Alan Mak and Felix Chong)/directed by Martin Scorcese;
2004—Million Dollar Baby (Rope Burns by F.X. Toole)/directed by Clint Eastwood;
2003—The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien/directed by Peter Jackson;
2002—Chicago (musical by John Kander and Fred Egg)/directed by Rob Marshall;
2001—A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nesar/directed by Ron Howard.
As mentioned earlier, there were two decades where films based on literature almost achieved a perfect score. These were in the 1940 and the 1960s.
In the 1940, the best films adapted from literature were:
1949—All the King’s Men Novel by Robert Penn Warren/directed by Robert Rossen;
1948—Hamlet (A play by William Shakespeare)/directed by Laurence Olivier;
1947—Gentleman’s Agreement by Laura Z. Hobson/directed by Elia Kazan;
1946—The Best Years of Our Lives (The novella Glory for Me by MacKinlay Kantor/directed by William Wyler;
1945—The Lost Weekend by Charles Jackson/directed by Billy Wilder;
1943—Casablanca (The unproduced stage play Everybody Comes to Rick’s by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison/ directed by Michael Curtiz;
1942—Mrs. Miniver by Jan Struther/directed by William Wyler;
1941—How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn/directed by John Ford; and
1940—Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier/directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
Meanwhile the best films in the 1960s were as follows:
1969—Midnight Cowboy by James Lee Herlihy/directed by John Schlesinger;
1968—Oliver (Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens)/directed by Carol Reed;
1967—In the Heat of the Night by John Bull/directed by Norman Jewison;
1966—A Man for All Seasons (A play by Robert Bolt)/directed by Fred Zinnemann;
1965—The Sound of Music (The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria von Trapp/directed by Robert Wise;
1964—My Fair Lady Stage (The play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw)/directed by George Cukor;
1963—Tom Jones (The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Henry Fielding)/directed by Tony Richardson;
1962–Lawrence of Arabia (Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T.E. Lawrence)/directed by David Lean; and
1961—West Side Story (Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare and a musical play by Jerome Robbins)/directed by Robert Wise.
Even during the first 12 years of the Oscars, film adaptations of novels and other literary forms outnumbered films with original screenplays. There were eight films adapted from literature that won in the initial years o the Oscar awatrds. These were:
1939—Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell/directed by Victor Fleming;
1938—You Can’t Take It With You (A play by George Kaufman and Moss Hart/directed by Frank Capra;
1935—Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff and James Normal Hall/directed by Frank Lloyd;
1934—It Happened One Night (The short story Night Bus by Samuel Hopkins Adams)/directed by Frank Capra;
1933—Cavalcade (A play by Noel Coward)/directed by Frank Lloyd; 1932—Grand Hotel A play by William Drake)/directed by Edmund Goulding;
1931—Cimarron by Edna Ferber/diredted by Wesley Ruggles; and 1930—All Quiet in the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque/directed by Lewis Milestone.
(Next week: The decades of the 1950s, 1970s, 1990s and 1980s)
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