In the column thus far, we’ve explored adaptations that surpass their source material. This month’s screening (October 23rd at the branch) of Rocky got me thinking of movies that came out of nowhere. It has been estimated that between a third and 65% of all films came from a book of some sort. But some of the most important films ever made came from the creator’s heart, soul, and, in the case of Rocky, guts.
An underdog film made with pure heart about that very subject. Sylvester Stallone did not see success quickly. Sly cleaned a lion’s cage, was cast in roles like “subway thug #3,” and even appeared in an adult film to make ends meet. Inspiration struck and he hammered out a screenplay in 3 days after he saw Chuck Wepner knock down the invincible (and 40-1 favored) Muhammed Ali and then go 15 rounds until his triumphant loss. Stallone fought to get the film started and then made, trimming and rewriting scenes to work with the non-existent budget. Hunger makes for inspiration; it also was the only way Stallone could afford extras for the fight scenes–they were there for a chicken dinner. There’s so much more to this linchpin underdog story and we’ll discuss it all on Wednesday at 1:30.
For more evidence to support the “no need for a book” argument (though I wouldn’t be much of a librarian if I didn’t truly love them), I shall list a few more sterling examples, without even mentioning the most important movie ever made:
Charles Chaplin: He directed (and scored, his music is underrated because every other aspect of his films is so brilliant) his original screenplays. They’re all worth seeking out, with special mention to Modern Times & City Lights.
Preston Sturges: The man who birthed the modern romantic comedy with his terrific screwball comedies, where every laugh is intelligent and earned. They’re all brutally funny and clever, but especially Sullivan’s Travels & Palm Beach Story.
Modern Times: The list goes on and on and suggesting no chronological end. And we’re not just talking about Oscar-winning throwback The Artist.