Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1997.85 .A32 1999
This chapter deals with the problems facing those who adapt the written word to film. The chief issue facing the adapter is that the two forms of media operate under different constraints and use different languages. Techniques in film and literature, namely the description of parallel action and montage. The author uses a quotation from Tolstoy to address the benefits of cinema in its apparently “enhanced representation of reality.”The author addresses how film and cinema have become largely interdependent despite working in separate languages. The chapter goes on to describe the difference between creation and distribution of the mediums—mainly that the novel is the brainchild of a single person with a single vision that is designed to be consumed individually, where the opposite holds true for all aspects of cinema. However, the author counters the notion that this results in the ‘high’ art of fiction and the ‘low’ art of film. She observes that essential aspects of a work exist which are necessary for a successful adaptation but concedes that deciding which aspects those are can be difficult. She lays out the three types of adaptation and addresses the relative practice of each. She continues to address further issues that make adaption difficult, such as the omniscience of film’s perspective, the lack of tense in film, the tendency to heighten love stories in classic adaptations and the difficulty of translating formal devices, such as metaphor and perspective, to a visual medium.
From many of the criticisms of the film adaptations of The Day of the Locust, it is apparent that many of the difficulties described in this chapter faced Waldo Salt as he attempted to make a faithful adaptation of West’s novel. The philosophical passages containing the narrator’s perspective were largely left out, much to the detriment of the film. The mentioned tendency to heighten love stories in adaptations holds true, as the level of interaction between Tod and Faye in the film was much greater than that of the book. Also, it resulted in a weakened ending as the focus on romantic relationships forced the film to add a scene to the end which stripped the power of the scene which directly preceded it.
Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1995.9.C55 M39 1992
In the chapter of the book entitled “Corrupt and Crumbling Institutions,” McCaffrey alternates between lauding John Schlesinger’s version of The Day of the Locust for the segments in which it is faithful to Nathaniel West’s novel and highlighting the elements of the film that fall short of the novel. Although the film is a moderately faithful adaptation, its greatest shortcoming is that it fails to consistently match West’s tone of “level rage and tilted compassion.” McCaffrey observes the power of West’s work in that he offers philosophical passages that humanize his characters even as he attacks their pitfalls, which facilitates reader identification with the characters. Except for the final scene in the film, McCaffrey praises those that Schlesinger created as they are true to West’s tone.
As West’s novel is considered among the best satires of Hollywood, it is successful largely due to conventions unavailable to the medium of film. To capture passages of philosophy, the oft-criticized use of voiceover narration would be required. Although the film matches the events of the novel, its failure completely match its tone leave it a less successful satire. Many of the pitfalls of the film result out of aspects of the Hollywood system the book attacks. The relevance of this articles lies in that it not only analyzes the adaptability of West’s book to film, but offers insights into issues facing the film adaptor and addresses satire in general context.
Simon, Richard Keller. "Between Capra and Adorno: West's Day of the Locust and movies of the 1930s." Modern Language Quarterly. Vol. 54 Issue 4 (Dec. 1993). EBSCO MegaFILE. 9 Apr. 2008. <http://proxy.library.upenn.edu:2055/ehost/detail?vid=11&hid=117&sid=a84a42de-5c72-4186-8e63-be5141727d64%40sessionmgr102>.
This article traces the method Nathaniel West utilized in the creation of his novel The Day of the Locust. The author identifies West’s employment as a screenwriter as the birthplace of the method he utilized to write The Day of the Locust. In order to produce marketable screenplays, West was forced to “rearrange conventional film material rather than invent anything new.” He later used this method of montage to create his novel, as nearly every element borrows from Hollywood films of the time. The majority of the story he owes to Capra’s Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, his characterization borrows from B movie cliché’s of the time and other characters and themes come from other contemporary movies. However, West’s success came by not merely adding these elements together, but reworking each one as a parody that attacked what West saw as Hollywood fantasy. Further, West took revenge on the limiting Production code of the time by including scenes that could never appear on the screen, namely the cockfight and visits to a whorehouse. While some commentators of the time thought that real life should be more like the movies, West effectively makes the movies more like real life. The latter part of the article examines contemporary philosophical schools of thought that may not have directly influenced West, but observed the same elements of mass culture West satirizes.
This article is fascinating as it provides strong evidence for all of its assertions. It leaves no doubt that the main elements of the story of West’s novel are a subverted version of Capra’s Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, and it shows how West attacked what he saw as not only the artifice of the movies but their power as well. This only further adds to the interesting concept of West using that which he satirizes as direct subject matter as he not only weaves a tale about Hollywood movies but also uses the movies themselves in the creation of story elements. As West collects from contemporary films for the creation of his novel, his novel is likewise harvested for the creation of the film that bears its name.
Cherneff, Jill BR. " Dreams Are Made like This: Hortense Powdermaker and the Hollywood Film Industry." Journal of Anthropological Research. Vol. 47, No. 4 (Winter 1991), pp.429-440. JSTOR. 9 Apr. 2008. <http://www.jstor.org/action/showArticle?doi=10.2307/3630352&Search=yes&term=dreams&term=hollywood&item=5&returnArticleService=showArticle&ttl=3533&searchUri=%2Faction%2FdoBasicSearch%3FQuery%3Dhollywood%2Bdreams;gw%3Djtx;prq%3Djeepers%2Bcreepers;Search%3DSearch;hp%3D25>.
This article largely chronicles and responds to Hortense Powdermaker’s study of Hollywood culture in the late 1940s. In the book, she wrote following her study, Powdermaker highlights the struggle between art and business and Hollywood and suggests the social underpinnings of Hollywood culture determine what types of films are made. Powdermaker’s original contention is that the Hollywood film has had an impact on human behavior as dramatic as that of the wheel’s invention. Powdermaker observed that the power of movies lies in it’s depiction of apparent reality—that what appears on the screen looks real and thus must accompany real values and ideas to be absorbed. The remainder of the article focuses less on Powdermaker’s conclusions and research in order to focus on analyzing the research itself. The author discusses the challenges facing Powdermaker in reporting on a population unlike those most anthropologists focus on. Further, the author notices the absence of women in important roles behind the lens in Powdermaker’s research and contextualizes this historically as well as socially.
On a superficial level, it is interesting how Powdermaker’s journey in conducting her research mirrors that of Tod in the film The Day of the Locust. Both leave a successful endeavor at Yale and go to Hollywood for a sociological investigation of sorts—Powdermaker an unbiased anthropological study and Tod an emotional snapshot of Hollywood’s locusts. Some of Powdermaker’s research sheds light on the images of the industry contained in the film, such as the hierarchy of production and the social constructs behind the films.
Pisk, George M. "The Graveyard of Dreams: A Study of Nathanael West's Last Novel, ‘The Day of the Locust.’" The South Central Bulletin. Vol. 27, No. 4 (Winter 1967), pp 64-72. JSTOR. 9 Apr. 2008 < http://www.jstor.org/stable/3188923>.
This article begins with biographical details of West’s life that focus on him as a struggling writer. However, 20th Century Fox buys the rights to one of his novels and West follows it to Hollywood only to see it corrupted and adulterated. He remained in Hollywood, enjoyed financial security as a screenwriter, and was able to focus on writing novels for three months out of the year. Hollywood not only provided a backdrop for his writings, but also a wealth of subject matter. During his time in Hollywood, West wrote The Day of the Locust. The rest of the article delves into analysis of the characters and other devices used in the book. It discusses how four major characters represent four major categories of the shattered dreams of Hollywood, and how the minor character Claude Estee represents the emptiness inherent even in the realization of dreams. The article discusses the use of music to create a corrupt and sinister atmosphere, and finally delves into the artifice of the novel as represented by Faye and the Hollywood system.
This article provides key insights into how West came to write his novel. As a struggling East Coast writer, he was drawn to Hollywood with promises of financial security and success. It becomes apparent that Tod Hackett is very much a reflection of West in the novel. Both are Ivy-educated artists drawn to Hollywood and seek to capture the truth of the area with their respective art. The discussion of animal imagery is important as it lends important insight into the film adaptation of West’s novel. The scene in the film with Homer Simpson and the lizard make more sense in context of animal imagery from the book. As the article highlights the importance and magnificence of West’s compassion in the novel, it reveals an aspect of the film that is missing as compassion is highly lost for any of the characters save for Homer.
Blyn, Robin. "Imitating the Siren: West’s The Day of the Locust and the Subject of Sound." Literature/Film Quarterly (Salisbury State Univ., Salisbury, MD). Vol. 47, No. 4 (2004), pp.51-59. Literature Online – Criticism and Reference. 9 Apr. 2008. .
This article discusses the ways in which Nathaniel West’s The Day of the Locust is indebted to the history of cinema, and even partially to the Hollywood Cinema that it critiques, for the success of the novel. Blyn continually returns to the theme of the sound of the siren at the end of the film as an allusion to the siren song of mythology. She contextualizes the use of sound in cinema and how in times of technological change, such as following the rise of sync-sound in films, an upheaval occurs in which manifestations of the earlier cinema of attractions arise. She goes on to differentiate between the techniques of cinema of attractions (most notably the “teaser” technique) and how these very techniques are used to disrupt the continuity of reality in the book. The duplicity of the laugh, first exhibited by Harry before his death and most dramatically utilized by Homer after he loses control, as well as disjointed sound serve as methods to disrupt the sense of realism by inhibiting character identification and narrative absorption. As realistic immersion is a staple of Hollywood cinema, it appears that the methods with which West critiques Hollywood are separate from the institution itself.
This article is interesting as it examines the paradox of the novel’s apparent dependence upon that which it critiques. However, following the adaptation of the novel to film, this paradox becomes even more difficult. While the novel may or may not depend on certain narrative techniques and conventions shared with Hollywood, the film most assuredly depends on Hollywood institution as it was produced by a major studio. Whereas the novel remains separate and independently produced, the film assuredly requires involvement in the system and elements of artifice which it critiques. Various Academy awards had already been won by those involved (Conrad Hall, John Schlesinger). Ultimately, the article does not explain the use of a Hollywood film to critique Hollywood culture, but it sheds light on the matter as it confronts the similar paradox of the dependence of a novel to the subject it critiques in terms of technique and convention.
Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1993.5.U65 W29 2001
In the chapter “Mr. Movies—Cecil B. Demille and Filmmaking in Hollywood’s Golden Age,” the author chronicles Cecil B. Demille’s professional and personal life in Hollywood from 1913 until his death in 1959. DeMille came to Hollywood in 1913 when he could no longer make money working for stage productions. Early on, DeMille revealed he was a stickler for detail. This proved successful, as the majority of the films he turned out were popular. As his career progressed, DeMille had a clear progression of styles, from sex comedies in the 1920s to overblown epics with seven figure budgets in the 1940s. Following his financial success (he made more in a week than most people made in a year), DeMille stayed true to stereotype—he bought a fancy car, a fancy house as well as a weekend home with a pool and the iron gates from the set of The King of Kongs.
The immediate connection to the film The Day of the Locust in this chapter is the mention of the film The Buccaneer starring Anthony Quinn. This is the film whose premiere immediately preceded the riot at the end of the film. However, as the chapter goes on to describe the productions and life of Cecil B. DeMille, more similarities to The Day of the Locust appear. The big budget epics that DeMille was known for directly coincide with the production that appears in the film. It seems almost arbitrary when Tod is asked, “What do you know about Waterloo?” and this fascination with epic historical recreations coincides with those that brought DeMille success. Even the autocratic style with which the director in the film shouts at the cast of the film matches the reported personality of DeMille. Further, DeMille’s excesses–a large, elaborate house with a pool as well as fancy cars and dress—directly tie to those of Claude Estee in the film. However, the chapter conveys a depth to DeMille’s life that clearly differentiates him from Estee. While Estee is a caricature designed to illustrate the alleged emptiness that pervades even the lives of the successful in Hollywood, DeMille lived a rich life that included interests and successes distinct from the film world.
Call#: Van Pelt Library TR849.A1 S33 1984
In this interview, cinematographer Conrad Hall states The Day of the Locust was the closest he came to flawlessness in visual style. He discusses how the decision to shoot the film with a smooth rather than abrasive style ultimately benefitted the film. The flawlessness of the photography matches the flawlessness of the characters’ dreams and prevents the audience from seeing them as they really were. Also, to visually match the despair would have made the film to depressing and ultimately less successful at the box office. Hall also goes on to discuss the subject matter of the film and briefly compares the lure of Hollywood to the lure of a flame to the moth. Hall talks about the use of golden tones in the movie to match the Hollywood of the time, as well as soft light to gloss over the abrasiveness of reality.
This interview is interesting because Conrad Hall is removed from the textual adaptation of the film but is essential to its successful visual adaptation. Further, Hall belongs to the system that the film criticizes and is one of the lucky few to have made it in Hollywood. It is interesting to hear his insights into Hollywood culture and how even though he has succeeded, he has sympathy for the 90% that don’t make it. The visual metaphor of the moths to the flame serve as an important translation in the film as it contributes to the decision to shoot the film in predominantly golden tones. The discussion of the Day of the Locust is surrounded by a discussion of Fat City, another film Hall shot. Fat City uses a cinematographic style that matches the despair of the story, whereas Day of the Locust’s visual style clashes with its subject matter. However, the slick visual style of the latter meshes with the dreams of its characters, and contributes a layer of visual irony that makes the film more successful.
Light, James F. "Nathaniel West and the Ravaging Locust." American Quarterly. Vol. 12, No. 1 (Spring 1960), pp.44-54. JSTOR. 9 Apr. 2008. <http://www.jstor.org/action/showArticle?doi=10.2307/2710189&Search=yes&term=faye&term=locust&item=1&returnArticleService=showArticle&ttl=424&searchUri=%2Faction%2FdoBasicSearch%3FQuery%3Dfaye%2Blocust;gw%3Djtx;prq%3Dfayelocust;Search%3DSearch;hp%3D25>.
The main contention of the article is that fear is the strongest element in West’s novel The Day of the Locust. The author contends West conveys a sense of fear through the use of grotesqueness, violence and artificiality. However, the author contends the strongest symbol inciting fear is Tod’s “prophetic painting of the ravaging locust.” The article investigates the genesis of the novel in West’s early life and contends its inspiration came out of a fearful event in West’s life. Also, he speculates fear plays a strong part in West’s life as he grew up Jewish and did not fit entirely with any social group. The author begins to investigate various characters and concludes that their grotesqueness arises out of a need for an emotional life. He observes West does not depict the honest everyman in Hollywood, and concludes that on the fringes of the novel they sit as spectators while the main characters play the roles of performers. Finally, the author determines the everyman, represented by Homer, is torn between a passionless life and the doomed attempt to satisfy emotional need.
This article interestingly contends that the central concept of West’s book is a concept that I find all but completely absent from the film adaptation. Whereas in the book fear appears to play a constant role in the lives of the characters, the film paints them oblivious to the impending destruction around them as well as the sources of that destruction, astutely observed by the author as grotesqueness, artifice and violence. Violence constantly comes up through the film, but the sense of fear that accompanies it in the novel is strangely absent. Save for the riot that erupts just before the end of the film, fear does not play as strong of a role in the film as in West’s novel.
Vernon, Alex. "Staging Violence in West's ‘The Day of the Locust’ and Shepard's ‘True West.’" South Atlantic Review. Vol. 65 No. 1 (Winter 2000). JSTOR. 9 Apr. 2008. .
In this article, the author attempts to explain the portrayal of violence in West’s novel The Day of the Locust and Shepard’s play True West beginning with Rene Girard’s Violence and the Sacred. The author reveal’s Girard’s conception of reciprocal violence, in which every act of violence must be met with equally violent response, and how ritual sacrifice arose as acts of collective violence to ease the otherwise overwhelming tensions of the community. He highlights the importance of distinction, as the victim of sacrifice must resemble the practitioners enough that the needs of the sacrifice are satiated, but must remain distinct from the community so that no urge for reciprocal violence persists. He goes on to describe how in The Day of the Locust, there is a continual and pervasive loss of distinction—between the comic and tragic, in gender identity and with organized religion among many others. The author argues that this loss of distinction in the novel resulted in the act of collective, reciprocal violence in its final act. After drawing the same parallels between Girard’s theory and True West, the author explains the violence of The Day of the Locusts as an external manifestation of internal conflict as major acts of violence occur around revelations of personal failures and are carried out upon external manifestations of internal conflict.
The author’s theories of violence help explain the successes of West’s novel as well as the shortcomings of its film adaptation. Acts of violence in the novel have clear philosophical and sociological underpinnings and these ideas were lost in the translation to film. Although many of the same events took place in similar circumstances, sometimes the reason for the outbreak of violence in the film seemed unclear. The article suggests the riot at the end of the novel was in no way a response to Homer’s murder of Adore, but rather a disappointment in the premiere of the film and the “general frustration over the failed promise of Los Angeles.” This does not appear to be the case in the film, as Homer’s act of violence appears to be the main motivating factor for the outbreak of mob violence.