In Leitch’s discussion of what he calls fallacies in cinema adaptation theory, he invokes Hitchcock’s name under fallacy number nine, “Source material is more original then the adaptation.” Leitch centers his argument around the idea of auterism. Directors like Kubrick frequently adapted his films from pre-existing source material, yet is concerned to be a very original director. The early films from the Golden Age of Disney can all be linked together whether they are direct adaptation or original stories. All of William Shakespeare’s plays were essentially adaptations of pre-existing stories. He later points out that any work, adaptation or not draws from existing material, usually without even knowing it.
Leitch uses Hitchcock as an example of a director who manages to be an auteur with only rarely using original screenplays, noting in a footnote that Lifeboat as an unpublished novelette is up for debate as an adaptation. Despite having strayed so far from the source material that was not even published, under Leitch’s guidelines, Lifeboat still can qualify as being an adaptation. He disregards the notion that fidelity to source material (in spirit and specifics) and the idea that film adaptations are a way of connecting with the source material as ways of judging an adaptation.
Many criticize the differences without acknowledging the similarities. There’s value in noting that although the character’s names, motivations, behavior, and actions change, certain things did stay the same. Each character comes from the same background and represents the same aspect of society as in the final story. Hitchcock took away the competence away from many of the main characters, the sailors and the self-made man, whom Steinbeck idealized. Some plot elements were retained, though their context changed. Lifeboat is an interesting study for adaptation theory as it breaks with many of the false truths Leitch criticizes in his paper.