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.