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.