20 Vintage Books That Became Contemporary Movies

Photo via pintrest.
Photo via pintrest.

Boring. Irrelevant. Out of touch. Those are three of the most common misconceptions Ms. Jeannie encounters when discussing vintage books. How could something written 50, 100 or even 200 years ago still be compelling in today’s modern world? Thanks to the lovely marriage between film and books Ms. Jeannie is going to show you how with these 20 examples of old books that made fabulous modern films. Movie trailers are linked to each picture, so click on any and all to get a feel for story lines. Chances are if you like the movie (or in this case, the trailer) than you’ll love the book even more!

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was a short story written by James Thurber in 1942 in this collection of his work. The movie starring Ben Stiller was released in 2013.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was a short story written by James Thurber in 1942 and published in a collection of his short works, My World and Welcome To It that same year. The movie, starring Ben Stiller was released in 2013.

 

There Will Be Blood was based on the book, Oil by Upton Sinclair which was published in 1927. The Academy Award-winning movie, starring Daniel Day Lewis was released in 2007.
There Will Be Blood was based on the book, Oil by Upton Sinclair which was published in 1927. The Academy Award-winning movie, starring Daniel Day-Lewis was released in 2007.

 

The Nutcracker ballet was based on a novella written by E.T.A. Hoffmann in 1816. The movie version of the ballet starring Macaulay Culkin was released in 1993.
The Nutcracker ballet was based on a novella written by E.T.A. Hoffmann in 1816. The movie version of the ballet starring Macaulay Culkin was released in 1993.
Miss Julie was a play written by Swedish author August Strindberg in 1888. It was made into a beautifully filmed movie starring Jessica Chastain and Colin Farrell in 2014.
Miss Julie was a play written by Swedish author August Strindberg in 1888. It was made into a beautifully filmed movie starring Jessica Chastain and Colin Farrell in 2014.
The Last of the Mohicans was a book written by James Fenimore Cooper in 1826. Daniel Day Lewis starred in the film version in 1992.
The Last of the Mohicans was a book written by James Fenimore Cooper in 1826. Daniel Day-Lewis starred in the film version in 1992.

 

Jerzy Kosinski published Being There in 1971. Peter Sellers starred in the film adaptation in 1979.
Jerzy Kosinski published Being There in 1971. Peter Sellers starred in the film adaptation in 1979.
In 1782 French author Pierre Choderlos de Laclos wrote Les Liaisons Danger. Just under 200 years later, the movie Dangerous Liasiasons premiered starring Glenn Close
In 1782 French author Pierre Choderlos de Laclos wrote Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Two hundred years later, in 1988, Glenn, John and Michelle starred in the film version.
Truman Capote created flawed heroine Holly Golightly in 1958. Audrey Hepburn made her iconic in the film adaptation in 1961.
Truman Capote created flawed heroine Holly Golightly in 1958. Audrey Hepburn made her famous in the film adaptation in 1961.
In 1899, Joseph Conrad wrote the book Heart of Darkness which became the inspiration for the 1979 Francis Ford Coppola film Apocalypse Now.
Joseph Conrad wrote the book Heart of Darkness which was first serialized in Blackwood’s Magazine in 1899. The story became the inspiration for Francis Ford Coppola’s legendary film Apocalypse Now in 1979.
Karen Blixen published her memoirs of life on an African coffee plantation under the name Isak Dinensen in 1937. Meryl Streep brought her to life on the big screen in 1985.
Karen Blixen published her memoirs, Out of Africa, about life on an African coffee plantation under the name Isak Dinesen in 1937. Meryl Streep brought her to life on the big screen in 1985.
The king of science fiction writing, Philip K. Dick wrote the magically titled novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? in 1968. The story was adapted for film in 1982 titled Blade Runner.
The king of science fiction writing, Philip K. Dick wrote the magically titled novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? in 1968. The story was adapted for film in 1982 and re-titled Blade Runner.
Vanity Fair was written in 1848 by William Makepeace Thackeray. Mira Nair adapted it beautifully to film in 2004 starring Reese Witherspoon.
in the late 1940's Thor Hyerdahl defied logic by following the path of KonTiki across the ocean on a primative sailing vessal. He published his account of the experience in 1953. In 2012 a group of Scandinavian filmmakers brought the nail-biting, edge of your seat experience and infectious spirit of adventure to the big screen.
In the late 1940’s Thor Heyerdahl defied all logic by following the path of KonTiki across the ocean on a primitive sailing vessel. He published his account of the experience in 1953. In 2012 a group of Scandinavian filmmakers brought the nail-biting, edge of your seat adventure to the big screen.
Dashiell Hammett wrote The Maltese Falcon in 1930. It became a popular film-noir in 1941 thanks to Humphrey Bogart.
Dashiell Hammett wrote The Maltese Falcon in 1930. It became a popular film-noir in 1941 thanks to Humphrey Bogart.
Before Gene Wilder (1971) and Johnny Depp (2005) entertained us as Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, author Roald Dahl created a candy-coated world for kids in his 1964 confectionary.
Before Gene Wilder (1971) and Johnny Depp (2005) entertained us as Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, author Roald Dahl created a candy-coated world for kids in his 1964 confectionary.
Evelyn Waugh wowed the world with his literary wonder Brideshead Revisited in 1945. In 2008 Matthew Goode turned out a handsome performance in the beautifully captured film adaptation.
Evelyn Waugh wowed the world with his literary wonder Brideshead Revisited in 1945. In 2008 Matthew Goode turned out a handsome performance in the beautifully captured film adaptation.
Doctor Zhivago swept the histrical romance world thanks to writer Boris Pasternak in 1958. Seven years later it became a Hollywood giant starring Omar Sherif and Julie Christie.
Doctor Zhivago swept the histrical romance world thanks to writer Boris Pasternak in 1958. Seven years later it became a Hollywood giant starring Omar Sherif and Julie Christie.
In 1969, English author John Fowles published The French Lieutenant's Woman. Twelve years later, in 1981 Meryl Streep portrayed her on film.
In 1969, English author John Fowles published The French Lieutenant’s Woman. Twelve years later, in 1981 Meryl Streep portrayed her on film.
Henry Fielding created the adventures of Tom Jones in 1749, two centuries later Albert Finney charmed the world with his charismatic portrayal of the title character when the film premiered in 1963.
Henry Fielding created the adventures of Tom Jones in 1749, two centuries later Albert Finney charmed the world with his charismatic portrayal of the title character when the film premiered in 1963.
Before My Fair Lady was the darling of stag and screen it was a play called Pygmalion written by George Bernard Shaw in 1913.
Before My Fair Lady was the darling of stage and screen it was a play called Pygmalion written by George Bernard Shaw in 1913.

These are of course just a few examples of the themes timeless books lend to our lives. More examples will come in a future blog post, but for now Ms. Jeannie will leave you in the good hands of these good characters. Go right ahead and fall in love with Tom Jones, even though he’s 200 years old.  Feel the confident energy of Thor Heyerdahl even though his adventure occurred six decades ago. Relate to Holly’s vulnerability and Karen’s isolation. Get revved up by Chance’s take-life-as-it-comes attitude and Walter’s grab-life-by-the-horns manifesto. Fun things never age and fun books are no exception!

Need help finding a good book? Ms. Jeannie’s your gal. Post a message in the comments section and she’ll be in touch!

Book List: Ms. Jeannie’s Top 10 Books About African Adventure

Ms. Jeannie is a collector of books on Africa. Mostly she loves those fish out of water stories, either fiction or non-fiction,  about people that discover Africa through their own experience.

Having had the opportunity to visit both the Ivory Coast (west Africa) and Morocco when she was young, Ms. Jeannie can appreciate that Africa means different things to different people. Ms. Jeannie’s experience was full of pink buildings and dusty red roads, sugar sweet pineapple (the best she has ever eaten in her life), black black faces and bright white smiles, medicine men and open air markets,  belly dancers and mosaic tiles.

In Morocco, she woke up every day to the sounds of street sweepers sweeping the streets with palm fronds, a soft scratchy whoohsing sound that was exotic and comforting all in one.  She learned how to play squash and how to belly dance. She saw a snake charmer in the marketplace and watched the vendors sell, nap and chase customers and the children tag along behind hunting chiclets gum.

The following books represent many different viewpoints on Africa spread out over a century. There is politics, family, romance, nature, friendship, death, disease, prejudice… but one universal theme exists between them all… that Africa is wild. It’s what Ms. Jeannie felt the entire time, she was there. No exceptions. No airs. No rationalizations. Just nature in all its grandeur and brutality….

1.  I Married Adventure by Osa Johnson. Originally published in 1940.

I Married Adventure – available from EverUpwardNY

Ms. Jeannie first came upon this book while antique shopping on her honeymoon. Funny, this is how she felt marrying Mr. Jeannie Ology:)  Detailing the lives of adventuring filmmakers, Martin & Osa Johnson, I Married Adventure portrays Africa from two interesting perspectives – newlyweds and artists.

2.Don’t Let’s Go to The Dogs Tonight  – Alexandra Fuller. Originally published in 2001.

A book about growing up in Africa certainly, but most intersting, a book about family. Told from Bobo’s (Alexandra Fuller) fresh perspective as a child of politically charged bohemian parents, Bobo’s childhood was anything but ordianry. She captures the relationship between her and her sister with such relateability that Ms. Jeannie laughed out loud and then called her own sister to recommend it.

3. West With the Night – Beryl Markham. Originally published in 1942.

West With the Night by Beryl Markham

Full of graceful, beautiful writing from a woman who became the first female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic, this book pulls you in from page one.  An excerpt from the opening paragraphs gives you a glimpse into her writing style:   “After all, I am no weaver. Weavers create. This is remembrance – re visitation; and names are keys that open corridors no longer fresh in the mind, but nonetheless familiar in the heart.”

As a sidenote: Ms. Jeannie first discovered this book in her junior year of college. Needing a monologue to recite for speech class her father suggested something from West With The Night. Ms. Jeannie read it cover to cover in two days and recited a four page  passage about the feeling of flying. Her professor said it was too long but her classmates were intrigued:)

4. Woman in the Mists – Farley Mowat. Originally published in 1998.

Woman in the Mists by Farley Mowat

If you’ve seen the movie Gorillas In The Mist, starring Sigourney Weaver then you’ll know the precipice of this biography. Dian Fossey was a woman all her own. Like Jane Goodall, she felt called to become an animal advocate. Shedding her contemporary lifestyle to study animals in their environment, she made it her life-long mission to bring attention to the lives of the mountain gorillas of Africa. It was a brave decision and her lifelong work intensive and noble to say the least, but purposefulness also came with a price and Farley Mowat delicately describes both the strengths and the weaknesses of one women’s attempt at tremendous action.

5. Out of Africa – Isak Dinesen. Originally published in 1937.

Out of Africa – 1952 edition – available from RetroHut

Romantic, nostologic, glamorous, adventurous – this true life story about Baroness Karen von Blixen who moves to Africa to start a coffee plantation, has it all. After you read it, be sure to watch the movie, Out of Africa, starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. Stunning on both accounts.

6. The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver. Originally published in 1998.

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

Like Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, this book is about family as much as it is about Africa. Although it is a novel, it reads like non-fiction, full of relatable characters and circumstances. Each chapter is written from the voice of one of the four Price daughters and their mother (with the the littlest one being Ms. Jeannie’s most favorite!), so you get a really well rounded sense of their lifestyle  in the Belgian Congo as their father attempts to connect with the locals through his missionary work. This is not a book about religion, so don’t let the title dispel you.

7.  The Making of The African Queen by Katharine Hepburn. Originally published in 1987.

The Making of the African Queen by Katharine Hepburn

Who can resist Katharine Hepburn’s viewpoint on anything?! Packed full of her usual charm and wit, The Making of is fun for movie buffs who like to learn about what goes on behind the camera. The movie, The African Queen, came out in 1951 and starred Kate, Humphrey Bogart and Robert Morley. It was directed by John Huston. Humphrey Bogart plays a riverboat captain and Katharine Hepburn, a prime and proper missionary. They are a hilarious pairing:)

8.  Rules of the Wild – Francesca Marciano. Originally published in 1999.

Rules of the Wild by Francesca Marciano

Rules of the Wild centers around a group of fictitious expatriates living in Kenya.  At the heart of the story is Esme, who gives us her perspective on life and love in the wilds of African culture. Like, West With The Night, it is beautifully poetic and Esme provides intimate details about life in Africa that you would have never considered. Here is the opening paragraph…

In a way, everything here is always secondhand. You will inherit a car from someone who has decided to leave the country, which you will then sell to one of your friends. You will move into a new house where you have already been when someone else lived there and had great parties in which you got incredibly drunk, and someone you know will move in when you decide to move out. You will make love to someone who has slept with all your friends. There will never be anything brand new in your life.”

9. The Power of One – Bryce Courtenay. Originally published in 1989.

Ms. Jeannie got caught up in the energy and determination of  the energetic main character Peekay. If you are looking for a book to inspire you or cheer you up – then this is the one! Ms. Jeannie won’t spoil any of the plot, but after you’ve read it be sure not to miss the movie of the same title – beautifully crafted – just like the book.

10. The Flame Trees of Thika – Elspeth Huxley, originally published in 1959

Ms. Jeannie is just at the start of this book – but already she loves it. This a true account of Elspeth’s childhood as she and her parents set up house in Kenya in the early part of the 1900’s.  Ms. Jeannie is reading the illustrated 1987 edition which contains family photographs as well as beautifully rendered illustrations by Kenyan artist, Francesca Pelizzoli.

If you’ve read any of these, please share your thoughts with us! If not, happy reading:)