Classic Movies That Were Adapted from Books

Posted on 16 Sep 00:00


A standout among the plethora of attributes that makes the classic cinematography of the Hollywood golden era, the legendary era that we have come to respect as die-hard movie buffs, is the plot of the classics.

In all probability, the genius plots that are have been so often associated with classic films are the reasons why many serious movie fans still have these classic films in the collection till this very day. You may wonder how do movie producers of that era create movies that still hold meaning and relevance in this our modern-day society?  Well, the credit for most of these out of print DVD’s goes to the genius novelists and writers who have used their brainpower to create impacting and meaningful literature that is now adapted into classic films.

While we appreciate the classic movie directors that have transformed our favorite books into educational masterpieces, we need to appreciate the writers whose words and knowledge inspired the creation of these rare movies. So if you are looking for classic movies that were adapted from the cover pages of a book, here are a few to consider.

  1. To Kill A Mockingbird (1962), Book by Harper Lee, Published in 1960

This book-adapted classic film was produced by  Alan J. Pakula, based on Harper Lee’s book with the same title. The  two major themes in the novel are judgement and justice. The judgement theme is depicted by, a six-year-old youngster, Jean Louise Finch (Mary Badham), nicknamed ‘Scout’ who lived in a small tired old town with her older brother and her father, Atticus Finch, famously portrayed in the movie version by the actor, Gregory Peck in the 1962 film version the book, a small town lawyer. Scout and her friends are her fascinated by her weird neighbor, Boo (Robert Duvall), who turns out to be a writer. Later on, Boo got the kids attention with his kind gestures and later became friends with Scout. The justice theme is depicted in the circumstances that befell Tom Robinson (Brock Peters), a poor African-American field attendant who is accused and put on trial for rape. He is charged with trying to rape a white woman Mayella Ewell (Colin Wilcox Paxton). Atticus, Scout’s father is appointed by Judge Taylor (Paul Fix) as Robinson’s defense against the disapproval of many of the town’s citizens. Despite the apparent evidence that proves Tom’s innocence, the jury convicts him. The racist nature of the white supremacy society places all odds against Tom.

The author Harper Lee was an American novelist is well renowned for her book, To Kill A Mockingbird,and will forever be remembered because of the namesake 1962 movie version developed from her book.  She died on the 19th of February 2016 at age 89.

  1. Little Women (1949), Book by Louisa May Alcott, Published in 1868

Little Women is a movie adapted from Louisa May Alcott's book. The film was produced and directed by renowned classic movie producer Mervyn LeRoy, and it starred June Allyson (Jo), Mary Astor (Marmee), and Peter Lawford (Laurie). This American feature film portrays the lives of three sisters, who live in a small town, called Concord. It was during the Civil war, and the girls together with their Marmee (their mother) had to scale through the hurdles of life with nothing but the love they have for each other.

The writer of the novel, Louisa May Alcott (1832 - 1888)  was an abolitionist and a feminist and remained unmarried throughout her life. She lived her life touching the lives of others with her unique writing style.

  1. The Great Gatsby (1949), Book by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Published in 1925

The story of the Great Gatsby portrays the lifestyle of a young millionaire Jay Gatsby (Alan Ladd) who lived his life throwing expensive parties for the elite citizens of two fictional towns West egg and East. Jay is obsessed with a former debutante, Daisy Buchanan (Betty Field), he does all that he can to ignite passion between them.

Fitzgerald did a remarkable job with this novel: a novel that was inspired by Long Island's events that he attended.  Sadly, Fitzgerald suffered from chronic alcoholism for most of his life which undermined his health.  He died on December 21, 1940, at age 44 of a final heart attack, one of many he'd suffered over the years.

  1. Dracula (1931), Book by Bram Stoker, Published in 1897

Serious movie buffs will know this one, as it is an emblematic vampire horror movie. While it was first adapted as a film by Tod Browning in 1931, Many movie directors have retold the story a number of times and continue to this day and will beyond. Nevertheless, all the book adaptations center around one man - Dracula. This 1931 movie is about Renfield (Dwight Fry), a solicitor traveling to Count Dracula's (Bela Lugosi) castle in Transylvania on a business matter, and his encounter with Count Dracula and the adventures that unfold afterward.

Bram Stoker (1841 - 1912) also served as the personal assistant of the renowned actor Sir Henry Irving

  1. Gone with the Wind (1939), Book by Margaret Mitchell, Published in 1936

This classic adaptation of Margaret Mitchell novel portrays the story of a strong-willed daughter of a Georgia plantation owner (Scarlett O'Hara, portrayed by Vivian Leigh) who falls in love with a man (Ashley Wilkes, portrayed by Leslie Howard) that she could not have during the Civil War.  While Scarlett makes an advances on Ashley, she instead catches the attention of another, Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), a blockade runner.  In spite of their tempestuous relationship, Scarlett and Rhett marry, which leads to  disastrous consequences.

The author, Margaret Mitchell, doubled as a journalist and a novelist. In 1937, she won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her book, 'Gone with the Wind', her only published novel.  Margaret  Mitchell died at age 48 on August 16, 1949, when she was struck down by a speeding car in Atlanta, Georgia, sadly, she did not recover from her injuries.


It is usually both a blessing and a curse to see a great book turned into a movie. Most film adaptations never compare to their book predecessors, yet sometimes they match and sometimes exceed expectations as the aforementioned movies based on great classic novels.  Even today, books remain the most frequently visited well for cinematic inspiration. 

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