Stage-to-film adaptation

Stage-to-film adaptation

Stage-to-film is a term used when describing a motion picture that has been adapted from a stage play. There have been stage-to-film adaptations since the beginning of motion pictures. Many of them have been nominated for, or have won, awards.

List of stage-to-film adaptations that won the Best Picture award

The following stage-to-film adaptations have won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

*"Grand Hotel" (1932)
*"Cavalcade" (1933)
*"You Can't Take It With You" (1938)
*"Hamlet" (1948)
*"Gigi" (1958, originally a novel, then a stage play)
*"West Side Story" (1961)
*"My Fair Lady" (1964)
*"The Sound of Music" (1965)
*"A Man for All Seasons" (1966)
*"Oliver!" (1968)
*"Amadeus" (1984)
*"Driving Miss Daisy" (1989)
*"Chicago" (2002)

Oscar-winning stage performances onscreen

Actors and actresses who won Oscars for re-creating their stage roles on film include:
*George Arliss (the title role in "Disraeli (movie)")
*Laurence Olivier (the title role in "Hamlet (1948 film)")
*José Ferrer (the title role in "Cyrano de Bergerac (1950 film)")
*Judy Holliday (Billie Dawn in the original "Born Yesterday (1950 film)")
*Yul Brynner (the King of Siam in "The King and I (1956 film)")
*Rex Harrison (Professor Higgins in "My Fair Lady (film)")
*Paul Scofield (Thomas More in "A Man for All Seasons (film)")

Problems with stage-to-film adaptations

Most stage-to-film adaptations must confront the charge of being "stagy". Many successful attempts have been made to "open up" stage plays to show things that could not possibly be done on stage (notably in "The Sound of Music", in which the Alps and the city of Salzburg were displayed spectacularly, and in Franco Zeffirelli's and Kenneth Branagh's respective films of Shakespeare plays - all of which make it seem as if the plays had been specifically written for film). Many critics claim to notice the so-called staginess of the original plays that stage-to-film adaptations are based on when the characters begin to speak, if the adaptation is faithful to the play. A play depends mostly on dialogue, so there is supposedly almost always more of it in a play than in a film, and more of a tendency for the characters to make long speeches and/or have soliloquies. Writers, directors and critics all claim that film makes more use of short, abrupt sentences, realistic ways of speaking, and physical action than the stage does. Another supposedly "dead giveaway" that a film is based on a play is confining great chunks of the action to one room, as in the very faithful 1962 film version of Eugene O'Neill's "Long Day's Journey into Night".

On some occasions, playwrights actually re-write their stage dramas for the screen, as Peter Shaffer did when "Amadeus" was filmed. Shaffer's screen play made much use of camera movements and spectacular scenery which could only be suggested onstage. Shaffer even added additional scenes and heavily revised some others for the film to take advantage of the medium. The scene in which the ill Mozart dictates his "Requiem Mass" to Salieri, while we hear the music that he is imagining on the soundtrack, could only have been done on film.

In other cases, such as "Cabaret (film)", "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (film)" (1975) and "The Elephant Man (movie)" (1980), the original stage dialogue is completely discarded and an entirely new script is written for the film version. This has also happened with musical films such as the 1936 and 1954 film versions of "Rose Marie", the 1943 and 1953 versions of "The Desert Song", and the 1954 version of "The Student Prince". In the case of stage musicals, it happened most often with musical films produced before 1955, the year that the very faithful film version of "Oklahoma!" was released. The quick succession of other Rodgers and Hammerstein films, all faithful adaptations of their stage originals, caused other studios to continue to adapt Broadway musicals to the screen with fewer changes than had been customary in the past.


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