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Summer Reading: Films Into Movies

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This book was recommended as good beach reading in Sunday's "Book World" in the Washington Post. Has anyone read this book, or anything else by the same author?


Robin H.. Smiley's Books into Film: The Stuff That Dreams are Made Of (Capra, $29.95) gathers up the author's columns -- from Firsts: The Book Collector's Magazine -- about movies and the novels that inspired them. The essays generally open with Smiley commenting on a particular book's artfulness or on its publication history, then launching into a brief description of the consequent film, with zingy commentary on the acting, followed by notes about the availability of the first edition and a list of the personnel associated with the movie. Some of the 60 or so works considered from this binocular aspect are "The Big Sleep," "The Remains of the Day," "Slaughterhouse-Five," "Breakfast at Tiffany's," "Captain Blood," "Rosemary's Baby" and "Lost Horizon." Smiley has a particular fondness for adventure stories, whether mysteries, film noir or horror.

As so often with film buffs, Smiley's praise for half-forgotten or supporting actors may be the best part of each entry: "The key" to the film "Out of the Past," based on Geoffrey Homes's scarce novel Build My Gallows High, is "Jane Greer. The first shot of her, silhouetted as she strolls into an Acapulco bar, defines Kathie, and we are hooked as surely as Bailey. She knows her power; we know her corruption. Bailey's fate is sealed." In discussing "From Russia with Love," Smiley briskly summarizes the difference between storytelling in his two favorite media:

"Fleming's novels deal with a hero who is heightened to meet the demands of the story's structure. Only rarely does Fleming challenge credibility, and he never makes Bond invulnerable. In the movie versions, Bond is nearly always in action of some sort, but he is never threatened. This distinction defines the gap between adult entertainment and mass-market spectacle."

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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