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AJJQMPARmVB STUDY OF THE CH/JSGES IN FIFTEEN FILM P U T S ADAPTED FROM STAGE PLAYS
Charles John Cteupp* Jr.
A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy* in the Department of Speech* in the Graduate College of the State University of Iowa
ProQuest Number: 10902161
All rights reserved INFORMATION TO ALL USERS The quality of this reproduction is d e p e n d e n t upon the quality of the copy subm itted. In the unlikely e v e n t that the a u thor did not send a c o m p le te m anuscript and there are missing pages, these will be noted. Also, if m aterial had to be rem oved, a n o te will ind ica te the deletion.
uest ProQuest 10902161 Published by ProQuest LLC(2018). C opyright of the Dissertation is held by the Author. All rights reserved. This work is protected against unauthorized copying under Title 17, United States C o d e M icroform Edition © ProQuest LLC. ProQuest LLC. 789 East Eisenhower Parkway P.O. Box 1346 Ann Arbor, Ml 4 8 1 0 6 - 1346
a g m q w ie d m m s
To Mias Harriet Persona* Mr, Richard Malbauru, and Mr, Kenneth Mac&enna, ibr their assistance in making available certain of the film play's without which this study would *»t hare been possible* X am especially grateful* % sincere thanks are due to Mias Jane Marfin and Miss Alice Penneman for their continued interest and correspondence eon* corning background material fbr this study. I am also indebted to Miss Harlem Alexanian* Miss Mar garet Hall* and Miss Leona Amelon for their help in preparing certain elements of this study* To professor Edward C0 Mable* for his guidance and understandings 1 am particularly grateful* W thanks are due to Br* Harold C* Crain for his efforts in reading and criticising the manuscript. To my wife* Polly, for her patient understanding and encouragement in this and all things, X offer my humble gratitude. My especial thanks* however, are offered to Dr* Margaret Sprague'CfcThart* Professor Emeritus* University of California at Los Angeles* who started this* unknowingly* in 1936*
TABLE OF CONTENTS
SPECIFIC EFFECTS OF THE P»C«A» C O D E .............
ELEMENTS OF EXPOSITION..........................
Chapter III THE MAJOR CHARACTERS.............
THE MINOR CHARACTERS.............................. 121
• . .
This Is a study of the effect of the changes In elements of exposition and characterisation In the motion picture adaptations of fifteen stage piaye*
The investigation is concerned with the nature of
the controls which Influence screenwriting and the effect of those con trols on the specific techniques of presenting expository material, the characterisation of major characters, and the functions of minor characters. Three Factors which Control Screenwriting There are three specific factors which control the writing of dramatic material for the screen.
These are the Code of the Production
Code Administration, the various audience research surveys, and the practice of story conferences.
Each of these factors affects the final
form of the film play in a manner which is peculiar to the film industry. The kind of influence and the degree of that influence will be seen in a consideration of the fifteen film plays adapted from original stage plays. The film plays and stage plays which form the basis of this investigation, listed in alphabetical order, are: 1. The Barretts of Wimpole Street, film play by Ernest Vajda and Claudine West with additional dialogue by Donald Ogden Stewart, adapted from the original play by Rudolph Besierj 2. Brief Encounter, film play by Noel Coward and Cecil Lewis, adapted from the one-act play, Still Life, by Noel Coward; 3. Dear Ruth, film play by Norman Krasna, adapted from the
original play by Homan Krasna; k* Gaelight, film play by John Van Bruton and Walter Reisch, adapted from the play, Angel Street, by Patrick Hamilton,* *?• Here Cornea Mr. Jordan, film play by Sidney Buchraan and Seton I, Miller, adapted from the play, Heaven Gan Wait, by Harry Segall; 6. I Remember Mama, film play by DeWitt Bodeen, adapted from the play by John Van Bruton; 7. Lady in the Park, film play by Frances Goodrich and Albert Haekett, adapted from the play by Moss Hart; 8. Night Must Fall, film play by John Van Druien, adapted from the play by Emlyn Williams; 9* Over Twenty-One, film play by Sidney Buchraan, adapted from the play by Ruth Gordon; 10* The Philadelphia Story, film play by Waldo Salt and Donald Ogden Stewart, from the play by Philip Barry; 11. Fygtaalion, film play by Bernard Shaw and Cecil Lewie, from the play by Bernard Shaw; 12. Rope, film play by Hume Cronyn, adapted from the play by Patrick Hamilton; 13. Skylark, film play by Zion Myers, from the play by Samson R&phaelson; lit. latch on the Rhine, film play by Dashiell Hammett, adapted from the play by Lillian Heilman; and, 15. The Women, film play by Anita Loos and Jane Murfin, adapted from the play by Clare Booth Luce,
3 The Production Code Adminis tration As early a® 1922, film-going had become so popular a mass entertainment that both church and state had seen fit to impose a series of moral regulations on motion pictures.
That same year, the threat, of
a governmental censorship code prompted the major picture companies to organise the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, Inc. This trade association was designed to represent the industry before the public and to guide the content of motion pictures in order to prevent government imposed censorship.
As president, the members elected
a former cabinet member, Will C. Hays.
Immediately, the association
became known as "the Hays Office",
In 1927, Hays set up a committee on
public relations which designed a Code for the association. This cod® listed eleven specific items to be avoided inpictures andtwenty-six subjects which were to be treated with special care.* By 1933, producers began to deviate from the Code when the impact of the depression was felt in the decreasing box-office returns. The same year, 9000 letters protesting the vulgarity and coarseness of current productions were received at the White House.
By November 1933,
the public’s waning confidence in the ability of the industry to regulate its product resulted in direct action by an outside organized reform group. An "Episcopal Committee on Motion Pictures" was appointed at the annual convention of Catholic Bishops, and the Legion of Decency was organised.
This Legion appealed to Catholics to sign a pledge^
l".n,Por the complete text, see Appendix''S'', 2. For the complete text, see Appendix 3.
k condemning ”vil® and unwholesome picturesn and threatening to boycott the box-office when a picture failed to reflect the standards set up by the legion.
An estimated group of between seven and nine million
Catholics signed the pledge. co-operate.^
Many non-Catholic groups volunteered to
the producers quickly capitulated.
By common consent of
the leaders of the film industry, a new organisation with stronger con trols was formed in June, 193k. tinder the direction of Joseph I, Breen, the new Production Code Administration took control away from the Hollywood producers.
policy provided for a seal of approval for all films, and a $25,000 penalty for producing, distributing or exhibiting any picture without the PGA seal.
A new cod® was revised from the original.
This PCA Code
is still in force. In the Preamble of the PCA Code, the motion picture producers acknowledge their responsibility to the public and the necessity for a control.
The General Principles which follow the' Preamble indicate the
moralistic quality of the entire Code and generalize the specific rules and regulations of the control. J1. No picture shall bo produced which will lower the moral standards of those who se© it. Hence the sympathy of the audience shall never be thrown on the side of crime, wrong-doing, evil or sin, 2. Correct standards of life, subject only to the requirements of drama and entertainment, shall be presented. 3. Law, natural or human, shall not be ridiculed, nor 3. Rev. Paul W» Facey, S.J., The Legion of Decency, Ph.D. dissertation; Fordham University, Now fork, ISfe, 'pT’173.
5 shall sympathy be created for Its violation.^ / Th© specific rules and regulations of the God® are embodied in the Particular Applications -which follow the General Principles. Because th© regulations are so pertinent to an understanding of the Code and its relation to screen writing, this section is quoted in full. 1, No picture shall he produced -which will lower th© moral standards of those who see it* Hence the sym pathy of the audience should never be thrown on the side of crime, wrong-doing, evil or sin. this is done: 1, When evil is made to appear attractive or alluring, and good is made to appear unattractive. 2* Ififben sympathy of the audience is thrown on the side of crime, wrong-doing, evil or sin. The same thing is true of a film that would throw sympathy against goodness, honor, innocence, purity, or honesty. Note; Sympathy with a person who sins is not the same as sympathy with the sin or crime of which he is guilty. We may feel scary for the plight of the murderer or even understand the circumstances which led him to his crime. We may not feel sympathy with the wrong which he has done. The presentation of evil is often essential for art or fiction W “3rama. This in itself is not wrong provided; a) That evil is not presented alluringly. Even if later punis&ed in the film, evil must not be allowed to appear so attractive that the audience *s emotions are drawn to desire or approve so strongly that later condemnation is forgotten and only the apparent joy of the sin is remembered. b) That throughout, th© audience feels sure that evil is wrong and good is right. 2. Correct standardsof life shall, as far as possible, be presented. A wide knowledge of life and of living is made possible trough the film. Y&en^HgfvU standards are consistently presented, the motion picture exercises the most powerful Influences. It builds character, develops right Ideals, inculcates correct principles, and all this in attractive story form. If motion pictures consistently hold up for admiration h. For complete text, see Appendix 1*.
6 higjh types ofcharacters and present stories that m i l s^rec'C lives for'tbe better, they can become th© most powerful natural force for the improvement of mankind. 3* Law, natural or human, shall not be ridiculed, nor shall sympathy b@ created for its violation. By natural law is understood the law Which is written in the hearts of all mankind, th© great underlying principles of right and justice dic tated by conscience. By human law is understood th® law written by civilised nations. 1. The presentation of crimes against the law is often necessary for iKe carrying out of the plol. But the presentation must not throw sympathy with the Grime as against th® law nor with the criminal as against those who punish him. Courts of the land should not be presented as unjusFI This”does" not mean that a single court may not be presented as unjust, much less that a single dourt official must not be presented as unjust. But the court system of the country must not suffer as a result of this presentation. Reasons Underlying Particular Applications 1. Sin and evil enter into the story of human beings and hence in themselves are valid dramatic materials. 2. In the use of this material, it must be distinguished between sin which repels by its very nature and sins which often attract. a) in the first class come murder, most theft, many legal "L crimes, lying, hypocrisy, cruelty, etc. b) In the second class come sex sins, sins and crimes of apparent heroism, such as banditry, daring thefts, leader ship in evil, organised crime, revenge, etc. The first class needs less care in treatment, as sins and crimes of this class are naturally unattractive. The audience instinc tively condemns all such and are repelled. Hence the important objective must be to avoid the hardening of young and impression able, to the thought and fact of crime. People can become accus tomed even to murder, cruelty, brutality, and repellent crimes, if these are too frequently repeated. The second class needs great care in handling, as th© response to their appeal is obvious..., Here the Code recapitulates those specific crimes again&t the law, the treatment of sex and vulgarity, etc. Appendix 4-
These items are to be found in
7 In order to Insure that the film plays follow the rulings of the Cod®, a copy of each proposed script is submitted to the Production Code Administration.
"The Breen Office", as it is known, in a letter to
the producer designates where the script departs from the provisions of the Code or where it is believed exception will be taken to the story or treatment.
The Breen Office ends each letter with the stock sentence:
"You are, of course, free to accept or disregard any observation we make."
However, th© $25,000 penalty hangs heavy over the producers*
As far as is known, this penalty has never been levied. The rulings of the PCA Code are not insurmountable limitations.
In th© script of Th© Best Years of Our Lives, the Breen Office found objectionable the treatment of divorce.
The office wrote Samuel Goldwyn,
the producer: "The breakup of the marriage between Fred and Marie cannot avoid the flavor of being justifiable.
We feel that the present ending
is a definite indication and justification of the breakup of a marriage. We ask that such Indication be eliminated,"
Goldwyn replied: "We cannot
find another ending, sine© we believe this ending is honest, true, and within the bonds of decency and good b e h a v i o u r T h e Breen Office withdrew its objections.
The ending of the picture remained as written.
Th© Breen Office is not considered a reflection of a blue-nosed, irre vocable censorship, "but rather the middle class institutions, moral values, and pressure® of our society.*1^
The Code is upheld by the
5. Peter Lyon, "The Hollywood Picture," Hollywood Quarterly, III, Ho. It, 19b9, p. 350. 6. Ruth A. Inglis, Freedom of the Movies, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, X9h7, p. lo5.
8 the motion-pieture producers and exerts a strong influence on the treat ment of theme, subject matter, and characterization of motion picture scripts. Audience Research Investigations In the development of the present PCA Code, it has been shown that the motivations behind this Code came from organized pressure groups outside the motion picture industry*
These pressure groups make up or
influence a part of the movie audience*
Because of this, the PCA Code
can be considered a reflection of the moral and ethical attitudes of the audience* , The producers of the motion picture industry regard the produc ing of films as an industry. of their product.
They are concerned with the sales volume
They are concerned about the appeal of their product
to the consumer* They seek conscientiously to safeguard films from anything that might affect its [sic.] accept ance by the widest possible audience. They compute the sensitivities of any group which might take offense at anything in any stoiy.... It is their proper business to keep from the screen anything that is divisive, ■which might shatter th® unity of response of an audience, which might repel any considerable num ber of theatre-goers, or, at worst, create active opposition to its product." There are few industries which spend greater efforts to set up gauges and standards to measure its product*
The chief measure, at present,
is the Audience Research, Inc., a branch of George Gallup’s American Irving Pichel, "Areas of Silence," Hollywood Quarterly, Vol. Ill, No, 1, 19U8, p, 5b.
9 Institute of Public Opinion. The Audience Research, Inc., by scien tific. measuring tests, attempts to define the mass movie audience profile.
Practically all motion picture studios have subscribed to
the services of the A.R.I. As of 1 March 1950, the motion picture clients of the A.R.I. ware RKO, Columbia, Disney, Goldwyn, Selanick, Edward B. Small, Eagle-Lion, and Eathvon and Company. Other studio® have used the servic® fram time to time.® The A.R.I. performs three distinct functions for the motion picture studios.
It has determined the profile of the motion picture
audience in terms of age, sex, geographic locale, economic level, etc. It has determined the general patterns of likes and attitudes of that profile audience*
Since these are human pattern® and subject to change,
th© A.R.I. will undertake to test audience reactions to a specific theme, a specific plot or a specific title to indicate to the producers the potential box-office appeal of a specific film. The broad profile of the motion picture audience indicates that nineteen year olds contribute more to the box-office than any other age group. twelve.
Regular movie attendance seems to begin at the age of
It rises steadily up through the age of nineteen.
It falls off sharply.
Relatively few people attend the movies with
any regularity after the age of thirty-five,^
As regards the attend
ance habits of this audience, forty-one out of 100 American raovie-goers are between th© ages of fifteen and twenty-four and attend the movies 8. In a letter to this investigator from th© Audience Research, Inc., signed by Paul K. Perry, dated March 1, 1950, Princeton, New Jersey. 9. Peter Lyon, op cit., p. 350.
xo at least once each week.*0 matter little.
Differences of education and income seem to
Men go as often as women do.
Attendance at the nation*s theatres is almost exactly 50-50 males and females. And only half the audience of the average ’*A” picture is made up of males end females attending together. The other half is men or women going alone or with members of their own sex in almost equal numbers.*’** ■While urban people go more often than rural,*2 the likes and attitudes of the profile audiences do not vary much by geographical sections.
results of a nationwide survey of th© ten most enjoyed pictures of 19U8 showed that six were among the top fifteen both in cities over 5>00,000 population and in towns between 10,000 and 100,000 population.*^
largest differences in likes and attitudes are found by age and sex.*^ The survey® have indicated that people like to hear about themselves.
A strong element of identification is found in all prefer
ence studies. *^
This identification is first indicated through the
greater appeal that most movie stars have for members of their own sex, rather than the opposite. This can be by the theory of to be Interested where, according
explained, according to the A.R.I., self-identifications a human tends in a situation, on the screen or else to how readily he can put himself into
10. New York Times, April 1, 19U8, I, 30sh. 11. °Th© Monday Morning Post," A.R.I. News bulletin, April 19, 19k9, Princeton, », J., p. 1. 12. Paul P. Lazarfeld, “Audience Research in the Movie Field,” Annals of the American Association of Political and Social Sciences, lj?h7, p. . 13. “The Monday Morning Post,” A.R.I. Hewsbulletin, October 2U, 19U9, Princeton, N. J., p. 1. lh • Ibid., p . 1. 15. Lasarfeld, op. cit., p. 2U5.
11 that situation, or Identify himself with on© or more of th© characters, Th® identification theory applies to atory situations quite as much as to the stars.... The closer th© setting, the locale and story situation are to the average woman’s experience, the better women like it.3*° This principle of self-identification Is one of th® strongest elements in the construction of a screen-play.
“Empathy," in th© motion picture
lexicon, has come to mean a sense of identification between the audience and the characters on th® screen. As if they could easily imagine themselves in the place of the people in the story.17 This principle of audience identification must be applied by the screen writers to the characterising of those major characters mho are to evoke the sympathies of the audience. The implications of these A.R.I, surveys are important to th© screenwriter.
The survey results necessarily shape his craft.
picture producers, aware of the age and the tastes of their audience, aim to meet the tastes and standards of a relatively young and urban audience.
Dr. Franklin Fearing, th© consultant psychologist of th©
Hollywood Writer Mobilisation, a research agency for pictures, states that in the minds of th© producers the audience is assisted to be made up of individuals with interests, fears, and anxieties which gain expres sion through opportunities for identification in the dramatic situations presented in the fllm.l“
16. Las&rfeld, op. ©It., p. 91. 17. Maxwell Shane, "Tou’ve Qot to Have Empathy," Variety. Jan, h, 1950, P* 13* 18. Franklin Fearing, "Influence of the Movies on Attitudes and Behavior," AAAPSS, op. cit., p. 75.
12 When the producer a®s5.gns a story to a writer, the natural province of the producer la to demand a treatment which will appeal to the widest possible market*
Th© producer who dares to essperiment, to lead the
public*s taste rather than to follow it, is in the minority.
logical, therefor®, to expect a screenplay to reflect the interests, wants and Identification patterns of the motion picture audience. The Story Conference The late/Sidney Howard had a wide experience as a writer of screen-plays, among them the outstanding adaptation of his own stage success, Dodsworth. According to Howard,Aif one goes to the root of the matter, motion pictures are neither written nor acted, but made." Reviewing the pattern of working for the movies, he has saidt
there is the story-reader synopsis, then the writer works out the first draft with the producer.
Then, the second draft with the director, the
art director and the technicians.
Then, the process becomes write,/ j
rewrite, and rewrite*"^ The influence of these story conferences on the final shooting scripts is well known.
The degree of this influence, however, is so
great as to deserve investigation.
Kenneth MacKenna, Scenario Editor
for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios for 12 years, writes! ... as far as the practices of this studio are concerned there is no such thing as a one-man picture. Quite frequently wo have only one 19. We Make the Movies, Nancy Naumburg, ed., W. ¥. Norton and Co., N.Y., 1937, p. 32.
13 waiter connected with a picture, but he works in col laboration with his producer and later his director, in addition to which there is th® collaboration afforded by Dore Schaxy who, as Exeeutive-in-chargeof-Production, takes a very vital and detailed interest in the revision of screenplays before they are finally approved for shooting* We have also found that the technicians in th© Production Department, particularly scene designers and production managers, very often have radical suggestions to male© on a screenplay spring ing from physical limitations but often resulting in an Improved, tightened, and more effective manuscript. Even actors, when they are finally called in, often have an effect on the revision and these alsd can be very constructive,*0 An excerpt from a C#B»S* documentary broadcast concerning Hollywood presents a vivid description of the processes of the story conference. Narrators Sherwood was working on the script and talking it over as he went along with Goldwyn and also with Wyler. And then, one day, Wyler reported to Goldwyn Wyleri W e ’ll have to call in another writer, Sam, Bob’s licked..., H©*s stumped!
Goldwynj If Sherwood can’t write that story, no one can. But I’m sure he can.... I ’ll call a conference. We ’ll talk it over. Narrator: That meant they had a story conference-— there was Goldwyn and Wyler and Sherwood. And there was Max Wilkinson he’s from the story department. He’s sort of a buffer state between Goldwyn and the writers. So they go into their story conference. Lots of talk. Questions. Answers,21 20. In a letter to the investigator, dated Culver City, California, February 2h, 1930. 21. Lyon, op. eit,, pp. 3L5-3h6.
Ill The influence of the director and actor on the final shooting version ie indicated In a letter from Harriet Parsons, RKG producer of X Remember Mama. At the time the lullaby sequence was written into the screenplay we did not know definitely that Irene Dunne was going to play "Mama". The order of events was as follows* DeWitt Bodeen saw the possibility of developing a very touching and charming sequence by dramatising Mama's scene with Dagm&r, which, In the play, takes place off-stage. He felt, and I agreed with him, that this scene should be shown, not just implied. From there it was only a step to have Mama sing a lullaby to Dagmar, a thought which suggested itself because of the possibility that Irene Dunne might eventually play the part.... When director George Stevens put the sequence on the screen he developed It considerably. In fact, he made it such an emotional climax that we found the rest of the hospital sequence seemed antl-clamactic.... Eventually, we eliminated those scenes. It cannot be over-emphasized that the final shooting script of a film is never the work of one man's imagination.
In addition to
these story conferences, there is the direct limitation of the PCA Code on theme and character.
There are also the influences of the results
of the various audience research survey methods.
In addition to the
scientific studies of audience profiles and audience likes and dislikes, the studios have long sampled the attitudes of preview audiences.
ing all phases of production, the audience hangs over the writing and shooting as an ominous and spectral "They”. "They" are referred to, invoked and quoted as a final authority.
"They won't like itln
won't go to see itj" 22. In a letter to the investigator, dated Hollywood, California, March 8, 19h9*
15 Summary With this discussion of the elements which constitute the various controls and limitations of the screenwriter, a background has been indicated to Show the environment of motion picture writing*
the case of the PCA Code, we have a statement of the moral and ethical attitudes representative, according to the Production Code Administra tion, of the mass film audience.
In the case of the various audience
research surveys, we have a picture of that mass audience as a young audience, more or less evenly divided as to men and women, which tends to be drawn to the films through a sense of Identification with the characters and the story of the film.
In the case of the story confer
ences, wa have the practice of the producer, the craftsmen, and the businessmen associated with the film, criticising and counseling the writing and re-writing of th© screenplay in terms of their knowledge of the demands of the audience, the potential box-office appeal of the film, and their craft.
A study of the impact of these controls on screen
play material indicates the kinds of controls which these factors exert on the craft ©f dramatic writing for th© screen* Technique of the Investigation A direct way to ascertain the effect of these factors on dramatic writing for the screen is, of course, the comparison between an original play and its screen adaptation.
To this end, fifteen pairs
of plays and the screen versions were obtained for the investigation^ / Selection of Plays and their Screen Adaptations. Because of
16 the nature of the copyright restrictions, few screen adaptations have been published.
Of th© total screenplays of this study, four come from
published anthologies and are presented as the final shooting scripts of the film versions.
These are: Watch on the
Here Cornea Mr. Jordan, ^ and Over Twenty-One.^ are published as separate volumes.
Two of th© scripts
On®, Pygmalion,^7 purports to be
the motion picture version of the play.
The other, Rope,^® presents
the dialogue of the film strung together with section® of narration in novel farm.
Stenographic transcriptions were mad© of the sound
track of each motion picture and checked with the published version to insure an exact transcription of the shooting script dialogue. The remainder of th© motion picture scripts used in the study are actual, unpublished shooting script® of the films.
Of these, Brief
Encounter was obtained through th© library of the University of Calif ornia at Los Angeles.
I Remember Mama was obtained from Miss Harriet
Parsons, the producer of the film.
Skylark, Pear Ruth, and Lady in the
23. Hammet, Dashiell, "Watch on the Rhine,” Best Film Plays, 19U3-UU, ed. John Gassner and Dudley Nichols, Crown Publishers, New York, N.Y., 19k$, pp. 299-356. 2lu Loos, Anita and Jane Murfin, "The Women,” Twenty Best Film Plays, ed. John Gassner and Dudley Nichols, Crown ’Publishers,~lfew York, N.Y., 19U3, pp. 61-130 25. Buchman, Sidney and Seton T, Miller, "Here Comes Mr. Jordan,” ibid., pp. 181-232. 26. Buchman, Sidney, "Over Twenty-One,” Best Film Plays - 19h$, ed. John Gassner and Dudley Nichols, Crown PuBHShers, New York, N.X., 19k6, pp. 521-588. 27. Shaw, Bernard, Pygmalion, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, Middlesex, 19U. 28. Cronyn, Hume, Rope, Dell Publishing Co., New York, N.Y., 19^8.
IT Dark were obtained from Paramount Studio® through Mr. Richard Maib&um, a producer of that studio.
The Philadelphia Story, The Barretts of
Wimpole street. Gaplight, and Night Must Fall were obtained from MetroGoldwyn-Mayer Productions through Mr. Kenneth MaeKenna, Scenario Editor of that studio.
In the case of those scripts borrowed from a studio,
legal releases and agreements were signed in order to remove these film plays fro® the studio.
An example of these agreements can be found in
Appendix 1. With th© exception of I Remember Mama, which was specificallyrequested, the choice of scripts was left to chance and to availability. In the case of those materials borrowed from studios, a request was made for screen adaptations of stage plays.
At Paramount and at Metro-
Goldwyn-Mayer, an agreement was made as to the number which could be borrowed.
In each case, the choice of the scripts was left to the story
departments. Procedure. This study is concerned only with the changes to be found in the dialogue.
At no time does the produced form of either
medium come into consideration.
The indication In a film play of
camera angles, close-ups, two-shots, medium close-ups, etc., are tech nical devices of the director and the cameraman.
In both the stage play
and the film play, only those notations of entrance and exit of characters or those notations Indicating that a scene, an act, or a sequence have opened or come to a close, have been taken into consideration. The dialogue of the stage play and the dialogue of the film play were checked, one against the other, isolating the lines of dialogue
18 into thro© categories s dialogue deleted, dialogue retained, and dialogue added.
These categories -were analysed, isolating the lines of dialogue
according to function (as an element of exposition, as an element of transition, entrance, or exit, as an element of local color or atmos phere, etc.). This analysis first indicated that all of the stage plays of this study had elements of dialogue which violated the PCA Cods.
further revealed that three element® were common to all th© stage plays and all the film plays in regard to that dialogue which had been deleted and that dialogue which had been retained and added,
These three common
elements were: elements of exposition, elements of characterisation for major characters, and elements pei*ta±ning to th© function of minor characters.
This investigation, therefore, is a study of the effect of
the influence of the PCA Code, the findings of audience research surveys, and the practice of story-conferences on th© use of expository material, the characterisation of major characters, and the function of minor characters in the fifteen film plays adapted from the original stag® plays. The material pertaining to exposition, major characters, and minor characters, was grouped according to dialogue deleted, dialogue retained, and dialogue added.
In each case the material itself revealed
similarities of treatment in the film plays when compared and contrasted with th® stage plays through descriptive analyses. The analyses of expository material, the analyses of the char acterization of th© protagonist, the objective, and the obstacle, and the
19 analyses of th® functions of minor character® have been mad© in the light of the control® of th© PCA Cod®, the various audience research surveys, and th® practice of the story conference.
The purpose of these controls,
their relation to th© analyses, and th© patterns which result from the analyses constitute the main body of this investigation»
20 Chapter I SPECIFIC EFFECTS OF THE P.C.A. CODE Th® P.C.A. Code specifically forbids the sympathetic treatment of crimes against the law, the unwholesome treatment of sex, the use of vulgarity, obscenity, profanity, the showing of disrespect towards religion and towards national feelings.
The original stage plays of
this study all contain violations of the film Code.
It Is the purpose
of this chapter to indicate how these violations are handled in the film versions.
Th® examples will show that It is the practice of these film
plays to (1) delete offensive material which is irrelevant to the main eourse-of-action; (2) to substitute material which is not offensive when the censored dialogue is pertinent to the main course-of~action; and, (3) to focus the sympathy of the audience on another character, making the offensive character of the stage play unattractive.
will also show that the film plays change the themes which are not acceptable to the Code.
It will also be shown that, in these instances,
the rulings of the P.C.A. Code have not necessitated a change in the basic plot-aetion of the original stage play. Violations of Particular Applications of the P.C.A. Code For the most part, the violations of the P.C.A. Code which are to be found in the stage plays of this study are obscenities, vulgarities, or the use of profanity.
In these cases, a simple deletion of the
questionable words or phrases will remedy the fault.
An example Is
21 Uncle Chris* swearing in I Remember Mtoa. In the film play, he uses Innocuous Norwegian expression® which convey th© intent of the profanity in the stag© play, /Profane attitudes towards religion are found in five of th© stage plays.
In the film plays, these have been cut.
Hone of the
examples are pertinent to the main course-of-action. / In Philadelphia Story, eaeh of Tracy’s proprietary remarks towards God is cut.
Night Hast Fall, Gaslight, and Barretts, irreverent us© of the Bible is cut,
In Rope, a bantering analysis of the Ten Commandments is cut. Violations of national or racial feelings are cut from five
In Over Twenty-One, Paula*s extremely personal phone call
to Judge Frankfurter Is cut.
Similarly, Specific references to the
Secretary of State aid the Chief Justice are cut in Bear Ruth. In Brief Encounter, slurring remarks about British Tommies are cut.
Watch on th® Rhine, a slanderous remark about Roumanian aristocracy is cut.
In Here Comes Hr. Jordan, the fight manager is not characterised
as a Jew. Specific regulations on crime and revenge result in cut® in two film plays.
In Watch on the Rhine, no reference is mad© to Kurt’s
statu® a® a German outlaw.
In the same film, all implications of
revenge are eut In Kurt’s speech prior to his murder of Teck,
Gaslight, two concepts of revenge are cut in the film play* the motived tions -which bring th© detective sergeant back to th© scene of th© crime and the speech of th© wife at th© end of the stage play.
In th© film,
th© detective is given new motivations! the wife’s speech is edited.
22 In these examples, the material deleted is not, for the most part, a relevant part of the main courae*of«action and can be deleted without rewriting or substitution.
There are specific violations of
the Code which require considerable rewriting to make acceptable certain vital elements of plot and characterization. In Pygmalion, as a result of cutting the early exposition that Doolittle is not married to his woman, an entirely new sequence between Eliza and Henry is introduced in the latter part of the film.
sequence is necessary to bridge the dialogue which has been cut concern* ing Mr. Doolittle's marriage in the final act of the play. In I Remember Mama, it is necessary to retain the inference that Uncle Chris is not married to his housekeeper.
On his deathbed,
new speeches are added to indicate that he has long been secretly married. In The Women, important exposition is revealed during a scene showing a room In a maternity hospital.
The entire scene with its
attendant callous attitudes towards motherhood and humor based on preg nancy is cut from the film play.
The pertinent exposition is transferred
to another sequence in the film. In Lady in the Dark, Liza's hatred of her mother and her affaire with a married man are important to the plot development but inherently censorable.
In the film play, Liza is shown to have a strong
faiher-atiachment carrying over from her childhood.
is so strong as to motivate her affection for Kendall, whose resemblance to her father is marked.
To condone their association, a new sequence
23 la added to the film play which shows that Kendall's wife refuses to grant a divorce in order to use their marriage to cover her own promiscuity.
This removes any burden of guilt from Liza and Kendall*
In the same film, all of the homosexual characteristics are cut from Russel Paxton who serves as an important expository character in both the stage play and the film play.
To retain some of the colorful easpres-
sions of the original, the film role was played as a zany foreigner of unspecified nationality. In Rope, all of the bitter anti-war speeches, which were acceptable in 1928 when the play was produced, are cut in the film play which was released in 19k9. In Brief Encounter, the censurable elements of adultery have been cut.
By changing the characterization of the two major characters,
by changing the theme of the play, and by externalizing elements of off stage exposition, the inherently censorable qualities of the stage play, Still Life, are made acceptable to the P.C.Jt. Code, The stage play, Over Twenty-One, is inherently censurable because of its treatment of national character and theme*
In the stage-
play, the attitude of the protagonist is reflected In her frivolous and superficial carryings-on as a civilian in war-time*
Since the film was
released during the war, the entire feeling of the play and the prota gonist was adapted.
By changing the theme and developing a new character
isation of Paula, the film play eliminated the offensive qualities of the play and retained the basic course-of-actioru These examples represent a cross-section of the manner in which
2h the film plays of this study have handled offensive material.
the censorable deletion® are discussed in the chapter® on exposition and characterisation*
A detailed examination of all such deletions is
not pertinent at this point.
It is relevant, however, to discuss the
changes of theme dictated by the P.C.A. Code, The Influence of the P.O.A, Code in Relation to Theme Eight of the stage play® of this study have themes which are not acceptable according to the tenets of the P.C.A. Code.
eight examples, the film plays have either changed the theme or enlarged the social meaning of the theme.
In all cases, it ha® not been neces
sary to change the basic plot-action of the original stage play. The basic theme of three film plays have been changed because of the regulations pertaining to the presentation of crime.
and Hight Must Fall, the stage plays present murderers in a sympathetic manner.
In each of the film versions of these plays, the sympathy of
the audience has been directed towards another character. in each case, are shown to be evil and unattractive.
In Gaslight, the
sergeant is no longer motivated to solve an old crime because of revenge. By changing the focus of the film play to the attempts on the part of the wife to maintain her sanity, a new motivation is developed for the detective. Three of the original stage plays present marriage in a manner that Is not acceptable to the tenets of the Code. marriage based on lies and false values.
Skylark condones a
The film play retains the
2$ basic course-of-action, evolving a new solution to the problem posed in the play*.
The Women shows divorce to be a simple solution for marital
The film play does not condone divorce.
The stage play
further contends that a woman must become feline and predatory to regain her husband.
In the film play, her warmth and attractiveness, which
were the bases of the marriage, are the bases of the reconciliation. In Still life, a married woman has a prolonged affaire with a married man.
She is tortured, not by her infidelity, but by her fear of being
found out. covered,
At the end, she returns to her husband, her guilt undis In Brief Encounter, the film play, the woman is shown to be
attracted to the man. infidelity.
Here, her conflict is based on her fears of
The affaire is not consummated in the film play.
returns to her husband and family without guilt. Two of the film plays enlarge the narrow theme of the stage play to encompass broader social meanings.
In the stage play, Heaven
Can Wait, Heaven and Fate are used as complications to the ambitions of the young fighter.
In the film play, Here Comes Mr. Jordan, Heaven and
Fate provide the solution for the complications which the young man sets up for himself.
The film play, Over Twenty-One, uses the comedy elements
of the stage play to present an argument for ,TOne World”. In Skylark, the plot-line of the stage play is th© basis for the first part of the film play.
The new resolution, required by the
Code, is shown in a series of new complications and new character rela tionships.
Throughout all these examples, the changes in the theme of
th© stag© play have not resulted in a change of the basic course-of-action
26 of the original.; Summary The examples of these film plays indicate the practice of motion pictures to eliminate any element ■which might be offensive to the mass audience.
In each case, when it has been necessary to eliminate
unacceptable elements from material relevant to the main course-ofaction, the film play has tended to strengthen the appeal of th© orig inal stage play.
The censoring of these offensive elements has not made
it necessary to change the basic plot-line of the original play.
practice of eliminating irrelevant material and elements of plot and character which would tend to destroy the appeal of the film play is characteristic throughout.
Th© study of the elements of exposition
indicates further the practice of these film plays to focus on a single, clear-out course-of-action based on the central conflict between the protagonist and the obstacle.
27 Chapter IX ELEMENTS OF EXPOSITION
It is the practice of the film plays of this study to direct immediately the focus of attention of the audience on the relationship ©f the major characters, and to set up the tensions of the major con flict of the story.
In contrast to the original stag® plays, the exposi
tory matters of the film plays move with speed and economy*
accomplished in part by creating a tension through conflict which sus tains the elements of exposition.
Further economy is gained by giving
the audience only those relevant facts which are necessary to establish the protagonist, his objective, and his obstacle.
These film plays
rearrange the elements of exposition in order that the principals of the basic conflict are introduced earlier than in the original plays. It is the purpose of this chapter to present the techniques of exposi tion which these film plays use. Exposition through Immediate Tension Where only three of the fifteen stage plays open on a note of tension, all but on© of the film play® begin with some element of con flict.
The Women open® with a vicious dog fight.
separate the dogs, quarreling as they enter the beauty salon.
Sylvia is Introduced as she phones Edith the gossip about the Haines1. Lady in the Dark opens with Lisa protesting to her physician that his diagnosis is wrong.
She Insist® that she is physically unwell.
Encounter opens on a conflict between the refreshment woman and the
gate-keeper, contrasting their quarrel with the static uneasiness of the major characters.
The Barretts of Wiapole Street opens with Flush
cringing at the sound of Bari'ett’s voice.
He runs Into Ba’s room where
she is seen valiantly attempting to walk and failing. opens on Danny as he is filling in the grave. man, he furtively hides in the shadows.
Night Must Fall
Challenged by a watch
Watch on the Rhine opens on the
Mueller family apprehensively approaching the immigration station. warns them of the danger.
Gaslight opens as the music teacher inter
rupts Paula’s singing to complain that she is not doing it right. Skylark opens with Lydia discovering her husband*s business partner choosing her anniversary present,
Philadelphia Story opens as Mike
protests to Lis that ha m i l not accept this latest assignment. Comes Mr. Jordan opens with Joe boxing with a sparring mate.
begins as Miriam disturbs a sleeping woman to enlist her aid in some childish war effort.
Over Twenty-One opens with the feverish activity
of a newspaper office, interrupted by Max’s announcement of his enlist ment.
As in the stage play, Pygmalion opens on Clara's demand® for a
Both the stage play and film play, Rope, open with the murder of
While I Remember Mama opens with a static reminiscence by Katrin,
her opening speech in the film play is edited so that it discusses only llama. In all cases, this opening conflict is pertinent to the main course—of—action. Not only does it immediately focus the attention of the audience, this device serves to introduce one or more of the major characters, to establish the setting, to indicate the basis of the major
29 conflict, or to inject an element of suspense based on the main courseof-aetion. the Introduction of the Elements of the Main Conflict It i® the practice of these film plays to establish the ele ments of the main conflict earlier than th© original stag® plays. / This is don® by arranging the exposition in such a manner as to bring the obstacle into the picture on an average of $.27 per cent of the way through these filra-plays.
(In contrast to this, th® obstacle is intro
duced on an average of 11.61* per cent of the way through the original stage plays,)
In all cases, th© protagonist has been Introduced, char
acterised, and his objective made known by this time.
As a result, if
the actual conflict is not in motion, the potential conflict of the main eourae-of-action has been clearly motivated. Irrelevant Exposition Deleted To intensify the focus of th© film play on the major conflict, it is the practice of these film plays to delete irrelevant expository material.
This applies to exposition in regard to major characters
which is not pertinent to the main course-of-aotion, as well as to exposition concerning minor characters. Th® major characters are not allowed to detract from themselves or to waiver from the main conflict of the course-of-action.
the scene in which the husband reviews his ambitions and talents for th® stag© is cut. plan of action.
In the ©am*© film, the detective does not dwell on his In Watch on the Rhine, Sara no longer reflects about
har meeting with King Alphonse when aha was a girl.
In The Woman,
Mary no longer discusses her feelings towards her father.
In Lady in
th© Dark, tha irrelevant exposition regarding her letter of resignation is cut.
In Philadelphia Story, Tracy's Quaker genealogy is cut.
I Remember Mama, th© mystery of Unci© Chris7 ranch is cut. Encounter, Laura*s reminiscence on her childhood is cut.
In Brief In Barretts
of Wimpole Street, the extended correspondence between Elizabeth and Browning is cut.
In Night Must Fail, the exposition regarding Danny*a
childhood is cut.
In Here Comes Mr. Jordan, the extended exposition
regarding Joe*s flying is cut. Bill*a childhood is cut.
In Dear Ruth, th© exposition regarding
In Pygmalion, Eliza’s remarks about her mother
and her childhood are cut.
In Rope, the detailed exposition about the
relationship between Brandon and Phillip is cut.
In Over Twenty-One,
Paula’s reminiscences about her meeting Max and her early training as a cub reporter are cut.
Since all of these items of exposition are not
pertinent to the clear understanding of the character or to the action of the film play, they are eliminated. In the same manner, exposition regarding the minor characters which is Irrelevant to the main course~of-aciion is cut in the film play. Throughout, all sub-plots pertaining to minor characters are eliminated from the film play. th© film plays.
Examples of this practice are to be found in all
The intention of the films to focus solely on the major
conflict between the major characters is so patent as to make an extended citation redundant.
So important is this singleness of focus in the
film plays, however, that th© screen versions are willing to sacrifice
31 some gems of minor characters in order to maintain the unity of the major conflict;
Consequently, Doolittle has no chance to overshadow
Henry or Elisa in Pygmalion. Fanny, in Watch on the Rhine , is not allowed to detract from Sara's charms*
In I Remember Mama, only those
qualities that pertain to Mama and her family are retained by Hyde, by Thorkelson, and the aunts. is merely one of eight sons.
In The Barretts of Wimpole Street, Octavius In Brief Encounter, the entire pathetic
story of Beryl, th© counter girl, is cut.
In the film plays, there is
no danger of the audience misinterpreting which of the characters are the central characters and which thread of the story is to have sympathe tic attention.
At the beginning, the audience's attention is riveted
to the central conflict and not allowed to stray from it. External!aation of pertinent Exposition In order to insure complete clarity and understanding for the motivations of the major characters and the circumstances regarding their central conflict, it is th© practice of these film plays to externalise and make graphic all pertinent elements of exposition. of Rope
With the exception
(whose structure precludes off-stage action), all of the film
plays demonstrate pertinent items of exposition which are discussed as past action or off-stage action In the stage plays. The external!zation of past action in seven of the film plays is used to clarify the relation of the major characters to the basic conflict. In Lady in the Dark, the circumstances regarding Liza's break-
32 down, are shown rather than discussed. cian *3 office,
The film play opera in a physi
Lisa challenges the doctor1a diagnosis that there is
nothing physically wrong with her* visit a reputable psychiatrist*
In defense, ho suggests that she
In revolt, lisa throws the psychiatrist*®
address from her as she leaves the office.
In her own offices, she is
shown trapped by the routine of her activities.
As she is forced to
make decisions, she becomes more and more unnerved.
control, she hurls the paper-weight at her business manager, Johnson, and collapses.
In the next scene, she is shown entering the psychia
trist *s office, the point at which the stage play begin® * B|y external ising this action (which is narrated in the stage play), the film play is able to introduce the protagonist and her major obstacle earlier than in the original.
Johnson, therefore, assumes a more meaningful role in
her first dream.
Lisa's subconscious conflict with him becomes more
apparent. The development of th© main course-of-action is clearly indi cated, Lisa.
In addition, the film play invites immediate identification with All of an audience is undoubtedly familiar with the routine of a
Few may be familiar with the routine of psycho-analysis.
The audience, as well as lisa, is made to see that she needs psychiatric help. In Gaslight, in order to clarify the connection of the prota gonist, Paula, to the basic situation and to make credible her emotional dependency on her unscrupulous husband, the film play externalizes their romance, their wedding, and the pertinent facts of their married life. This demand for clarity and credibility eliminates th© tensions evoked
33 by the deliberate withholding of exposition in the stage play.
is not a suspense raystery , It is the character study of a woman whose husband is driving her insane.
The film attempts to clarify many of th©
obscure motivations.of the stage play. In Skylark, the opening sequence in the jewelry shop graphically establishes the basis for the main conflict of th© film play.
is seen resenting that her husband is too busy to pick out her anniver sary gift.
The exposition regarding her jealousy of his work is sustained
by Lydia*s visible inner conflict and th© implied conflict between the pair.
This graphic demonstration of Lydia?a attitude eliminates the
static and stereotype exposition of th© opening of the stage play. In Philadelphia Story, the basic elements of the conflict are again established through a graphic presentation of past action.
film play opens in the offices of FCldd Publications. Here, Dexter is forced to introduce the writer and photographer into the Lord family as friends of the oldest Lord son.
The conflict between the writer and
Dexter reveals that Dexter is the ex-husband of Tracy Lord.
flict between Mike, the writer, and the publisher reveals that Liz, the photographer, loves Miko.
In the sequence which follows immediately,
Tracy and her fiance are seen together.
Tracy announces that she does
not read Kidd magazines and what is more she will not allow a Kidd maga zine in the house.
In the stage play, Dexter's appearance on the scene
is never fully explained.
A younger brother, cut from the film play, is
used as the agent to introduce Mike and Li a.
In the stag© play, the
relation between Dexter and Tracy, between Mike and Lis is revealed by
In th© film play# tho potent ialsjof the main conflict are
established in two abort scenes.
In the stage play, these same elements
are not revealed until midway through Act I, Th© film play, Over Twenty-On©, also externalizes past-action. In th© new opening sequence, Max is seen as a civilian announcing his resignation as an ©ditor in order to volunteer in the army. throws Gow, the publisher, into a fit of rage.
In the conflict which
results, Max’s reasons for his act and low’s attitude towards the paper are revealed.
Gow appeals to Paula, Max's wife, to reason with him,
Paula applauds her husband’s act and plans to join him as soon as her film writing job is finished.
'.Then Paula is seen, in the next sequence,
arriving at Palmetto Court (the point at which the play opens}, the audience is aware of the relationship between the co-protagonists and the obstacle.
The basis of the conflict of the main course-of-action
is clearly established. In Watch on the Rhine, the audience must know that Kurt Is an underground anti-Nazi, that he has actively fought against fascism since before the Spanish Civil War, that he is in constant danger of discovery. To establish the conflict of th© story, the audience must also know that Teck, the Roumanian count, is a Nazi sympathizer and potentially dangerous.
In the stage play, these items of exposition are revealed
during the first Act, through question and answer and static reminiscence. In the film play, these facts are shown in dramatic action and conflict. In th© stage play, the potential conflict is not established until the end of th© first act.
In tho film play, the conflict is mad© clear by
the interplay of two parallel lines of action, each developing a clear and credible characterisation for th® protagonist and his obstacle. When, in the film play, Kurt and Teck meet for the first time, the audience is completely aware of the motivations of both. sible that these two will not come into conflict.
It Is impos
By graphically show
ing past-action, the film play establishes the audience's sympathy and antipathy at the very onset.
The potential conflict of the main course-
of-action has been clarified by concentrating the attention on the two main forces. In Here Comes Mr. Jordan. Joe's profession, his hopes for a championship, the device of the lucky saxophone, and the cause of his death are made graphic in the film play.
These facts are not, as in
the stage play, revealed through question and answer or reminiscence. As a result of externalising this past action in the film play, the potentialities of Joe's conflict are clearly and credibly made graphic. When the action of the stage play and the film play coincide, there is no need to delay the course of the major conflict in order to reveal pertinent elements of exposition and characterisation. Summary. In each of these seven cases, the externalization of past action from the stage play graphically demonstrates a clear con nection between the major characters of the main course-offaction and establishes the basic conflict.
In each case, a minor conflict has
been devised which focuses and sustains interest on th© expository material.
In each case, the attractiveness, the violition, and the
credibility of th© major characters are shown in action.
In each case,
36 the focus of sympathy Is established and the potentials of the main course-of-action are clearly defined with a greater economy than in the original stage play.
To maintain this clear definition of the ele
ments of the main conflict, it is the practice of these film plays to externalise pertinent off-stage exposition material. The externalization of off-stage exposition from the stage play is found in all of the film plays of this study, with the exception of Hope.
(Again, the time structure of this film play precludes exter
naliaation of off-stage action,)
In each case, the elements of exposi
tion which are made graphic are pertinent to the clear understanding of the major characters and the stain course-of-action. In Night Must Fall, Danny*s paranoic urge for recognition is made graphic as he and Mrs, Bramson are shown enjoying the notoriety of the local murder.
This sequence serves to prepare for the last scene,
found in both the stage play and the film play. In Lady in the Dark, Liza's surprising entrance into th© night club with Curtis Is shown rather than discussed.
Her conflict with the
habitues of th® club make graphic th© change which Curtis* interest in Liza has brought about.
By introducing Johnson into the scene, his
Influence on Liza's insecurity is made clearer. In Gaslight, the sequence of the detective going through the files In Scotland Yard reveals the basis for his interest in the old case and the pertinent facts concerning the old murder.
material is sustained by a conflict between the detective and his Superior.
37 In Dear Ruth, the two off-stage dates of Ruth and Bill are shown rather than discussed.
In each case, a minor conflict is intro
duced to sustain the attention.
In each case, the tensions of the major
conflict are heightened. In Skylark, Lydia’s ride with Blake, the attorney, is shown rather than discussed.
During the minor conflict of this scene, th©
characterisations of the protagonist and the obstacle are made clear through action. In Barretts, two Important elements of exposition are shown rather than discussed.
The clandestine meeting between Henrietta and
Surtees-Cook makes graphic Barrett’s attitudes towards the romances of his children.
Wilson’s visit to Browning's house reveals the exposition
about the plans for th© wedding and th© escape to Italy in a scene sus tained by comic conflict. In Philadelphia Story, th© quarrel between Tracy and her fiance at th© party i© shown rather than reported.
This makes graphic
the motivation for Tracy's final breaking of the engagement.
serves to clarify the motivation for Mike's interest in Tracy and his proposal of marriage. In Th© Women, Mary’s trip to Bermuda is externalized through the device of a home-movie. During th© scene, where in Little Mary chides her mother on her camera technique, th® child inadvertently reveals that her father is still seeing Crystal. In Over Twenty-One, Max's struggles with th© O.C.S. are exter nalized In a montage sequence showing him studying, training, marching.
38 This scene makes graphic his earnest attempts to succeed. In Brief Encounter, sequence after sequence externalizes off stage action from th® stage play. Conflict between Laura and Alec.
Each of these serve to heighten the Th© climax is made graphic by the
©xternalization of the scene in Stephen’s apartment wher® their furtive romance is almost discovered. In fygmalion, the film play dramatizes the climactic sequence of Eliza’s success at th© Ball.
Here, Aristide is introduced as the
element of conflict to sustain the exposition.
Throughout the film
play, Freddy’s frantic courtship of Eliza is also externalized. In Here Comes Mr. Jordan. Joe is seen buying back the worth less stocks at premium.
The conflict -which results from this reveals
the exposition about the cosing championship fight.
This, in turn, moti
vates Joe’s training program which results in the final complication before the resolution of the major conflict. In I Remember Mama, the visit to Dagmar5s ward in the hospital is shown.
The conflict to sustain this scene is introduced by the dozing
duty-nurse mho might discover Mama. In Watch on the Rhine, Teck1s activities with the German Embassy are shown.
Because of the rivalry among the Nazis themselves,
the pertinent exposition regarding Tack’s villiany is sustained by the conflict that is inherent in the Embassy situation. Mammary. These examples indicate the characteristic practice of these film plays to externalize those elements of off-stag© exposition which are pertinent to th© clarification of th© major characters or the
39 main conflict.
In each case, a minor conflict is devised to sustain the
exposition, which is revealed by the resolution of this now minor con flict.
This practice is also characteristic of the rewriting of pertin
ent exposition retained from th© stage playRewriting of Static Expository Matters It is th© practice of these film plays to rewrite those per tinent elements of exposition which are revealed in the stage play through a static recital of fact or through question and answer.
scenes of exposition which are sustained by some element of conflict, resulting from the tensions of th© characters or the situation, are retained from the stage play in the film version without revision. Examples of this revision of expository materials are to be found in all of the film plays,
A typical example will be cited from each version.
In The Women, Mary’s happiness with Stephen is no longer a reminiscence with Nancy, but a happy defense to Peggy’s challenge that Mary is deliberately making herself attractive for her husband.
I Remember Mama, Mr, Hyde’s departure is no longer a quiet goodbye to Papa,
Rather, the children see Hyde sneak onto a cable car with his
Excitedly, th©i|come screaming into the house with their news.
In Here Comes Mr. Jordan. Joe’s invisibility is shown in his attempts to buy a paper from a newsboy. Mr. Jordan.
It is no longer a statement of fact by
In Watch on the Rhine, David’s romance with Marth® is no
longer breakfast table conversation.
It is revealed through a barbed
observation by Mellie, Fanny’s provoked friend.
In Lady in the Dark,
ho Randy*s ©lectric entrance to the office is no longer reported.
shown when Lisa is irritated by the absence of her office staff.
Barretts, Elisabeth’s invalidism is made immediately graphic by her Volitional but pathetic attempt to walk at the opening of the scene. As a result of her collapse, the doctor warns her of her precarious state of health.
In Philadelphia Story, the discussion of Hike's books
is sustained by the conflict with the librarian.
In Dear Ruths Ruth's
engagement to A1 is no longer a bald announcement; in th© film, it is disclosed by her family mistaking the basis of her happiness.
Skylark, Lydia's attitude towards her husband's clients is no longer a discussion with the butler.
In the film play, this is revealed through
her good-natured kidding with the serving man.
In Brief Encounter.
that Laura has attempted suicide is made graphic and clear by a direct challenge from Dolly. clear.
Th© veiled inference of the stage play is mad©
In Pygmalion, Doolittle's first entrance is supported by the
minor conflict of Interrupting Henry's breakfast.
In Right Must Fall.
the important expository scene between Danny and Olivia is underlined by her resentment at having to move her luggage to make room for him. In Over Twenty-One, Rope, and Gaslight, the entire film plays are re statements and resetting of th© exposition of the original plays.
these three examples, it is obvious that the film play is attempting to clarify the root-action and the motivations of the major characters. Summary. In all of the film plays, any pertinent element of exposition in the stag© play that is presented In a static recital of fact and incident is rewritten.
In the film play, this expository
material is presented in a framework of a minor conflict which serves to increase the tension and th© interest of th© total conflict. General Summary It is th© practice of these film-plays to focus the attention on expository material by an immediate element of tension xhich serves to Introduce one or more of the major characters, to indicate th® basis of the major conflict, to establish th© setting, or to inject an ele ment of suspense pertinent to the main course-of-action. It is the practice of these film plays to introduce the obstacle of the main course-of-action sooner than the original stage play. In these examples, expository material #iich is irrelevant is deleted, throwing th® focus of attention on those elements of exposi tion which introduce the major characters, establish the major conflict, and make clear th® course-of-action.
These elements of exposition are
shorn rather than discussed and are the resolution-of an element of conflict which sustains the interest and increase® the tension of the play. Throughout these film plays, by avoiding unnecessary details of exposition, the screenwriter focuses the audience fs attention on what is essential to the course-of-action: the conflict between th® major characters.
h2 Chapter III THE MAJOR CHARACTERS Th© purpose of this chapter is to discuss the practice of the film plays of this study in the presentation of the major characters: the protagonist, his objective, and his obstacle. Each of th© characters will be considered in terms of his relation to the main course-of-action, in terms of the techniques by which he is made acceptable to the P.C.A. Code, and In terns of the techniques by which he is made appealing to the mass audience. The Protagonist The protagonist Is that fecal character towards whom the sympathies of the audience are directed.
In relation to the protagonist
of these film plays, it is important to remember the strong element of audience identification which has been found characteristic of film audiences.
Moreover, the characterisation of the protagonist is strongly
controlled by the rulings of the P.C.A. Code and th© moral standards required of films.
By contrasting the protagonist of the film play
with the protagonist of the stage play, the techniques of characterisa tion for the protagonists of these film plays will become apparent. The examples will show that it is th© practice of these film plays to present a clear definition of a highly sympathetic and admirable protagonist, generally coupled with a person of the opposite sex, offer ing a universality of appeal for th© film audience.
In each of the
h3 following sections, specific examples of the technique® of film char acterisation will be discussed according to a specific practice of these file plays.
In each section, unless an exception is noted, it may be
assumed that the same practice is typical of all the film plays of this study.
The Clear Designation of the Protagonist In two of th© subject stage plays, The Barretts of Wlmpole Street and Angel Street, the characters of Elizabeth Barrett and Bella Manningham are so constructed as to make their designation as protagon ists questionable.
In the case of Elizabeth, her lack of volition and
Influence, her lack of a defined objective, make her appear weak and pathetic.
It is only through Browning’s strong volition and objectives
that Elizabeth Is finally given the strength to escape her environment. Because Browning and Barrett are In strong conflict, although they never meet on the stage, Elizabeth is often defined as the objective over which the two men contend.
The case of Bella in Angel Street is
somewhat similar. Until Rough, the detective, arrives with hia strong motivation to solve the Barlow murder case, Bella appears to be doomed to insanity.
Her actions are those of a non-volitional automaton.
Because of Rough’s strong volition and his plan of action which sweeps Bella with it, he is often regarded as the protagonist with Bella acting as an expository agent.
An analysis of the film versions of these stag©
play® will indicate the methods used to designate these characters as protagonists and to develop sympathetic appeals for them.
Ult The Barretts of Wtmpol® Street, In the film play, follows th® course of action of th® original play.
The element® of characterization
for Elizabeth, however, are radically changed.
In the film, she appears
as a strongly volitional woman who stands with Browning a® a co protagonist.
This is achieved by retaining Browning*s highly volitional
and attractive qualities from the stage play and matching them, point by point, in Elizabeth. Every quality that calls for pity rather than sympathy, despair rather than hope, is cut from the stage play.
their place, the film play substitutes more positive and attractive ele ments which invite admiration and identification. To begin with, Elizabeth is shown to be a renowned poetess. Where, in the stage play, the foreknowledge of the audience must supply this fact, her fame and ability are made evident In the film play. Elizabeth recognizes her own prowess, proudly, and tells the doctor as much.
Her brothers greet her fondly as "the world-famous poetess".
Her cousin Bella introduces Elizabeth as "The celebrated Englishwoman of letters".
In the film play, she is shown to have a vitality and a
talent strong enough to bring recognition to her, in spite of her invalidism. In the film play, Elizabeth assumes certain of the duties as the eldest child. Henrietta*
She wields a healthy influence on the life of
She does not, as in the play, avoid counselling Henrietta.
In the film, Elizabeth warns Henrietta of the risks involved with her romance, but encourages her to follow her heart.
After Elizabeth has
fallen in love with Browning, she exhorts Henrietta and Surtees-Cook
hS to fight for their love In spite of Barrett. h a p p i n e s s s h e tells them.
"You must fight for your
"No one has the right to destroy it!
one!*1 Suddenly aware of her vehemence, she stops,
"Forgive ms, but I
so wont to see Henrietta happy,n It is this volition to be of help to Henrietta and to see her sister married that gives Elizabeth much of the strength of character that is found in the film play.
She has an objective before Browning
appears to strengthen her volition even more. In the stage play, Elizabeth constantly capitulates to her father "to keep the peace".
In the film play, fortified by her own love,
she turns on Barrett in an obligatory scene which is missing fro® the play,
When Barrett surprises Henrietta and Surtees-Cook together and
orders the young man from the house, in the stage play and the film version, he turns on Henrietta.
In both treatments, he forces from her
an oath that she will never see her fiance again. rietta leaves with no help from Elizabeth. has anything to say to him.
Barrett asks if Elisabeth
"No," she replies.
negativism on Elizabeth’s part is cut.
In the play, Hen
In the film play, this
As Henrietta leaves, Elisabeth
ealls out to her, "Henrietta, remember what I told you!"
etta has gone, Barrett demands to know what Elisabeth meant,
tells him how she has counseled her sister to fight for her happiness. To his face, Elisabeth tells her father that he Is "cruelly and wickedly wrong!"
In spite of his orders to be quiet, she goes on.
him that she realizes that he Is a selfish tyrant, that he has made his boys spineless and subservient.
She warns him that she will not stand
by and see him w e e k Henrietta's life. if I can save her,* eh© says. least I'll try!
Mfou shan't break her heart,
"lou may b© too strong for m — -but at
And if I fail, I too shall hat® you*— -all my life!*
After this seen® of strong emotion and conflict, Elizabeth realises that she can no longer stay on In her father's house.
the stage play, she sends 'word to Browning that she will marry him.
the stage version, it will be remembered that this marriage takes place between Act® IV and V.
In the stag© play, Elisabeth returns to the
house after the ceremony, keeping th© marriage secret for almost a week.
After th© last painful scene with her father, she sneaks away
In the film play, this action is compressed.
the maid, returns immediately from Browning's home, announcing that Elisabeth 1® to be married that night. impossible. in.
Elisabeth protests that this is
Before she can send word back to Browning, Barrett cams
The final scene between him and Elisabeth Is retained, with some
cutting, from the stage play.
When he leaves, Elizabeth tells Wilson
that they are to leave at once. packed.
Wilson protests that they are not
Elizabeth says that she cannot wait to pack.
need, they will buy.
She hurriedly writes a note to her father and to
Arabel. As the gong sounds, announcing dinner, Elizabeth and Wilson slip from th® house.
Elizabeth joins Browning, is married and leaves
for Italy, that night. The final seen© in the film is identical with that of th® stage pl«y*
When Barrett threatens to kill Flush, Henrietta trium
phantly says: "In her letter to me, Ba has written that she has taken
1*7 Flush with her.1* As a result of the strength which Elizabeth has trans ferred to Henrietta in the film play, the remark holds a rebellious and victorious implication of the impact which Elisabeth's act has had on the family. It cannot be denied that the Elisabeth of th© film play is a woman of different stature than th© Elisabeth of the stage play.
change is accomplished primarily by the change in attitude in the char acter herself.
'Where the concept of Elisabeth in the stage play is
negative and defeatist, in th© film play, she i® positive and optimistic. As a result of her new volition, as a result of her positive objec tivity, Elisabeth stands a® a co-protagonist with Browning, The treatment of Browning is not as drastic.
To begin with,
the characterization in the stage version is alive, romantic, and attractive.
In the film, only two characterizing elements, both un
attractive, are deleted from the stage play. that he is incapable of play-acting. was a collosal failure. film play.
He no longer protests
Stor does he admit that Sardelle
He Is, however, given a new major scene in the
He meets Barrett face-to-face.
After Elisabeth has walked
down stairs to see Browning (the sequence introduces their plans for her trip to Italy), Barrett Interrupts them.
He and Browning come into
verbal conflict over Elizabeth*® gains in health. to push his advantage,
Elizabeth indicates that he should withdraw.
As a result of this scene, the enmity between Browning and Barrett Is mad® graphic and clear in the film play.
It is pertinent to note,
however, that Elizabeth also gains In stature in th© scene.
She is not
only strong enough to fac® her father, she is also strong enough to Influence Browning's actions. The character of Elizabeth Is changed in the film play within the limits of th® action of the original play-
This is done by cutting
all the negative and weak characteristics of th® stag® version, substitut ing positive and strong qualities.
The film play further strengthens
Elisabeth by adding an obligatory seen© wherein she denounces her father. These changes combine to make Elisabeth an admirable person of character and volition, giving her sympathetic appeals for the audience.
Browning, Elisabeth is clearly defined as the co-protagonist of th© film play.
Th© same techniques of characterization are used in Gaslight,
•toe film version of Angel Street, by expanding the action of the orig inal stage play. In Gaslight, Paula (as Bella is known on the screen) is designated as the protagonist by clarifying her motivations and establish ing a background which makes her actions credible. is seen prior to her marriage.
In the film, Paula
By externalizing past-aetion, the film
play shows her to be an attractive and volitional person.
At the onset,
she Is given strong appeals for sympathy and Identification.
is clearly the protagonist in the film play. Because of the structure of the stage play, there are few opportunities for th© wife to display anything but terror and abject helplessness.
She is seen only for a few hours in "the most wonderful
night of her life," five years.
little is known of her.
Her money purchased th© house.
She has been married for Her mother, she is told,
k9 died la an Insane asylum.
At the and of the play, more is known about
the past of the husband and the detective.
The wife is never clearly
defined. In the film version, Gaslight is no longer a study of suspense. The film play presents the logical and clear development of how a young girl becomes married, is terrorized by her maniacal husband, and is set free.
Paula is first seen at her voice lesson.
in the middle of an aria.
He tells her that she can never hop® to be
th® great singer that her aunt was. other things.
Her coach stops her
He ©©uses that her mind is on
Happily, Paula tells him that she is in love.
the eoaoh suggests that she give up her opera ambitions and find her happiness in her love, meet her fiance. marry him.
Paula gratefully kisses the old man and runs to
He is Gregor Anton, an accompanist.
She asks for time to consider.
another for two weeks.
He asks her to
They have only known one
She leaves for Lake Como,
On th© train, Paula has as a compartment companion a garrulous Englishwoman, an avid murder mystery fan. on Paula. London.
This Miss Thwaites intrudes
She discovers that th© girl has lived in Thornton Square in Paula is plainly disturbed when the woman persists in talking
about Thornton Square's famous murder case;
th® mysterious killing of
Alice Alquist, the famous opera star, ten years before.
delights in telling Paula that the house, the furniture, everything stands, just as it was that night,
Paula becomes visibly disturbed.
tempts to change th© topic of conversation. draws in to Como.
She is relieved as th© train
As she steps from the car, Anton meets her.
So she falls into hisams, have sent for you*”
"If you had not come,” she
tells him, I should
They are married.
The morning after th© ceremony, Anton is seen, charming and suave, telling Paula of his hopes for a composing career.
He tells her
that he mould love
to live in London*
She agrees toanything, happily.
She tells him that
she owns a house in London, in ThorntonSquare*
house had belonged to her, aunt, Alice Alquist, is afraid of the house.
She tells him that she
She was there, the night of the murder, a
frightened, little girl.
But now, with Anton, she has no fear.
must not be afraid,” she tells him. know I can.”
"If you*ll help me— — I can.
They move into the house.
At this point, the film play externalises the events of Anton *s reign of terror of Paula.
She is shown being terrified by her seeming
loss of mind, not realising her husband's actions* to overcome her fright.
She is shown trying
Her volition to escape insanity, however, is
insidiously thwarted by her husband. Paralleling this conflict is the development of the exposi tion regarding th© detective. attractive person*
In th© film play, he is a younger, more
His attention is drawn to Paula because she resembles
"the most beautiful woman I knew:" the opera star, Alice Alquist. detective senses something is wrong.
He uses Miss Thwaites as an agent.
He Is seen studying the files of the Alquist murder. assigning a Bobby to watch the house. Paula.
He is shown
He finally forces an entry to
Their meeting is interrupted by the arrival of the husband,
triumphantly holding the jewels for which he murdered, years ago.
5l scuffle, th® husband Is captured, th® detective for comfort.
E© Is led away* and Paula turns to
The film play ends.
While Gaslight has lost much of th© effective theatricality of the stag© play, it gains the clear and credible definition of the wife*® implication in the course-of-action. Her appealing qualities are shown in action during the development of ©vents which lead to her escape from insanity. powering odds.
She is seen fighting for her sanity against over
She is volitional and clearly attractive.
In both The Barretts and Gaslight, the two women have been given definite appeals for admiration and identification.
both been made attractive and sympathetic. By deleting negative and weak elements of characterisation, and by adding positive and strong elements of characterisation in volitional and credible action against well-matched obstacles, th© film versions of these two plays have clearly designated Elisabeth and Paula as protagonists. The Ethical and Moral Standards of the Protagonist Th© P.O.A. Cod© rules that no film shall be produced which will lower the moral standards of those who see it.
For this reason, the
sympathy of the audience cannot be thrown on the side of crime, wrong doing, evil or sin.
Furthermore, the P.C.A, Cod© will not approve of
films which present attitudes "contrary to correct standards of life.0 The protagonists of seven of the subject stage plays violate these rulings. In Might Must Fall and Rope, murder is presented in a
52 sympathetic light./ In Skylark, Brief Encounter, and The Women, marriage is presented in an unacceptable manner.
Over Twenty-On® ridicule® the
role of the civilian-soldier in war-time.
Heaven Can 19ait, the stage
original of Here Comes Mr. Jordan, is contrary to accepted standards of behaviour and presents the hereafter in an irreverent manner.
the practice of the film versions to retain the course-of-action of the original, yet to make the film acceptable to the tenets of the Code by recharacterising the protagonist.
This is done either by focusing on
a $©w central character (as in th® case of the two murder stories), or to develop acceptable characteristics for th© protagonist within the framework of the original. In the film version of Night Must Fall, Olivia becomes th© protagonist of the course-of-aotion.
Danny, th© psychopathic murderer,
is still a central character, but he acts as th© obstacle to Olivia. In order to make Olivia acceptable as a protagonist, all of her negative characteristics have been cut in the film.
It will b© remembered that,
in the stage play, she is a drab young woman, dominated by her aunt. When Danny arrives, Olivia is fascinated by his lethal suavity and the excitement which he engenders.
She comforts him when she finds him
standing over the body of her aunt. when the poliee arrive.
She attempts to lie to shield him
In the stage play, Olivia*s actions are the
pathetic actions of an unhappy, unfulfilled girl.
They are not actions
which evoke sympathy and admiration from a normal audience. To make Olivia an acceptable protagonist, these negative ele ments are deleted in the film play.
All references to her servility
53 to her aunt are cut*
She is employed by the woman as a companion.
she hated the woman In the stage play, Olivia is shown to have a patient understanding of her aunt’s irascibility in the film.
While Olivia is
bored with the inactivity of the country, she does not complain about her lot.
Moreover, she is courted by Hubert.
In the film version,
Hubert is a successful young lawyer who handles Mrs. Bramson's affairs. He has asked Olivia to marry him. him "that way' 1 yet.
She puts him off.
She does not love
She is waiting for something "to happen."
When Danny arrives, in the film play, Olivia is immediately repelled by him.
She has seen him first kick at the cat and then attempt
to fondle the animal in front of her aunt. his motives.
She is at once suspicious of
In the film play, Olivia does not investigate his luggage
because she is excited at the prospect of Danny’s guilt.
deliberately searches in the hope that she can establish his guilt.
all her relations with Danny, Olivia’s natural hatred and fear of him are underlined. As in the play, Olivia claims Danny’s hat-box as her own, shielding him from the Inspector.
In the film play, however, it is made
clear that sh© realizes that she did this in spit© of herself, that she is drawn to him subconsciously. cannot stay on in th© house.
At once, she phones Hubert that she
Warning her aunt of the danger, Olivia
runs from the house and from Danny.
When she returns to find her aunt
murdered, Olivia does not comfort th© frightened Danny as in th© play. She tells him, flatly, that h© is loathesome. kill her, she does not become frightened.
When Danny threatens to
"You can kill me, *» she says.
a* HI daresay you would have arxyw&y, but at least I know what you are— now I..,
You1re mad and horrible,
I ’ve found you out!**
arrive, she does not attempt to shield Danny.
When th© police
She steps forward and
sayss nIt,s Mrs, Brams on, she’s been murdered,1 1 She turns to the com forts of Hubert. The change in the film characterization of Hubert serves to emphasize and clarify the attractiveness of Olivia. attractive in the film.
He himself is
He is not the unmitigated bore of the stage play.
He is a successful man, obviously in love with Olivia.
The fact that
he wants to marry her serves to reflect her attractiveness and her appeals. In the film play, therefore, Olivia is the protagonist,
of the negative elements of the original character have been cut.
film play takes the focus of sympathy from Danny,
by developing positive
appeals for Olivia, throwing her into direct contrast to his unattrac tive elements.
Since this sympathetic protagonist expresses repugnance
for the act of murder and is th© agent by which the murderer is appre hended, the film version of Night Must Fall retains the basic structure of the play and becomes acceptable to the P.C.A, Code, Rope, in the film play, presents a similar technique.
the stage play and the film play, two young men wilfully murder another young man for the thrill of killing.
In the film play, they justify
their act on the basis of Nietache-like superiority.
In both versions,
the murderers stuff the body into a Casonne chest, invest a ruse whereby the boy’s parent© are invited to tea, and serve the tea from th® chest.
S5 During the afternoon, Rupert collects, bit by bit, evidence that leads him to suspect foul play.
He forces the two to let him open the chest.
Discovering the body,'he calls th© police and. turns the two murderers over to Justice.
The action of the stage play and the film play are
identical. Rupert*s characierissstion in the stage play, however, does not reveal him as the protagonist until the last few speeches.
shown to be a young, affected poet, embittered and crippled in the war. He has be si invited to the tea because the murderers feel that he would enjoy and understand the "delicate artistry" of their act.
play, the victim*s father and aunt anda young couple are sketchy, shallow characters, They are ridiculed by Rupert.
He twists them,
shocks them by satirising th© Ten Cowiancksents. In contrast to these people, Rupert*s similarity to the twoeffete murders Is striking. might well allow them to get away with their murder.
In the stage play,
therefor®, until th© disclosure at the end, there is no protagonist whose motives and attitudes evoke the sympathies of th© audience.
moral and ethical overtones in Rupert, moreover, ar© in violation to the P.O.A. Cod®. In the film version, Rupert is made into an acceptable prota gonist.
He is changed physically as well as ethically.
veteran, wounded but not bitter.
He is a
His war record is mentioned as a
characterizing element by the housekeeper to prove that Rupert is brave. Hhere, in the stage play, he was cruel and sharp, in the film play he is compassionate and considerate. H© treats th® two murderers with
56 benign amusement, He was, at one time, their teacher in prep school. He still regards them m
youngsters playing at growing-up.
was superficial and scathing to the other minor character® in the play, in th® film he respects thalr attitudes towards conventions. Ihen he realises that his flippant raillery about murder shocks the older man, Rupert breaks off.
7,ben Brandon, one of the murderers, persists in
discussing murder, Rupert tells him, bluntly, to shut up and maneuvers the conversation around to book®. In the stage play, Rupert toll® Brandon that the murderer has also killed his trust in logic, yet he does not deny that he still believes in the ethics of Brandon*s act,
In th® final speech in the
film play, Rupert acknowledges that he had discussed the superiority of certain people over others.
But he tell® Brandon that he has given
meaning to the words they never had,
Rupert acknowledges his guilt as
& teacher, denies the validity of Brandon’s philosophy, and then excoriates Brandon’s fascist attitude as contrary to human and natural law.
In the movie, Rupert is clearly ©n the side of moral and ethical
goodness, He is clearly the protagonist with whom the audience is asked to sympathise, admire
In both Might Must Fall and Rope, therefore, in order to maintain the structure of the original stage plays yet make the treat ment acceptable to the Code and to th© audience, the film plays have defined an acceptable character who acts as the protagonist.
case, this new character is clearly defined as the person with when the audience i» to sympathise * In each case, th© positive qualities of the
protagonist are contrasted sharply with tho unattractive eluents of the murderers. With both Olivia and Rupert, the film plays bring out their attractive qualities by deleting those elements in the stage play Which tend to destroy sympathy and admiration.
Olivia is changed from a
captious drab to an understanding, forthright young woman.
Not only is
she made physically attractive, she becomes, in her relations vd-th Danny, morally admirable.
The treatment of Rupert is similar.
The film play
has deleted those qualities which seem to make hin an ally of the murderers and therefor® unattractive.
Re is given a moral and ethical
attitude which is not only raor© appealing and attractive, but also places him in direct opposition to the murders from the onset, In both cases, the attitudes of Olivia and Rupert to their situation and the crimes in which they become involved reflect accepted standards of behaviourIn both cases, these attitudes serve to make the film plays acceptable to the P.C.A. Code.
These attitudes are also more normal, more natural,
and, therefore,, stronger appeals to the audience. In Night Must Fall and Rope, the film plays needed only to condemn the obvious crime, murder.
In th© cases of The Women, Skylark,
and Brief Encounter, the problem has been to adapt to the screen studies of marriage, fidelity, and divorce, In the stage plays, The Women, Skylark. and Still life, the protagonist is clearly defined.
Each of these women, however, reflects
attitudes toward® marriage which are not acceptable to the P.O.A. Code. In each case, the attitude is contrary to accepted standards of marriage.
58 In The Women, Mary Haines regains her husband by becoming as catty as the women mho precipitated her divorce.
In Skylark, Lydia leaves her hus
band because he has lied; he lies to regain her and she accepts these lie® ad a testament of his love. enters
In Still Life, Laura, a married woman,
into protracted adultery with a married man.
When they are
almost discovered, she breaks off in order to retain her respectability. In each film play, these women are made acceptable and appealing prota gonists without changing the basic situation of the original stage play. 'In The Women, Mary is changed by developing qualities of warmth and integrity.
In Skylark, Lydia I® made acceptable by extending the
time-limits of the original play in order to develop her sense of values. In Brief Encounter, the film adaptation of Still Life, the adultery is net consummated.
The episode in Laura's life is recalled in flash-back
technique as she reviews the jeopardy in which she had placed her mar riage.
An analysis of the film plays will indicate the methods used
to make the changes credible within the framework of the original stage play. In the stage version of The Women, Mary Haines has many nega tive qualities.
Her close friends are gossip-mongers. She depends on
her mother for advice and help.
She becomes apathetic after th© divorce,
doing nothing to make herself attractive to her husband or to the audience.
She admits defeat.
Finally, when she hears that her succes
sor is being unfaithful with another man, Mary brazenly creates a situa tion to reveal the promiscuity of the second Mrs, Haines.
fracas, a message comes from Mr. Haines, asking for his wife.
59 culls outi "Tell him Pffl comingi"
Sylvia, the chief gossip, remarks x
"Miry, i^iat a dirty female trick!” Another observes! like all the rest of us!"
To this, Mary repliesi
years to sharpen my claws!..,
Goodnight, ladies I"
"You’re a cat,
"Well, I’ve had two As she exits, the
curtain falls. In the film play, the structure of the original play is main tained with the addition of a prologue. story on a high, satirical level.
This prologue establishes th©
Jane Murfin, speaking of her adapta
tion, says s The Women is a satire. I don’t know anybody quit© like them, although we may all have noted certain resemblances,... In this instance, I wanted the audience to sympathise with Mary. I saw no reason why she should be dull and drab. After all, women of warmth, beauttj and integrity have had wandering husbands, and it seemed to me these very qualities would draw him back to her and also make her want him bock after his disillusionment.... Throughout, the factor of "audience identification" in the rewrite is considerable. By developing these qualities in Mary* Mies Murfin also has changed the quality of the film play. " becomes acceptable.
By making Mary acceptable, the entire theme
The change is primarily brought about by a change
in Mary’s relationships, her values, and her motivations. In the play, Mary’s close friend is Sylvia, th© chief gossip and agent provocateur of the divorce. There is no justification of their friendship other than the fact that they were in school together. In the film play, it is established that Sylvia is Mary’s cousin. were kids together," Mary says,
"She’s all right—
1. In a letter to th© investigator, dated Beverly Hills, California, March ?, 1950.
60 Mary attempts to justify Sylvia's actions,
sister* Dinah, is an important expository character.
In the stage play*
she is frequently used to make a transition from one important scene to another.
In this use* she is characterised as a rather offensive and
certainly incredible young lady. sitoxy character.
In the film play* she is still an expo-
&er transition scenes* however* are limited only to
the specific fuuaction of transition.
In th© some play* Lacy's
brother# Bandy# is used as an expository character and# latex*# as a complication in th© ol> u ts©"*01*"a ction* stage play.
These a r e his only uses in the
To make hie appearance credible. however# th© stage play
devotes several pages to characterise Sandy. occur early in the play. the scene.
His two important scenes
In th© last act# he practically disappears from
In the film play# Sandy is cut entirely.
assumes Sandy*s role as an ejq>oaitory ana complicating character, since Dexter is one of the major charact era # unis change In the film play not only eliminates an irrelevant minor character but strengthens the conflict pattern of th© entire film play. This practice of focusing on the major characters in the film plays is characteristic in these examples.
With the exception of Rope
and Gaslight# neither of which has a sub-plot in the original# all of these film plays have a dated sub-plots which do not add to the clarity or the credible complication of the main course-of-actIon. *a ^be H^rratts of Wimi>ole Street» the film play has cut any development of itrabel# Octavius# and Bella and her fi&aoe which has no direct bearing on the conflict between Barrett and Elisabeth and Brown ing.
This not only serves to focus the action of the film play on the
main co u r ©©-of-action# it eliminates a great deal of unnecessary back ground material regarding th© Pus©yitea* I n Brief Encount er» not only is the sympathetic sub-plot con
cerning Beryl out insofar as it has such strong ©motional appeals of Its own# but th© irrelevant development of a secondary love story between
123 two station employ*** i» out.
In the fiha pi^y, the minor characters
of the refreshment stand sire used only as local color, transition, and comedy relief characters. in j*jgp Adith, in order to make credible the hasty marriage between Bill aid Ruth, the stage play develops a sub-plot between Hartha, Bill’s sister, and Chuck, Bin*® sergeant.
In the film play, only
those elements which are necessary to clarify their love-story in relation to the main love-story are retained. In Here Comes asr. Jordan, two sub-plots are cut from the stage play. In neither case are these pertinent to Joe’s central conflict. She extended exposition regarding the relations between Bette and the dead *arneworth are gone. A
Farnsworth is cut.
Also the exposition about the secretary and Mrs. In the original play, there are seven minor charac
ters which are introduced for the specific purpose of exposition.
the film play, these elements of exposition ere handled by one butler who also provides comedy relief,
The other seven characters are cut.
In X Remember ifcama, only those elements of Irina's romance
with Thorkelson which make graphic Kama’s triumph over th® sisters are retained in the film play. In lady in the hark, the extended exposition about Maggie, Alison, and Paxton is reduced to the reQ. event minimum necessary to make credible their xoles in. Liza's conflict, a i£ht Must Fall, Lora is used to introduce L&nny,
sub-pl^t of her love tor fianny and her unborn child is cut to those elements which characterize Laany,
In Over Twejitv-Qae, th© entire incredibl© aub-plot about the action picture producer and hi® story trouble® ere cut from the film play*
i.n the stage play* this producer serves as an agent for B m l a ’s
blaok-raarket uiiplan© reservation, ami th© device whereby ©he demonstrates
her editorial abilities.
Since the H i m play motivates Paula’s becoming
the editor In a more credible and appealing manner* this sub-plot Is Ir
relevant, Fy&wallQft* all that remains of Doolittle and the isynsfordHlils are those elements which serve to clarify and motivate actions of the major characters. In Watch on the lihine, the sub-plot regarding David and hie Lansing girl fried and David and Martha is out to those elements which are pertinent to the conflict of the major characters.
In the stage play*
this sub-plot provides the structural climax of the second act.
film play* the courae-of-sctioa progresses in terms of the major conflict* building to the one central climax of the story* la Dkylark, a sub-plot involving Lydia and th© wife of a business associate is used In the stage play to show that Lydia once had sruao a successful business career of her own. This is not pertinent to the ■
development of tae conflict between Tony and Lydia in the film play and is out, 1Q 'lb© Women* while there is a strong focus on the central oonfiict in the stag© play, a fair portion of the play is devoted to characterising and continuing irrelevant sidelights oJS the minor characters. In th© film play* only those elements which serve to clarify *%ry and
Crystal in relation to their conflict over Stephen toe retained* All of the filia plays of this study are shorter than the stage plays*
The average length of a feature film is seven reels,
ninety minutes of playing time.
The compression of the stage playa,
in these examples, is found mainly in the cutting of those aetions of the minor char set era which are not relevant to the central course-ofaction*
spite of the strong focus on the major characters which
results from this ooiapreasion, all of the film plays of this study have added new minor characters and have developed other minor characters beyond their original function*
In all cases* these minor characters are
uaeu to make graphic and clear some facet of the major characters and the main course-of-actio n.
They are used to react to a given character
or a situation, to externalise exposition, to identify locale, to inject a minor conflict, to provide additional complication, and to bring a scene to a close.
These new minor characters will he discussed
in relation to their function in these H i m plays and the frequency with whida that function is used* The Reactors In present-day society, there are a series of character-reading cliches on which these film plays capitaliset "he's a man's man’1, "he likes animals”, ”she likes children”, "she's neighborly"• etc* These and similar phrases are used constantly as short and concise characterizations in daily conversations*
These film plwys use similar devices to indicate
character and attitude*
A type character will be shown in a situation.
XUB Th® way in which that character reacts to that situ®tIon serves to externalize the attitude which the audience is to take towards the character or the situation*
Stor thb purpose of this study, these
character*® are called reactors,
in twelve of th® film plays, these
aeeeqtorerare used to clarify character and situation. In ffere Cornea MR* Jordan» Joe is seen boxing, then flying his plane, then crashing.
He reports to % , Jordan.
While he is a
likeable young man, he is not seen in a normal situation by which the audience can jucig© him in terms of their own experience.