Adapting “An American Tragedy” from A History of the Art of Adaptation [Video] (1:37)

You Can Please Some of the People Some of the Time… None of the People All of the Time: A History of the Art of Adaptation in Movies like Dune, The Godfather, Harry Potter and More!

Dr. Rosanne Welch speaks on A History of the Art of Adaptation in Movies like Dune, The Godfather, Harry Potter and More! at the California State University, Fullerton Library

Part of the program series for Dune by Frank Herbert: A 50th Anniversary Celebration.

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Now in his career, his book “An American Tragedy” was made into a film twice. In 1931, Sternberg actually directed it and this is the book, but in 1951 it became, this “A Place in the Sun”, which was hugely famous both as an adaptation and as an Elizabeth Taylor movie with Montgomery Clift and Shelley Winters — long before she was a little old woman that everybody laughed at. And this was a marvelous story based in a true life event, then fictionalized for the novel and the novel further adapted into the film, because it dealt with some issues that we couldn’t talk about in film, even in the early 1950’s. Basically, Montgomery Clift’s character is a very poor young man who moves to the big city, gets a job with his distant cousin’s factory and he’s told you can’t date the factory workers. So he actually has a under—shhhhhh—nobody knows relationship with a woman who works with him and that’s Shelley Winters. Meanwhile, he’s getting to know his cousin’s very rich family that includes their neighbor, Elizabeth Taylor. And, of course, he falls in love with here, but no one’s ever going to get married because he’s the poor boy and she’s the rich girl. He starts getting promoted and making more money and they’re like – Aaaaah. Meanwhile, Shelley Winters, the girlfriend – gulp — you know what happens to her? She gets pregnant. And when she tells him it’s “Oh no, it’s going to ruin his life.” So he has to figure out what to do and the really scary sad thing, which comes from the true life story, is that he took her out on a row boat for a date and he killed her and dumped her in the river, because he wants to marry the rich girl, right? This was very, very controversial for back in the day, but they were able to get away it with. So Dreiser shouldn’t have worried about his work, because it transferred pretty well to the screen. 

About this talk

Dr. Rosanne Welch (RTVF) speaks on the craft of history of film adaptations from the controversy of the silent film Birth of a Nation (protested by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1915) to Breakfast at Tiffany’s (to which author Truman Capote famously said, “The only thing left from the book is the title”) to The Godfather . Naturally, the behemoth in adaptation – Harry Potter (which depended on the relationship created by adapter Steve Kloves and author J.K. Rowling) will be discussed, as will the subject of this month’s celebration: Dune.

Date: Wednesday, October 14, 2015 Time: 1:00pm – 2:00pm

About Dr. Rosanne Welch

Dr. Rosanne Welch is a professor in the Low Residency MFA in Screenwriting Program from Stephens College, California State University, Fullerton, Mount San Antonio Community College and Cal Poly Pomona.  In 2007, she graduated with her Ph.D. in 20th Century U.S./Film History from Claremont Graduate University.  She graduated with her M.A. in 20th Century United States History from California State University, Northridge in 2004.

Welch is also a television writer/producer with credits for Beverly Hills 90210 , CBS’s Emmy winning Picket Fences and Touched By An Angel . She also writes and hosts her own podcasts on, her first one titled “Mindful(I) Media with Dr. Rosanne Welch.”

Her upcoming book, “Why The Monkees Matter: Teenagers, Television and American Pop Culture” will be published in Fall 2016

Three Ring Circus: How Real Couples Balance Marriage, Work and Kids and The Encyclopedia of Women in Aviation and Space are two books she has written. Los Angeles Times and the Journal of Screenwriting hold some of her published articles.

Dr. Rosanne Welch Web Site and Blog

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Dr. Rosanne Welch on YouTube

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