Remakes That You Didn’t Know Were Remakes … Or Maybe You Did
All right. I confess. Sometimes while watching an old movie, I start thinking of how it can be remade. Maybe it could be updated. Or maybe think, “Who could play that role if the movie was made today?” That sort of thing.
Hollywood is always doing remakes. Sometimes they’re sneaky about it. They take an old movie and twist and turn it until you may not realize that it’s, in essence, a reworking of a film you saw long ago. While I consider these more recent movies to be remakes, perhaps a better description would be “Movies Greatly Inspired by Other Movies.”
For example, there’s You’ve Got Mail. This romantic comedy is an obvious update of the classic movie The Shop Around the Corner. Even the name of Meg Ryan’s store in You’ve Got Mail is “The Shop Around the Corner.” The story of pen pals who fall in love through their letters and don’t realize that they’ve met in person – and really don’t like each other! – was given a modern twist by Nora Ephon, making the anonymous post office box into an AOL account inbox. Tom Hanks takes the role James Stewart played, with Meg Ryan in the female lead originated by the wonderful Margaret Sullavan.
Societal changes and sensibilities affect other classic movies in profound and sometimes amazing ways. One of my favorite recent movies is Far From Heaven, starring Julianne Moore, Dennis Quaid, Dennis Haysbert, and Patricia Clarkson. It is clearly inspired by the Douglas Sirk melodrama All That Heaven Allows, which starred Jane Wyman, Rock Hudson, and Agnes Moorehead. The original movie was about an upper class widow who falls in love with her working class gardener – a man who is also just a bit younger. This causes a scandal in her small town – but it is nothing compared to the modern movie that is also set in the 1950s. In Far From Heaven, a woman in a loveless marriage also finds her soulmate in her gardener, who is black. And that’s only one of the changes to the original story.
Kurosawa’s epic Seven Samurai, starring Toshiro Mifune, served as inspiration for the American western The Magnificent Seven with Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, and James Coburn. Both movies focus on a village under siege by outlaws. In desperation, the villagers hire their own gang of men to protect the community.
In turn, the John Wayne and Dean Martin western The Sons of Katie Elder was recently remade as a modern story in Four Brothers starring Mark Wahlberg andTyrese Gibson. In both versions, brothers unite to avenge the wrong done to their mother.
Jane Austen’s books have continued to provide inspiration for both novelists and moviemakers. Emma was updated as Clueless with Alicia Silverstone. And Pride and Prejudice was the inspiration for Bridget Jones’s Diary, starring Katy, Texas native Renee Zellweger. Colin Firth played the intriguing Mr. Darcy in both versions.
Hollywood sometimes alters the original story by shifting the focus from adults to teenagers. Cruel Intentions, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, and Reese Witherspoon, was a modern-day take on Dangerous Liaisons. Rear Window, the classic Hitchcock movie about a man who thinks his neighbor is a murderer, was remade recently as Disturbia with Shia LaBeouf as a teenager under house arrest who becomes convinced a neighbor is a serial killer.
Good stories are always worth repeating. So who can blame the moviemakers for relying on the classics?