Monday, May 4, 2009

Why Don't They Remake These Movies?

One of the strangest feelings I get as a Boomer is seeing movies from my adolescence being remade. Next month’s release of the remake of The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (with numbers instead of words), one of my favorite Walter Matthau movies, comes on the heels of remakes of The Poseidon Adventure, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Escape to Witch Mountain, among others. I have mixed feelings about this trend. While I loved The Poseidon Adventure as a teen-ager, especially Shelley Winters’ character, today I can do without the Rev. Scott-as-savior aspect.

The bigger problem is that Hollywood is not remaking a whole slew of the movies that should be redone. My suggestions (and with good reason):

A Little Romance (1979). Those of you who waited until A Walk On The Moon to fall in love with Diane Lane were late to the game. I started drooling over her when she played the delightful Lauren in her debut with none other than Laurence Olivier. The problem with this movie was her co-star, Thelonious Bernard, who (mercifully) made only one other movie. He played her teen-age love interest as a wholly insufferable and unsympathetic prig. Rewrite his part, hire Lane to play the role of her mother (Sally Kellerman in the original), and you’ve got a really sweet movie.

Endless Love (1981). In the novel by Scott Spencer — whom I believe to be the literary descendant of F. Scott Fitzgerald — the primary character is David Axelrod; his love interest, Jade, is practically a supporting role. Casting Brooke Shields as Jade, however, and the horribly wooden Martin Hewitt as David, created a lopsided movie because the focus was on the wrong character. Do it again, and get a star for the boy’s role, and an unknown for the girl’s.

Same Time Next Year (1979). My problem here is that I was lucky enough to see John Lithgow and Gail Strickland do this play at ACT in San Francisco in the summer of 1976. Anyone who remembers Lithgow’s salt-of-the-earth banker in Terms of Endearment knows that he could have pulled off the role of the conflicted accountant in Same Time Next Year much better than Alan Alda, who always seems to be playing Alan Alda. I have the full box set of M*A*S*H DVDs, but please, Hollywood — cast someone as George who isn’t so whiny.

The Way We Were (1973). This may sound like a surprise. The once-only matching of frat-boy Robert Redford with radical Barbra Streisand was a big hit, and deservedly so. But what’s not commonly known — and I only found out by watching the retrospective documentary on the special edition DVD — is that in the original script, Hubbell and Katie didn’t get divorced because he cheated on her; they got divorced because he was going to be blacklisted from the studios if he stayed married to her. She was going to make that sacrifice for his career. In the DVD, director Sydney Pollack tells the story of two previews on two consecutive nights in San Francisco, one including scenes with the politicized ending, and one without those scenes. The first was a bomb, the second was a hit. Here’s a daring idea — remake The Way We Were using Arthur Laurents’ original script.

That said, I have no illusions that Hollywood will follow my suggestions. There is nary a slashing, ship capsizing, or extraterrestrial on the list. They’re all love stories. Criminy — that means we’re stuck with all of them the way they were.


  1. While I would love to see Diane Lane in the Sally Kellerman role, remakes-gone-wrong flood my mind: The Shop Around the Corner becomes You've Got Mail, for instance. Once you stop shuddering over that one, can you cast the Olivier part in A Little Romance?

  2. There were undoubtedly purists who shuddered at "The Stop Around The Corner" becoming "In The Good Old Summertime" (a movie, it should be noted, that took place during a Chicago winter).

    Hmm, Laurence Olivier's role today. That's a toughie. The late Peter Ustinov would have been a great choice, but I think today it would have to be Albert Finney.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. How about DAVID SUCHET replacing Laurence Olivier, hmm? Predictable, maybe, having him as a comedic French role (Although we don't need the 'little grey cells' of you-know-who), but *adorably* predictable!

      Please, join me & cast as you please!: