Although I loved both movies, what do you all think of how Arthur Conan Doyle would have reacted were he still alive today to the portray of Sherlock Holmes by Morton Downey Jr.? And wasn't Doctor Watson way out there too? But they were both great!!!
I think this is both the dilemma and the opportunity we encounter when we consider the original author's view of contemporary adaptations of their work. One of the things that makes my flesh crawl, and I'm sure would make an original author's flesh crawl, if not totally befuddle him, is hearing contemporary phrases used in movies with an historical setting. In the movie Gettysburg
the Gen. Buford character is heard to say, "It will take awhile for General Reynolds to bring his men online
." A term Gen. Buford no doubt borrowed from his knowledge of internet jargon? On the other hand Doyle mentions a object called a "gasogene". When I encountered this term I had no idea what a gasogene was nor could I have distinguished one from an ape to save my life.
When we read Doyle, for instance, we are transported to the world and the times that Doyle actually lived in. No contemporary writer or movie maker could accurately describe those times with the same acumen that a person who lived then could. It is more than a description of the setting, it is more precisely a "feel" for a way of life and the ethos of those times in all of its subtle characteristics and implications.
One of the great advantages we have but often do not consider is that by reading authors of the past we are reading descriptions not only of the times but also of the mentality and mores of the people of those times. For example, George Elliot and Dickens were among the first to address the difficult living standards of the lower classes of their era. Today we are acutely aware of the evil of human bondage and are reminded of human rights violations constantly in the media so the impact is diluted, but in the days of Dickens and Elliot the suppression and exploitation of the poor was simply an accepted part of life. Their descriptions of this state of affairs, I'm sure, resonated far more profoundly to readers in their own times than they do in ours. So I suppose what I am trying to say is that we might consider what an author of the past describes in his/her writing as a sort of time machine into the past; however, most of us just read the book for the story and oft times miss the opportunity to explore the essence of what the writer is including between the lines.
I think the best historical movies (or books) are those which very closely attempt to capture the essence of the times. One example I could cite was the movie adaptation of Steinbeck's The Grapes Of Wrath
starring Henry Fonda. When watching this movie I felt that I was getting a very real description of what it was like to be poor during the "Dust Bowl" days. Another example I could cite was the movie, Thirteen Days
which dealt with the Cuban Missile Crisis as recorded by Presifent Kennedy's speech writer Ted Sorenson in his book Kennedy
. I lived in those times and I can assure you that the seriousness of impending nuclear war was very well captured in the movie, but young people today cannot begin to feel the terror of those "thirteen days" because they did not experience it first hand. Which brings me back to my previous observation : that we have an excellent opportunity to vicariously understand history better by paying close attention to the what an historical author writes. I do not think that there is any substitute for the work of a writer with access to first-hand observation.