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Text 1.

Fay Weldon’s literary career now spans at least three media and must be one of the most prolific in Britain. So far it adds up to eleven theatrical plays, twenty-two TV plays and seventeen novels, the most famous of which is ‘The Life and Loves of a She-Devil’. This is a story of a betrayed wife, who instead of taking a knife to her husband has herself carved up by a plastic surgeon into a clone of her husband’s ‘mistress’.

This horrid tale was later turned into a major Hollywood movie by Susan Seidelman, starring Meryl Streep and Roseanne Barr. Was Weldon’s Hollywood sale of the She-Devil dependent on having Susan Seidelman, director of Desperately Seeking Susan, as director? ‘Yes’ she said emphatically, in an interview about the making of this film. ‘I could have sold it to John Huston, which gave me a choice between a more traditional Hollywood approach or having a new and different look.’

Though Weldon did not write the script, she was invited to visit the New York set. “They were nervous in case I rushed round the set screaming ‘That’s not what I wrote!’ or ‘ Why are her shoes pink instead of green?’ But I know enough not to do that. My theory is that the role of the adaptee is to rise from the grave every now and then crying ‘Wonderful, wonderful.’ Then to sink back again only coming out for the premiere.” But she does have one niggling doubt. “I suspect they are only filming half the book. It stops when the She-Devil has put her husband in prison, confounded his mistress and is running a successful business.” In the novel, the bad woman (i.e. the mistress) becomes good and the effort of being virtuous kills her, whereas the good woman (i.e. the wife) becomes bad, yet it saved. The film has an old-fashioned moral to it: ‘You can do it, sister – but without the devil’s assistance.’ Fay Weldon’s habitual cynicism has given place to something that is ‘very warm to the heart’.

But does Fay Weldon think that there is enough material left to make a good film? A brief hesitation, then: “No. If it was me and the film came to an end halfway through the original story, it would need some other inner purpose. Narrative has to be more than mere progression and I suspect that this film will be just that. The bad mistress just gets her comeuppance.”



So is this a case of take the money and run? “No,” Weldon firmly replies. “I don’t think you can do that anymore. In the days when Hollywood was run by producers with no taste or judgement that was possible, but since those people are now extremely intelligent and versatile you can’t look at it like that. You have to respect their decisions.”

 

Text 2

Graham Green, the well-known author of more than thirty novels, had already made one film with director Carol Reed when film magnate Sir Alexander Korda asked him to do another set in Vienna during the four-power occupation after the Second World War. The story is about Harry Lime living in this smashed and dreary city, where everyone had a racket. Lime, however, was in a particular dirty business of penicillin, which, diluted for better profit, caused many deaths. At the end of the book, Lime’s girlfriend walks away from his graveside with another man. This is what Graham Green had to say about the making of the film in the preface to the book.

“To me it is almost impossible to write a film play without first writing the story. The Third Man, therefore, had to start as a story before those apparently interminable transformations from one treatment to another.”

“On these treatments Carol Reed and I worked closely together, covering so many feet of carpet a day, acting scenes at each other. No third ever joined our conferences; so much value lies in the clear cut-and-trust of argument between two people.” To the novelist, of course, his novel is the best he can do with a particular subject, he can not help resenting many of the changes necessary for turning it into a film or a play; but The Third Man was never invented to be more than the raw material for a picture. The reader will notice many differences between the story and the film, and he should not imagine that these changes were forced on an unwilling author: as likely or not they were suggested by the author. The film is in fact better than the story because it is in this case the finished state of the story.

“One of the major disputes between Carol Reed and myself concerned the ending and he has been proved triumphantly right. I had the view that an entertainment of this kind was too light an affair to carry the weight of an unhappy ending. Reed on his side felt that my ending – indeterminate though it was, with no words spoken, would strike the audience who had just seen Harry die, as unpleasantly cynical. I admit, I was only half convinced; I was afraid few people would wait in their seat during the girl’s long walk from the graveside and they would leave the cinema under the impression that the ending was as conventional as mine and more drawn-out. I had not given enough consideration to the mastery of Reed’s direction and at that stage, of course, neither of us could have anticipated Reed’s brilliant discovery of Mr. Karas, the Zither player.”

 




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