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Henry James Goes to the Movies

Henry James Goes to the Movies

Edited by Susan M. Griffin
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 400
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  • Book Info
    Henry James Goes to the Movies
    Book Description:

    Why has a nineteenth-century author with an elitist reputation proved so popular with directors as varied as William Wyler, François Truffaut, and James Ivory? A partial answer lies in the way many of Henry James's recurring themes still haunt us: the workings of power, the position of women in society, the complexities of sexuality and desire.

    Susan Griffin has assembled fifteen of the world's foremost authorities on Henry James to examine both the impact of James on film and the impact of film on James. Anthony Mazella traces the various adaptations ofThe Turn of the Screw, from novel to play to opera to film. Peggy McCormack examines the ways the personal lives of Peter Bogdanovich and then-girlfriend Cybill Shepherd influenced critical reaction toDaisy Miller(1974). Leland Person points out the consequences of casting Christopher Reeve -- then better known as Superman -- inThe Bostonians(1984) during the conservative political context of the first Reagan presidency. Nancy Bentley defends Jane Campion's anachronistic reading ofPortrait of a Lady(1996) as being more "authentic" than the more common period costume dramas. Dale Bauer observes James's influence on such films asNext Stop, Wonderland(1998) andNotting Hill(1999). Marc Bousquet explores the waysWings of the Dove(1997) addresses the economic and cultural situations of Gen-X viewers. Other fascinating essays as well as a complete filmography and bibliography of work on James and film round out the collection.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5956-0
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction: Making Movies with Henry James
    (pp. 1-8)
    Susan M. Griffin

    “Move over, Jane Austen: here comes Henry James,” the New York Times declared, heralding a cluster of new films based on James’s fiction: Jane Campion’sPortrait of a Lady(1996), Iain Softley’sThe Wings of the Dove(1997), and Agnieszka Holland’sWashington Square(1997). As Sarah Koch’s filmography included in this volume reveals, James’s writings have long been a resource for television and film alike. And, strikingly, movie and especially television stagings of James have been an international phenomenon, including American, British, French, and Spanish productions. Some of these productions are cinema classics, like William Wyler’sThe Heiress(1949); others,...

  5. Filming James, 1961–1984

    • “The Story . . . Held Us”: “The Turn of the Screw” from Henry James to Jack Clayton
      (pp. 11-33)
      Anthony J. Mazzella

      Henry James’s notorious ghost story “The Turn of the Screw” (1898; New York Edition, 1908) has been capable of sustaining a diversity of readings, often contradictory ones, as evidenced by its critical history over the past century: the ghosts are real (from the beginning through Peter G. Beidler’s book-length study of 1989 and beyond); the sex-repressed, insane governess is hallucinating (starting in 1920 with Harold C. Goddard’s essay, and in 1934 with Edmund Wilson’s work, perhaps the best known of the early studies, and into the future); Mrs. Grose is the evil genius behind the mysteries at Bly (1964 and...

    • Reexamining Bogdanovich’s Daisy Miller
      (pp. 34-59)
      Peggy McCormack

      On May 22, 1974, Peter Bogdanovich premiered his fifth film,Daisy Miller,at the Orson Welles Cinema in Cambridge, Massachusetts. According to Michael Sragow’sNew York Timesreview, the Cambridge audience responded well to the film and welcomed the appearances at the premiere of the thirty-five-year-old director and the twenty-four-year-old star of the film, Cybill Shepherd. However, published reviews of the film were decidedly mixed and often conflicting. Sragow, even as he acknowledged the audience’s positive response to the films world premiere, struggled fiercely to discount it. Overall, while there were good, even glowing, reviews, the popular and critical perception...

    • “The Tie of a Common Aversion”: Sexual Tensions in Henry James’s The Other House
      (pp. 60-75)
      Priscilla L. Walton

      The Other House,published in 1896, marks Henry James’s first and only foray into the textual world of murder mysteries and suspense thrillers. More akin to a nineteenth-century sensation novel than toThe Portrait of a Lady, The Other Houseconcentrates on a desiring single white female and dramatizes the dangers she poses to familial social structures. The novel ostensibly details Rose Armiger’s love for a man, Tony Bream, who is bound by a promise made to his dying wife (and Rose’s best friend) that he will not remarry during their child’s lifetime. In order to release Tony from his...

    • Mourning, Nostalgia, and Melancholia: Unlocking the Secrets of Truffaut’s The Green Room
      (pp. 76-98)
      Matthew F. Jordan

      Film adaptations of literary classics are notoriously tricky and often inspire as much wrath as praise. On the one hand, films can use beautiful moving images, music, flashing signs, close-ups, and the grain of the human voice to express feeling and tell a story, none of which are available to a literary text save through the power of the imagination. On the other hand, movies must often reduce parts of the literary work or expand others to make use of the visual medium. The director must choose which details will be foregrounded and which will blend into the scenery. The...

    • Still Me(n): Superman Meets The Bostonians
      (pp. 99-124)
      Leland S. Person

      James Ivory was “one of the directors who cast mebecausehe had liked my work inSuperman,” Christopher Reeve acknowledges in his recent autobiography,Still Me(1998), but most reviewers have done little more than note Ivory’s decision to cast “Superman” as Basil Ransom in the 1984 film adaptation of James’s 1886 novel. David Sterritt observes Reeve “trading his Superman cape for a 19th-century model” (23). Robert Emmet Long notes that “Mr. Reeve retains some of the qualities of his Superman impersonation” (77). Millicent Bell says that Reeve “looks as healthily handsome as if he were drawn in cartoon...

  6. Watching Isabel, Listening to Catherine

    • Conscious Observation: Jane Campion’s Portrait of a Lady
      (pp. 127-146)
      Nancy Bentley

      In Henry James’s 1881 novel,The Portrait of a Lady,Ralph Touchett decides that observing his cousin, Isabel Archer, henceforth will be the primary occupation of his life. The “conscious observation of a lovely woman,” the narrator tells us, “struck him as the finest entertainment that the world now had to offer” (231). Today, in an age when watching lovely women has become a mainstay of mass entertainment, James’s sentence carries an unexpected resonance, a note of literalism he could not have anticipated. Moviegoers, whether partial to art films or horror flicks, know that the observation of a beautiful woman...

    • “Prospects of Entertainment”: Film Adaptations of Washington Square
      (pp. 147-169)
      Julie Rivkin

      Unlike other James novels recently adapted to the screen,Washington Squareposes what would seem like an immediate impediment to cinematic translation in the person of its protagonist—a young woman characterized as neither beautiful nor clever. A mobile and engaging Isabel Archer, a Kate Croy who remains always in the line of one’s vision, even a Milly Theale with a resemblance to a Bronzino (or is it Klimt?) portrait are easily imagined on screen. But Catherine Sloper—placid, dutiful, and above all undemonstrative—seems an unlikely prospect for cinematic adaptation. If there is, as Nancy Bentley argues, an element...

    • “Her Ancient Faculty of Silence”: Catherine Sloper’s Ways of Being in James’s Washington Square and Two Film Adaptations
      (pp. 170-190)
      Karen Michele Chandler

      Agnieszka Holland and Carol Doyle’s cinematic adaptation ofWashington Square(1997), like Jane Campion’sThe Portrait of a Lady(1996), opened to mixed reviews and mediocre box office. Many reviewers bemoaned the movies allegedly vulgarized treatment of Henry James’s nuanced psychological narrative. Hostile reviewers objected, for instance, to the preadolescent protagonist Catherine Sloper’s urinating before a group joined to hear her sing and to the adult Catherine’s falling prone on a rain-drenched street as her lover forsakes her. Neither scene appears in James’s novel. In addition, Catherine is portrayed by Jennifer Jason Leigh, an actress better known for playing brazen...

  7. Getting James in the Nineties

    • Ambassadors from an Imaginary “Elsewhere”: Cinematic Convention and the Jamesian Sensibility
      (pp. 193-209)
      Alan Nadel

      Terry Southern’sThe Magic Christiancontains an episode in which Guy Grand, the billionaire whose practical jokes comprise the bulk of the novel, purchases a movie theater in the 1940s so that he may show altered versions of first-run films:

      In one scene inMrs. Miniver,Walter Pidgeon was sitting . . . in his firelit study and writing in his journal. He had just that afternoon made the acquaintance of Mrs. Miniver and was no doubt thinking of her as he paused reflectively and looked toward the open fire. In the original version of the film he took out...

    • Cultural Capitalism and the “James Formation”
      (pp. 210-239)
      Marc Bousquet

      I have always thought of Henry James as presiding over the house of culture as a kind of queenly Tudor monarch, stern and virginal and long-winded, but benign and briskly competent in the matter of cultural work—reliable, professional, fair-minded, timely, and thoughtful. Like the liberalism that this image continuously labors to help constitute, “Henry James” is not really given to failure—except at the drama. There seems to be no such thing as disappointing prose by Henry James (so long as we spot himWatch and Wardand possiblyThe Reverberator). The short stories and criticism, each of the...

    • Content or Costume? James as Cultural Capital
      (pp. 240-253)
      Dale M. Bauer

      My question—content or costume?—emerges from the ritual use of Henry James to depict the intellectual, or even esoteric, content of “art.” James has been used, first, as a sign of cultural literacy, signifying that an audience can recognize James, appreciate the reference, and thereby belong to a “common culture.” Thus, James is part of the “quantity of knowledge” we call cultural literacy, one that confers a status and a belonging associated with being “well read” or with being cultured. And secondly, James is used as cultural capital whose marking typifies the even smaller body of readers who actually...

    • “Hallucinations of Intimacy”: The Henry James Films
      (pp. 254-278)
      Dianne F. Sadoff

      Not all filmmakers and critics agree with John Fiske’s assessment of Henry James's impossible—and unpalatable—availability for popularization. Nevertheless, moviegoers have recently rejected two James films as popular cultural texts. WhileThe Wings of the Dovecrossed over from art house to mainstream distribution,Portrait of a LadyandWashington Squaredid not. Indeed,Wingsgarnered three academy award nominations, after which it opened nationally in multiplex theaters, and is the last of the three to be distributed on video;PortraitandWashington Square,on the contrary, opened briefly in “selected cities,” according to ads in theNew York Times,...

  8. Latest James

    • “Based on the Novel by Henry James”: The Golden Bowl 2000
      (pp. 281-304)
      Lee Clark Mitchell

      The Merchant Ivory adaptation of Henry James’sThe Golden Bowl(1906) opens with a flourish: a Renaissance scene that is one of the more telling in Prince Amerigo’s family history. Night shadows swirl as costumed guards march up stone stairs to an adolescent son in bed with his young stepmother. Both are dragged off as an older son accuses them in front of his father, the Duke, and a double beheading is then presented in shadowed silhouette at the hands of a grim-faced executioner. The voice-over intimates that the step-mother was not only lascivious but greedy as well, desiring more...

    • The Rift in the Loot: Cognitive Dissonance for the Reader of Merchant Ivory’s The Golden Bowl
      (pp. 305-332)
      Wendy Graham

      InThe Golden Bowl,the mute machinery of cinema upstages the actors and their craft, as when Charlotte Stant, played by Uma Thurman, sobs into the sleeve of her dove-grey peignoir in her luxurious teal-blue boudoir at Fawns; the shimmering gilt lozenges bedizening this otherwise drab gown reinforce the film’s intimation that marrying for money has not brought happiness to Charlotte, who seems more prisoner than mistress of her sleeping cabinet. While it is tempting to relate the form and function of costume and set design in this scene to James’s own use of extended metaphor and metonymy in the...

  9. The James Films and the Critical Reactions

    • A Henry James Filmography
      (pp. 335-358)
      J. Sarah Koch

      It was as a graduate student studying literature at Oregon’s Portland State University that I became involved with and enamored of the works of Henry James. Along the way, I took a class titled “Henry James on Film,” which served not only to further affirm my interest in this author, but also to awaken an interest in screen adaptations of classic works in general, James's in particular. When I went looking for a full James filmography, however, I discovered that there didn't seem to be one. There are a number of sources that provide partial lists of James-based films and...

    • Bibliography of Critical Work on James and Film
      (pp. 359-366)
      Sarah Edgington and Steve Wexler
  10. List of Contributors
    (pp. 367-370)
  11. Index
    (pp. 371-388)