Six Classic Novels That Have Been Adapted Many, Many Times

By Matt Prigge
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Mar. 23, 2011

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Oliver Twist (1838): After A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens’ most filmed tome would be his tale of a plucky scrap eking out a living alongside an anti-semitic characateur. Starting with a slew of silent adaptations in the teens, there have been 14 Oliver Twists, the most notable being David Lean’s 1948 version—Lean also did a gangbusters Great Expectations, itself no slouch in the remake department—and the most recent being by Roman Polanski in 2005, which was ignored because that’s how many Oliver Twist s there are in the world. That number, mind, doesn’t count the musical Oliver! or Disney’s Oliver and Company.

The Three Musketeers (1844): Dumas’ swashbuckler averages one per decade, with a 3-D one by (naturally) the guy who made Resident Evil en route next year. Yes, the 1993 one boasts Charlie Sheen as Aramis, but pay attention instead to Richard Lester’s giddy twofer from 1973 and 1974.

Jane Eyre (1847): It’s “only” been 15 years since Franco Zeffirelli gave Charlotte Brontë’s gloomy romance a spin, hence the arrival of one with Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender. That puts the count at 10, not counting copious TV adaptations and the best Eyre: Val Lewton’s I Walked With a Zombie , which reconfigures Brontë’s tale as a moody horror in the Caribbeans.

The Scarlet Letter (1850): Don’t worry, haters of the cartoonishly unfaithful Demi Moore evisceration (“freely adapted,” as per the credits) from 1995: You have 11 other versions to choose from. Go offbeat and choose Wim Wenders’s surprisingly faithful one from 1973.

Les Misérables (1862): Let’s see: Counting all the silents that tackle parts of Victor Hugo’s redemptive saga, and its adaptations in Turkey, Brazil, India and Egypt, the count is somewhere around 42. Eat it, Charles Dickens.

Anna Karenina (1878): Joe Wright’s Leo Tolstoy spin next year will bring the number to 12, including such eviscerations as 1927’s Love, the first of two Garbo Kareninas and the one to feature a happy ending for American audiences, and a 1997 one with Sophie Marceau that jams 864 pages into 108 minutes.

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