I’ve written on here before about being a Martin Scorsese fan. In recent years, Scorsese has moved away from the organized crime movies he became known for, and though I’ve enjoyed a lot of those movies, I’ll always have a soft spot for his iconic mob movies.Scorsese’s 2019 effort–The Irishman–generated a lot of buzz when it was being made. The buzz tended to be less about the movie itself and more about the process/circumstances surrounding the making of the movie. It marks Scorsese’s return to the organized crime genre, reunited him with two longtime collaborators (Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, the latter coming out of retirement), included his first collaboration with Al Pacino, employed de-aging effects to the cast, was released on Netflix, and clocked in at 3 hours, 30 minutes.
Much less attention was paid to the story the movie told, that of Frank Sheeran. A trucker who worked as a hit man for Pennsylvania mobster Russell Bufalino, he claimed to know the real story behind the 1970s disappearance of mob-connected union leader Jimmy Hoffa.
At one point in her life, she was a successful author, writing biographies of famous women like the actress Tallulah Bankhead. She was even on the New York Times Bestseller list.
But that was years ago. Now, she can’t find work and is behind on her rent. The only friend she has is her ailing cat, and nobody will return her phone calls. As far as Lee is concerned, the fact she is now living in poverty and unemployed is a disgrace.
Her longtime agent, though, is less confused about why Lee has been snubbed by the literary world–just because she wrote a bestseller doesn’t mean she’s famous, her proposed new book subject is unmarketable, and Lee herself is just thoroughly unpleasant to deal with. Nobody wants to work with her.
Her agent advises her to seek a different line of work. And that’s just what Lee does. She starts forging letters from famous, deceased authors and selling them to collectors and antique dealers. Needless to say, complications ensue.
I was raised on a steady diet of Clint Eastwood’s iconic 60s and 70s movies. These were mostly his Westerns, both those of the spaghetti and non-spaghetti persuasion, as well as his cop movies. Though Eastwood has gone on to be a noted director for a wide range of acclaimed films–many of which I have enjoyed–I always still think of Clint as, well, The Man with No Name, Dirty Harry, and Josey Wales.
As Eastwood’s career has shifted behind the camera, his own appearances on the other side of the lens have become somewhat rare. Mary-Esther recently suggested I review his latest movie–The Mule (which he stars in, directed, and produced)–and I’m glad I did! It was an interesting change of pace for him that still plays to his strengths as a performer. Thanks for the great suggestion, Mary-Esther!
Jeff Guinn has rapidly became my favorite nonfiction writer. Late last year, I read his excellent book about the infamous Gunfight at the OK Corral and then back in May I read and profiled his most recent release, a superb examination of Jim Jones and Jonestown.
Over Thanksgiving weekend, I read another Guinn book, his examination of infamous Depression-era bandits Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker. Mary-Esther has urged me to read it for years–she’s the one who put Guinn on my reading radar–and thanks again to her for introducing me to such a wonderful writer! (Thanks also to my dad for buying me the book. He couldn’t resist reading it himself before he gave it to me, which is just about the best endorsement of the book I can think of. Thanks, Dad!)
Hope you were able to join us at Books in Bloom this weekend! I had a great time–got to hear some wonderful talks from talented authors and even acquired a few signed books. I’m already looking forward to next year!
On that note, last week, when we were chatting about authors we’d like to see at Books in Bloom in the future, I promised to unveil two of my picks over the next couple of weeks.
One author I would love to meet and listen to is Nicholas Pileggi. He was a crime reporter in New York City for 30 years, with a special focus on the Mafia. But most people, myself included, are most familiar with him through his books about the Mafia, Wiseguys and Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas. He adapted both of them into Martin Scorsese movies in the 1990s, Goodfellas and Casino, respectively.
I’ve been a Scorsese fan since I was a teenager, and though my personal favorites of his movies is probably a tie between Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, I really do enjoy both Goodfellas and Casino.
And because I’ve also found organized crime interesting since I was a child–it’s a little embarrassing how many books I own about the mob–when I found out those movies were based on nonfiction books, I read Pileggi’s books and quickly became a fan of his work in its own right.
Honestly, I’d like to meet and talk to Pileggi just because I’d like to his pick his brain and hear inside stories from his days as a reporter, his research for his books, and his experiences in Hollywood. I’d love to hear his thoughts on what it is like to be both the writer of the original source and the adaptation.
And to that end, I thought we might as well compare his book and his movie about the mob’s fall from power in Las Vegas.
But my interest in the story transcends the book. The 1967 film adaptation is one of my favorite movies and is one of the examples I always point to when people claim that a movie can never be as good as the book.
A few months ago, I watched the 1996 miniseries adaptation of the story with my coworker Jen. If the 1967 version is one of the best adaptations I’ve ever seen, the 1996 version is easily one of the absolute worst.
Usually the “From Page to Screen” series is a venue for me to compare and contrast books with their adaptations. But this is my series and my rules, and I’ve decided to bend the rules for this one. So, this month we’re comparing and contrasting two adaptations and exploring why one is considered a masterpiece and the other, well, isn’t. Let’s just call it Screen vs. Screen for this month.