Works by Ohio Valley writers adapted into Oscar-nominated films.

In honor of the Academy Awards this evening, I’ve got an overview here of some of the Academy Award-nominated movies based on books by Ohio valley authors. All of these writers will eventually be profiled here at Buckeyemuse.

Booth Tarkington.

Booth Tarkington.

The man who dominates the list here with two film adaptations is Indiana novelist Booth Tarkington. What I would consider his two best works–Alice Adams and The Magnificent Ambersons–were made into successful films. Alice Adams, the story of a young woman who hides her socioeconomic status in hopes of landing a wealthy husband, came out in 1935 and starred Katherine Hepburn.

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The Magnificent Ambersons, the story of the decline of a wealthy Indiana family and the rise of the auto industry, was released in 1942 and was directed and narrated by Orson Welles. I haven’t seen Alice Adams, but a number of years ago watched The Magnificent Ambersons and enjoyed it. It’s one of the films chosen by the Smithsonian for permanent preservation.

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These two books of Tarkington’s both won the Pulitzer Prize, with The Magnificent Ambersons garnering the award in 1919, and Alice Adams in 1922.  I believe Tarkington deserves to be better known– he is an interesting example of the novelist as social historian. I have never forgotten what Rita Mae Brown said of The Magnificent Ambersons in her book Starting From Scratch: A Different Kind of Writer’s Manual: “This book should not be in the literary doldrums.” I agree.

Alad Ladd as Shane

Alad Ladd as Shane

The year 1953 saw two films released with very different subject matter, but both based on books by native midwesterners: Shane, based on the novel by Jack Schaefer of Cleveland, Ohio, and The Robe, based on the novel by Indiana-born minister Lloyd Douglas. Schaefer grew up in Cleveland, eventually leaving the city for college–he earned his bachelor’s degree at Oberlin– and then a journalism career before becoming a novelist. Douglas was born in Columbia City, Indiana and grew up in various Indiana towns and also Florence, Kentucky. He graduated from Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, then served a variety of churches in Ohio, Indiana, Washington, D.C. and Montreal, eventually spending his last years in Los Angeles.

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The 1961 film The Hustler has Kentucky roots. Author Walter Tevis moved to Kentucky from San Francisco at the age of ten, and held a job in a poolroom while attending the University of Kentucky, where he earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He also spent hours at Lexington’s Phoenix Hotel, where he observed pool hustlers ply their trade.

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Enjoy the show tonight. Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait past midnight to find out which movie won Best Picture!

Patrick Kerin

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