Friday FabOoolousness: Classics That Keep Us Coming Back for More

Reading is one of the most widespread pastimes today.  Almost everyone reads something, whether it is newspapers, books in print or articles on the World Wide Web. 

Think about it – walking through the airport, what do we most commonly see? 

Someone’s nose is buried deep inside the latest fiction release or entertainment magazine, or they’re glued to one of the popular reading devices like a Kindle, Nook, Notepad, or even a smart phone.

Most works anymore are a onetime read.  But, there are materials out there that we can read over and over again – Classics.

Classics most oftentimes relate to classic works of literature, stories written decades and decades ago that most of us were introduced to in English class as mandatory reads.  Were we excited to read these stories when forced down our throats?  Maybe not.  But, do we appreciate them today?  Most of us do.

Classics can also refer to movies, particularly a few motion pictures adapted from those very same literary tales.  Of course, there are thousands of classic films that don’t retell a famous piece of literature, but for the sake of today’s post, we’re taking a look back at a few that do. 

*****

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare in the 1500’s

One of Shakespeare’s most popular works, Romeo and Juliet may be the most tragic love story ever told.  Many people have complained about reading Shakespeare, but I personally feel that his brilliant use of unrhymed iambic pentameter throughout Romeo and Juliet sends the reader back in time to the intended period and setting.  Shakespeare also connects with audiences of all generations with the universal themes of love and fate, and the destruction of the star-crossed lovers. 

For never was a story of more woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.
~ William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Shakespeare’s tragedy was depicted into a motion picture in 1968. Sir Laurence Olivier narrated the film, while Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey played the young lovers.  The music composed by Nino Rota still gives me goose bumps when I hear it today. 

The classic was adapted again in 1996 starring two of Hollywood’s biggest young stars – Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes.  This time titled, Romeo + Juliet, Shakespeare’s story is modernized while the cast still uses Shakespearean dialogue.  It’s simply wonderful. 

Oh, and the soundtrack is amazing ‘90s fun featuring Garbage, Everclear, Des’ree, Butthole Surfers, The Cardigans, and Radiohead. 

*****

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens in 1861

Even though Dickens wrote Great Expectations a hundred and fifty years ago, he explores themes very prevalent to today such as social class and ambition.  The story is narrated by orphan Pip as he navigates his life from his poor childhood upbringing through a very well provided for adulthood.  He travels his journey believing that his mysterious benefactor is the wealthy and callous Miss Havisham, but later learns that it is actually the criminal he stole for as a child. 

Take nothing on its looks; take everything on evidence. There’s no better rule. ~ Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Love and tragedy represent two additional themes in Great Expectations.  Pip experiences devastation associated with every relationship in his life, whether it is with his sister, Estella, Miss Havisham, or even The Convict.   

Dickens’ novel was adapted into a British film in 1946, again into a British television series in 1989, and most recently into a modernized motion picture starring Ethan Hawke (Pip’s character was renamed to Finn), Gwyneth Paltrow, Robert De Niro, and Anne Bancroft in 1998.  While the 1998 film did not attract the same critical acclaim as its 1946 predecessor (won two Academy Awards), I personally enjoyed it. 

Much like Romeo + Juliet, the soundtrack for Great Expectations is another ‘90s great featuring artists Tori Amos, Chris Cornell, Duncan Sheik, and The Verve Pipe.

*****

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee in 1960

To Kill a Mockingbird exemplifies a work beyond its time, tackling racial stereotypes, socio-economic classes, and gender roles.  The mockingbird symbolizes the loss of innocence, one of the most prevalent themes throughout the novel.   Equality amongst all men and women also carries from start to finish, a courageous act by Lee. 

I think there’s just one kind of folks.  Folks.  ~ Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Characters Scout, Jem, and Atticus Finch captivate audiences through their bravery and strong core values.  The story not only follows the children’s acceptance of Boo Radley, a neighbor plagued with nasty town rumors, but also Atticus’ representation of a black man, Tom Robinson, accused of raping a white woman.

Lee’s work was adapted into a film starring the great Gregory Peck, as Atticus Finch, and Robert Duvall as Boo Radley, in 1962. Peck won the Academy Award for Best Actor, and child actress, Mary Badham was nominated for the Academy Award for best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Scout.

*****

What are some of your favorite classics that you have read over and over again?  Does your favorite work have a motion picture adaptation?  What are your thoughts on the new generation’s Romeo + Juliet and Great Expectations films?  Do you prefer the originals? Should Hollywood ever remake To Kill a Mockingbird? I’d love to hear from you!

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43 Responses to Friday FabOoolousness: Classics That Keep Us Coming Back for More

  1. Stacy Green says:

    To Kill A Mockingbird is a great one. Loved the film as well. Loved the 90s film of Romeo and Juliet as well. It brought a whole new level to the story. I really like Frankenstein (am re-reading it) and Kenneth B’s version of that.

    • Would you believe that I haven’t read Frankenstein? I need to….on a humorous note – my guy keeps waiting for the Frankenstein monster to join the cast of The Vampire Diaries. HA! Thanks for stopping by, Stacy!

      • Jenny Hansen says:

        I haven’t read Frankenstein either, Tiff. Or “The Last of the Mohicans.” And that is WAY a classic. After seeing trailers for the film and how hot the lead actor is (it’s Daniel Day Lewis, right?), I totally want to get both of those going. 🙂

  2. tamikaeason says:

    I was in Walmart maybe a week ago and I saw a section in the book aisle with classics. I found my childhood favorite, “The Secret Garden,” the book felt thin so I flipped through the pages. Not good to cut a classic to make it more modern.

    I want my children to experience the classics the same way I did. So, I put the book back:)

    • I don’t blame you one bit! No one but the author him/herself should have the right to make any changes to a work – period. That is what the film adaptations are for. Thanks for stopping by, Tamika!

  3. L.S. Engler says:

    I cannot lie. One of my favourite adaptations of Great Expectations has to be the South Park episode Pip. Okay, sure, they took a few artistic liberties with the ending, but I still maintain that the fact that they even did a variation of Great Expectations (much to the less cultured fans’ chagrin) is absolutely brilliant.

    And I’m absolutely with you on Lurman’s Romeo + Juliet. I adore it.

    While we’re talking about adaptations of great classic stories….Jesus Christ Superstar, anyone? I remember seeing that in school (Catholic school, go figure!) in sixth grade and I fell in love. The rest of my class seemed to hate it, of course!

    Some of the older classics I can’t ever seem to get enough of is Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game (we can count the 70s as classic, yeah?) and Sinclair Lewis’ Babbitt. Anything written in the 1920s but still rings true on our current society is an amazing piece of fiction. Also, it probably couldn’t be considered a classic, but one of my favourite re-readable books from the Victorian era is without a down E.D.E.N. Southworth’s The Hidden Hand, or Capitola the Madcap. It’s such a brilliant work of Victorian cheese.

    • I am a fan of South Park, yet I have not seen the Great Expectations episode! I’ll see if we can find it on Netflix….

      You have listed a few great works. I will definitely a have to do another post in this series. Thanks for stopping by, L.S.!

      Oh, and memories of our Catholic school days…knee high socks, plaid skirts and jumpers, and absolutely no disrespect in the classrooms!

    • Jess Witkins says:

      I wouldn’t have thought anyone else read The Westing Game! My copy is all marked up from school still; I loved that book! It was like reading Clue, the boardgame. And I love the movie Clue too.

  4. Amanda Rudd says:

    To Kill A Mockingbird is one of my favorite book/movie combinations EVER! The other classic that I always re-read (and which has been made into more movies than you can shake a stick at) is Pride and Prejudice. I was in 5th grade the first time I read it, and I’ve re-read it so many times, both for classes and for myself, so many times now I could not even guess at a number.

    • Pride and Prejudice is a great one. Most of Jane Austen’s works are masterpieces- Emma, Sense & Sensibility, Mansfield Park. Proudly, I have them all on my bookshelf. 🙂 A few fabOoolous films have been adapted from her stories as well. Thanks for stopping by, Amanda!

  5. Catie Rhodes says:

    I love everything you’ve mentioned. Romeo + Juliet was beautiful. The music, the cinematography, the cast…just gorgeous. I still watch it from time to time. To Kill a Mockingbird is something I love but something I have to be in a certain mood for. It’s heart wrenching, and there are days I can’t take that.

    I love The Great Gatsby. The movie version, which starred an impossibly young Robert Redford, will always stick with me. I also find that period in history very interesting. I love anything by Tennessee Williams. He had a very cool take on what people are like deep down in the places they hide from others. My favorite movie adaptation is the Paul Newman/Liz Taylor version of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston is another favorite. There was a made-for-TV movie of this one, but I’ve never seen it.

    • The Great Gatsby is a GREAT pick, Catie. I loved the story and the movie. I believe I read it twice while in school. Robert Redford’s top two films, IMO, are TGG and The Way We Were. What a dream….

      Oh, and my sister-in-law equivalent named her dog Gatsby. I loved it. 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Hamlet is my favorite. Kenneth Branagh’s version is good, but I also enjoyed the one with Mel Gibson. I did not like the modern adaptation with Ethan Hawke where Hamlet was the “prince” of a multimillion-dollar company. Oh, and there’s the 1964 Russian version. Shakespeare in Russian is amazing.

  7. I like everything you have listed, especially Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird as a book and the very well done movie.

    The Chosen by Chaim Potok was enough of a favorite that I read the sequel The Promise. I saw the movie version of The Chosen with Robby Benson, too. It was well done but didn’t have the intensity of the book, I didn’t think.

    Another great read was Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns.

    Alan Paton’s Cry, The Beloved Country was exquisite. My daughters said it put them to sleep but I got lost in the words and story. His writing is beautiful. I did not see the movie because I just couldn’t see how it could live up to the book.

    You know I have to add J.R.R Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I loved the books and the movies. I can’t get enough of them.

    Dorothy Dunnet’s Lymond Chronicles. I had to get a companion book to just intrepret her quotes (they’re in different languages). She does a lot of quoting but worth the read. I really want to get The House of Niccolo books, too (it’s the same deal with quotes but luckily the book I have intreprets for this series, too).

    Beowolf. I have several different versions. It’s a great story.

    Mutiney on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff. There are sequels that are in my tbr pile. The movies are good, too.

    I’ll stop now. Can you tell I like to read?

    • GREAT comment, Angela! Reading is a passion of mine too. 🙂

      Beowolf – definitely a classic! I’ve read that a few times. I was looking forward to the Angelina Jolie movie and was disappointed.

      Hobbit is another that I read for the first time when I was a little girl. I read it, maybe in the 2nd grade, because my brother loved it and I wanted to be just like him. Of course, he was around twenty at the time….I’m glad that they’re finally making a movie. I hope it compares to The Lord of the Rings.

      Thanks for the great classics and for stopping by!

  8. Sorry, spelled Mutiny wrong. I meant Mutiny On The Bounty.

  9. K.B. Owen says:

    I’m so glad they have never remade “To Kill a Mockingbird” – it’s extraordinary the way it is! There are, of course, a ton of “Jane Eyre” films. Ditto for nearly every novel written by Jane Austen, with some combination of Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, and Gwyneth Paltrow in there! I’m just glad to see the classics get some air time. Thanks, Tiffany, for a great post!

  10. EllieAnn says:

    I love this post!
    I think the recent Romeo & Juliet movies are great, it’s an archetype that will last forever.
    Some of my favorite classics are: Jane Eyre (they just made a new movie of it and it’s incredible…so true to the story I felt like I was in the book!) and Ender’s Game (I can’t see how they can make this into a good movie, but they’re gonna try 😦 and The Great Gatsby (Again, I don’t think they should try to make this into a movie…it’d take SO much skill to turn it into something great), and The Lord of the Rings (I adore these movies).
    I always have fun at your site. =)

    • Hey, Ellie! I haven’t see the new Jane Eyre movie. I’ll have to pick a weekend when my guy is out of the house. He doesn’t do well with period pieces. 🙂 Have you seen The Great Gatsby with Robert Redford?

  11. thesouthernlatina says:

    My favorites: One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Gone With the Wind. Both books and film adaptations are my all time favorites 🙂

    • Gone With the Wind…forever a classic. It’s my mom’s favorite of all time. I started watching the movie when I was just a little, little girl with her. I can’t even count how many times I’ve seen it. Okay, this is bad…..I don’t have a copy of the novel! Thanks for stopping by!

  12. Jillian Dodd - Glitter, Bliss and Perfect Chaos says:

    My favorite books of all time are A Wrinkle in Time and the Narnia series. I read them in grade school and have read them numerous times over the years. Other classics to me were some of the Judy Blume books. How many of us read books like Are you There God? It’s me, Margaret? They maybe aren’t Shakespeare, but who knows what people will say years from now. I’m sure Harry Potter and Twilight will also be considered classics someday. Love this post! You got me thinking back on all the stories that I have read and loved!!

    • Won’t that be fun to see what’s considered a classic in twenty or so years? I have the Chronicles of Narnia set….I wish I’d kept some of my other childhood books like Judy Blume, etc. I have no idea where they’d be if I did keep them….thanks for stopping by, Jill!

  13. Amber West says:

    There are a few I could list, but the one thing I KNOW I’ve read a million times is Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. And I do love the movie version of that (Gary Oldman and Tim Roth).

    Great post as always!

    • Because I have such an admiration for you, I’m going to add Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead to my list….even though I’ve never heard of it, movie either! Can you believe it? Don’t hit me. Thanks for stopping by and for being such a dear friend, Amber!

  14. jamilajamison says:

    It’s so funny — I was in middle school when the 90s version of Romeo and Juliet came out, and I was SO contemptuous of Leonardo DiCaprio. Every girl in my school was into him and I just didn’t see the appeal, so of course I never watched the movie. However, I ended up seeing Romeo and Juliet towards the end of high school for a class project, and wow… I was absolutely blown away. Not many directors can take a classic work and change up the setting to a modern era, but Baz Luhrman did an amazing job.

    I love all of Austen novels, and the 1995 versions of Pride and Prejudice, as well as Sense and Sensibility, will always be my favorites. I love Jane Eyre, too, but I prefer the 1980s BBC miniseries starring Timothy Dalton to the latest film that came out (I thought they cut way too much out in the 2011 adaptation, though I am madly in love with Michael Fassbender, who played Mr. Rochester).

    • I’m glad you finally gave in and watched Romeo + Juliet, even if it was a mandatory school project. I was hesitant to share my love of the film with everyone, and I’m thrilled to see that I’m not the only one who absolutely adored the modernization of Shakespeare’s masterpiece. Hmmm, the 1980s Austen BBC miniseries starring Timothy Dalton has me curious now. I’m going to have to check that out. Thanks for stopping by, Jamila!

  15. I actually had to watch Romeo + Juliet for a college Literature class – I had to compare & contrast the written word with the movie. I was totally prepared to hate the movie and had most of my paper written in my head before I pressed ‘play’. Was I ever wrong. That’s one of my favorite movies and the way they intersected Shakespearean tropes into the movie still makes me smile. I loved the freshness of it and remember writing in my paper that if William were alive today, it would be just the kind of movie he’d make.

    Oh, all the other books you mentioned. They were childhood friends that have gathered dust on my bookshelves. I think I’ll take them down and reacquaint myself with them.

  16. Julie Glover says:

    I like your list! I also enjoyed the movie tie-ins. I didn’t know that Great Expectations had ever been made into a movie. I need to check that out. I blogged about classics a while ago. On my list of must-read classics were 1984, Anna Karenina, Crime & Punishment, Don Quixote, Dracula, Jane Eyre, Madame Bovary, Pride and Prejudice, and The Scarlet Letter. Those aren’t all read “over and “over novels, of course. I do agree with Stacy also about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein – great book and not what you’d expect given the film misrepresentations of it.

    • Julie, I highly recommend Great Expectations starring Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow….

      1984 – I didn’t quite like it at the time it was a mandatory read, but I love it today.
      Anna Karenina – I haven’t thought about this story in years….
      Don Quixote – total classic.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing such great works!

  17. Lana says:

    Okay, now I need to read Frankenstein. I loved this list! To Kill a Mockingbird is definitely my favorite. The film is also excellent.

  18. Jenny Hansen says:

    Gone With the Wind came on TV the other day and my husband admitted that he’d never seen the movie OR read the book. So of course, we had to be all up on that. Since he loves all the war movies, he was into it. I loved that book and I re-read it every few years.

    I hope they never remake To Kill A Mockingbird either. 🙂

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  20. Jess Witkins says:

    Great pics, Tiffany. I wouldn’t remake To Kill a Mockingbird either. And I have to quote Benny and Joon to you, “Having a Boo Radley moment are we?” Hehehe.

    I would add in Pride and Prejudice, of course! A Midsummer Night’s Dream is my favorite Shakespeare. The Thorn Birds (and you know I love the miniseries too), To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, A Room With a View (including Helena Bonham Carter film version), A Wrinkle in Time. Oh too many great ones, how to choose? What about Nancy Drew? *bites lip* LOL

    • Jess, I haven’t seen Benny and Joon in years but I still remember that line! Funny how our minds retain information, isn’t it? A Room With a View is a great pick! Thanks for stopping by! (Oh, and IMO, the Nancy Drew series is a classic!)

  21. aemmabella says:

    I need to watch to kill a mockingbrid again because i really loved that movie! I read a few shakespeare stories ( the short childrens version *Cough*) and i really love those too but i couldn’t stand the romeo and juliet movie with leo decaprio in it haha. It just bugged me. I need to read the other two so i can watch the movies. I like to read the books first. 🙂

    • I usually like to read the books first before watching the movie too. Screenplays are limited and must cut out some of the best writing in books, otherwise we’d have 5+ hour long movies. Thanks for stopping by, Amber Nicole!

  22. Hartford says:

    Love To Kill a Mockinbird. I think it was the first time I realized that assigned books in high school could actually be decent.

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