*MAJOR UPDATE IN PROGRESS* I’m revising this entire website, including LGBTQ+ Literature and Film. Thank you for understanding.
LGBTQ+ Fiction & Film Comparisons
There are many connections between LGBTQ+ writing and cinema, not to mention an extraordinary diversity of works, from comedies to verse tragedies, musicals to thrillers. Explore on your own, or start a discussion group.
Seeing an author’s vision brought to life on the screen, with inspired direction and acting, can be fascinating, both in itself and for the qualities it reveals about the original book or play.
Michael Cunningham, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Hours, which was adapted into an award-winning picture, offers some unique insights into this process:
As I watched the women do their work [in the film version of The Hours], and when I saw the finished movie, I understood that what you lose in turning fiction into film – the ability to enter your characters’ minds, and to scan their pasts for keys to their futures – can be compensated for by actors. You lose interiority. You gain [actress Meryl] Streep’s ability to separate an egg with a furious precision that communicates more about [her character] Clarissa’s history and present state of mind than several pages of prose might do….
Ms. Streep’s Clarissa is stunningly complex, in part because she creates a whole person out of movements, expressions and inflections. When she says to Louis ([actor Jeff] Daniels), an old friend who’s dropped in unexpectedly, “But I never see you,” the line has a sing-song quality. It rises steadily to the word “see,” then drops to the “you.” It is offhand and girlish, venomous, haggard. And when she finally begins to lose her desperate composure there’s a moment – a half-moment, you miss it if you blink – when she literally loses her balance, tips over to the left, and immediately rights herself. If there’s a way to do things like that on paper, I haven’t found it…..
On another level, it’s fascinating to see how a gifted filmmaker can transform an author’s textual vision into cinematic style: image, sound, and movement. One example is Orson Welles‘s shattering film of Shakespeare’s Othello. Although Welles cuts three-fourths of the dialogue, he retains almost every scene as he transforms Shakespeare’s tortured yet lyrical tragedy into purely cinematic terms.
All but one or two of the authors on this list are LGBTQ+-identified; many but not all of the filmmakers are GLBT. Titles are followed by the author (the text is a novel unless otherwise noted) and filmmaker. In a few instances, the picture is thematically related to the book, rather than being a [ahem!] straight adaptation.
* indicates programs done by the NYC LGBTQ+ Fiction & Film Group, as part of evenings featuring a potluck dinner and, after the film, a discussion (the book was read in advance).
- Aimée & Jaguar – Erica Fischer; film directed by Max Färberböck
- * All’s Well that Ends Well – play by Shakespeare; & thematically-related The Opposite of Sex, film directed & written Don Roos. Theme: Dark Comedy
- Angels in America – play by Tony Kushner; film directed by Mike Nichols
- * As You Like It – play by Shakespeare; 1936 film directed by Paul Czinner and starring Laurence Olivier – also compare thematically-related The Wedding Banquet, directed by Ang Lee. Theme: Romantic Deceptions
- The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas – Gertrude Stein; & thematically-related documentary Paris Was A Woman, directed by Greta Schiller. Theme: Women Artists in 1920s/30s Paris
- * Beauty and the Beast – Cocteau’s memoir Beauty and the Beast: Diary of a Film & the film, which he wrote and directed
- Before Night Falls – Reinaldo Arenas; film directed by Julian Schnabel
- * Berlin Stories – Christopher Isherwood; & film version Cabaret, directed by Bob Fosse – book was first adapted as the non-musical play and film I Am a Camera
- * Billy Budd – Melville; and a film version of E.M. Forster & Benjamin Britten’s opera, in the 1988 English National Opera production – also compare 1962 film Billy Budd, directed by Peter Ustinov
- The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant – play written by and film directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder – visit my Fassbinder Website
- The Bostonians – Henry James; film by Merchant/Ivory
- Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Truman Capote; film directed by Blake Edwards
- The Bride Wore Black – Cornell Woolrich, using pseudonym “William Irish”; film directed by Francois Truffaut)
- Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh; film directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg & Charles Sturridge
- Brokeback Mountain – Annie E. Proulx; film directed by Ang Lee
- Caravaggio – a volume of Caravaggio’s paintings & Jarman’s book of his film, Caravaggio; film written & directed by Derek Jarman – visit my Jarman Website
- * Carmilla – J.S. LeFanu; & film version Vampyr, directed by Carl Th. Dreyer – also compare thematically-related The Hunger, directed by Tony Scott. Theme: Lesbian Vampires!
- “Casting the Runes” – M.R. James’s short story; & film version Curse of the Demon, directed by Jacques Tourneur
- The Celluloid Closet – historical study by Vito Russo; documentary directed by Rob Epstein & Jeff Friedman
- The City and the Pillar – Gore Vidal; & thematically-related Chuck & Buck, directed by Miguel Arteta. Theme: Romantic Obsessions
- The Confidence Man – Herman Melville; & thematically-related F for Fake, directed by Orson Welles). Theme: The Con Man
- The Conformist – Alberto Moravia; film directed by Bernardo Bertolucci
- Coup de Grâce – Marguerite Yourcenar; film directed by Volker Schlöndorff
- Craig’s Wife – play by George Kelly; film directed by Dorothy Arzner
- Crash – J.G. Ballard; film written & directed by David Cronenberg
- Desert of the Heart – Jane Rule; & film version Desert Hearts, directed by Donna Deitch
- Design for Living – play by Noël Coward; film directed by Ernst Lubitsch
- * Don’t Look Now – novella by Daphne du Maurier; film directed by Nicolas Roeg
- Dracula – Bram Stoker; film versions: Nosferatu, directed by F.W. Murnau; Dracula, directed Todd Browning; Nosferatu, directed by Werner Herzog; and/or Bram Stoker’s Dracula, directed Francis Ford Coppola
- Edward II – Christopher Marlowe; also an adaptation by Bertolt Brecht, & the avant-garde film directed by Derek Jarman – visit my Jarman Website
- Eminent Victorians – Lytton Strachey; & film biography of Strachey, Carrington, directed & written by Christopher Hampton
- * Father of Frankenstein – Christopher Bram; & film version Gods and Monsters, written & directed by Bill Condon – plus director James Whale’s 1935 masterpiece, Bride of Frankenstein
- Faust – play by Goethe; silent film directed by F.W. Murnau – compare Clive Barker’s early film The Forbidden
- Fight Club – Chuck Palahniuk; film directed by David Fincher
- Frankenstein – Mary Shelley; & film versions Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, directed by James Whale
- Further Tales of the City – Armistead Maupin; film directed by Pierre Gang
- Gigi – Colette; film screenplay & lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, music by Frederick Lowe, directed by Vincente Minelli
- The Go-Between – L.P. Hartley; film directed by Joseph Losey
- Hamlet – play by Shakespeare; film directed by & starring Laurence Olivier
- * The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson; & film version The Haunting, directed by Robert Wise in 1963; avoid the abysmal 1999 remake
- Heavenly Creatures – screenplay by Frances Walsh & Peter Jackson; film directed by Peter Jackson
- Hedwig and The Angry Inch – musical play – composer/lyricist Stephen Trask and author/star John Cameron Mitchell; film directed by and starring John Cameron Mitchell
- Henry and June – Anaïs Nin; film directed by Philip Kaufman
- Henry IV, Parts I and II – plays by Shakespeare; & thematically-related My Own Private Idaho, directed by Gus van Sant, who brilliantly reworks Shakespeare in a modern setting – compare Orson Welles’ film Chimes at Midnight
- Herbert West, the Re-Animator – H.P. Lovecraft; & film version Re-Animator, directed by Stuart Gordon
- The Hours – Michael Cunningham; film directed by Stephen Daldry
- Howards End – E.M. Forster; film by Merchant/Ivory
- * The Illusionist – Dinitia Smith; & thematically-related Boys Don’t Cry, directed by Kimberly Peirce. Theme: Brandon Teena in Fiction & Film
- The Importance of Being Earnest – play by Oscar Wilde; film directed by Anthony Asquith
- In Cold Blood – “non-fiction novel” by Truman Capote; film directed by Richard Brooks; & compare Capote, the biographical film directed by Bennett Miller
- * In Youth is Pleasure – Denton Welch; & thematically-related Beautiful Thing, directed by Hettie MacDonald. Theme: British Gay Coming of Age Stories
- Interview with the Vampire – Anne Rice, also wrote screenplay for film directed by Neil Jordan
- Katzelmacher – play written by and film directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder – visit my Fassbinder Website
- Kiss of the Spider Woman – Manuel Puig; film directed by Hector Babenco
- Last Exit to Brooklyn (Hubert Selby, Jr.; film directed by Ulrich Edel
- The Last of England – filmmaker/artist/poet Derek Jarman’s book (republished as Kicking the Pricks) written simultaneously with his visionary film – visit my Jarman Website
- Love! Valour! Compassion! – play by Terence McNally; film directed by Joe Mantello
- The Marquise of O – Heinrich von Kleist; film directed by Eric Rohmer
- * Maurice – E.M. Forster; film by Merchant/Ivory
- Medea – play by Euripides; film directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini – visit my Pasolini Website
- The Member of the Wedding – Carson McCullers; film directed by Fred Zinnemann
- More Tales of the City – Armistead Maupin; film directed by Pierre Gang
- Mrs. Dalloway – Virginia Woolf; film directed by Marleen Gorris
- Mysterious Skin – Scott Heim; film directed by Gregg Araki
- *Naked Lunch – William S. Burroughs; film directed by David Cronenberg
- The Object of My Affection – Stephen McCauley; film directed by Nicholas Hytner
- Oedipus Rex – play by Sophocles; film directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini – visit my Pasolini Website
- * Oranges are Not the Only Fruit – Jeanette Winterson, also wrote screenplay for film directed by Beeban Kidron
- Orlando – Virginia Woolf; film directed by Sally Potter
- * Orpheus – myths as recounted in Ovid, etc.; & play and film, both by Jean Cocteau
- * Othello – play by Shakespeare; film directed by & starring Orson Welles
- Our Town – play by Thornton Wilder, also co-wrote screenplay; film directed by Sam Wood, music by Aaron Copland
- A Passage to India – E.M. Forster; film directed by David Lean
- * Peter Pan – J.M. Barrie, both play & novel; animated film produced by Walt Disney
- Picnic – play by William Inge; film directed by Joshua Logan
- Pillow Book – Sei Shonagon; film directed by Peter Greenaway
- * Querelle – Jean Genet; film directed by Fassbinder
- Ready to Catch Him Should He Fall – Neil Bartlett; & thematically-related Together Alone, directed by P.J. Castellaneta. Theme: Gay Allegory
- * Rear Window – Cornell Woolrich; film directed by Alfred Hitchcock
- Rebecca – Daphne DuMaurier; film directed by Alfred Hitchcock
- * Rimbaud and Verlaine’s Poetry & Total Eclipse – film directed by Agnieska Holland and written by Christopher Hampton
- The Ritz – play by Terence McNally; film directed by Richard Lester
- Romeo and Juliet – play by William Shakespeare; films directed (respectively) by Baz Lurhmann, Franco Zeffirelli, and George Cukor – also compare musical version West Side Story (see below)
- A Room with a View – E.M. Forster; film by Merchant/Ivory
- * Salomé – play by Oscar Wilde; 1923 film by Alla Nazimova – compare 1973 silent film directed by Clive Barker, made when he was 18
- * Satyricon – Petronius; film directed by Federico Fellini [my mini-review]
- Shakespeare’s Sonnets – & experimental film version, The Angelic Conversation, directed by Derek Jarman
- The Sheltering Sky – Paul Bowles; film directed by Bernardo Bertolucci
- * The Silence of the Lambs – Thomas Harris; film directed by Jonathan Demme
- * Strangers on a Train – Patricia Highsmith; film directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Strangers on a Train: Analysis of a Sequence – Highsmith’s novel & Hitchcock’s film
- * A Streetcar Named Desire – play by Tennessee Williams; film directed by Elia Kazan
- Such Times – Christopher Coe; & thematically-related Parting Glances, written & directed by Bill Sherwood. Theme: AIDS and Relationships
- * Swann in Love – Marcel Proust – this is the third section of Swann’s Way, the first volume of Remembrance of Things Past, aka In Search of Lost Time; film directed by Volker Schloendorff
- The Swimming-Pool Library – Alan Hollinghurst; & thematically-related My Beautiful Laundrette, directed by Stephen Frears, written by Hanif Kureishi. Theme: Interracial Love
- * The Talented Mr. Ripley – Patricia Highsmith; & new film version directed and written by Anthony Minghella. Our first Fiction & Film Group discussion, in spring 1998, was for the original film version, retitled Purple Noon, directed Réné Clément
- Tales of the City – Armistead Maupin; film directed by Alastair Reid
- The Tempest – play by Shakespeare; film directed by Derek Jarman – visit my Jarman Website – compare Peter Greenaway’s film Prospero’s Books
- Therese and Isabelle – Violette Leduc; film directed by Radley Metzger
- Thief’s Journal – Jean Genet – compare Todd Haynes’ film Poison
- Titus Androndicus – play by Shakespeare; film version Titus directed by Julie Taymor
- The Trial – Franz Kafka; film directed Orson Welles
- Turn of the Screw – Henry James; & film version The Innocents, directed by Jack Clayton, co-screenwriter Truman Capote
- Typee & Omoo – Herman Melville; & thematically-related Tabu, a Story of the South Seas, directed by F.W. Murnau. Theme: Gay Perspectives on Life in the South Seas
- Vathek – William Beckford; & thematically-related Arabian Nights, directed by Pasolini. Theme: Gay Revisions of Arabian Nights Adventure
- The Viceroy of Ouidah – Bruce Chatwin; & film version Cobra Verde, directed by Werner Herzog
- Waltz Into Darkness – Cornell Woolrich, using pseudonym “William Irish;” & film version Mississippi Mermaid, directed by Francois Truffaut
- Was – Geoff Ryman; & film which inspired it, The Wizard of Oz, directed by Victor Fleming
- Washington Square – Henry James; film version The Heiress, directed by William Wyler
- West Side Story – musical play – book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim; film directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins – also compare Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (see above)
- Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? – play by Edward Albee; film directed by Mike Nichols
- * Women in Love – D.H. Lawrence; film directed by Ken Russell, produced and written by Larry Kramer
- You Can’t Take It With You – play by Moss Hart [who was gay/bi] & George S. Kaufman; film directed by Frank Capra
- Young Törless – Robert Musil; film directed by Volker Schlöndorff
LGBTQ+ Fiction & Film Group (with tips for starting your own)
One way to enjoy LGBTQ+ fiction and film comparisons is with friends. The original LGBTQ+ Fiction & Film Group was based in New York City, but you can easily set one up yourself. People read a selected book in advance, then at a host’s home watch the related film, discuss both works, and share a friendly potluck meal. There is no admission charge; each person’s contribution is the food or beverage item they bring to share with the group. Good friends, good fiction, good film – good time! Wherever you are, start your own LGBTQ+ discussion group!
Here are a few programs from the NYC group:
- Truman Capote’s “non-fiction novel” In Cold Blood and director Richard Brooks’s 1967 film of In Cold Blood– Brooks’s film, arguably one of the best of the 1960s, is a fascinating adaptation of Capote’s book both dramatically and stylistically. On one level, he employs a visually dense, at times baroque, style, in contrast to Capote’s clear, hard-edged prose, while both works feature psychological insight into the pair of killers. Brooks also used many of the actual locations (including the Clutter family farm), and several of the real people involved, in his riveting film.
- Jean Cocteau’s luminous classic, Beauty and the Beasty (1946), and Cocteau’s memoir, Beauty and the Beast: Diary of a Film (the only time a great filmmaker/author has written in detail about their own production).
- Petronius’ Satyricon (written during Nero’s reign, this may be the world’s first novel), and its still-controversial 1969 film adaptation, Fellini Satyricon (which remains the best picture on my list of 50 Outstanding LGBTQ+ Films, as well as one of 50 Landmarks of Film History).
- In connection with the NYC Reading Group – which discussed Patricia Highsmith’s novel Strangers on a Train – 22 of us shared a friendly potluck dinner (yum!) then saw and discussed the “uncensored” British release of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1951 film of Strangers on a Train (two minutes longer than the US release, it has a different ending: We watched both versions of the final scene). The discussion inspired me to put together a comparative analysis of a sequence from the novel and film.
- Melville’s novel Billy Budd and the opera of Billy Budd by composer Benjamin Britten and librettist E.M. Forster (author of Howards End and A Passage to India).
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Begun 1997 / Revised October 31, 2020