an american tragedy: pre-read

awesome danish poster of phillips holmes

On closer inspection, I regret picking Theodore Drieser’s An American Tragedy (1925). I dislike true crime ‘fiction’ -Norman Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song and Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood bored me to tears. They are invariably less interesting than they first appear, especially when they become bogged down by extant media extracts, reworked ‘evidence’, and drawn out ‘fact-filled’ trials and executions.

But I’ve spent nearly three futile months on the waiting list at the library, crisscrossed the northern suburbs more times than I care to remember searching for a copy, and finally purchased the iBook version for 99¢, so I’m reading it! Even if it’s 1,347 ipages long!

Here are some semi-interesting facts:

  1. An American Tragedy is based on the real crime, upstate New York, 1906, possible accidental drowning probable murder of Grace Brown by one Chester Gillette.
  2. There have been numerous stage adaptations, including an opera.
  3. Match Point, my least favourite Woody Allen flick, starring Johnathan Rhys Meyers and Scarlett Johannson, shares the same plot as the novel.
  4. The novel has been adapted twice on film: Austrian-born director, Josef von Sternberg made a 1931 eponymous version starring Phillips Holmes. It was vehemently rejected by American critics and Drieser himself, and faced a $150,00 libel suit from Grace Brown’s mother. The movie fared better in Europe and has been subtitled in several European languages.
  5. The other film, directed by George Stevens and renamed A Place in the Sun, 1951, had Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift as leads. It won 6 Oscars.

elizabeth taylor & montgomery clift in a place in the sun, 1951

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