Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Last evening, Ol’ Robbo happened to catch “The Prisoner of Zenda” (1952), with Stewart Granger, Deborah Kerr, and James Mason, on TCM.  It was, like every other Granger movie I’ve seen, okay, if not exactly overwhelming. (Further, Kerr has never done much for me, either.  Mason, on the other hand, is one of those actors you enjoy watching no matter how good or bad the film is.)

I mention this because it immediately brought to mind the novel Royal Flash by George MacDonald Fraser.**  Not that I dislike it, but this is probably one of my least favorite of the Flashman Papers largely because it is so derivative of the novel The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope, on which the movie is based.  (GMF gets around this by claiming Flashy told Hope about his adventure, thus inspiring Hope to write his novel.  Clever, but still…...)

Anyhoo, this convergence prompted Ol’ Robbo to nip over to the devil’s website and buy a copy of Hope’s novel, which I have been meaning to read for some years now because of the GMF connection.  I’ll let you know what I think.

**Yes, there’s a movie version of this, too, with Malcolm McDowell.  GMF did the screenplay himself, but I can’t recommend the film.

UPDATE: The lovely and talented Sleepy Beth has a post up about an unexpectedly good experience with a screen version of one of her favorite books, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society.  Unfortunately, Blogsplat’s anti-bot comment guard is fritzing again so I couldn’t respond over at her place.  This is what I tried to say:

I’m happy for you [Beth] that you found a good crossover. (I’m unfamiliar with this particular book.) You’ve hung around my blog long enough to know my general opinion of that sort of thing! ; )

On that front, I still maintain that the single best screen adaptation of a novel I’m aware of is the Merchant/Ivory treatment of A Room With A View. (Granted, I only read Forster’s novel once or twice, so am not exactly a “fan”, but he has a pretty straight-forward descriptive style which seems to lend itself to screenplay adaptation.)

The Coen Brothers would have beat that in my estimation with their adaptation of Charles Portis’s True Grit (of which I AM a fan) IF they had stuck to the novel. They got the tone, the characters, the language, and the overall feel absolutely bang-right. But for reasons beyond me, they felt compelled to add some frivolous bits and pieces of their own (Mattie cutting down a hanged man; the weird fellah with the bear head hat), and to gratuitously re-do one of the show-down scenes. I can accept (grudgingly) that concessions must be made when changing media, but I don’t accept non-necessary ones.  Grrrrrr.

And circling back round to the initial topic of this post, the devil’s website promptly delivered a copy of The Prisoner of Zenda to Port Swiller Manor this afternoon.  Ol’ Robbo read the first chapter over his din-dins this evening (Mrs. R being absent) and I can definitely say that somebody like David Niven would have been far better than Granger in the movie adaptation: the hero is immediately established as a polished, blasé, smart-ass.

Oh, and as long as I’m on this subject, let me recommend to you (perhaps again) the Beeb’s 1978 teevee production of “Much Ado About Nothing” with Cherie Lunghi and Robert Lindsay as Beatrice and Benedict.  I’m not saying Thompson and Branagh ripped it off and then put it over the top to boost ticket sales but, well, yes I am…..