The 2016 Pulitzer Prize winners have been announced! It’s probably only a matter of time before this year’s winning works of fiction become their own films. In the meantime, here are some films from the Olive catalogue that are adapted from Pulitzer Prize-winning works.
William Kennedy received the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his novel Ironweed,which also made the Modern Library’s list of the 100 Best Novels written in English in the 20th Century. Author Kennedy wrote the screenplay for the film, which stars Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep with Carroll Baker, Michael O’Keefe, Diance Venora, Fred Gwynne, Nathan Lane, and Tom Waits. Both leads received Academy Award nominations for their performances. Set in the winter of 1938 in Albany, Ironweed follows Francis Phelan as he wanders the streets, back in his hometown after 22 years as an aimless vagabond ready to confront the family he abandoned long ago. While sharing some whiskey with longtime “pal” Helen, Francis reveals the dark secrets of his past – the painful memories from which he once tried to escape, but now must reconcile.
Long Day’s Journey into Night earned Eugene O’Neill a posthumous Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1957, as it was first published 14 years after he completed it. The play also received the 1957 Tony Award for Best Play. Eugene O’neill is one of only 3 authors to win 4 Pulitzer Prizes (the others are Robert Frost and Robert E. Sherwood). This semi-autobiographical play is regarded as one of the greatest dramatic works of its century, and Sidney Lumet’s direction enhances O’Neill’s wonderful work in the 1962 film starring Katharine Hepburn, Ralph Richardson, Jason Robards Jr., and Dean Stockwell, who all won acting awards at that year’s Cannes Film Festival. Hepburn went on to be nominated for the Academy Award for best Actress for the film.
Marquis James won the 1929 Pulitzer Prize for Biography with Man of Conquest, his biography of the politician Sam Houston. In the film adaptation, Richard Dix appears as Houston, Gail Patrick as Margaret Lea, and Edward Ellis as Andrew Jackson. This Western combines the best of historical thrills with the amazing narrative of a Pultizer-winning biography. The film received plenty of accolades itself, earning Academy Award nominations for Best Score, Best Sound, and Best Art Direction. Another piece of trivia about the film: it stands as Republic Pictures’s first film that they tried to elevate above their usual B-movie fare.
PULITZER-WINNING AUTHORS IN THE OLIVE CATALOGUE
The works these films were adapted from did not win Pulitzer Prizes themselves, but their authors won for their other efforts. Much like with the Oscars, it’s interesting to look back on which works won, compared to which left the greatest impact on our cultural memories.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that John Steinbeck won the 1940 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction with The Grapes of Wrath. But, you might be shocked to learn that his other most famous work, Of Mice and Men, did not.
Gary Sinise’s faithful adaptation Of Mice and Men is available on stunning Blu-ray from Olive Films.
Tennessee Williams won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1948 and 1955 for A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, respectively. Both those plays had successful film adaptations of their own. If you’re looking for some lesser known Tennessee Williams, be sure to check out the film version of Summer and Smoke, based on a play of the same name that was Williams’s next work after A Streetcar Named Desire.
This prolific playwright and screenwriter has been nominated for more Oscar and Tonys than any other writer. But, he has only one Pulitzer Prize — in 1991 for his Drama Lost in Yonkers. 30 years earlier in 1961, Neil Simon’s first Broadway play, Come Blow Your Horn, premiered to great success and received a film adaptation starring Frank Sinatra in 1963.