THE BEST DADS IN LITERATURE TO MAKE IT TO THE SILVER SCREEN

Apr 15, 2020

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Many of the best movie dads came directly from the pages of literature. Sure, plenty of movie dads were imagined by screenwriters instead, but many of the greatest and most memorable were the product of adaptation.

Gregory Peck’s turn as Atticus Finch in the adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird comes to mind. The role won Peck an Oscar for Best Actor, and it should have won him an award for best movie dad, too. The movie was based on a book of the same title by Harper Lee. The book was published in 1960 and was a success right away; it won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961, and the movie was released in 1962 – that’s a quick turnaround! Lee was friends with another famous writer, Truman Capote, who was the basis for the character Dill, played by an actor called John Megna in the movie.

You no doubt recall James Stewart as a movie dad (to end all movie dads) named George Bailey in the Christmas movie (to end all Christmas movies) It’s a Wonderful Life. The screenplay for that film was based on a short story by a writer named Philip Van Doren Stern. After he wrote the short story, he initially found it difficult to find someone to publish it, so he published it himself. Later the story was published as a booklet with illustrations, and as a short story in a few magazines, including Good Housekeeping. Imagine writing a short story that inspires a movie that becomes as wildly famous as It’s a Wonderful Life!

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We don’t have to look as far back as the black-and-white movie era to find amazing movie dads based on literature. While Disney’s The Lion King, a movie with a great dad, was an original story and not based on a book or short story, many other movie dads were.

Here’s one that might not immediately come to mind: police chief Martin Brody in Jaws, played by Roy Scheider. Jaws was adapted from a novel by the same name written by Peter Benchley. Benchley was given the first shot at writing the screenplay, but after three drafts he gracefully bowed out. Director Steven Spielberg enlisted the aid of other writers to turn the script into the movie that we know today, and screenplay rewrites often continued up until the night before scenes were shot. The character Martin Brody was a loving dad who wanted nothing more than to protect everyone – especially his own children – from the shark. He risked his life to do just that.

The Godfather is a movie based on a book, and it starts out with a terrific dad (depending on your point of view): Vito Corleone, played by Marlon Brando. The role won Brando an Oscar. The book upon which the film was based was a best-selling novel by Mario Puzo. He won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Godfather movie, and another Oscar for The Godfather Part II (also for Best Adapted Screenplay). He wrote the book at the suggestion of a man who had published one of his previous novels; The Godfather novel was published in 1969 and sat on The New York Times bestseller list for over a year.

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Will Smith starred as a movie dad named Chris Gardner in The Pursuit of Happyness, which was adapted from a book by the same name. The book was a memoir written by the real Chris Gardner, along with a writer named Quincy Troupe. Smith was nominated for both an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Best Actor for his role in this movie, although he did not win.

Who is your favorite movie dad? Leave your comments below. And don’t forget your own dad on father’s day. At the very least, look around online and find a hilarious card for your dad, although a phone call would be nice, too.

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