24 November 2006

What fresh hell is this!

Just saw the trailer for the live-action Charlotte's Web movie that's coming out next month.

Hell's bells! The trailer manages to squeeze in a fart joke. Yep, that's what Andy always did for a laugh in his books! He was the Captain Underpants of his day. His editor, Harold Ross of the New Yorker, was also enamored of his scatalogical humor. "We need more goddammed fart jokes!" he'd often bellow into Andy's office as he rushed past.

Andy resisted a movie version of Charlotte's Web for years, though he finally gave in in 1976. Not bad for a book published in 1953.

Says Andy:

"It is the fixed purpose of television and motion pictures to scrap the author, sink him without a trace, on the theory that he is incompetent, has never read his own stuff, is not reponsible for anything he ever wrote, and wouldn't know what to do about it even if he were. I belive this has something to do with the urge to create, and the only way a TV person or movie person can become a creator is to sink the guy who did it to begin with."

And on the Hanna-Barbera version:

"And I am also at work trying to get the bugs out of the screenplay of 'Charlotte's Web,' which was written by a Hollywood character whose knowledge of life on a New England farm is sub-marginal."

(And naturally after he sent in his changes they ignored them.)

To his lawyer:

"I want the chance to edit the script wherever anything turns up that is a gross departure or a gross violation. I also would like to be protected against the insertion of wholly new material -- songs, jokes, capers, episodes."

The man did his damndest. But money talks and the author walks.

You've probably seen the trailers for Stuart Little and Trumpet of the Swan. Lord. I'm standing there watching the trailers with my kid, going, "That wasn't in the book! And that wasn't in the book. And that totally wasn't in the book." It just floors me that you can lift a couple of characters out of somebody else's book, and write a screenplay loosely based on one or two of the events in the story, and then make a movie of it and get a big pile of money out of it.

Just so you know, I am trying my damndest to be sure my kid never sees those movies. Andy deserved better.

Here, go read this instead. It's an essay entitled "Andy," written by Roger Angell, his stepson, former editor of the New Yorker (just like his mom) and no slouch at the keyboard himself. Check out the parts where Andy's writing. That's what I most admire about him. That's what I want to be like.

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