'Cimarron', 'Show Boat' Get Literary Makeovers in Film-Themed Series

11:06 AM PST 03/17/2014 by C. Molly Smith

Joined by "Drums Along the Mohawk" and "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir," the novels will be re-issued as part of the new Movie Classics line from Vintage Books.

Film buffs rejoice! Vintage Books is going back to the source material that inspired a number of iconic Hollywood films.

As part of Vintage Movie Classics, the publisher -- founded in 1954 by Alfred A. Knopf -- is re-issuing four classic novels in March: Show Boat, Cimarron, Back Street and Alice Adams. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, The Bitter Tea of General Yen, The Bad Seed and Drums Along the Mohawk will follow over the next few months.  

The stories, of course, remain the same -- the covers and forwards are what differ. But this re-issue could be just enough of a push for the classic movie lover hoping to become better acquainted with his/her beloved films and the books that inspired the films in the first place. Here's a rundown of the first wave of Movie Classics.

Show Boat

Written by Pulitzer Prize-winner Edna Ferber, Show Boat (1926) tells a tale of Mississippi show boats (imagine that), gritty turn-of-the-century Chicago and 1920s Broadway life. The book became a musical and was later made into three separate films, the most popular being MGM’s 1951 hit directed by George Sidney and starring Kathyrn Grayson, Howard Keel and Ava GardnerShow Boat’s re-issue will feature a new foreword from film historian Foster Hirsh. Its new cover, in black and white, features a flirty young woman making eyes -- turn of the century, anyone? -- at a young gentleman facing away from the viewer.

Cimarron

Also to Ferber’s credit is Cimarron (1929), a narrative that plunges into the Oklahoma Land Rush in which criminal lawyer Yancey Cravat and his wife Sabra forge ahead to create a prosperous life for themselves. Wesley Ruggles brought the story to cinematic life in 1931 (one of two times the book was made into a film). That rendition won best picture at the Academy Awards and was the first film to be nominated for the big five Oscars (picture, director, actor, actress, supporting actor and supporting actress), including nominations for its stars Richard Dix and Irene Dunne. Ferber’s great-niece and biographer, Julie Gilbert, has written a new foreword for the re-issue, which is presented with a lush, incredibly colorful cover of a rocky, outdoor landscape (this journalist's favorite cover of the bunch).  

Back Street

Fannie Hurst’s 1931 novel Back Street takes the series on a turn for the melodramatic as Ray Schmidt, a beautiful and talented dressmaker, engages in an affair with a married man. The novel has been made into a movie three times. One of these was the 1941 Robert Stevenson film starring Margaret Sullavan and Charles Boyer; another was the 1961 Ross Hunter-produced film with Susan Hayward, John Gavin and Vera Miles. Behind the mysterious cover, featuring a man and woman holding hands at what would appear to be a secret dinner (their faces are cropped out), the re-issue will contain a new foreword from historian Cari Beauchamp.

Alice Adams

Last but not least is Booth Tarkington’s 1921 Pulitzer-Prize winning novel Alice Adams, which details the life of the daughter of an impoverished family living in the aftermath of World War I in a Midwestern town. When a higher-class suitor pursues her, she must find ways to keep her status concealed. George Stevens’ 1935 film, starring Katharine Hepburn, garnered best picture and best actress nominations, re-launching Hepburn’s career. Similarly, the new cover -- a black-and-white portrait of a porch with a rocking chair on it, surrounded by nature -- breathes new life into the old story, as does the new foreword by film writer and Hepburn biographer Anne Edwards.

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