Movie lovers lost one of their own in March 2017 with the passing of beloved Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne. For 23 years Osborne shared his love of the silver screen with fans, engaging with the stories behind the films he presented and sharing his astute knowledge of the golden age of Hollywood with viewers.
“He got us excited and reawakened to the greatest stories ever told with the most charismatic stars in the world,” Steven Spielberg told The New York Times. As a tribute to Robert Osborne, we share our favorite Turner Classic Movies based on books.
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A Night to Remember, by Walter Lord
Before James Cameron rocked the box office with his 1997 epic, Director Roy Ward Baker brought the final night of the RMS Titanic to life in A Night to Remember, adapted from Walter Lord’s 1955 book. Lord’s minute-by-minute account of the tragedy, based on interviews with survivors, is still considered the definitive account of what happened on that night in 1912 when 1,500 men and women lost their lives.
Airport, by Arthur Haley
This edge-of-your-seat thriller starring Burt Lancaster and Dean Martin is widely credited with launching the disaster film genre which exploded in Hollywood after the success of this 1970 film. Based on the #1 New York Times-bestseller, the story follows an airport manager and his team as they try to stop a bomber from destroying a Boeing 707—and killing all passengers and crew onboard.
Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
The iconic film starring Vivien Leigh as the headstrong and beautiful Scarlett O’Hara has inspired millions of dedicated fans since it first hit theaters in 1939. While the film’s fame has perhaps overshadowed the book on which is was based, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind is widely considered the “Great American Novel.”
Sophie’s Choice, by William Styron
This heartbreaking film starring Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline explores the continuing trauma that follows a Holocaust survivor in the wake of World War II. The story is based on William Styron’s 1979 novel and delves deep inside the good and evil of humanity—ultimately revealing a woman forced to make an impossible choice.
Cluny Brown, by Margery Sharp
The spunky Cluny Brown charms and wreaks havoc in this 1946 comic satire. After Cluny infuriates her uncle with her “inability to know her place” she is sent to the English countryside to serve as a parlor maid for an aristocratic family, where her unconventional style upends the lives of those around her. Based on Margery Sharp’s 1944 novel, this witty comedy of manners serves as a reminder to readers that “one’s place is wherever one is happy.”
The Eagle Has Landed, by Jack Higgins
Jack Higgins’s thrilling World War II novel snagged a lot of star power for its adaptation. Donald Southland, Robert Duvall, and the inimitable Michael Caine anchored this wild tale of a Nazi plot to kidnap Winston Churchill. When a troupe of German soldiers infiltrates British shores, only the villagers of Studley Constable stand between them and the British Prime Minister.
Goodbye Mr. Chips, by James Hilton
James Hilton’s moving novel about a British school teacher has inspired numerous adaptations, including two films, two television adaptations and a stage musical. Robert Donat won an Oscar for his performance as Charles Chipping in the 1939 adaptation of the novel, a “movie that never grows old” as one TCM fan lovingly noted. Based on Hilton’s own school days in Cambridge, Goodbye Mr. Chips is a touching reminder of the lasting effect teachers can have on our lives—as well as the impact students make on theirs.
The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner, by Alan Sillitoe
British author Alan Sillitoe wrote the screenplay for this 1962 film, based on his short story of the same name. “Long before James Dean became the ‘Rebel without a cause,’ a young Tom Courtenay, in his first film role, was a rebel with a cause,” muses one TCM fan. Tracing the reflections of a juvenile detention center inmate The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner gives voice to those on the fringes of society, and helped paint Sillitoe as a voice of the “Angry Young Men,” a group of novelists and playwrights that included John Osborne and Kingsley Amis.
The Thin Man, by Dashiell Hammett
This witty comedy-mystery film was so wildly successful that it sprouted five sequels, a radio show, a musical, and a TV series. It was all based on the book by Dashiell Hammett (of Maltese Falcon fame), which portrayed a retired detective and his heiress wife being dragged back into the mystery game while trying to settle down. Hammett based the fast-paced banter on his relationship with screenwriter Lillian Hellman.
Searching for Bobby Fischer, by Fred Waitzkin
Little Josh Waitzkin discovers an affinity for chess when he begins playing with a hustler in Washington Square park, only for the astonished adults around him to discover that the playful child is a prodigy. As his father pushes him toward lessons, tournaments, and lectures from grandmasters, the question arises: How far do you go to win? This tale of parenting and burning intelligence makes great cinema, but is perhaps even more poignant in its true form as Waitzkin’s reflections on chess and a father’s love.
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Still From A Night to Remember. Photo: Courtesy of American Movie Classics (AMC)