Turner Classic Movies are exactly what they say claim to be: classic. The golden age of Hollywood has known a nearly boundless influence on the films and media we consume today, and thanks to the longevity of channels like Turner Classic Movies and the love of hosts like Robert Osborne, that is sure to continue.
For 23 years, Robert Osborne shared with viewers his knowledge about and love for the timeless movies he presented. In honor of his passing in March 2017, we share our favorite Turner Classic Movies originally based on books. And one thing is abundantly clear: these films, and these stories, will far outlive us all.
A Night to Remember
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 that night in 1912 when 1,500 men and women lost their lives. And while Cameron’s love story aboard the Titanic may be what we know best, Ward’s contribution to the Titanic canon cannot be overlooked.
This edge-of-your-seat thriller starring Burt Lancaster and Dean Martin is widely credited with launching the disaster film genre which exploded onto the scene in Hollywood after the success of this 1970 film.
Directed by George Seaton and based on the #1 New York Times-bestselling novel of the same name, the story follows an airport manager and his team during a snowstorm as they try to stop a suicide bomber from destroying a Boeing 707—and killing all passengers and crew on board.
Gone With the Wind
Undoubtedly one of Turner Classic Movies’ most popular and notable films, this iconic picture 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 upon which it was based, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind is still widely considered one of the “Great American Novels.” And after all, if it weren’t for the book, we wouldn’t have the gift of such an incredible film.
Of Mice and Men
By John Steinbeck
Based on the John Steinbeck classic of the same name, this 1992 film starring Gary Sinise and John Malkovich as the inimitable George and Lennie has become the definitive adaptation of the novel.
Following the relationship between the two men with both sincerity and criticism, it stays true to the original story’s tone and plot all the way through. And though there are a plethora of adaptations of this text, this film has emerged as a must-see.
To Kill A Mockingbird
Perhaps the most famous Turner Classic Movie of them all, this adaptation of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning classic novel of the same name has been beloved by readers, film critics, and fans alike since its release.
As time has passed, it has only proven itself further as an icon in film history. Featuring a fantastic performance by Gregory Peck, the movie succeeds for one crucial reason: it stays true to the heart of the novel. Shown in high school English classes around the world, there’s no doubt that this film has left a significant mark on both the film and the literary world.
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. Based on William Styron’s 1979 novel, the story wrestles with notions of both the good and the evil in humanity—ultimately revealing a woman forced to make an impossible choice.
Known best for its tearjerker qualities, we won’t tell you exactly how heartbreaking this film is. But we promise it’s impossible to walk away unmoved.
The spunky Cluny Brown charms and wreaks havoc in this 1946 romantic comedy. 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.
Finding herself torn between two men and two paths in life, Cluny has to make a difficult decision—but she’s guaranteed to do it in the most hilarious way possible. 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
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 fictional 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. Director John Sturges’ final film, it was an immediate hit upon release and a truly classic Turner Classic Movie.
Goodbye, Mr. Chips
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 Turner Classic Movies 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
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. It helped to 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
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 despite trying to settle down.
Hammett based the fast-paced banter on his own relationship with screenwriter Lillian Hellman. And just like the long-lasting relationship both on- and off-screen, this film has become a Turner Classic Movies staple.
Searching for Bobby Fischer
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 before them is a prodigy.
As his father pushes him toward chess lessons, tournaments, and lectures from grandmasters, a question arises: How far are you willing to go to win? This tale of parenting and burning intelligence makes great for cinema, but is perhaps even more poignant in its true form as Waitzkin’s personal reflections upon chess and a father’s love.
Featured photo from A Night to Remember, via The Rank Organisation
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