It doesn’t seem likely that a successful film adaptation will enhance a novel’s chance for lasting fame. Of California’s Famous Fifty thirty-one have been made into movies. I’m guessing, however, that only a few on the list (primarily mystery stories like The Maltese Falcon or The Big Sleep) are attracting readers because of the films. But what about an inverse effect? Do really bad adaptations limit the audience for books otherwise worth reading? That’s not likely either, but it does generate an unusual list. Here are some unfamous novels that were turned into movies that Leonard Maltin, for a variety of reasons, does not recommend:
1. The Wild Party by John McPartland. A straight-arrow couple encounters trouble when lured into L. A.’s demimonde.
2. Desert Town by Ramona Stewart. A bored teenager in someplace like Barstow adds danger to her life when she takes up with a vacationing gangster. (The movie is called Desert Fury.)
3. The Flower Drum Song by C. Y. Lee. A young man growing up in San Francisco’s Chinatown has trouble aligning his hopes and his father’s expectations.
4. The Square Trap by Irving Shulman. An unhappy teenager tries to box his way out of the Los Angeles barrio. (The movie is called The Ring.)
5. The Devil Thumbs a Ride by Robert C. DuSoe. An underwear salesman driving to San Diego joins up with some morally deficient folks on journeys of their own.
Unless there’s a run on internet booksellers, The Wild Party should be easy to find. The other four books are in print, one in a Penguin paperback and the other three on demand. Who knows what this means? Maybe even a bad film adaptation helps to keep a novel in the public eye.