4 October 2016 | roycevenuter
Don't Believe Anything you Hear and only Half of What you Read
As a teacher of fifty years experience in language and cinematic arts,I taught "The Devil and Dan'l Webster" as part of the fictional pantheon of American Literature. Although Alec Baldwin certainly has burned some bridges along the way in his career, this film takes creative risks, many of them worthy of consideration, which exemplify a significant part of Americana. Like its forbear, the 1941 cinematic adaptation starring Walter Huston, this version was attacked, condemned and dismissed when it was released. I believe that every adaptation of any book is an aesthetic fossil caught in cinematic amber.
The movie substantiates the same sort of meretricious value system in its depiction of Jabez Stone that struck Stephen Vincent Benet and the makers of the 1941 gem. In its lampooning of pretentious high society panderers of cheesy albeit popular writing, casting them as best-sellers, "Shortcut to Happiness"dramatizes a contemporary examination of what actually constitutes success in the dizzying world of publications.
Anthony Hopkins was well cast in the role of Daniel Webster. It is instructive to compare and contrast Edward Arnold's portrayal of Webster in the 1941 classic with that of Hopkins, because both actors have earned a lifetime of accolades, portraying both admirable and despicable characters. Hopkins and Arnold remain symbols of financial and thespian success.
Hollywood has a bad record for disapproving of movies solely on the basis of profit. I would love to see "Shortcut to Happiness" go into post-production, be subjected to a diverse array of test audiences after a skillful rewrite. The issues that concerned Stephen Vincent Benet in 1937 are alive and with us all today in almost every area of business, politics, entertainment, and government. Success is whatever you can get away with.
Audiences will go to see bad movies. But Hollywood only seems to take the loving and meticulously-artistic care to produce two or three cinematic gems each year. Whoever had the final say in terms of condemning this movie wasted time, money, and the potential for achieving what its creators had in mind when the idea was but an inspiration culled from reading the classic and wishing to update it.
If one of my students had submitted this movie script to me, I would have said, "Promising rough draft," and suggest various ways to improve it with my reasons for doing so.