Wednesday, February 10, 2010

JDM on Television, Epilogue (or, How Travis McGee Almost Met Topher Brink)

Hollywood and John D MacDonald never saw eye-to-eye when it came to screen adaptations of his work. This was a constant frustration for MacDonald, who actually believed at one time that such a thing as a faithfully realized film translation of his work was possible. From the 1960's-on nearly every novel and short story he had published was optioned by a film studio with the intention of turning it into either a hit movie or television series. And if they never quite got it right, it didn't stop them from continually trying.
As I mentioned in my bit on the Travis McGee made-for-television movie, MacDonald re-sold the McGee rights after he learned that his previous licensing of the character and novels would cripple his estate with taxes when he died. The only result was that noxious adaptation, but in 1986, the year JDM died, Warner Brothers was still trying, working on a pilot for a possible McGee series. MacDonald wrote about it in a letter to a friend of his, a portion of which is quoted below. It's indicative not only of MacDonald's rueful feelings toward Hollywood producers, but of the imbecilic lengths producers would go in order to alter JDM's art.

I found this in Merrill's The Red Hot Typewriter:

"I am a little more irritated than usual with Hollywood... Now they have a script of The Lonely Silver Rain. Pretty good script. they want to make a two-hour pilot to lead into a weekly one-hour television show. They have turned Meyer into a kid. An electric, electronic whizzy kid, twenty-five-inch waist, high style hair, and he has filled Meyer's cruiser with gadgets so he can sell French francs on the Tokyo exchange at three in the morning, our time. I hate it. It is like losing an old friend. But they mumble about demographics. If demographics and all that shit is so terribly important, why is the overall TV audience going down and down and down? The friends of Meyer will not rise up and crush the scoundrels because people who watch TV use books as door stops."
Now I've got to start wondering what they're going to do with Meyer in the upcoming DeCaprio film...

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