DW talk at the Hastings and St. Leonards Literary Society

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Darren
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DW talk at the Hastings and St. Leonards Literary Society

Post by Darren » Tue 7 Oct, 2014 00:02:00

On Monday, 14th December 1936, DW gave a talk to the Hastings and St. Leonards Literary Society. The event was reported in the Hastings and St Leonards Observer a few days later. The text of the report is:

Hastings and St Leonards Observer - Saturday 19 December 1936

NOVELS AS FILMS. LITERARY SOCIETY LECTURE. The many difficulties of turning novels into films were discussed by Mr. Dennis Wheatley at a meeting of the Hastings and St. Leonards Literary Society at the Grand Restaurant on Monday. Mr. Kenneth V. Saville (president), who was in the chair, introduced Mr. Wheatley as an author who wrote to entertain and please.

"The film world is a strange world, there may be sane people in it, but most of those I have met are mad," said Mr, Wheatley. The film business was one which had grown up virtually in a generation. Now it was the third industry in America, and must be something like the same in Britain. The film people were still rather like savages emerging into civilisation, for things were still rather experimental. It was more difficult to make novels into films than people who had not tried it supposed. One of the principal reasons why it was so difficult was a matter of time. In most good books there were a large number of episodes which it was impossible to present in the time a film ran on the screen. Films had the advantage being able to switch from place to place, but whereas plays lasted about 150 minutes, the average film run was 75 minutes. Just recently, however, experiments had been tried with longer films, "Mutiny on the Bounty" ran 110 minutes, and "Romeo and Juliet" was another outstanding example of a successful long film. Mr. Wheatley considered longer films were the tendency of the future. Talkies made the condensation of novels into films even more difficult, as in the silent films a single caption could suggest quite a lot of action, which in talkies had to be shown. Novels otherwise suitable were often rejected on a financial basis. If a large number of outdoor sets were needed the film began to get very expensive. Most companies would make any amount of pictures a year, but only two expensive ones, and if they had already scheduled these for the year they would not consider another one for the time being. The political aspect also had to be considered. In books the political tendency did not matter, but in films the political situation at the time of showing had to be taken into account. Period had also to taken into consideration. for although there had recently been a run of historical films, these were not always acceptable.

Purity was a factor which had to be carefully watched, largely on account of America. "You can do almost anything you like in America if you know how; it is about the most godless country on earth." went on Mr. wheatley, "but they have this glamour for purity. They are very strong about it, and can break any one who goes outside it." He referred to the film "Nell Gwynn," the original version of which America refused to show. Anna Neagle, the star, had to be taken over there to shoot an extra scene for the ending, showing Nell Gwynn dressed in rags, dying on a garret bed, for in America the wages of sin is death, and everyone who had been a naughty boy in the film must get it the neck at the end. Other novels were rejected on the grounds of plausibility, for a film had not the time a novelist had build up situations and theories step by step.

Film companies had to take into account the stars they had on contract at the time when offered a novel for filming. Stars were expensive people, and the company who had them under contract could not afford to keep them idle. Thus there were dozens of people always frantically hunting for stories to suit their stars. An author who wrote a story specially for a star, and who knew officials in the company which employed her, was hitting a sitting pigeon —provided the star liked the story.

Mr. Wheatley related in an amusing manner incidents which had occurred while he watched the filming some of his own novels, and gave the audience an insight into the tedious business of film-making. Concluding, he said the story teller was assuming a more important role in the business than in the past, and the future of the films lay in the collaboration of first-class story tellers and first-class directors.

Mr. Sydney Parkman proposed a vote of thanks to Mr. Wheatley for his interesting and amusing address.


I found this in a forum discussing DW at http://sussexhistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=6808.0 - scroll down to the bottom of page 1 and the entry is there.
Regards,

Darren.

shanedwyer
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Post by shanedwyer » Mon 13 Oct, 2014 12:10:07

Interesting. It prompted me to see if the Hastings and St. Leonards Literary Society is still in existence. And it's not, well at least not by that name- there is however a Hastings Writers' Group.

Anyway, Wheatley's remark about America being about the most godless country on earth is noteworthy- especially when you set it against the modern notion of the US being one of the west's more religious nations.

Darren
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Post by Darren » Mon 13 Oct, 2014 14:34:21

Thanks Shane, following your prompt I looked up the Hastings Writers Group and they started in 1947 as The Hastings and St Leonards Writers’ Circle, so not the same that DW attended. However, one of the founder members was Catherine Cookson - before she was published - and she remained a member until 1976 when she moved to Northumberland.

The Hastings and St. Leonards Literary Society existed in 1911 as I managed to find an obscure reference to a a promotional leaflet about them from that year.
Regards,

Darren.

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