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Escape from the stage? From play to screenplay in British cinema’s early sound period

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Abstract:

In this article I discuss the evolution of the screenplay from play to film of Escape (1930) through a detailed examination of the archive correspondence between its producer Basil Dean and the original writer of the play, John Galsworthy. My aim is to provide a more nuanced account of the relationship between stage and screen practices at this time, one that goes beyond histories that have understood the adaptation of stage material to have been a burden from which British cinema had to escape, in order to create its own distinctive identity. I argue that the relationship between the two practices was affected by the coming of sound, and the cultural anxiety and debates around the film industry and national identity formations that it engendered. I then examine Basil Dean’s thoughts about the adapted screenplay, in particular his ideas around the retention of the original author’s dialogue, and his practical response to the issues in terms of his collaboration with Galsworthy in the writing of the screenplay of Escape, one of the first talkies made in the United Kingdom.

Keywords: Basil Dean; British cinema; John Galsworthy; adaptation; dialogue; early sound film; screenwriting; stage

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/josc.2.2.215_1

Affiliations: University of Manchester

Publication date: March 15, 2011

More about this publication?
  • The Journal of Screenwriting aims to explore the nature of writing for the moving image in the broadest sense, highlighting current academic thinking around scriptwriting whilst also reflecting on this with a truly international perspective and outlook. The journal will encourage the investigation of a broad range of possible methodologies and approaches to studying the scriptwriting form, in particular: the history of the form, contextual analysis, the process of writing for the moving image, the relationship of scriptwriting to the production process and how the form can be considered in terms of culture and society. The journal also aims to encourage research in the field of screenwriting, the linking of scriptwriting practice to academic theory, and to support and promote conferences and networking events on this subject.
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