Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Books Into Best-Picture Oscar® Winners To Highlight 2010 California Antiquarian Book Fair


Embracing great books into great movies, the 43d California International Antiquarian Book Fair promises to be the most exciting yet. We in the Southern California chapter of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America (ABAA), the Fair’s sponsoring organization, have been working overtime to present Fair-goers with an exhibit to knock socks - or bindings - off.

From Author to Oscar® is the theme for this year’s Special Exhibits, highlighting great books that became great Best Picture Academy Award®-winning films. We’ll be exploring the journey a book makes to the big screen, focusing on the important role that literature has played in providing Hollywood with strong, interesting plots and characters to draw upon. The majority of Best Picture Oscar® winners have been based upon literary works, and rare, first edition copies of each volume will be showcased in the exhibit, along with a selection of unique associated items from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ (AMPAS) Margaret Herrick Library.

The ABAA routinely works with distinguished libraries across the country but this is the first time we’ve had the pleasure of making the Margaret Herrick Library’s acquaintance. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was most gracious in accepting our request for assistance, and generous: There are items on loan from the Academy’s archives that have never been seen by the general public, each item focusing on the symbiotic relationship between books and film.

As the guy who spent six hours sifting through photos and documents with the Library’s acquisitions archivist I can tell you that, while there may not be any shock, there will definitely be awe in those who attend the Fair and see the exhibit. Afterward, I required an ice-pack over my peepers to get the goggle-eyes back down to size.

A few highlights:

• Photos of the cast of From Here To Eternity (Best-Picture 1953) posing with novelist James Jones, a copy of the book in his hands.

• Photo of Alfred Hitchcock at his desk, working on his screenplay for Rebecca (Best-Picture 1940), his copy of the book opened for reference.

• Letter from Lost Weekend novelist, Charles Jackson, to Lost Weekend (Best-Picture 1945) screenwriter, Charles Brackett, damning him and director, Billy Wilder, for changing the ending of the book, then proffering his own five-page re-write.

• Letter from Raymond Chandler to Charles Brackett congratulating him for his great script for Lost Weekend (Chandler knew a thing or two about drinking).

• Numerous examples of how during its Golden Age Hollywood relied on the source book to sell the movie to audiences.

• And much more.

I could go on but the Fair’s publicist is looking over my shoulder with a Glock .45 pointed at my ear lest I spill to much too soon. (Somewhere, a publicist is smiling. I hope.).

Rare poster for Rebecca on exhibit. Note how a book is used
in the design to promote the movie.

Why the emphasis on books into film? Simple. All movies begin on a page of paper, whether an original screenplay or one adapted from a book. From the early days of silent films, movie studios routinely adapted great novels to the screen to capitalize on their classic or best-selling status and familiarity with audiences. Classic dramatic and adventurous plots and characters from novels were brought to life on the silver screen, prose into pictures in motion that moved.

Indeed, during the Golden Age of Hollywood, movie studios - as will be demonstrated in the exhibit - exploited the original book for all marketing and advertising purposes: At the time, though movies were more popular, books were the most prestigious medium in American culture and studios sought to exploit that prestige for the gloss of class it provided. It was an era when novelists were at the apex of their importance in the cultural landscape. It is an era that has vanished.

But while studios no longer depend upon the original book to spearhead their promotional efforts, novels and great non-fiction works continue to be adapted to film simply because there is no substitute for a great story, well-told, with complex, flesh-and-blood characters. Whether ultimately Best-Picture winners, nominees, or otherwise, all movies begin with the word, and the word, as often as not, is Books.

The exhibit can be viewed throughout the entire weekend of the Fair, February 12-14, 2010 at the Century Plaza hotel in Los Angeles.

To accompany the exhibit, on Saturday, February 13 at 3PM, the book fair will host a panel discussion featuring esteemed Los Angeles Times film critic, Kenneth Turan; rare cinema and books -into- film dealer-specialist, James Pepper; and Kevin Johnson of Royal Books, whose lovingly produced, two-volume book, The Dark Pages: Books That Inspired American Film Noir, has become an essential reference.

The Writer’s Guild of America - West is assisting us in recruiting a screenwriter to join the panel discussion. We hope to have word soon.

The Book Fair Committee scraped the bottom of the barrel to find someone to moderate the panel and succeeded: I’ll be your host for the discussion. My qualifications? I was sick a lot as a kid and read a lot of books and watched a lot of movies on TV. This eventually led to my becoming Executive Story Editor at a major production company during the early 1980s. That company is now defunct. Draw your own conclusions.

The California International Antiquarian Book Fair is now the largest rare book fair in the world. This year, we have 180 dealers from around the globe exhibiting some of the best, rarest, and just plain coolest books on the planet, across every imaginable subject area.

If you love books and you love movies don’t miss the Fair this year.

But if you can’t make it, stay tuned to Book Patrol for the most comprehensive coverage of the 2010 California International Antiquarian Book Fair. We’ll be devoting all our attention to reporting on what’s going on, book highlights, exhibit and panel activities, etc.. And we have a secret weapon, a mole within the SoCal chapter of the ABAA, one of its officers, exhibit organizers, and firm exhibitors to pass along insider info.

The mole is half-blind, furry, prefers the underground, and avoids direct sunlight: I’ll be passing along the shhhh!, strictly confidential, exclusive scoops to myself. Then to you.


For full schedule and hours, ticket information, and more, log on to the 43d California International Antiquarian Book Fair website.
Hot line: (800) 454-6401.

Important Notice: The opinions expressed by me on Book Patrol are not those of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America, nor should I be considered its spokesperson.

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