Hollywood just can’t get Daisy Buchanan right. In movie versions of The Great Gatsby Daisy is portrayed as a neurotic blonde. Daisy was not like that. Both Mia Farrow in the 1974 film and Carey Mulligan in the 2013 movie play inaccurate portraits of the woman who triggered Jay Gatsby’s obsession. In the book Daisy is a sultry, southern brunette with a low, seductive voice. The on-screen switch in the Daisy character’s looks and personality leaves the viewer puzzled. Why is Gatsby so stuck on the weak, nervous woman in the movie versions? If the movie audience could see the novel’s version of Daisy, a refined, sensuous, dark-haired beauty from Kentucky, Gatsby’s fascination with Daisy and his compulsion to win her back would make sense. Roger Ebert’s review of the 2013 film makes the point that if Carey Mulligan had matched the book’s description of Daisy, viewers would have understood why Gatsby idealized her.
The book describes Daisy as a woman so desirable that she casts a spell on men. She has dark, shiny hair and a pale face (Chapter 8). Part of Daisy’s allure is her low voice and southern accent. She stretches out her syllables in a southern drawl as she croons to her young daughter: “Bles-sed pre-cious. Did mother get powder on your old yellowy hair?” (Chapter 7). At Gatsby’s party Daisy sings along to the orchestra in her sweet contralto voice (Chapter 6). Daisy’s southern roots emerge at the Plaza hotel where she orders a mint julep, the Kentucky Derby cocktail. Her southern accent makes her voice “glowing and singing” (Chapter 1), “a deathless song” (Chapter 5). Daisy’s voice had “the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell . . . the jingle of it, the cymbal’s song of it . . .” (Chapter 7). Daisy murmured in a “low thrilling voice men who cared for her found difficult to forget” (Chapter 5).
Daisy was sensual, but she was not a temptress. She was a woman with feminine charisma. Her magnetism is described as “warm human magic” (Chapter 6) and “the pale magic of her face” (Chapter 8). For Gatsby, Daisy’s allure was more than her looks and the “fluctuating, feverish warmth” of her voice (Chapter 5). Gatsby found Daisy “excitingly desirable” (Chapter 8) because he was drawn to her wealth and breeding. As the most popular girl in Louisville, Kentucky, Daisy lived in a grand, elegant home. Her family were Louisville society. To Gatsby she gleamed “like silver” (Chapter 8). In Chapter 7 Gatsby tells Nick Carraway that Daisy’s voice “is full of money.” Nick realizes that to Gatsby, Daisy is a prize. That other men adore her adds to her “value” (Chapter 7). Gatsby sees Daisy “high in a white palace, the king’s daughter, the golden girl . . .” (Chapter 7). Pursuing Daisy became Gatsby’s obsession because she fulfilled his dream of success. In chasing after her, Gatsby “had committed himself to the following of a grail” (Chapter 8).
The movie versions of The Great Gatsby capture most of the characters in the book accurately – except Daisy. What a difference a warm, sultry, southern brunette would make on the screen. Gatsby’s obsession with Daisy would then make sense.
Is there an accurate movie version of the novel Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? The answer is no. Hollywood has produced seven movies of Robert Louis Stevenson’s enduring tale. Every one of them adds characters who are not in the book. All but two of the movies omit the important character of Mr. Gabriel John Utterson, Dr. Jekyll’s lawyer. Some of Hollywood’s biggest stars have been cast in the films, including John Barrymore, Spencer Tracy, Ingrid Bergman, Mickey Rooney, Miriam Hopkins, Jack Palance and Fredric March who won the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Jekyll and Hyde in the 1931 movie version. For all their popularity, the films do not follow the book.
Why can’t Hollywood get it right when it comes to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? Here are a few reasons . . .
• Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a psychological story. The book is long on clues and short on action. The reader knows only what Mr. Utterson sees and knows. If a filmmaker told the story chapter by chapter, the resulting movie would be vague and boring.
• The details of Mr. Hyde’s decadence and debauchery are implied, but not stated. What did Hyde do when he went out on the town at night? Where did he go? The author Stevenson doesn’t say. He gives no specific details about Hyde’s activities. Stevenson hints that Hyde is up to no good, but he doesn’t spell it out. Is Hyde a thief? A rapist? A serial killer? A terrorist? Screenwriters have had free rein to fill in the blanks.
• The drugs Dr. Jekyll concocts present a challenge for screenwriters. In the book when Jekyll drinks the formula, the chemicals change his personality, but also his physique. Movies can’t recreate Jekyll’s transformation in the novel. The book describes Hyde as “dwarf-like” and “ape-like.” It is impossible for an actor to become shorter, so costume and makeup pros give Hyde dark, hairy skin. Since an actor can’t shrink in size, he stoops, slumps and bends over as he walks.
• Two crimes are not enough for movie audiences. The book states that Hyde trampled a little girl and beat a man to death with a cane. That’s it. Screenwriters are obliged to make up Hyde’s crimes and wild adventures. An easy choice is to add violence and scenes of Hyde’s sexual escapades.
• Women characters are invented to depict the depravity of Hyde. The only female characters in the book are a reference to a little girl Hyde trampled and an unnamed maid who happened to be looking out her window and witnessed Hyde murdering Sir Danvers Carew. Hollywood made a whole movie about the maid, Mary Reilly starring Julia Roberts. Most film versions portray Hyde as a sadist who abuses women.
• Casting big name actors and actresses in a film boosts box office revenue. Adding characters who are not in the book is a way to add star power.
• Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a short novel with only 10 chapters, some of which are two pages long. Screenwriters must add more scenes to the story. Scenes that depict Hyde’s bad behavior have become the main plot of the movie versions.
The subtlety and mystery of the novel is its power and explains why it has endured as a work of literature. Robert Louis Stevenson deliberately omitted the details of Hyde’s crimes and sins. The author leaves Hyde’s antics to the reader’s imagination, making Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde a sort of interactive novel that connects to the psyche of the individual reader. The uniqueness of the novel limits the possibility of an accurate movie version.
Which movie version is the best? Although the movie is not like the book, the 1941 film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at least has the best cast of all the movie versions. Spencer Tracy plays Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Ingrid Bergman plays Ivy Peterson, a woman Hyde seduces and holds under his spell. Lana Turner plays Dr. Jekyll’s fiancé Beatrix Emery. The three stars deliver memorable performances, and the story line is minimally accurate.
Two movies full of dark satire are winning awards in 2023. The Banshees of Inisherin features self-mutilation and arson as a means of un-friending a long-time companion. The Menu uses ultra-dark gallows humor, including suicide, mutilation and mass-murder as a problem-solving solution to life’s annoyances. Both comedy genres are tools of satire. Dark comedy mocks the worst human conditions like poverty, sexism, racism, ageism, animal cruelty, failures and setbacks. Gallows humor makes fun of death, suicide, torture, execution and life-threatening situations like war, disease and famine.
Thousands of years before George Carlin, Bill Maher or The Daily Show, Aristophanes, the “Father of Comedy,” poked fun at politicians, generals, elite citizens and the general hypocrisy he observed in 450 B.C. in Athens. Other satirists followed, including Dante, Chaucer, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Moliere, Voltaire, Swift, Carroll, Shaw, Ionesco and Vonnegut. Today late-night TV comedy skits by Saturday Night Live, Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers and others use satire, but rarely resort to dark comedy and gallows humor for laughs.
The actors in Banshees and The Menu don’t wink, jest, or play for laughs. Dark comedy and gallows humor require a solemn tone for impact. The characters in Voltaire’s Candide (1759) interact in earnest as if the plot sequences are entirely plausible. They suffer kidnapping, disease, flogging and the loss of body parts as they flee pedophiles, rapists, wars, earthquakes, the Spanish Inquisition and Jesuit missionaries. Playing it straight is the key to dark humor. The narrator of Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal (1729) seriously suggests the solution to the problem of starving beggars is to eat their babies. In Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), “The Queen had only one way of settling all difficulties, great or small. ‘Off with his head!’ she said, without even looking around.”
Movie audiences have been numbed by blockbuster action films and super-hero sequels. The linear plot lines are devoid of satire, irony and subtlety. The Banshees of Inisherin and The Menu make audiences think and reflect on what exactly is being ridiculed. The dark comedy trend may not last, but for at least this year, a few movies reach the height of cinematic art.
5 movies we're obsessed with that will leave you wanting more. Guaranteed to make you laugh, cry, and question life.
1. La La Land
2. Bruce Almighty
3. Empire of the Sun
4. The Kingsman (all of them)
5. Parasite (oh, yes!)
THE MOVIE VERSION OF ELLA ENCHANTED IS NOT LIKE THE BOOK by Gail Carson Levine
Find the recommended movie and book here:
DVD: Ella Enchanted
Streaming: Ella Enchanted
Book: Ella Enchanted
Study Guide compares the novel ELLA ENCHANTED by Gail Carson Levine to the movie version Ella Enchanted (2004) starring Anne Hathaway, Hugh Dancy, Cary Elwes, Minnie Driver, and Vivica A. Fox. The main plot line and characters survive this film even though 18 chapters of the book are omitted from the movie.
RECOMMENDED MOVIE: Ella Enchanted (2004) starring Anne Hathaway, Hugh Dancy, Cary Elwes, Minnie Driver, and Vivica A. Fox.
WHAT’S IN THE BOOK THAT’S NOT IN THE MOVIE?
Lady Eleanor’s funeral, Apple the centaur, Chock the parrot, gnomes, zoo, Finishing School, Hattie’s wig, Sir Peter’s financial problems, Edmund of Wolleck, sliding down the bannister, Lela, ball gowns, white mask, pumpkin coach, lost glass slipper, King Jerrold, and Queen Daria.
WHAT’S IN THE MOVIE THAT’S NOT IN THE BOOK?
Narrator, Edgar, Heston, Benny, paper boy, newspaper, escalator, Frell Community College, Prince Charmont’s fan club, poison crown, dagger, Ella in prison, fight at the coronation.
WHAT’S THE SAME?
Magic book, ogres, giants, elves, Ella and Char’s romance, Mandy, Lucinda, Sir Peter, Dame Olga, Hattie, Olive, Slannen, and Areida, Lucinda’s gift of obedience, Sir Peter’s marriage to Dame Olga, Ella’s marriage to Char.
Download the Study Guide Now: Ella Enchanted: Movie Version