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1 Introduction How a French Author Met Hollywood From the outset of his career as a novelist in the 1860s, Jules Verne was an author who broke the rules. He not only defined a new genre, science fiction, but also appealed to a wide audience—readers of all ages around the world. Now, going on 150 years later, his novels continue to sell in all languages as well as in condensations for children and comic books. In the 1870s, Verne’s stories became stage blockbusters, and they remain staples of the theater. By the beginning of the twentieth century, his tales emerged as mainstays of the screen. From trick films to the introduction of special effects, color, widescreen, and three-dimensional filming, and in television specials, series, and miniseries, whether live action or animation, Verne has conquered every screen form. In these pages, I discuss all of these forms, and the reader will learn how Verne films have also resonated in theme parks and video games. Just as Verne’s writing broke the rules, so too do the screen adaptations . There is no one-to-one correspondence between a novel and a film; Verne’s stories have given rise to multiple versions, adjusted for various mediums, produced for all audiences. To understand Verne films involves not only discussing famous titles, spectacles that have triumphed over the movie screen and echo on television and video release, but also analyzing others that, although less recognized, are no less deserving of attention. Few writers have enjoyed such enduring screen success as Verne in 2 Hollywood Presents Jules Verne so many forms. In these pages, there has been no need to reach for or suggest abstract influences or tenuous links between these films and the author: they all are squarely rooted in his writing. Such films nearly always advertise their source; the phrase “based on Verne” presells a film and is a form of box office insurance no less than a big-name star. At the same time, Verne films reveal a historical development, an intertextuality , as they interact with the influences of previous versions, screen technologies , and publishers’ treatments of the author. Verne films continue to evolve today in ever more complex recognition of the fact that when we are speaking of Verne, the text of his writing essentially now includes an awareness of his screen adaptations. If you pronounce Jules Verne’s name with the proper French lilt, outside of some academic circles you’ll receive only bewildered stares. When his works were presented in 1970 to my sixth-grade class through Scholastic Book Services, school chums called him “Julius” Verne; Isaac Asimov recounted how he thought the name was “Jewels Voine.”1 Whatever the pronunciation of Jules Verne’s name, he has long been the bestloved French author among English speakers, who have adopted him as one of their own—and screen adaptations have played a major role in public understanding of his work. Even for those few who have not read Jules Verne (1828–1905), the author’s very name conjures a submarine traveling twenty thousand leagues under the sea, a tour against the clock around the world in eighty days, a trip from the earth to the moon, and a journey to the center of the earth. Verne’s name is synonymous with scientific progress and the challenges, glories, and disasters it has brought. More than simply an author, Verne is a phenomenon of the scientific age; in him we see both a reflection of our advances and the perils they have engendered. Despite Verne’s adoption of a nineteenth-century romantic sensibility , his enthusiasm for the idea of “progress” was tempered from the time of his earliest stories, whether by the insanity of the Arctic explorer in Journeys and Adventures of Captain Hatteras (1866) or by Captain Nemo’s use of the Nautilus as a warship in Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Seas (1870). Verne’s publisher rejected his 1863 novel Paris in the 20th Century as too downbeat, and it was not published until some 130 years later to recognition as a pioneering dystopia. Verne introduced Introduction 3 not only science into the novel but also the attendant social concerns, revealing technology’s effect on humankind. He never concentrated purely on gadgets or machines but rather on their effect and context, regarding science, society, and politics as intertwined.2 He was one of the first authors to study the relationship between humanity and nature, noting his heroes...


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