- A Henry James Filmography
It was as a graduate student studying literature at Oregon’s Portland State University that I became enamored of the works of Henry James. Along the way, I took a class entitled “Henry James on Film,” but when I went looking for a full James filmography, I discovered that there didn’t seem to be one. There are a number of sources which provide partial lists of James-based films and TV fare (including the Internet Movie Database), but none of them was complete. Certain of the foreign adaptations (e.g., Otra vuelta de tuerca and Georginas Gründe) which have never been distributed in this country are, not surprisingly, left out of many American video guides, though they may be referred to on the Internet or in books on foreign-made films. Other adaptations, such as the earliest film Berkeley Square (1933), are listed in certain guides, even though they are apparently unavailable for viewing. (More about the issue of availability later.)
As evidenced by the number of James-based feature-films both recently produced and in production, Henry James is enjoying something of a revival. Merchant Ivory Productions is often given credit for beginning this trend with their 1979 version of The Europeans. Since then, we’ve seen their The Bostonians (1984), several versions of The Turn of the Screw, as well as Jane Campion’s 1996 The Portrait of a Lady, and the two newest films, Agnieszka Holland’s Washington Square and Iain Softley’s The Wings of the Dove. There is an upcoming BBC production of The American and a third, as yet unspecified, James-inspired production from Merchant Ivory. According to Casey Hulsher of the L.A.-based Development Source, Columbia Pictures is also planning another remake of The Turn produced by and starring Michelle Pfeiffer, while Paramount Studios is said to be interested in producing another film based on Washington Square.
James, a theater devotee from his youth, had, of course, little success adapting his own works to the stage. However, since his day, other playwrights, including Ruth and Augustus Goetz, Michael Redgrave, John L. Balderston, and William Archibald, have been able to manage the adaptation process, achieving the acclaim and financial remuneration that eluded James. James has also been [End Page 296] drawn on as inspiration for operas and radio plays, though one could argue that James’s work is especially well suited for the camera, as the late Leon Edel suggests in his preface to The Collected Plays of Henry James:
The appeal of Henry James’s works for the theatrical and operatic stages, as well as for the cameras and video of our time, derives from three elements in his artistry: the modernity of his cosmic subjects, the depth and psychology of his realism, and his extraordinary visual sense. His observations were always acute and they were psychological. He had a sense of picture and scene, a belief that all the arts are one, and that the artist should never hesitate to experiment.(4)
My eventual goal is to create an international catalogue of all the attempts to bring James to the screen, big or small. The results so far, though in themselves incomplete, include a substantial number of works from the United States, Great Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, and one joint Czechoslovakia-Great Britain effort (a taping of Benjamin Britten’s opera, The Turn of the Screw). At present this filmography represents one hundred screen works generated by forty-four of James’s tales, nouvelles, and novels, including those films or TV episodes which, though listed in certain reference books, are currently out of print or are simply unobtainable. Whereas some of the foreign films or television shows have never been released in this country, there were also many episodes made for early television, whether in the States or abroad, that were broadcast live and never taped or if taped were later destroyed to make room for yet newer products. (In the United States, especially in the first two and a half decades of television, there were dozens of drama anthologies, including those that featured adaptations of the classics. Much of...