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Literature to Film: James T. Farrell in Book and Film | Fyrie Robert Fyne Kean College Literature to Film: James T. Farrell in Book and Film Edgar M. Branch. Studs Lonigan's Neighborhood and the Making ofJames T. Farrell. Newton, MA: Arts End Books, 1996. (104 pages. Paper. $14.95) It has been 64 years since James T Farrell launched his writing career with the publication of YoungLonigan, the first volume in the Studs Lonigan trilogy. And since that time, Farrell's stature and reputation as a major novelist has been firmly established. For it was in the 1930s and 40s that Farrell, along with Steinbeck and Dos Passos, emerged as a leading spokesman for his beleaguered, literary generation, a group familiar with red-scares, comstockery and a "league of frightened Philistines." Undaunted , Farrell's writings tackled the mores, frustrations, hopes, and travails of Irish-American Catholics living in his native city of Chicago. With his sharp eye for details, he created an urban milieu that fostered such figures as Studs Lonigan, Danny O'Neill, Bernard Clare, and Gas-House McGinty. Occasionally, other characters transcended Chicago's physical boundaries. Many drifted to New York; some even ventured abroad to settlein haphazard fashionin Paris or some other European city. But however far anyone strayed from his Illinois birthplace, there was always an underlying force or subliminal power that eventually brought him back, either physically or symbolically, to this Midwestern city. And while Farrell would publish over forty books and gain an international reputation, this trilogythe story of a misguided youth who bummed around 58th and Prairieis his literary legacy. As a naturalist writer, Farrell became, as Kurt Vonnegut eulogized in 1979, "the father ofus all." What, then, are the reasons for Studs Lonigan's endurance ? Was it Farrell's hard-boiled environmental approach to characterization? His terse, colloquial dialogue? Maybe, his use of sports as metaphor? How about Hollywood's role? In 1960, director Irving Lerner miscast Christopher Knight as Studs; only this time the protagonist attended high school, fell for a female teacher, and contacted pneumonia, butin this fairy tale ending he survived. Eleven years later, in 1979, a three-part TV miniseries allowed viewers a second chance to witness the rise and fall of this Roaring Twenties tragic hero. Both pictures, however, failed to catch the spirit of Farrell's trilogy and echoed the thorny problem ofcomparing a screenplay to a novel. It is the samethe wags suggestas comparing a wife to a mistress; one may be responsible for the other, but it is better to keep them apart. By all accounts, however, Studs Lonigan remains as one of the most influential titles emerging from the Depression years and no one understands this better than Dr. Edgar M. Branch, the dean of Farrell scholars and research professor at Miami University. The author of three books, and numerous essays about Farrell, Professor Branch has spent much of his career with privileged information unavailable to most individuals and now has published another study of the trilogy, Studs Lonigan's Neighborhood and the Making ofJames T. Farrell. By gathering vintage photographs, historical maps, and old letters, Professor Branch presents a fresh and astute portrait of the South Side Chicago locale that fostered Studs Lonigan, Danny O'Neill, and their creator nearly a century ago. Even though the physical neighborhood has vanished, Professor Branch demonstrates the profound impact this section had on Farrell's best work. As Farrell frequently stated, "itwas important as life because it was the encircling fragment of the world in which I lived, in which I played and grew, and dreamed." What was the world ofStuds Lonigan? Professor Branch's book furnishes every answer. Vol. 25, No. 1-2, 1995 | 73 ...


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