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The Times (04/Sep/1984) - Greene attacks film makers

(c) The Times (04/Sep/1984)

Greene attacks film makers

By David Nicholson-Lord

The novelist Graham Greene last night reverted to his origins as a film critic and presented a series of brickbats to those who have handled - or, in Mr Greene's view, mis-handled - the translation of his prose into celluloid.

Making one of his rare visit to Britain front his home in the south of France, Mr Greene levelled criticisms at some of the most glittering names in cinema history. Elizabeth Taylor was a "disaster" in The Comedians, John Ford's treatment of The Power and the Glory "intolerable" and Alfred Hitchcock distinctly overrated.

Mr Greene told an audience at the National Film Theatre: "Very few good films have been made of my books. Some of the worst things have been done by great directors. The American adaptations have been outstandingly bad."

The novelist, who will be 80 next month, disclosed his relief after seeing The Human Factor that Otto Preminger had not taken up his option on A Burnt Out Case. He revealed that he refused to let Hitchcock make Our Man in Havana.

"I have not got all that much admiration for Hitchcock. He was offering a rather derisory sum and announced that he had bought it so I said no," Mr Greene confessed.

He also cast something of a pall over the forthcoming season of Greene adaptations at the NFT by telling his hosts they were showing eight "very bad" films. Not one of them, however, had been made by an English director.

Mr Greene, who has seen more of his works adapted for the screen than any other major novelist this century, was at a loss to explain why Hollywood was so inept. He speculated that his eye-catching titles might be to blame. Paramount had snapped up The Ministry of Fear - a quotation, Mr Greene said, from Wordsworth - before the book had even been published.

But he declared himself "very happy" with a recent Thames Television series of short story adaptations.

Mr Greene, who was delivering a Guardian lecture at the NFT, added gloomily that some novelists, like Tolstoy, were luckier. "They are dead." he said.