Ever see "The Defiant Ones"?
Tony Curtis? Sidney Poitier?
Two escaped convicts, handcuffed together? They hate each other?
I never saw it. Until last Friday.
I Tivoed it a couple of weeks ago. For a specific purpose.
It is a tremendous piece of work.
You know how, in my Report Cards, I ask "Is it well cast, well acted, well shot, well written?"
It is all of these. To the nth degree.
When I wrote my Report Card on the remake of "True Grit", it was already on my mind to do a post on the subject of remakes in general.
I suppose there are a couple of instances where they are justified.
Epics like "The Ten Commandments" and "Ben-Hur", when done the first time around, there was no sound, color, special effects, or wide-screen to overwhelm you.
Otherwise, they are pointless efforts to cash in on someone else's previous success by someone who can't come up with something original to put on the screen.
Letterman had Matt Damon on last week so he could flog "True Grit".
Letterman was fawning all over it and him.
And the best reason either could come up for why it should have been remade was that it was much more faithful to the novel it was based on than the John Wayne version was.
How many moviegoers do you think have read the novel?
How many of you even knew it was based on a novel?
And based on what I saw, it couldn't have been much of a novel to begin with.
There is this story that I heard many years ago, perhaps apochryphal.
I don't know for sure. I wasn't there.
But I know at least some of it was true.
Here goes: In the early 70's, Marlo Thomas got it into her head that it would be fantastic if she remade "It's A Wonderful Life" as a TV movie, with Marlo in the Jimmy Stewart part..
All those around her, whether they actually believed it or not, agreed that it would be fantastic.
Marlo then said to her troops, "You know what would be even more fantastic?
If we all went over to Frank Capras house and told him about this in person."
So they all piled into Marlo's car and went over to Frank Capras house to deliver him the good news.
Mr. Capra was purported to reply "Not only will I not watch it if you manage to get it on the air, but I'll go to court and get a restraining order if I have to, to prevent you from doing it".
She ended up following through and doing it, so either it was an idle threat on Mr. Capras part, or he simply failed in his efforts.
I saw it. So she did have the idea, and she got it made.
That's the part I know is true.
Marlo wasn't as good as Jimmy Stewart, for what it was worth.
And I know that's true too.
What does all this have to do with "The Defiant Ones"?
In the mid-80's, a TV movie remake of "The Defiant Ones" was made with Robert Urich and Carl Weathers in the leads.
Entertainment Tonight interviewed the producer, or the director, or whomever that putz was that they interviewed, and asked the magic question:
"Why are you remaking "The Defiant Ones"?
He responded with, and I'm not kidding, "Well, the original was so good that we all felt it deserved to be remade".
So good that it deserved to be remade.
That sentence stuns me every time I think about it.
No disrespect to the dead, but with Robert fucking Urich and Carl fucking Weathers?
That's how it deserved to be remade?
Because it was so good?
I never saw this remake, and as I said, I never saw the original until last Friday.
Seeing the original only compounds the felony that ensued.
I looked up the remake on the IMDB.
There was one review.
The tone of it was somewhere between "It doesn't hold a candle to the original and "How dare they?"
Actually, that last part was mine.
If it's a matter of not getting anyone to watch the originals because they are in black-and-white, like "The Defiant Ones", then colorize the damn things and be done with it.
But please, as Jerry Lewis used to say on the Colgate Comedy Hour when he'd say
"DON'T lick it!!!"..........
DON'T remake it!!!!!!
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- mark rothman
- Hi. I am, according to my Wikipedia entry,(which I did not create) a noted television writer, playwright, screenwriter, and occasional actor. You can Google me or go to the IMDB to get my credits, and you can come here to get my opinions on things, which I'll try to express eloquently. Hopefully I'll succeed. You can also e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Perhaps my biggest claim to fame is being responsible, for about six months in 1975, while Head Writer for the "Happy Days" TV series, for Americans saying to each other "Sit on it."