Bond Beats Brontë: Who’s the Most Adapted Author in Cinema?

Slate's Culture Blog
March 11 2011 10:12 AM

Bond Beats Brontë: Who’s the Most Adapted Author in Cinema?

Yesterday in Slate ,Jessica Winter asked, " Why are there so many movieadaptations of Jane Eyre ?" Meanwhile, one of last week'smajor releases was The Adjustment Bureau ,yet another film based on the stories of science fiction writer Philip K. Dick(earlier adaptations include Blade Runner , Minority Report , A Scanner Darkly and TotalRecall ). This got me wondering: Who are Hollywood's favorite authors?

There's no easy way to establish a definitive answer. Does one count filmsbased on a character, but not a storyline? Can one count Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet and not Gnomeoand Juliet ?

For today, I've settled for a method that's admittedly imprecise: Counting thenumber of titles that the IMDb credits to a given writer. Television series, made-for-TVmovies, and even video games occasionally figure into these lists, so the resultsare broader than I would have liked. Also, since the IMDb doesn't itself rankwriters, I had to settle for taking my own list of likely contenders andsearching for them in the database one-by-one.

What are the surprises? After Shakespeare (the leader by a mile with 831titles) comes not Brontë (35) or Philip K. Dick (21), but Anton Chekhov (320).Hemingway (56) gets destroyed by Stephen King (127). Dr. Seuss ties Franz Kafkaat 70, Joseph Conrad ties Sophocles at 62, and Homer ties Raymond Chandler at34. Emily Brontë edges out her sister, Charlotte, by one title.

It seems there's no one way to win Hollywood's favor.Short story writers (Poe, O. Henry) and playwrights (Shakespeare, Molière, Wilde)fare at least as well as novelists (Dickens, Hugo). Prestige doesn'tnecessarily help, either: Writers of such genre fare as science fiction (HPLovecraft, HG Wells), mysteries (Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie) and fairy tales(Hans Christian Anderson, the Brothers Grimm) often surpass the literary greats.Finally, sometimes penning just one timeless story is enough to become aperennial Tinseltown favorite: Nearly every one of Cervantes' 101 credits is for anadaption of Don Quixote .

Here are the top 25 authors I've found so far, along with the number of"writer" credits they're given by the IMDb:

1. William Shakespeare (831)
2. Anton Chekhov (320)
3. Charles Dickens (300)
4.Edgar Allan Poe (240)
5.Robert Louis Stevenson (225)
6. Arthur Conan Doyle (220)
7. Hans Christian Andersen (217)
8.The Brothers Grimm (212)
9.Molière (208)
10.O. Henry (201)
11.Oscar Wilde (181)
12.Victor Hugo (150)
13. Jules Verne (143)
14. Stephen King (127)
15. Agatha Christie (126)
16. L. Frank Baum (124)
17.Mark Twain (121)
18.Cervantes (101)
19. H.P. Lovecraft (99)
20. J.M. Barrie (93)
21. Ian Fleming (88)
22. H.G. Wells (85)
23.Rudyard Kipling (78)
24. Tennessee Williams (74)
25. Stan Lee (73)

Who did I miss? Postyour findings in the comments, and we might collect them in a future post.

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Forrest Wickman is a Slate staff writer. 

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