Recently, inspired by Jessica Winter's Slate article on why there are so many movie adaptations of Jane Eyre, I endeavored to find the authors most often adapted for the screen. Searching likely suspects on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), and comparing the number of "writer" credits attributed to each, I compiled a list of twenty-five of Hollywood's favorite authors. Some of my discoveries were surprising (the second most adapted author is Anton Chekhov), some were not (Shakespeare is by far the most popular author). I closed by asking Brow Beat readers to point out who I missed.
Readers came through. Some of the omissions were more obvious: For example, I'd missed the great Russian novelists Fyodor Dostoevsky and Leo Tolstoy, who have accumulated 177 and 154 IMDb credits, respectively. Others, though, I might never have guessed like W. Somerset Maugham, who tied with original list member Mark Twain with 121 credits. The most glaring omission by far, however, was Three Musketeers and Count of Monte Cristo novelist Alexandre Dumas, who slides in ahead of Edgar Allan Poe with 243 credits.
The graphic previewed below shows the top twenty-five authors I've found, each of whom have 100 or more IMDb writer credits. Bear in mind: While the IMDb remains by far the most complete database for this information, these numbers include not just major film adaptations, but also limited release films,television series and in some rare cases even video games.
Here are the data we used. Numbers in parentheses are IMDb "writer" credits:
1. William Shakespeare (831)
2. Anton Chekhov (320)
3. Charles Dickens (300)
4. Alexandre Dumas (243)
5. Edgar Allan Poe (240)
6. Robert Louis Stevenson (225)
7. Arthur Conan Doyle (220)
8. Hans Christian Andersen (217)
9. Edgar Wallace (214)
10. The Brothers Grimm (212)
11. Molière (208)
12. O. Henry (201)
13. Oscar Wilde (181)
14. Fyodor Dostoevsky (177)
15. Leo Tolstoy (154)
16. Victor Hugo (150)
17. Jules Verne (143)
t18. Stephen King (127)
t18. Georges Simenon (127)
20. Agatha Christie (126)
21. L. Frank Baum (124)
t22. Mark Twain (121)
t22. Somerset Maugham (121)
t24. Noel Coward (101)
t24. Miguel de Cervantes (101)
Authors with just under one hundred "writer"credits include H.P. Lovecraft (99), Eugene O'Neill (95), Samuel Beckett (95), J.M. Barrie (93), Cornell Woolrich (93), and Harold Pinter (92).
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