Our Short Story Study Day meeting must, regrettably, be canceled. Our speaker for the event, SMU Professor Beth Newman will not be able to join us due to coronavirus concerns and the hotel will not be able to accommodate our group in the Mansion's Garden Room due to the re-imposed mandates by Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins.
We are sorry for any disappointment.
Our November meeting will consist of another Dinner and a Movie night. Nicolas Roeg directed Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie in the 1973 adaptation of Daphne du Maurier's Don't Look Now. The film, considered by some to be one of the best "thrillers" made, also contains one of the earliest graphic sex scenes in cinema, which caused quite the controversy at the time. Keeping with the Venice location, Italian food and desserts will be served. Discussion of the adaptation will follow.
6:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Join us for our annual Christmas in Cornwall Luncheon (held in Dallas, Texas rather than Fowey, unfortunately). One of Daphne du Maurier's plays, The Years Between , will be reviewed by Oral Historian and playwright Leonard Cox. The story revolves around the wife of a British MP who learns her husband has been killed in the second world war. Just as she is coming to grips with her loss, preparing to marry a neighboring farmer and taking up her late husband’s seat in parliament, he turns up alive. Now, her husband expects her to return to her housewifely duties, but everything has changed. The discussion will no doubt be vigorous.
Noon - 2:30 pm
On Saturday, May 8th, local members of the Daphne du Maurier Society of North America met to watch the 2012 ITV adaptation of The Scapegoat. Just as she elegantly handled our discussion of the Netflix adaptation of Rebecca last year, Cindy Jones once again offered her film experience and ran a post-watch discussion that was both fruitful and engaging.
The attendees were somewhat divided in opinion about the film - some thinking that the pacing was too slow a drip while others felt that events progressed too quickly to be believable. We all seemed to find the many changes to Daphne du Maurier’s original story interesting, if not always necessary.
One of the major changes to the novel was the setting of the film, which takes place in England rather than in France. The film uses this location with purpose, for the events of the story occur during the week of the coronation of Elizabeth II, an event that some of our members thought tied in nicely to the main character’s journey of finding himself in an unexpected position of authority and trying to make the best of it.
The film subtly offers several hints at this theme. One of our attendees, author Samantha Mabry, noticed that, in the film, John’s brother Paul was reading a copy of I, Claudius, a popular fictional autobiography of the emperor by Robert Graves. Curious about the potential significance of the book, Samantha researched the story and kindled interesting discussion between some of our members after the meeting. Some of their thoughts are below.
S. Mabry: “People were trepedious about his prospects as emperor (he had a stutter, and was considered weak --a stutter like George VI, Elizabeth's father!). I, Claudius is also written in first-person, in the form of an auto-biography, in which Claudius attempts to "re-write" the narrative, perhaps similar to the way in which John attempts to reconstruct the narrative of the family.”
C. Peirson: "I Claudius was an enormous low budget hit for the BBC. It was filmed on one set with actors daylighting while they were on stage at night. Robert Graves intended the book to be about Lydia and how she literally poisoned the lives of those around her. Claudius was her counterpoint, but in the end he succumbed to poisoned mushrooms and a bribed physician. I think the screenwriter or director was making a parallel between a "good" emperor and a "bad" empress. Anyway, Tiberius hated his mother and refused to make her a goddess after her death. Claudius however, was made a God and was part of the divine cult of emperors. "
C. Jones: "The book Paul is reading alone in bed, I Claudius, is a generous clue as to what’s going on in that scene. As Samantha pointed out, Claudius was shunned and mocked. Yet he foiled expectations and became a great emperor. Claudius’ life took a big u-turn. Paul, like Claudius, is underestimated and belittled, and Paul is also experiencing a change of direction. He just managed successful leadership of the Hunt, and his brother just admitted to failure in leading the family business. By giving Paul that particular book to read, the screenwriter seems to be making the playful suggestion that Paul is comparing notes with that other late bloomer—Claudius. Am I, too, destined to lead? And what better confirmation of his rising status, than his formerly indifferent wife showing up in their bed wearing a new (to him) negligee, signaling desire for him—not his brother. The allusion to I,Claudius broadens the screenplay’s exploration of fate’s role in deciding who wears the crown. I agree, clever screenwriters! ”
I, Claudius is not mentioned in Daphne du Maurier’s novel The Scapegoat, but its presence in the film adaptation felt appropriate and clever for the reasons discussed above.
The most notable difference between the novel and the film is the film’s ending. Although the film offers an ending entirely different from the ending of the novel, many of the attendees quite enjoyed the film’s conclusion, finding it a more satisfying finish to the story. The film cannot be described as faithful to the novel, but many of us found it enjoyable in its own right, despite its many deviations from the source material.
After concluding our literary travels to France (and England) with The Scapegoat, our group will next journey to Venice, Italy in the short story Don’t Look Now. The title alone sparks a feeling of dreadful anticipation, and we look forward to discussing our thoughts on the story at our August meeting.
Finally, Cindy Jones has provided a review of the film below, but be warned - this contains spoilers!
“The Scapegoat’s” adaptation from book to film transforms the most literary of du Maurier’s novels to a more conventional screenplay. While both stories use the same doppelganger premise, they differ greatly from there. The novel explores competing dual natures within each man, and the film illustrates fate’s role in determining one’s destiny. The screenplay abandons du Maurier’s familiar twisty gothic overtones and sets the story in England during Elizabeth II’s coronation. The reason for the change of setting becomes clear near the film’s end, when the housekeeper convinces John to stay by assuring him that fate brought him to lead the Spence family, just as fate put Elizabeth II on the throne. The screenplay’s fate theme recognizes du Maurier’s debt to The Prisoner of Zenda, a favorite, earlier doppelganger story, where fate decides which doppelganger wears the crown.
While the novel leaves unresolved questions, the film offers a clear-cut conclusion where the good guy wins. The film’s plot then, is to ignore the book’s exploration of good and evil and instead focus on creating enough sympathy for the good guy and antipathy for the bad guy to justify murder. And indeed, the good guy’s tender romance with the heroine, and the bad guy’s attempted murder of same heroine, among other sins, compel enough emotion to excuse murdering the bad guy. While the book and the film are related, they are by no means doppelgangers, so perhaps it is easier to give up comparing the many differences and appreciate each on their particular merits.