Tag Archives: christmas film

Conversion to TV

Phil: A couple of years ago (doesn’t time fly), Candice reviewed a book I’d passed on to her – The Christmas Train by David Baldacci. It’s a heartwarming tale set on a cross-country train in the USA. We both enjoyed it.

I hadn’t twigged that the book has been turned into a movie. But it has. So I watched it.

The first thing to realise is that the studio responsible for this is Hallmark. The people who make the greetings cards. As such, you won’t be surprised that the result is a gritty expose of life for struggling railroad workers forced to give up the festive season with their families to mend track.

No, of course it isn’t.

This is comfort TV. You don’t watch it, you wallow as though in a nice, warm bath.

The first change is that our journalist hero is taking the train as a promise to his father, and not because he’d been banned from flying for an air rage incident. This isn’t essential to the story, although anyone trying the book, or reading the excerpt on the Hallmark website, might be surprised to find this out.

A few characters have vanished, but more due to the pressure of time than anything else. Max Powers has an assistant in the book, but not the film. I didn’t miss him.

Perhaps the biggest change is the removal of the jeopardy when Tom and Elenor head out into the snow when the train gets stuck. The book really places them in danger and provides a pivot for their love story. In the film, they get a bit lost, then find a remote ranch and return to the train in a horse-drawn sledge. This apparently causes all the snow to melt or at least it’s pretty much gone in the next scene.

The movie doesn’t need to place them in jeopardy to make the characters realise their true feelings because it’s signposted from the start that they will fall in love again. There’s a bit of bickering, but almost every other character says, “Get back together you pair of muppets” (I paraphrase, but you get the gist).

Don’t get me wrong, the book is unlike all other Baldacci output in that’s a heart-warming tale from the off. You know what’s going to happen. No-one dies.

The film takes this and adds shmaltz. At one point the bartender offers a hot chocolate and asks “One candy cane or two?”. I’m thinking “Sugarcanes in hot chocolate? Noooo. You’d be bouncing off the walls!” but it’s a perfect allegory for the work whoever turned the book into screenplay had to do.

Despite this, it’s not a terrible film You need to be in the mood for it in the same way you need to be in the mood to consume endless Christmas food, but then that’s what the festive season is all about, isn’t it?  I do wonder what the author made of it though.


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It’s A Wonderful Life

I'd like a cake THIS big please Clarence.Phil: As the festive season turns inexorably toward the new year. I find myself looking for some hope in 2012. Hope that our book will find someone who loves it whose name isn’t either Nolan or Parker.

Hope arrived this morning on the radio. There was mention of the classic Christmas film, “It’s a Wonderful Life”. You’ll know it of course, George Bailey suffers as things go very wrong for him and decides at Christmas to chuck himself off a bridge because the world would be better if he’d never been born. His guardian angel, Clarence, arrives and give him the chance to see how mistaken he is. The world would have been a much worse place without George. By the end he realises this, is saved, returns to his family and then is surprised by the rest of the townsfolk showing their appreciation of his efforts. Queue happy ending.

The film is based on a short story by Philip Van Doren Stern called “The Greatest Gift” written in 1943. Unable to find a publisher, he turned the story into a 21 page Christmas card and sent it out to 200 friends. One of the cards was given to RKO Pictures producer David Hempstead who showed it to Carry Grant. He liked it and immediately saw himself in the lead role. From that point, the rest is history – although in the end, Bailey was played by James Stewart as Grant was already making a different Christmas picture, The Bishop’s Wife.

I think the moral I want to take from this is that unconventional means can get your book published. Maybe if we stop doing what we are supposed to do, which plainly isn’t working at present, and try something else, we’ll get a result. Maybe what we have written is a great screenplay that will be filmed, become a blockbuster, and then someone will be tasked with the novelisation. If we can get George Clooney in one of the lead roles, then at least one of us will be happy.


Filed under Phil, Publishing