Friday, April 05, 2013

What sin a name?

Why does Steve Carella become Steve Carelli in Cop Hater, the movie based on Ed McBain's novel of the same name? Why does Lew Archer become Lew Harper, other than Paul Newman's possible predilection in the 1960s for characters and titles beginning with H?

I can guess why Carmen Sternwood became Camilla in Michael Winner's 1978 remake of The Big Sleep; England is probably not exactly crawling with Carmens. But why does Ned Beaumont become Ed Beaumont in both movies based on Hammett's The Glass Key?

What are your favorite or most eccentric character name changes from the page to the screen? Bonus points if you know why the movie makers changed the name. In two cases I know of, authors wanted to retain the rights to a character's name.

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Blogger Jerry House said...

The obvious answer is that movie producers are idiots. I can't speak for the other movies, but Lew Archer became Lew Harper because studio executives did not want the movie confused with THE GREEN ARCHER, an Edgar Wallace thriller that had been filmed three times, in 1925, 1940 (as a seven-part serial), and in 1961 (in Germany and never released theatrically in the United States). Morons.

April 05, 2013  
Blogger Dana King said...

Interesting. I'd heard Archer was changed to Harper because Macdonald didn't want to give them exclusive rights to the name for any future pictures.

Either way, if they weren't going to use the "real" name, why not just call the movie The Moving Target, like the book? The thing with Newman and the letter H is a myth.

April 05, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Jerry: Sounds as if producers are morons because they assume the audience are idiots, in your case. But the novel that was movie's source was called The Moving Target, not Harper. Why not give the movie the same title the book had, especially since it was not a bad title?

The producers had to have been thinking in two steps: First, they wanted to give the movie an identity of its own, something that would appeal to viewers who had not read the book. That's probably what the makers of the recent Parker had in mind. It would be only then that the Archer/Green Archer question would have come up.

April 05, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Dana, Roddy Doyle once said at a reading I attended that characters' names were changed in the movie version of his novel The Snapper for precisely the reason you suggested: He wanted to retain the rights to the names. BUt could something like that account for such a piddling change as Ned Beaumont to Ed Beaumont?

I posted my reply to Jerry before I read your comment. You'll see that I raised the same question about The Moving Target. The producers had to have been thinking the same the thing that the producers of Parker were. They wanted to make the protagonist into a brand name.

April 05, 2013  
Anonymous Brad said...

Years after it went off the air I read a paperback compilation of the original Mr. Ed stories, written by Walter Brooks of Freddy the Pig fame. You recall that Alan Young played Ed's owner, Wilbur Post? Well, in print his name was Wilbur Pope. Mustn't be irreverent or anything. Also, his blond wife Carol was originally (the one-quarter Spanish) Carlotta.

April 05, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Did the stories precede the television series? If so, Carlotta may have been considered too ethnic for a mass television audience.

Also, if a a horse wrote or dictated the stories, I might have to hold them to different standards.

April 05, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I read somewhere at the time that Archer was changed to Harper at Paul Newman's request.

He had success with other films that began with H, such as Hud and Hombre.


April 05, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Paul, I'd read that, too, though I think Hombre was released after Harper. On the other hand, Dana, who may well know more than I do, says the H thing is a myth.

Newman always seems like the most level-headed of stars, so an H obsession seems less likely from him than it might from some other Hollywood figures.

April 05, 2013  
Anonymous Howard Curtis said...

Harper was actually titled The Moving Target on its original UK release.

The name changes I particularly like are Phyllis Nerdlinger and Walter Huff in Double Indemnity, who of course become Phyllis Dietrichson and Walter Neff in the film.

April 08, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Interesting that the movie was released under the novel's original title in the UK. How big a star was Paul Newman in the UK at the time? Perhaps there was less of an inclination to identiry the movie with its main character and, hence, its star.

That's an odd pair of name changes. I wonder if the producers thought Nirdlinger would have sounded too funny for audiences to take seriously.

April 08, 2013  

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