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Book Review: Applause Books’ Film Script Series

Immediately after receiving the books for review, I opened up volume 2 and began reading 12 Angry Men, eager to spot any differences between the shooting script and the finished film. Pages and pages  and pages later, I hadn’t found one definite difference (and the one I kind of did I wasn’t too sure of), but it was a wonderfully fun exercise all the same. After that I moved on to A Streetcar Named Desire, and from there Henry V, which was much more detailed in terms of direction and encompassing for Olivier’s vision of the film. That’s not to say that Streetcar and 12 Angry Men were disappointments — far from it — rather, every script is just as interesting for its omissions as it is for its inclusions.

Billy Wilder’s script for The Apartment, for example, gives little indication of how each scene is intended to be shot, while Arthur Miller’s screenplay for The Misfits, on the other hand, is very detailed in both characters’ motivations and direction. Yet, in the former case, the writer is also the director; in the latter, the writer is not. (To be fair, Wilder does add the little note at the end that, “That’s about it, story-wise.”)

I’m not entirely sure if there’s a reason for any three to be bundled together, but the quality of writing and, often, eminence of the film, director, and/or writer, generally speaks for itself, and hence the appeal of Applause’s selection speaks for itself:

Film Scripts 1: Henry V, The Big Sleep, and A Streetcar Named Desire
Film Scripts 2: High Noon, 12 Angry Men, and The Defiant One
Film Scripts 3: Charade, The Apartment, and The Misfits
Film Scripts 4: Darling, A Hard Day’s Night, and The Best Man

Each volume features a general introduction (which is the same in all four), as well as a detailed summary and cast and credits for each film. Insight into the production and reception of the film is similarly given, as is the particular version of the script. In all cases, the editors have tried to provide as close to the shooting script as possible. Any revisions, omissions, and other supplements are clearly marked in the text as well as noted in the introduction. Also provided are a glossary of technical terms (which is useful whether you’re reading the scripts or not) and an extensive bibliography. (The text of the scripts also maintains the traditional typewriter font.) Each book is 8″ by 10″, runs 480 pages, and sells for $27.99.

In all, each book is an asset. If you are the kind of person who enjoys reading film scripts (and even if you’re not), the only better presentation than the Applause series that I can think of would be the actual script — and this is much more inexpensive.

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