Famed author Elmore Leonard died this morning from complication of a stroke he suffered on July 29th. He was 87.
I was twenty-years-old the first time I picked up an Elmore Leonard novel on the recommendation of a friend, but was never sorry that I did. His writing seemed simple, but the stories were so complicated and intriguing that it was almost as if the simplicity was just a disguise, lowering the readers guard, to only surprise and delight in the final chapters. He never tried to overcomplicate things, but his characters were so deeply written that it’s impossible to read any of his stories without becoming engrossed. Since that time, I have read several more of his novels, short stories and other literary endeavors, but because this is a site dedicated to my love of movies, I will limit today’s thoughts to the memory of his contributions to the cinematic world.
More than twenty of his stories have been adapted for the screen (both theatrical and television), and even though I haven’t seen them all, each one that I have sought out perfectly exemplified his talent and ability to be a great story-teller. Anyone can put words on a page and try to entertain their readers, but Leonard invited us into his characters’ world, where we can share an experience with them, even if just for a brief time. The stories that he has left behind will live on forever, as will my memory of him and his undeniable brilliance. Thank you, Elmore, for making movies better.
My Elmore Leonard “must see” list includes seven films- some westerns, some crime films- all amazing. What is your favorite Leonard adaptations?
- “Get Shorty” (1995): Starring John Travolta, Rene Russo, Gene Hackman, Danny Devito, Dennis Farina, Delroy Lindo, James Gandolfini and David Paymer. Based on the 1990 novel of the same name.
- “The Tall T” (1957): Randolph Scott teamed with director Budd Boetticher for this western classic based on Leonard’s 1955 short story, “The Captives”.
- “Joe Kidd” (1972): Starring Clint Eastwood and directed by John Sturges, this western film wasn’t based on anything, but was instead an original screenplay written by Leonard.
- “Out of Sight” (1998): An all-star cast headlined by George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez, Ving Rhames, Don Cheadle, Steve Zahn and Albert Brooks- based on Leonard’s 1996 novel of the same name.
- “Hombre” (1967): Based on his 1961 novel, “Hombre” is still considered to be one of the finest western stories ever told, and is often cited as Leonard’s most acclaimed literary work. The film stars Paul Newman and Fredric March.
- “Jackie Brown” (1997): Quentin Tarantino adapted Leonard’s 1992 novel “Rum Punch” into this masterfully woven crime story. The film stars Samuel L. Jackson, Pam Grier, Robert Forster, Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton and Robert De Niro
- “3:10 to Yuma” (1957 & 2007): Last, but certainly not least on my list are the two different films version of Elmore Leonard’s 1953 short story (“Three-Ten to Yuma”). Although I enjoy both film versions of this story, the 1957 film starring Glen Ford and Van Heflin, and directed by Delmer Daves, is an absolute masterpiece.