Idea Men Turned Grave Robbers: Hollywood Remakes

Jackie Jerkins, Literary Editor

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it—so cautions the weary hokum, but it appears that filmmakers have turned a “blind ear” to it. The classic attic is being plundered by the film industry, and three hostages have been reported: Bonnie and Clyde (1967), The Birds (1963), and The Thin Man (1934). To my knowledge, there is not a gear out of line among the three films. For anyone who has ever had the privilege of seeing them, they most certainly “ain’t broke.” Alas, Hollywood doesn’t seem to think so, with a convoy of remakes en route as we speak.

In a valiant effort to mess with perfection, as it were, Bonnie and Clyde’s revamp was announced in 2009. It gets better: the recasting of Bonnie Parker—a darling of seasoned and celebrated actress Faye Dunaway in the 1967 rendition—went to (drum roll please!) Hillary Duff. Indeed, the former title role of Lizzie McGuire was set to fill the shoes of one of the most critical performances to ring in modern Hollywood.

Dunaway immediately recoiled upon being slapped with the news. “Couldn’t they at least cast a real actress?” she allegedly spat. Hear, hear!

However, in an act of what can only be distinguished as complete divine intervention, Duff will not be telling anyone that she robs banks any time soon; her pregnancy at the time of production saw her abandonment from the scene of the remake.

Most unsettling for yours truly, a remake of The Thin Man was recently announced. Director David Koepp will be inserting Johnny Depp into the shoes of main character Nick Charles, shoes that had previously been occupied by William Powell—an actor of the utmost distinction and inimitable class. Though Depp has time and again proved himself a Renaissance man of modern cinema, the recasting still festers with the embittering effect of replacing the Liberty Bell with a wind chime. Roger Ebert, film critic extraordinaire, contends that to “see The Thin Man is to watch him [Powell] embodying a personal style that could have been honored, but could never be imitated.” There you have it—the leading film critic in the nation doth declare it, yet Depp still looms on the horizon of Nick Charles’s rarified moustache.

The original Bonnie and Clyde holds an 89% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Ratings for The Thin Man and The Birds hold at 100% and 95%, respectively. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but when a majority of critics sides so heavily with the judgment that a film is near perfect, does the film not reserve the right to remain intact and unspoiled?

At this point, it’s a matter of respect. If Hollywood does not have the decency to keep from pestering its ancestors, it is either unwilling to admit that its trove of ideas is running on fumes, or is simply out-and-out idiotic. To make a long, long argument short: Mind your elders, Hollywood. You and your computers are mighty impressive, but I would sooner sit through sixteen more pedestrian “comedies” from Katherine Heigl and Seth Rogen than see national treasures getting makeovers—and believe me, that’s a sacrifice rivaling Sophie’s Choice.