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The first books to hit the big screen...

At the request of one of her Twitter followers, Cara Fielder takes a look at the first books that made it from paper to celluloid...

Posted on 21st April 2013 by Waterstones


Recently I asked my followers on Twitter if they had any questions or particular genres that they would like me to discuss here on in my column. The lovely @charlieehay got in with the first question:

What was the first book to be graced with a film adaptation?

In my innocent ignorance, I thought this would be an easy one to answer... Well apparently not, it appears to be quite a debated subject. From what I can gather, most people seem to agree that it was Trilby And Little Billee in 1896, based on Trilby by Gerald Du Maurier, but this inspired me to take a look more broadly at some of the first ever fictional characters and stories to hit the big screen


Sherlock Holmes



The world famous Sherlock Holmes has been capturing the hearts of book reader and cinema goers from as early as 1900, when he appeared in the Mutoscope film Sherlock Holmes Baffled. It's a testament to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's captivating and beautiful writing that he is as popular today as he was back then -  according to the Guinness Book of Records, he remains the most portrayed movie character with more than 70 actors playing him in over 200 films. It just goes to show that a classic really can be timeless.






Snow White

Snow White 1916


The German fairy tale Snow White, penned by the Brothers Grimm back in 1812, had it's first of many movie adaptations in 1902. Since then the story has been moulded, modified and almost changed beyond recognition into over 200 other movies from the well known Disney classic - which the BFI have a terrific book all about -  to last years Snow White And The Huntsman and I am sure there will be more to come.



Jules Verne, H.G. Wells & Science Fiction

 Le voyage dans la luneThe 1902 French movie, A Trip to the Moon or Le Voyage Dans La Lune, was inspired by two science fiction classics. From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne and The First Men in the Moon by H.G. Wells. It is the first recorded science fiction film and pushed special effects and became hugely popular both at the time and even in modern day.



 Alice In Wonderland

Alice 1903The first ever movie adaptation of Alice In Wonderland was released back in 1903 and even though The British Film Institute have restored the movie, only one copy of the original is known to exist - with some parts having been lost forever. With over 106 movie adaptations released so far (Tim Burton's being one of the most recent) I am sure we'll continue to see Alice on the big screen for years to come.


 Uncle Tom's Cabin

1903 UncleTomFilm

I was completely unaware of both the book and movie until I started researching this subject, but back in 1903 Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel Uncle Tom's Cabin was adapted into a thirteen minute long silent film. Its popularity led to it being adapted eight more times by 1927. The strangest might be the "play within a film" version which is found in The King And I performed by the slaves of the court of Siam. The book tells the tale of two slaves. Eliza, who escape slavery with her young child and Tom, who doesn't manage to escape and is passed from master to master.


Thank you so much to @charlieehay for getting involved in my column and giving me such a fascinating subject to study. If you've got a question you want to put me or a subject you'd like me to look into, then you can tweet me your ideas at @thetattooedbook.

Cara Fielder, for Waterstones.com/blog