If you know a little about Evelyn Waugh you may be surprised to learn that the conservative, curmudgeonly and occasionally reactionary writer had an enduring love of silent film and admired its abstract style and the new possibilities of narrative representation it offered. He did, however, hate the ‘talkies’ and mainstream Hollywood productions. He stated with disappointment about the film industry that: ‘A great, simple art should have come into existence. But nothing of the kind has in fact occurred.’
Nevertheless, there have been several film adaptations of Evelyn Waugh’s novels over the years, though most of them were made after Waugh’s death in 1966. Tony Richardson adapted one of his novellas, the dark comedy The Loved One in 1965, which Waugh himself claimed was an ‘elaborate travesty’. Charles Sturridge directed an all-star cast in the film A Handful of Dust in 1988, based on Waugh’s 1934 novel, with performances from Judi Dench, Alex Guinness and Anjelica Huston. Stephen Fry directed Bright Young Things in 2003, a version of Waugh’s 1930 novel Vile Bodies. It captures the decadent inter-war years perfectly, though the changes Fry made to the ending were criticised for trivialising the troubled lives of Agatha Runcible, Adam, Nina and all the rest of the Bright Young People. Most recently, 2008 saw the release of Julian Jarrold’s Brideshead Revisited, which will have a special screening at Phoenix on 20th January.