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Saturday, June 10, 2017

Billy Bathgate (1989) by E.L. Doctorow

Image result for nicole kidman billy bathgate
Nude Nicole Kidman in the terrible failure movie version of Billy Bathgate, the 1989 novel written by E.L. Doctorow.
Book Review
Billy Bathgate (1989)
 by E.L. Doctorow

  When a good book begets a terrible movie, what influence does that bad film have on the reputation of the book?  Presumably, a terrible movie version will never help the long term reputation of the underlying book, it can only not impact the reputation of the book or negatively impact the reputation of the book.  Billy Bathgate, published in 1989, was out in theaters in November of 1991, where it was a HUGE HUGE bomb:  Budget: 48 million Box Office Revenue: 15 million.

   Huge bomb. If the file came out in November of 1991, and the book was published in 1989, the film rights had either been pre-sold or were sold immediately after it was published.  Billy Bathgate the book was a price winner, so it is fair to say that in November of 1991, it was still in paperback- in fact- it's safe to say that a "movie edition" of the paperback was in stores.  So the movie comes out, and it's terrible- that surely must hurt the reputation of the book- because the film is named the same as the book, and many people who never heard of the book now know ONLY that it is a terrible movie.

  Billy Bathgate is a fun, but by no means world-beating piece of historical fiction, about the titular character, who is a young boy coming of age in picturesque early twentieth century New York City.  It's often categorized as a "post modern historical novel" (by Wikipedia, no less.)  I have no idea why this book would be called post modern.  What Billy Bathgate is, is a historical novel, written in 1989, by an author with two decade long track record of matching critical with popular success.  Does that combination somehow render him post-modern?  Honestly, I asked google about it, but couldn't come up with an easy answer.


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