• The Spark

Icons & Inspiration: What Do “Field of Dreams” and “Deliverance” Have in Common?

Author:  Susan Steinway, Archivist, HMH  | 02/25/2016

With roots dating back to 1832, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has many inspiring stories to tell. Here, on The Spark, HMH archivist Susan Steinway will periodically share some of her latest and greatest findings from the HMH archives. Just in time for the Oscars, our first post takes a look back at HMH’s impact on Hollywood’s biggest night.

This Sunday, the stars will don their finest formal wear and millions will tune in from home as the annual Academy Awards celebrate the highest achievements in filmmaking. So what better time to recognize the HMH titles that have walked the red carpet?   


Highest Honors

Over the years, numerous HMH books have been adapted into screenplays. Of those, 22 have been nominated by the Academy for Best Picture, and two have taken home the Oscar. The first to win was “All the King’s Men” in 1949, based on the 1946 book by Robert Penn Warren.

All the Kings Men   All the Kings Men

In 2003, “The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” became HMH’s second adapted title to receive the Best Picture Oscar.

Lord of the Rings


From the Page to the Screen

What about those other 20 nominations?  How many can you name?  The other two “Lord of the Rings” movies were both nominees, of course, and the three “Hobbit” movies were nominated in the sound and technology categories.

Some other HMH titles that may come to mind are “Mary Poppins” (1964), “The Color Purple” (1985) and “Life of Pi” (2012).

Mary Poppins  The Color Purple  Life of Pi

If you think a bit harder, you may remember “Field of Dreams” (1989), ”Prince of Tides” (1991) and “Deliverance” (1972).

Field of Dreams  The Prince of Tides  Deliverance

But did you know that the film “Shane” (nominated in 1953) was originally a book published by Houghton Mifflin?

Shane  Shane

Or that “Mister Roberts” (nominated in 1955) was based on the book by Thomas Heggen published by Houghton Mifflin in 1946?

Mister Roberts  Mister Roberts

Of all of these HMH authors, Sinclair Lewis takes the cake for the one with the greatest number of titles adapted into Best Picture nominees. His books Arrowsmith and Dodworth were made into movies in 1931 and 1936 respectively.

Arrowsmith  Dodsworth

His 1927 novel Elmer Gantry was made into a movie in 1960, and though it did not ultimately win Best Picture, Burt Lancaster won Best Actor, Shirley Jones won Best Supporting Actress, and the screenplay won Best Adapted Screenplay.

Elmer Gantry  Elmer Gantry


The Real-Life Trumbo

Additionally, I discovered an interesting connection between this year’s Best Picture nominee “Trumbo” and the movie “Friendly Persuasion.” “Trumbo” is about a top Hollywood screenwriter who is blacklisted for his political beliefs during the Red Scare, a scenario that actually occurred for Michael Wilson, the screenwriter behind the film adaption of Friendly Persuasion. Originally a novel by Jessamyn West, Friendly Persuasion was published by Harcourt in 1945 and the movie was nominated for Best Picture in 1957.

Friendly Persuasion

The film was also nominated in several other categories, including Best Writing and Best Adapted Screenplay. However, Wilson was blacklisted at the time of the nomination due to a rule passed by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that denied an Oscar to anyone who refused to talk to the US House Committee on Un-American Activities. The Writers Guild of America protested, to no avail, and they presented Wilson with their own award for Best Drama.

So what movies are you rooting for at this year’s Oscars?  And what HMH titles do you think could be the next great feature film?

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