Stage to Screen: Popular Movies that Began as Stage Plays

by Thomas Gallogly

Originally written for the stage by Jerry Sterner, Other People’s Money became even more widely known after Warner Bros. Pictures Inc. turned it into a film, which starred Danny DeVito. Here’s a list of a few movie titles you may not have realized also began as stage plays:

Casablanca (Film: 1942)

Originally an unpublished play titled Everybody Comes to Rick’s by Murray Burnett, Casablanca was purchased by Warner Bros. Pictures Inc. under its original title, and became a major motion picture in 1942. Starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, Casablanca won three Academy Awards including Outstanding Picture.

Steel Magnolias (Play: 1987) (Film: 1989)

This 1987 play by Robert Harling was originally created as a short story to help his nephew cope with the death of his mother, Harling’s sister. In 10 short days, the story grew into an Off-Broadway play, and soon after was adapted for the screen by TriStar Pictures in 1989. The film starred Dolly Parton, Sally Field, and Julia Roberts, who won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress.

Driving Miss Daisy (Play: 1987) (Film: 1989)

This Alfred Uhry play originally premiered Off-Broadway in 1987 and was part of the “Atlanta Trilogy,” a series of Uhry works set in the first half of the 20th century. The play was produced by Playwrights Horizons and won the 1988 Pulitzer Price for Drama. Warner Bros. Pictures Inc. adapted to play for the big screen in 1989. Starring Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman, Driving Miss Daisy won four Academy Awards including Best Picture.

A Bronx Tale (Play: 1989) (Film: 1993)

This one-man play, written and performed by Chaz Palminteri, premiered Off-Broadway in 1989, and earned Palminteri the 1989–1990 Special Award from the Outer Critics Circle. During the sold-out run, Academy Award winning actor Robert De Niro offered to buy the film rights to the show. Palminteri agreed on the conditions that he would write the screenplay and play the role of Sonny. The film version of A Bronx Tale premiered in 1993, and was the directorial debut for De Niro, as well as the catalyst for Palminteri’s film acting career.

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