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R.I.P. Elmore Leonard (1925 – 2013)

by on 2013/08/21

Elmore Leonard (1925 - 2013)

Elmore Leonard is not a fellow I’m overtly acquainted with, but he’s a very important part of the movies we love, especially where crime and westerns are concerned.

For several years, I’ve had on a shelf a complete set of his western stories. I’ve never gotten around to them because the binding is too damn fine. I take them down every once in a while, leaf through, and go back to bed. Leonard himself, I imagine, would be utterly disgusted. Frankly, however, unless I experience a major shift in interests, there’s no getting past the fact I know him best through the adaptations.

The odd thing is, I’m a little askew on them too. See, I’m not the biggest fan of the original 3:10 to Yuma. And I really believe Get Shorty’s sequel, Be Cool, gets too harsh a bad rap. I frustrate poor Grushenka, owning seasons of Justified, but rarely watching. Ditto for the TV movie Last Stand at Sabre River.

I suppose it’d be more a shame if his creations had died with him, but his simple, straightforward style will ensure they endure. By taking his influence out of the stories, allowing the characters to speak, they not only drive the narrative, but are left independent, persistent . . . even open to reinterpretation.

In my life as an audio editor, I sometimes explain I’m only successful when the listener has no idea that I’ve been involved. It may not be good for the ego, but the work somehow satisfies. I imagine Elmore Leonard would agree.

Jackie Brown (1997)Jackie Brown (1997)

Leonard’s own favourite adaptation was Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, based on the story Rum Punch, and perhaps the most underrated of his works.

It includes a great cast, including Robert De Niro, Bridget Fonda, and Samuel L. Jackson, but the revelations are Pam Grier in the lead, Robert Forster, and Michael Keaton.

Joe Kidd (1972)Joe Kidd (1972)
by Grushenka Geusebach on 2013/06/11

* * *

“Elmore Leonard’s quirky dialogue and meandering, equally quirky action put me in mind of a tall tale told at a bar…
“Directed by John Sturges (The Great Escape), it is an uneven but mostly satisfying ride. I can forgive just about anything that has Mr. Eastwood squinting over a gun barrel.”

Out of Sight (1998)Out of Sight (1998)

Out of Sight may well be my own favourite Elmore adaptation, with incredible casting — including Michael Keaton back from Jackie Brown — direction by Steven Soderbergh, and a cool score by David Holmes.

It’s a somewhat unfortunate irony — inspired by Reviews on the Run — on the very day Leonard died, we were watching this video, and interrupted midway.

The Tall T (1957)The Tall T (1957)
by Hacker Renders on 2012/06/03

* * * *

“Budd Boetticher, Burt Kennedy, and Randolph Scott . . . they cranked out a run of B-pictures which still hold up very well.

“Here working from a story by Elmore Leonard of 3:10 to Yuma fame, they missed the mark in the author’s eyes, though I found the result worth watching.”

3:10 to Yuma (2007)3:10 to Yuma (2007)
by Hacker Renders on 2011/06/25

* * * *

“Based on a short story by Elmore Leonard — who also inspired Get Shorty and Jackie Brown — and directed by Walk the Line’s James Mangold, 3:10 to Yuma was attempted before in 1957, although not nearly as successfully as here.”

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