Nomination: Best Supporting Actress- Maureen Stapleton
Hollywood has a long and ignominious history of taking wonderful books and adapting them into unimpressive films. What I have found to be the most frequent cause of this is that the filmmakers will adapt a general plot of the film, but then leave out the book's themes, details, and characterization, all of which are essential to the novel's success. Sometimes this is due to studio meddling, and other times due to a lack of understanding by the filmmakers, but the result is always the same: the film is a shell of what the book was. Though filmmakers should be free to make the work a unique artistic statement and not a mere transcription of a book, it is more often than not to the film's detriment when these components are not brought to the screen along with the plot.
Lonelyhearts is an adaptation of Nathanael West's 1933 novel Miss Lonelyhearts and the subsequent play by Howard Teichmann, directed by the great Broadway director Vincent J. Donehue and adapted for the screen by Dore Schary. The film stars Montgomery Clift as a journalist looking for a job for a newspaper who is assigned the advice column "Miss Lonelyhearts." Only a few moments into the film, what is immediately evident is that the film is a brooding noir film, as opposed to the satirical dark comedy of the novel. This tone does not suit the film well; the filmmakers strip all of the moral complexity from the narrative and present it as a much simpler story. Simplification is necessary when adapting a novel into a two hour film, but when the plot is stripped of all of its complexities, the character's actions make little sense and the whole film comes across as trite.
Maureen Stapleton received the film's sole nomination for Best Supporting Actress for playing Fay Doyle, one of the readers of "Miss Lonelyhearts" who the columnist meets. Her role is brief, but she packs more depth into her few moments than is present anywhere else in the film. She is equal parts attractive and repulsive, and is the only member of the cast or crew who brings any nuance to the film. Her nomination was well deserved, though her role was quite brief and thus it is easy to see why she was not given the trophy.
Perhaps Lonelyhearts suffered due to the studio's unwillingness to portray the many dark themes present in the novel; if this is the case, the film should not have been made in the first place. Instead, we are presented with a watered down, unimportant little film that is noteworthy only for being an adaptation of a brilliant novel and a nice turn by Maureen Stapleton.
Remaining: 3160 films, 880 Oscars, 5442 nominations