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8 Movies You Probably Didn’t Know Were Remakes

By  · Published on November 13th, 2014

Twentieth Century Fox

Sixty-four years ago today, one of Alec Guinness’ best films hit U.S. screens – Henry Cass’ darkly comedic Last Holiday. Guinness plays George Bird, a boring bachelor in a boring job who goes for a routine check-up and finds out he has a deadly and incurable disease.

Upon his doctor’s advice he decides to clear out his savings and make the most of his final days, checking into a luxurious hotel. It is a choice that paints his remaining time with the most wicked irony. Having a moment to stop and live rather than work and worry, George earns all the fortune his life had been missing – friendship, love and professional success that he can’t act upon. Except, this is a wildly dark comedy with enough cruel life twists that make George’s experience anything but simple.

Though its wickedness is irresistible, the film has been tragically forgotten, its themes only vaguely living on in Joe Versus the Volcano until it finally got remake in 2006. But George became Georgia, Queen Latifah was cast, and the film excised all the darkness that made the 1950 film such an atypical treat in order to whip up a chipper and typical comedy full of good tidings and bolstered by Latifah’s charm.

Though we always lament the obvious remakes, there are many more where the source material is forgotten, wiped away because the remake came so long ago, or because the remake was so terrible that no one ever wanted to look beyond it. In honor of the doomed George Bird, here are 7 more films forgotten in the shadow of their remakes.

The Heartbreak Kid and The Heartbreak Kid

Before the Farrelly Brothers’ absurd adaptation for Ben Stiller, Michelle Monaghan and Malin Akerman in 2007, The Heartbreak Kid was a 1972 film starring Charles Grodin, Jeannie Berlin and Cybill Shepherd, directed by the criminally underutilized comedian and filmmaker Elaine May.

The film focuses on a clueless and self-absorbed young man who carelessly marries, only to be tantalized by a sexy woman he meets on his honeymoon. It is not, however, an episode of terrible timing, where a man settles, only to finally find the woman of his dreams. The woman of Lenny’s dreams is always the woman out of reach.

Scarface and Scarface

Not all remakes embarrass their source material. There’s no shortage of nostalgia laid at the feet of Al Pacino’s Scarface, but it wasn’t an original drama. Before we said hello to little, deadly friends, Howard Hawks and Howard Hughes teamed up for a Prohibition mafia film of the same name.

Tony Montana was first Tony Camonte, an Italian immigrant selling illegal beer in Chicago. The movies diverge, as Camonte doesn’t fight a rival, but rather the police, but he ends up just like Montana some fifty years later, dead next to the words “The world is yours.”

Meet Joe Black and Death Takes a Holiday

Believe it or not, Meet Joe Black wasn’t birthed out of the ether so that Brad Pitt’s body could be tossed to and fro by cars as his idiot character cluelessly walks into oncoming traffic. Its roots can be found in Death Takes a Holiday. People like to think that things are racier now, but the original 1934 film puts the 1998 remake to shame. While the latter makes Death a lame figure helping out a billionaire and his listless daughter, the original relishes in the intersection of death and romance.

Death forces a man to let him take a vacation at his villa, and as people fail to die across the world, Death learns about human fear, has a sinister romance with a young woman and as the trailer promises: “the whole world paused while he made love!”

Ransom! and Ransom

Ron Howard put Mel Gibson through hell as Tom Mullen, the millionaire whose son is kidnapped in the 1996 film Ransom, but it was only after Glenn Ford and Donna Reed struggled to find their kidnapped son in the 1956 film Ransom!.

Sadly, the feature is one of the forgotten – not available to stream or buy – though it boasts the iconic ’50s housewife Reed, and Leslie Nielsen in his first film role, long before he’d become an icon of spoof comedy. Where Howard’s film makes use of Gibson’s action film toughness, the original hugs an almost worst-case scenario.

The Thing and The Thing from Another World

It’s hard to think of The Thing as anything other than John Carpenter’s creation, as he sent Kurt Russell into the Antarctic to face a weird, shapeshifting alien creature. But once again, the film’s source can be found in film Howard Hawks worked on (as an uncredited screenwriter and rumored director), The Thing from Another World.

It was the early fifties, so Carpenter-level horror visuals were out of reach, leaving the filmmakers to leave off the original novella’s shapeshifting elements and focus on the humanoid vegetation aspects. The trajectory, however, is similar. A crew heads to the North Pole, fights an alien, and not even total destruction of the creature can quell the unrest it has caused.

You’ve Got Mail and The Shop Around the Corner

The last thing you’d expect from an early Internet movie is that its source came from a time before computers, yet You’ve Got Mail, which immortalized that grating AOL sound clip, was born out of Ernst Lubitsch’s 1940 film The Shop Around the Corner.

Without a computer to connect them, the original pair meet through an ad in the paper, where she wishes to “correspond on cultural subjects” with a stranger. Instead of being a battle between romantic connection and professional interests, the original film explores the closer rivalry of coworkers who haven’t given each other a chance outside of their written correspondence.

A Lot of Mr. Blandings Build Their Dream House

Before The Money Pit, and before Are We Done Yet, where a remake is actually used as the sequel to an original film, there was Cary Grant’s Mr. Blandings. The house itself really isn’t the man’s issue. He and his family move to Connecticut and their dream home is a structural mess, but instead of diving into renovation nightmares, Blandings has the house torn down and a new home built, freeing up his time to deal with construction nightmares and romantic drama.

What’s more interesting about the comedy, however, is not the film itself or the sequels it spawned, but that the original feature boasted a marketing scheme that puts today’s studios to shame – they made 73 replicas of Blandings’ Dream Home to raffle off the night of the premiere, which makes today’s trailers, posters and viral schemes feel a lot less crafty.

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