Even though Brokeback Mountain “crashed” at the last minute on Oscar night it has still emerged as the “buzz” darling of Tinseltown. Brokeback director Ang Lee has talked about the “power of movies to change the way we’re thinking.” Well, those lovable cowboys sure changed the way I’m thinking. And right now I’m thinking it’s time for some remakes. Here’s how some movie classics can be tweaked into tune with the times and become even bigger hits.
High Noon: Marshal Will Kane finds himself strangely attracted to murderer Frank Miller when he arrives back in Hadleyville on parole. The lawman and the ex-convict hit it off almost from the minute Frank steps off the noon train. Later, in the cool quiet of the livery stable, Frank makes the marshal forget his prim new Quaker bride and demonstrates what he learned “while in State Prison.”
“Gunfight” at the OK Corral: Tensions ease quickly when Ike Clanton and his boys arrive in Dodge City wearing fancy new cowboy outfits. Pretty soon Doc Holliday and the Earp brothers are splashing on some “sweet smellin’ water” and heading on down to the corral with a saddlebag full of hamsters.
The Cisco Kid: One night, Cisco and Pancho “hole up” in a line shack while waiting for a gang of robbers. It’s very cold and they share Pancho’s serape. Cisco finds he sort of likes Pancho’s “paunch,” and Pancho has always liked Cisco’s tight black outfit. “O-h-h Ceesco!” “O-h-h-h Pancho!”
And it’s not just westerns that can benefit from an enlightened remake. Consider:
The Wizard of Oz: Scarecrow finds himself strangely attracted to Tinman while oiling him one day. Dorothy discovers the two in the bushes along the Yellow Brick Road and realizes that, indeed, “this isn’t Kansas.”
The African Queen: Thrown together with a boney missionary’s daughter on his African river boat, the disheveled and drunken Charlie Allnut discovers that she just doesn’t do it for him. But when fate and a storm place him aboard a German gunboat on Lake Victoria, he finds himself strangely attracted to the crisply uniformed captain.
The Godfather: Don Corleone discovers that when the men in his regimes “go to the mattresses” it isn’t always to fight. In despair over whether he still has enough muscle to carry out his wishes, the Don hammers out a temporary truce with tough Jewish gangsters Abe and Hymie Fish, who control the Lower East Side. But he is crushed when he discovers that his own bodyguard, tough, brawny Luca Brasi, “sleeps with the Fishes.”
It Happens Every Spring: A college professor discovers a wood-repellant chemical which, when rubbed on a baseball, makes it impossible to hit. He joins a major-league team and leads it toward a pennant with his unbeatable pitching. But he finds himself strangely attracted to his catcher/roommate. After a wild night in a Kansas City hotel, they shatter the team’s hopes by quitting baseball and opening an antique store.
Gone With the Wind: The dashing Rhett Butler pursues Scarlett O’Hara until he meets Ashley Wilkes. The pale, quiet Wilkes seems in utter contrast to Butler, but there’s something about a uniform and Ashley’s finely tailored Confederate outfit is strangely appealing. The two men try to fend off the inevitable, but one breathless night, as Sherman’s army smashes its way closer to the city, Rhett and Ashley “find themselves” and their passion brings new meaning to “the burning of Atlanta.”
The Great Escape: While making new outfits as part of their disguises for a planned break from a German prison camp, a group of Allied prisoners become strangely attracted to each other. They decide to stay in the camp, form a dance and theater group, and escape from “convention” with their newfound relationships.
Rear Window: Wheelchair-bound photographer L. B. Jeffries spends his time gazing out the back window of his apartment. He becomes strangely attracted to a brooding, hunky neighbor Lars Thorwald in the building across the way. The neighbor catches him looking one day and realizes the feeling is mutual. Thorwald gets rid of his wife and he and his newfound “photo boy” proceed to see what develops.
The Day the Earth Stood Still: Interplanetary traveler Klaatu arrives in Washington on a big spaceship with a message for the earth to shape up or else. But in the process of delivering his ultimatum he finds himself strangely attracted to the shapely Helen Benson. This does not go over too well with Gort, Klaatu’s bunk buddy over many a long interplanetary journey. When a petulant Gort vaporizes a couple of army tanks on the Mall, Klaatu comes to his senses and the two head back to the stars.
Ben “Her”: Boyhood friends Judah and Messala have gone separate ways until they are reunited in ancient Jerusalem during the Roman occupation. Now vigorous young men, raised in vastly different cultures, they nonetheless find themselves strangely attracted to each other…
Well, you get the picture. We don’t have time to list them all, but these remakes seem certain to become sure fire hits now that “the love that dare not speak its name” has become the love that cannot shut up.
–Ralph Kinney Bennett retired from the Washington bureau of The Reader’s Digest as an assistant managing editor.