John Huston as Adaptor makes the case that adaptation is the salient element in Huston's identity as a filmmaker and that his early and deep attraction to the experience of reading informed his approach to film adaptation. Thirty-four of Huston's thirty-seven films were adaptations of literary texts, and they stand as serious interpretations of literary works that could only be made by an astute reader of literature. Indeed, Huston asserted that a film director should be above all else a reader and that reading itself should be the intellectual and emotional basis for filmmaking.
The seventeen essays in this volume not only address Huston as an adaptor, but also offer an approach to adaptation studies that has been largely overlooked. How an adaptor reads, the works to which he is drawn, and how his literary interpretations can be brought to the screen without relegating film to a subservient role are some of the issues addressed by the contributors. An introductory chapter identifies Huston as the quintessential Hollywood adaptor and argues that his skill at adaptation is the mark of his authorial signature. The chapters that follow focus on fifteen of Huston's most important films, including The Maltese Falcon (1941), The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), The African Queen (1951), The Night of the Iguana (1964), Under the Volcano (1984), and The Dead (1987), and are divided into three areas: aesthetics and textuality; history and social context; and theory and psychoanalysis. By offering a more comprehensive account of the centrality of adaptation to Huston's films, John Huston as Adaptor offers a greater understanding of Huston as a filmmaker.