June 29, 2020

"There's never been a film before about a family that home educates its kids. Very few people in the movie world have had that experience..."

"... so I don't think it's a subject that would be treated objectively. It's a runaway, underground, counter-culture kind of thing - that's why it hasn't been done," said Charles Webb, quoted in "What happened next? (the author will let you know after he dies)," a 2005 article in The Guardian, which I'm reading this morning after blogging the NYT obituary for Charles Webb yesterday.

Webb, the author of the novel "The Graduate," signed away the rights to the characters in his story when he sold the movie rights, and the characters were based on himself and his wife. Webb did write a book about their later life, called "Home School." I was able to purchase this book at Amazon by paying a hefty shipping charge to have it sent from the UK. The 2005 Guardian article says that Webb didn't want the book published until after his death, because he had long ago signed a contract that would allow a film to be made without his consent.
'It would be devastating to publish the book and then be a bystander and watch a mediocre movie made of this story,' Webb, 65, told The Observer. 'I guess I was naive to think it was an obvious thing we would all agree on.'...

Home School owes its inspiration to Webb and his partner's decision to take their own children out of school and teach them at home, an illegal act which left them on the run from the US authorities and seeking refuge by running nudist camps.

It is this unorthodox subject matter which causes Webb to fear that a film version would wreck the integrity of his creation....

'As soon as any sequel is published it is their property and I have no legal recourse. It's frustrating. I hoped something could be worked out with the company: I didn't want to control the film but I did want some basic say over the story. I hoped they'd let me do the screenplay and my younger son be an adviser, because he is the real thing in terms of being home schooled. This wasn't a suggestion they were willing to accept. So I'd rather not be around to see it if not even minimal control is possible.'

While the impasse continues the 130-page novella will remain locked inside Webb's laptop and on floppy disks - no hard copy exists - until bequeathed to his sons, John, 40, and 36-year-old David.... 'I guess posthumously it could be done. Who knows? The children will face the same problem. They can publish the book but the company can go ahead and make a bad movie. I won't know anything about it.'

Ron Halpern of Canal Plus in Paris [the current owner of the rights] was unavailable for comment, but Larry Turman, producer of The Graduate, who bought the original rights 40 years ago, believed Webb was being unnecessarily pessimistic in assuming he would be frozen out of a new film. 'I don't think that would happen at all,' he said from Los Angeles.
Larry Turman, if he had any decency at all, would have given Webb the rights to his characters. Obviously, Webb wasn't the sort of person who would get his own lawyers and wheel and deal with a Hollywood big shot to get some role that was something less than being entirely frozen out. Imagine going all your life seeing the world so interested in the characters who are you and your wife, having great writing talent, and not being able to tell your own story. They already got the original book cheap — "Webb sold the film and theatrical rights for The Graduate for £14,000 and missed out on any share of the 1967 movie's £60 million gross" — and they put an additional, grasping clause in the contract that really hurt this author they supposedly valued and they distorted his entire life. And Turman acts bemused that Webb would be unnecessarily pessimistic. In his world, which was so fascinatingly idiosyncratic, Webb was necessarily pessimistic.

44 comments:

Howard said...

Webb painted himself into a corner.

Mark said...

the characters were based on himself and his wife. . . . "Home School owes its inspiration to Webb and his partner's decision . . ."

Yes, the cancel culture has come for marriage. Despite all the protests that "no this won't happen, you are just being bigoted and alarmist, this is actually an affirmation of marriage," just like the reality of "woman" has now been erased, so was marriage. And the march of destruction continues.

Rory said...

"...would have given Webb the rights to his characters."

I'm going to guess that it's pretty standard to reserve the movie rights to the characters when a studio purchases a book. An executive would get fired pretty quick if he produced a blockbuster and then a rival studio snapped up the rights to the sequel.

As always, though, all of this stuff should be out of copyright now.

Jersey Fled said...

4.6% self-identify as LGBTQ in the U.S according to Gallup.

3.3% of U.S. kids are homeschooled according to the DOE.

Now compare the number of movies and TV shows that have an LGBTQ character (seems like most of them) with those that show a homeschooling family. (None).

BTW a recent Gallup pole showed that the American public believes that 24% of the U.S. population is LGBTQ. More than 4X the actual number.

I wonder why.

Rory said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ann Althouse said...

" . "Home School owes its inspiration to Webb and his partner's decision . . ."/Yes, the cancel culture has come for marriage."

Read yesterday's post on the obituary.

Webb and his wife married, then divorced because they didn't believe in marriage, then married again, for some immigration-related legal reason. So during the relevant period, they were married some of the time and not married some of the time. You can't pin this on the current culture's attack on marriage. They were ahead of that culture. And The Guardian is just being accurate.

Ann Althouse said...

It would make more sense to argue with my use of the word "wife."

"Partner" was the better word choice for this unusual case.

Scott Patton said...

There's a post at Reason about Pollyanna, that has multiple tag intersections with this post, with the obvious exception of optimism instead of pessimism. Note that the post author wrote the book "Free Range Kids".

Jeff Gee said...

I dunno. Having signed away the rights to the characters, you could just, you know, GIVE THEM DIFFERENT NAMES and publish it that way, kind of like that way Jack Kerouac kept writing about the same (more or less real) people in book after book, but Allen Ginsberg turns up as Carlo Marx in one and Irwin Garden in another and so on.

Webb wrote another novel called "Marriage of a Young Stock Broker" which was made into a Richard Benjamin movie during an inexplicable period when Richard Benjamin actually starred in a bunch of movies, a couple based on Philip Roth novels. MOAYSB could have plausibly been a sequel to "The Graduate," which various critics noted at the time. (I saw it but all I remember is Adam West in a supporting part. He was hilarious.)

There are obvious solutions to Webb's dilemma, is my point, unless he's a total control freak. Or a put-on artist, which would be my hope.





wildswan said...

If you lived in East Germany and struggled against the Stasi, everyone knew what was happening and why but no one could say it; if you lived in America and struggled against the movie industry changing your life's true story and stealing the fruits of your labor, you could say it all you wanted but no one knew what was happening.
Imagine. A movie where the author re-lives his true life in flashbacks and then goes to the movie set where he is "consultant" and we see what in scenes what the movies made of those same events. Query? should he take the money and use it for his life or, since the meaning of his life is his writing, should he refuse and Turn Down Cash? Does it matter what a movie does to a good book? for example, what they did to The Lord of The rings?

Ralph L said...

Captain Von Trapp hired Maria as a governess, but perhaps it was just a summer job.

madAsHell said...

I wonder why.

You can’t swing a dead cat in Seattle without hitting a homo!

John henry said...

I don't understand why the producer should have "given" back the rights.

He bought them, paid a fair amount of money.

I don't see why the author has, or should have, any more claim on them than I do.

I do agree with tthat the copyright system is totally screwed.

John Henry

rehajm said...

Webb and his wife married, then divorced because they didn't believe in marriage..

So did they try it and not like it or was it a brain fart, like they forgot they didn't believe in marriage? Oopsie!

gilbar said...

As Al Smith would say; Let's take a look at the record

Webb was born in June, 1939, so he would have been 21 in June 1960
IF, the movie is based on a book, that is based on his life....
THEN, he would have graduated (a year late) in 1961
SO The WHOLE STORY of The Graduate isn't even about the '60's At ALL
It's about a Beat, from the '50's that (finally) graduates a year before American Graffiti ('62)
[do you consider American Graffiti to be a movie about the '60's?]
ALL these people lived in the Best time to live in America (Certainly the Best to live in Cali)
Few of them appreciated it

Shouting Thomas said...

The grandkids have been home for three months. School vacation was scheduled to start last Thursday.

I love having them home. Schooling them, however, is not my job.

As to the marriage shit, Althouse, you seem oblivious to what actually transpires.

An Episcopal church has been a client for some time. The church split in half over gay marriage and gay and female clergy. The national hierarchy spent $30 million driving non-conforming parishes out of existence after the left won.

Here’s the fruits of that victory. The Episcopal church is dying. Lucky to draw 15 people to a Sunday service at most parishes, and the attendees are mostly elderly who attend out of habit. All the traditional families have fled and the church has no mission that will ever attract new members so far as I can see.

Gay marriage and female clergy have proven to be a suicide pact for the Episcopal Church. Once the endowments are sucked dry, the church will cease to exist.

Eleanor said...

There are a lot of reasons why parents homeschool their children, but the message the leftwing media wants to get out there is they're all rightwing religious nuts trying to avoid the theory of evolution. I had the experience of homeschooling my younger child because of a life-threatening illness. Unfortunately, it was already his senior year in high school because we both loved the experience, and if it had happened when he was younger, he never would have returned to public school. No one in Hollywood is going to make a movie that shows homeschooling in a positive light so what successful homeschooling family would volunteer to participate? The negative view of homeschooling hurts their children. After investing so much to get a better edducation for you child, why would you help make it harder for your kids to be accepted by colleges and employers?

Mark said...

they didn't believe in marriage

Which only further proves the point - the cancellation of marriage.


Come on, even before SSM, for 50-60 years people have said, "Marriage is just a piece of paper."

Sebastian said...

"not being able to tell your own story"

Huh? He was able to tell it perfectly well, just chose not to publish for his own reasons.

Yeah, go ahead, add a pedantic commenter tag if you like.

Johnathan Birks said...

I guess I'll ask the pertinent question: how did John and David turn out? Did they survive the anguish of home schooling? Are they ignorant rubes? Are they better educated than their publicly schooled peers?

My guess is they did OK.

Wa St Blogger said...

He was probably right to think that the movie industry would pervert his story. I know a very large number of home-schooling families. We live in an area of very independent minded people. Some homeshoolers are very conservative and some are very liberal. None of look anything like any depiction I've ever seen by TV, news or movie. I've got 2 of my own kids being sent off this fall into the world who were homeshooled all their lives. They already have jobs and are favored employees. They are socially adjusted and knowledgeable about the world. (One is going the the REAL UW, in WAshington, the other to your neck of the woods, Lawrence.)

Dust Bunny Queen said...

You can call yourself wife or call yourself husband or use the generic gender neutral term partner. It is your decision. Lots of people have "common law" marriages.

In a good relationship, be it official or not, be it hetero or same sex....requires you to be in a partnership. So we can be both husband or wife...AND partners. In fact if you aren't "partners" working together your relationship is doomed.

William said...

Why not just give the characters different names in the second novel, change the locale, and wink, wink?.....Charles Webb seems like a thoroughly admirable character who really did walk the walk. There's that scene on the bus where the two characters give each other and the road ahead an apprehensive glance. Well, they stuck together and the road went somewhere worth going.

tim in vermont said...

What was Captain Fantastic about, other than Viggo Mortensen’s naked body, I mean.

The Drill SGT said...

"There's never been a film before about a family that home educates its kids. Very few people in the movie world have had that experience..."

Hollywood has lots of experience with schooling of child stars on location/set by tutors. Isn't that pretty much the same?

Jeff Gee said...

Rory said...
"...would have given Webb the rights to his characters."
I'm going to guess that it's pretty standard to reserve the movie rights to the characters when a studio purchases a book. An executive would get fired pretty quick if he produced a blockbuster and then a rival studio snapped up the rights to the sequel.


Exactly right. About 20 years ago a friend of mine pitched a series to Cartoon Network, and the pilot actually aired, although the series wasn't picked up and never went into production. The standard Viacom Contract granted Viacom exclusive rights to everything-- characters, concept, designs-- throughout the universe and any undiscovered universes, in all mediums currently existing and yet to be invented. Seriously.

Mark O said...

“He had a very odd relationship with money,” said Caroline Dawnay, who was briefly Mr. Webb’s agent in the early 2000s when his novel “New Cardiff” was made into the 2003 movie “Hope Springs,” starring Colin Firth. “He never wanted any. He had an anarchist view of the relationship between humanity and money.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/28/books/charles-webb-dead.html

Stroll around the grounds, until you feel at home.

William said...

I do remember reading the novel way back when. I remember also that it wasn't anywhere near as good as the movie....Thanks to Jeff Gee for bringing me up to date on Webb's oeuvre. So Webb did find a way to cash in on The Graduate's success. Well, good for him.....Richard Benjamin was the Hollywood version of Philip Roth. Goodbye Columbus or Portnoy wouldn't work with an actor who looked like John Garfield or Paul Newman.

JOB said...

Tim in Vermont: Exactly what I was thinking. The whole movie was based on the premise that free-range children are somehow a better lot - and yet that’s the great compromise at the end - send ‘em to public school. What a let-down. Was Captain Fantastic, in the end, an attempt to justify the ways of John Dewey to Man? If so, mission accomplished. (I guess?). JOB (Homeschooling Pater)

Michael K said...

I'm going to guess that it's pretty standard to reserve the movie rights to the characters when a studio purchases a book.

The Star Wars franchise is a great example of the author being allowed to retain rights to the characters.

A couple in Tucson who are long term friends, partly home schooled their boys. The wife took one boy each year to home school then he returned to school the next year and she took the next boy. They also had no TV as the boys were growing up. When we were in town, they would come over to our house to watch TV. The two oldest got engineering degrees and are both Marine pilots. The youngest graduated and is in business in town.

Michael K said...

Hollywood has lots of experience with schooling of child stars on location/set by tutors. Isn't that pretty much the same?

I don't think most home schoolers have as much experience with drugs and homosexual rape as Hollywood.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Drill SGT Hollywood has lots of experience with schooling of child stars on location/set by tutors. Isn't that pretty much the same?

No. Home schooling is done "at home" duh. Not while the child is on the job and working.

Home schooling is generally done by the Parents, not credentialed teachers. Not that the teachers are necessarily better or smarter. Parents may be better because they have more time and know their children. They may be worse because they don't have the skills. They may be great because they do have the skills and knowledge. This can be a real grab bag with uncertain results.

The advantage of home schooling is that the liberal indoctrination can be erased. The disadvantage is that some parents have other indoctrination ideas. Wacky cultish types of things.

The other advantage of home schooling is that the student can get individual and extra attention in areas where they have interest and learning ability....such as math, science, language, etc. The disadvantage again is that maybe the parents are not capable of teaching such courses as advanced math or science.

It is my understanding that home schooling is (or should be) subject to review and testing to make sure that the materials being used and the knowledge gained is at least up the Public School standards.....which are abysmally low.

If Public Schools weren't such a disaster and if a real alternative in Charter Schools existed....Home Schooling wouldn't be such a big deal.

If my children were of school age today...I WOULD HOME SCHOOL. No doubt.


Wa St Blogger said...

The advantage of home schooling is that the liberal indoctrination can be erased. The disadvantage is that some parents have other indoctrination ideas. Wacky cultish types of things.

Some, maybe. Most do not. For the surface it might seem very wacky, but when you get to know them you find that is not that wacky at all.

The other advantage of home schooling is that the student can get individual and extra attention in areas where they have interest and learning ability....such as math, science, language, etc. The disadvantage again is that maybe the parents are not capable of teaching such courses as advanced math or science.

Home schooling parents almost never rely entirely on their own skills and knowledge. I have been a tutor in advanced math and science for homeschooled children for many years. The parent can direct the coursework without having to teach it.

It is my understanding that home schooling is (or should be) subject to review and testing to make sure that the materials being used and the knowledge gained is at least up the Public School standards.....which are abysmally low.

In my state kids have to take the standardized tests, Iowa or Calif tests are often used, to show that the kids are progressing appropriately.

Leland said...

I don't need a movie to tell me about homeschooling. I watched as a young girl that played softball with my daughters was homeschooled. Not only did she keep up academically, but she got together with other homeschoolers to form a varsity softball team that competed at the state level. She had her choice of colleges with an athletic scholarship.

Charlie Currie said...

When someone mentions, their partner, I automatically think, same sex. Or, maybe, business.

When and why did, boyfriend, girlfriend and lover, become, partner. It sounds so sterile, cold. Not romantic in the least.

Tinderbox said...

Floppy discs??

rcocean said...

Copy right protection should exist for a limited number of years, per the Constitution. We have these "monopolies" because they encourage the arts and sciences. They were never intended to exist for 50 years, 75 years, 100 years. Which is absurd.

In any case, since Charles didn't care about $$, its absurd to cry over his losing out on the 60 million Pounds earned by "The Graduate". Further, if he didn't want the story to be changed, he shouldn't have sold it to Hollywood. Personally, i find people him weird. they have no religion abut have all these "principles" which don't seem to be based on anything. Except personal whim. He was a "rebel" but against what isn't really clear.

rcocean said...

I do agree with his homeschooling of Children. Anyone who can, should do it. Homescholing used to be the norm.

Skeptical Voter said...

I haven't seen the Guardian or the New York Times obituaries of Webb. The Los Angeles Times had an obituary today. Webb was born in a wealthy Pasadena family--sent to a posh private school near Santa Barbara, and then on to Williams for a bachelor's degree. He was very ambivalent about money--he said he liked to live in poverty. He wrote The Graduate in the back of a cheap bowling alley on East Colorado in Pasadena. He was living on a writing grant at the time. He sold the movie rights to The Graduate for $20,000 and gave the money away. Over his lifetime he bought at least two houses--and then gave them away. He lived in a Motel 6 for 3 years at one time. For a while his wife "Eve" changed her name to "Fred"--they got divorced because they didn't believe in marriage, then remarried to ease problems in immigrating to England. Webb marched to his own drummer--that's for sure.

Unknown said...

Webb needed to talk to a copyright lawyer. He had termination rights that he wasted.

Will Cate said...

We homeschooled our two sons from ages 12 & 9 onward (they both spent the first few years in public school). No regrets. They are both college grads with good jobs, though the younger one (the vegan socialist) says today that he wishes he'd stayed in conventional school. Oh well...

Dave Begley said...

That film would be very boring. "Frankenstein, Part II," on the other hand, would not be boring.

Bruce Hayden said...

“In my state kids have to take the standardized tests, Iowa or Calif tests are often used, to show that the kids are progressing appropriately.”

What? No social promotion, like in the public school?

NYC JournoList said...

@ Johnathan Birks:

“I guess I'll ask the pertinent question: how did John and David turn out? Did they survive the anguish of home schooling? Are they ignorant rubes? Are they better educated than their publicly schooled peers?”

I did not know John, but I did know David very well for one year when he was in my grade school class. This was in a small town with four elementary schools. The “gifted” children from the town were placed in one class that ended up being moved from school to school each year so we became our own clique so to say. My sense from David is that he missed out on friends who were peers. He told me about being home schooled, and that his parents were in a legal fight with the state so he could leave school. He was exceptionally smart and very different than everyone else, and certainly not a rube. He liked to draw, was extremely well spoken and had a sardonic and sharp wit that was developed beyond his years. After one year he disappeared and I only know what was reported in the media. I read that he cooked and ate a copy of The Graduate as a performance art piece in his twenties.

‘My guess is they did OK.”

So far as I know pretty much everyone in the class David and I were in did ok and most of us became very well-educated and credentialed. Not sure if David would have been changed by staying in school. His home life was so different than anything else that I have seen that I would think it would overwhelm any other thing in his environment.