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Book Report: In the Frame

As I was rereading In the Frame (the painter one—no, not the Scotland painter one, the Australia painter one) this time, it occurred to me that it would make quite a good movie. Oh, you’d have to change a lot of it, of course. I think I’d make the Australian painter the main character, with the English one the supporting, rather than the way it is in the book. But the main plot would work: a painter discovers a criminal ring that sells mid-to-high quality paintings (say, US $200,000 area, for the movie) to visitors to Australia, finds out the suckers’ addresses and other parts of the collection, and then robs their houses, taking back the (forged) paintings and lots of loot besides.

And the main set piece would work: During the running of the Melbourne Cup, our heroes break into the bad guy’s art gallery to get evidence. They make various efforts to set up an alibi that they are at the racetrack (including buying what turns out to be a winning ticket on a longshot, funding much of the rest of the plot), and take advantage of the city’s near-total absorption in horserace fever to make their daylight raid. It’s lovely, and would work well onscreen.

Which led me to wonder why there haven’t been more Dick Francis movies. In fact, there has only been one theatrical-release movie, a 1974 film of Dead Cert directed by Tony Richardson. There was a six-episode series for UK television in 1980 that adapted some Sid Halley books and I suppose shoehorned Sid into a few others to pad it out. Then there were three movies for Australian TV with Ian McShane, including In the Frame. They all seem to have been pretty weak. And that’s it.

It seems odd to me that there haven’t been more. I mean, yes, Mr. Francis does not need the money or the publicity, so if he doesn’t want to see his things ruined, then he shouldn’t sell them to the flicks. On the other hand, he has sold them to the flicks, a few times. If there were no Dick Francis movies, then I would get that. But to let a few be made for television and not let Hollywood at them seems odd. Of course, it’s possible that he sold the TV rights to some of the early stuff before he was able to tell publishers what to do, and that the stuff that was made in the eighties is the result of that. Still, it seems odd.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,