Your Humble Blogger reread Leave it to Psmith again recently, which is as good a use of time as any, particularly whilst bathing. I was thinking, as I tend to do when rereading a favorite familiar, about what sort of a movie it would make. I used to muse about who would be great in the various parts, but I haven’t kept up with youngish actors, so that’s less fun for me. Clearly Stephen Fry could, at one point, have been a good Psmith, but those years are well behind him now. There doesn’t seem to have ever been a Psmith film, although various people have played Lord Emsworth including Ralph Richardson and Peter O’Toole (who wasn’t as good as I expected).
This time through, though, I was wondering how a person would go about adapting it to a screenplay. It’s tempting to set the whole thing at Blandings and start it with the arrival of Lord Emsworth, Freddy and Psmith (in disguise) on the train. The London stuff is lovely in the book, but you want to get to Blandings as soon as possible. On reflection, though, I think it’s better to start in the window seats of the Senior Conservative Club, with the man handing Lord Emsworth his spectacles. Then there’s the poet switch, followed by the umbrella business (transferred from the Drones Club scene earlier), the trip to the employment bureau, and the train station meeting with Freddie, with Lord Emsworth meeting them both in the station at the end of the exposition (rather than having Psmith meet Freddie again in the train). Then Blandings. I think that’s fifteen minutes, but you could do it in less, right?
So, Mike and Phyllis Jackson never actually appear. Would that work? They’re lovely, of course, in the book, and since three of the characters get involved in stealing the necklace in the first place to help them out, it seems a shame not to meet them. On the other hand, they may work better as offstage motivators. It’s not just a matter of getting to Blandings quickly, either, it’s limiting the number of characters we have to follow, particularly characters of a similar age and appearance. And I’d be reluctant to have characters appear early in the film and then drop out; McTodd does have to appear briefly, I think, although it’s even more tempting to get rid of him (or to see him only through Lord Emsworth’s blurred vision).
Tricky stuff, tricky stuff. But fun to think about, particularly if one doesn’t have to do anything about it.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,