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"Historical Argument" or "Cowboys and Indian"? Arnold Wesker's TV Screenplay of Arthur Koestler's Thieves in the Night

Stähler, Axel (2019) "Historical Argument" or "Cowboys and Indian"? Arnold Wesker's TV Screenplay of Arthur Koestler's Thieves in the Night. Jewish Film & New Media, 5 (2). pp. 199-226. ISSN 2169-0324. (KAR id:70300)

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In October 1989, a TV adaptation of Arthur Koestler’s novel Thieves in the Night (1946) was aired in three parts in Germany. The final script of the German-Israeli co-production was written by Wolfgang Storch who also directed the mini-series. An earlier version of the screenplay had been commissioned by the German TV and radio station NDR from the British Jewish playwright Arnold Wesker. Based on the copious archival material held by the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas in Austin which includes the original drafts of the author’s scripts and his correspondence relating to the project, this article explores Wesker’s involvement in the production from 1983 to 1985 and the eventual publication of an extract from the dramatist’s third draft in the Jewish Chronicle in 1986. Wesker’s screenplay was ultimately rejected because his conception of a “historical argument” was not compatible with the “cowboys and Indian version” which, in the dramatist’s words, was expected of him. It is argued that the increasingly acrimonious relationship between the screenwriter, the originally retained director François Villiers, and various producers originated not only in conflicting approaches to the commercial and artistic dimensions of the project but also in divergent perceptions of the position of Israel and its history and that it reveals different strategies of instrumentalising the literary text and its TV adaptation for an understanding of the present.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1993 Motion Pictures
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of European Culture and Languages
Depositing User: Axel Staehler
Date Deposited: 23 Nov 2018 10:36 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 13:59 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Stähler, Axel:
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