Reading the re-issue of Priestley’s 1962 novel The Shapes of Sleep, published in the United States by Valancourt Books and including an Introduction by The Society’s own Rod Slater, we are once more made all too conscious of the fact that only three of Priestley’s novels have been made into feature films : Benighted (as The Old Dark House), The Good Companions (twice) and Let The People Sing. This is despite the fact that a number of them are eminently suitable for cinematic treatment. The Doomsday Men, Salt Is Leaving and Festival At Farbridge are three that come to mind. And in the case of The Shapes of Sleep we have an intriguing, constantly moving mystery thriller with a colourful cast of characters, many of whom are not what they seem, set against a background of London and several locations in West Germany. The central character is an investigative reporter straight out of hard-boiled popular fiction and there are a couple of good-looking female characters who offer the prospect of some relaxation in the nearest bedroom. This is not vintage Priestley by any means but, as they say, ‘a good read’ and one can easily visualise the opening of a film version in some dark urban location and with a sinister musical accompaniment. Yet this never materialised despite that there being plenty of initial interest. A film company took an option on the novel for £1,000 covering fifteen months with an eventual purchase price of £10,000. The world motion picture rights were also sold by Priestley’s New York agent for no less than $30,000. So why was a film never made ? Who knows, although in the crazy world of the movie industry it’s no wonder that promising ‘properties’ (to use the jargon) sometime never see the light of day. What is stranger still in Priestley’s case is that no fewer than five of his plays became feature films. We are left with the consolation that three of the best novels, The Good Companions, Lost Empires and Angel Pavement, were adapted for television.
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- "J.B. Priestley is one of our literary icons of the 20th Century. And it is time that we all became re-acquainted with his genius." Dame Judi Dench
"Priestley is one of the finest and most popular storytellers of the last hundred years. We are now aware many of his stories have a prophetic quality." Dame Margaret Drabble
"Abundant life flows through J.B. Priestley’s books. He was the last of his kind. He produced work of dazzling variety and rich profusion. I still treasure his work and salute the memory of the remarkable man who made it. " Stan Barstow