|Directed by||Irving Lerner|
|Produced by||Philip Yordan|
|Written by||Philip Yordan|
|Music by||Jerry Goldsmith|
|Edited by||Verna Fields|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
Studs Lonigan is a novel trilogy by American author James T. Farrell: Young Lonigan (1932), The Young Manhood of Studs Lonigan (1934), and Judgment Day (1935). In 1998, the Modern Library ranked the Studs Lonigan trilogy at 29th on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.
The trilogy was adapted into a minor 1960 film and a 1979 television miniseries both of which were simply titled Studs Lonigan.
Farrell wrote these three novels at a time of national despair. During the Great Depression, many of America's most gifted writers and artists aspired to create a single, powerful work of art that would fully expose the evils of capitalism and lead to a political and economic overhaul of the American system. Farrell chose to use his own personal knowledge of Irish-American life on the South Side of Chicago to create a portrait of an average American slowly destroyed by the "spiritual poverty" of his environment. Both Chicago and the Irish-American Roman Catholic Church of that era are described at length, and faulted. Farrell describes Studs sympathetically as Studs slowly deteriorates, changing from a tough but fundamentally good-hearted, adventurous teenage boy to an embittered, physically shattered alcoholic.
Parts of Farrell's novels were made into a B movie in 1960, directed by Irving Lerner and starring Christopher Knight in the title role. Other cast members included Frank Gorshin, Venetia Stevenson, and Jack Nicholson (in one of his first movie roles).
In 1979 Studs Lonigan was produced as a television miniseries starring Harry Hamlin, Colleen Dewhurst, Brad Dourif, Dan Shor, and Charles Durning. Production Designer Jan Scott won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Art Direction for a Limited Series or a Special. Reginald Rose wrote the adaptation of the trilogy. The miniseries preserves the novel's tragic ending, but humanizes Studs Lonigan's family and friends to a very considerable degree.
Differences between the novels and the 1979 miniseries
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In the book version, Danny O'Neill, the sensitive lad who presumably represents Farrell himself, is merely a casual acquaintance. Studs does not like him or respect him. In the mini-series, the two are good friends, and Danny cares for Studs' girlfriend after he is dead and provides an elegy to his fate. Similarly, the only Jewish child in the gang, Davey Cohen, is treated badly by Studs in the novel, while in the mini-series the two remain loyal comrades to the very end. This heightens the tragedy, as Studs dies of pneumonia just after Davey has promised to hire him at his new factory. Watching the dying Studs sink slowly into the gutter, still holding aloft the dollar bill Davey has loaned him, is one of the most emotional moments of the mini-series. In the book Studs' collapse is less poignant, since no one was trying to help him and he had less reason to keep struggling.
In the book, Farrell tends to insist that everyone must be degraded by "the system," without any chance for charm or luck, much less hard work and initiative. In the mini-series Studs fails, but many of his old friends succeed. Even Lucy Scanlan, the dream girl Studs desires from afar, proves to be friendly and engaging in the movie version. At the end, when Studs is dying in the gutter, we see a brief glimpse of Lucy—by now the pampered wife of a very wealthy Irish attorney—pausing to give a little money to a street derelict who looks much like Studs. Thus the end message is not so much that life is hateful and everyone is doomed, but that life continues and kindness will triumph in the end.