Real life stories that ought to become movies

Have you heard of any real life stories that you thought ought to be made into a movie? I have three suggestions. The first is the story of the last few years of Madalyn Murray O’Hair. She became famous in the early 1960’s as the plaintiff in the Supreme Court case that disallowed schools from having students participate in public prayers in classrooms. Three decades later, she was embezzling funds from the atheist’s organization she ran so that she would have some money for her and her family if she ever lost control of the organization. She was never a good administrator or a particularly coherent advocate for atheism, although she was good for a while at being a good rabble rouser on TV for her positions. Some subordinates in her organization found out about the embezzlement and kidnapped her and her son and granddaughter, eventually forcing her to give them the money she had embezzled. They then killed O’Hair, the son, and the granddaughter. They put the money (hundreds of thousands of dollars) in a suitcase and stored it in a bus locker. Some minor crooks happened to break open a bunch of lockers shortly afterwards, expecting to find just small stuff, and discovered all this money. These crooks then blew the entire amount in a few months on drugs and such.

Another is the story of Jack Whittaker, who won the largest single-person lottery prize ever, over $400 million if he had chosen to take it as spread out over time (20 years? 30 years? 40 years?). He took it instead as a one-time cash payment of something like $131 million (a reasonable choice if you can invest the cash wisely). He won this on Christmas day of 2002, less than two and a half years ago, and the money has already caused a lot of misery. Whittaker wasn’t a young man at the time he won the money. He was 55 and had worked his way up from dropping out of school at 14 to owing a reasonable-sized business. You would have thought someone like that would have had a llittle bit of maturity about handling money. Already, though, his granddaughter (who was mostly raised by Whittaker and his wife) and one of her friends have died of drug overdoses, presumably paid for from money from the prize. A lot of local people can’t stand Whittaker anymore for his recent habits of going into local bars/stripclubs and fondling any women he feels like and generally acting obnoxious about how much money he has. He did this at the same time as giving a local church enough money to build a new church building. He gave the convenience store clerk that he bought the lottery ticket from a new house in a nice section of town, a new car, and some additional money. This has caused a lot of misery for the clerk as the new neighbors thought of her as a nobody who lucked into money while they worked for their status, so she has had to sell the house and move farther from town to where there are no close neighbors to despise her. Whittaker now has to be careful about his privacy now since he had people constantly bothering him about giving them money. This story was told in an article in The Washington Post Magazine just recently. One problem with turning this story into a movie is that too many people would sue if they saw their acts depicted in a movie. Another is that the story isn’t over, in some sense. I suspect that a lot more misery is going to be caused by this lottery prize before it’s all spent.

I guess you could say I’m a sucker for stories about money making people unhappy. Here’s a third story then that’s quite different. It’s taken from the recent book Tolkien and the Great War by John Garth. This book is about J. R. R. Tolkien’s experiences in World War I. Tolkien and his three best friends from high school days all served in the British military in that war while in their mid-twenties. They had been convinced in high school days that they were destined to change the world with their great talents and high ideals (and, really, they were all quite smart and had noble aspirations). Two of them died in the war. Tolkien lived into his eighties and, of course, much later wrote The Lord of the Rings. The other survivor lived into his nineties and had a good life but didn’t do anything particularly famous. This would be a hard story to “crack” (to find the way of telling it that would make it a good movie), but I’m convinced that if it’s possible to make the story of Richard Feynman’s first marriage into the movie Infinity and the story of Robert Howard’s not quite romance into the movie The Whole Wide World, it’s possible to turn Tolkien’s story into a good movie.

Do you know of any interesting real life stories that you think would make good films?

Has a movie ever been made about Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle? If not, there should be.

Dynamo: the story of a team of soccer players in occupied Ukraine that were forced to compete against a German team.

The Smedley Butler controversy in 1933.

According to the IMDb:

I read The October Sky, Homer Hickam’s memoir of his childhood in a small coal town, where he and his friends designed and built model rockets, to the point where they won the state science fair. Hickam laster became an aerospace engineer working on the Apollo project for NASA. At the time, I thought to myself, “This would make a dynamite movie”.

And, a year or two later, they did.

Funny. I thought about how perfect Chris Farley could be as Arbuckle, if he were still alive.

Rondo Hatton


Rondo Hatton

It may be because I’m related to them but I’ve always thought that the story of my grandparents life would at the very least make a good movie of the week:

My grandpa was a Polish Jew living in Vienna with his wife and son, my grandma was a German Jew half his age who lived with her parents. When World War 2 broke out grandpa’s family wife and kids were sent off to a concentration camp while he was out of the country organising an escape route for them all. He joined the Polish underground and was mildly successful until his unit was caught blowing up a bridge.

He convinced the Germans that he was French to explain his circumsision and was sent to a POW camp instead of a concentration camp. He used his skill as a master tinsmith to make toys for the German guard’s kids in exchange for food and milk and was the only member of his unit to survive the war – he spent a long time in hospital recovering from the effects of 3 years of malnutrition before leaving Europe for Australia.

They met on the boat on the way to Australia, I think that makes a nice ending to the story, plus they did live happily ever after to the extent it happens in real life.

A factual movie on Joseph Smith would be fantastic & would offend both his believers & his detractors alike.

Ditto with Aimee Semple MacPherson.

Wait, who’s “they”? Your grandpa and his wife? They coincidentally ended up on the same boat to Australia? That IS a great story!

I don’t think the story is as great as you believe. Interpreting what Silentgoldfish wrote, I assumed his grandfather’s first wife and son died during the war and it was his second wife, and Silentgoldfish’s future grandmother, that he met on the ship to Australia.

There was a made-for-TV movie about MacPherson starring Faye Dunaway.

I thought that was probably it, which is also a very good story.

While it has been the subject of foreign film and television documentary, I’m surprised there has never been a major motion picture about Ernest Shackleton’s unbelievable saga aboard the Endurance. It has been hailed as “the most amazing story of survival ever told”, and having read one of the many books on the subject, I believe it.

From a book review:

It really is an amazing story.

Yeah, he met his second wife on the boat. Sorry I wasn’t more clear about that.

Sigh… that was me, obviously. I don’t know how doper couples that live together full time manage not to do that more often! :smack:

When I do a character search on the IMDb for the name “Ernest Shackleton,” I get five movies/miniseries/TV shows about him. I suppose one could argua about whether any of them is a major movie. Still, his story is a little more well known than those of most of the people mentioned here.

This gallant & amazing soldier has my unconditional respect & admiration.
He is German.
His story should be inscribed on golden plates, & held up to every schoolboy in the world to emulate, if called upon to.

General Paul Erich von Lettow-Vorbeck

But, if no golden plates are available, a movie will do in a pinch.

I read the book Not by the Sword, by Kathryn Watterson, and the story it tells would make an engrossing film. The following are two links to the book. Both are commercial links, but the Amazon one especially gives enough info about the story to get a sense of it.

It’s the true story of how a Jewish cantor, Michael Weiss, and his family, transformed the life of a local hatemonger, Larry Trapp, who had been a Grand Dragon of the KKK. I can’t put it all here, one can get a lot by Googling though. I did by using the author’s name and the title of the book.

I heard Mr. Weiss speak in 1992, in August. He came down to Topeka, Kansas, where we were having an equal rights rally in response to the earliest goings on of Fred Phelps. The rally is mentioned on p.300 in the book. Larry Trapp, because of his poor health(he was diabetic) was by now being cared for by the Weiss family. I’d like to quote part of what he said "Tell them(at the rally) there’s no sense fighting hatred against hatred…What that man(Fred) needs is love. Hating him back won’t change him. Hate is what he wants, and it only hurts the person who hates him back."

And that came from a man who had once been an influential Klansman, who due to the love and concern shown him converted to Judaism before he died

On second thought, Hollywood would probably just screw it up. The story is fantastic enough on it’s own.