Friday, March 18, 2016

Don't Like The Ending. . .Change It!

by Shirley Hailstock

When you buy a DVD, don’t you love getting that bonus material?  I do.  At first, I never thought of watching it.  Then I stumbled across alternate endings and it triggered a memory I’d forgotten.

I've only seen one alternate ending on a DVD.  That was Training Day and I agree the one that was played in the theaters was the better ending.  But I like seeing what another version would have been and deciding if I agreed with the director.



I think the marketing departments of movie houses add the extras to entice people to buy the DVD.  It’s the “more” you get when you buy a movie you’ve already seen.  I never thought about whether I liked the choices or not.  I definitely did not like the alternate ending of Training Day.  But I have been guilty of giving my own alternate endings to movies and books.

Long ago in a time far, far away, I watched a movie called This Could Be the Night.  It’s an old black and white with Anthony Franciosa and Jean Simmons.  I didn’t like the ending.  It was okay, but I wanted a Happily-Ever-After-commitment ending.  So in my mind I mentally re-wrote it.  And not only the ending, I re-wrote some of the scenes, even added some that weren’t in the movie.  For years and years I thought about that movie, and even though I wanted to see it again, it seemed to never come up on TCM.  I didn’t even know the name of it so I couldn’t look it up anywhere.  And as time will do, it passed and I could no longer remember the actors either.  But I never forgot the story or the ending -- my ending.


After DVD’s came out and Turner Classic Movies began releasing the old movies on videotape and DVD’s, I saw the movie again on television and immediately recognized it.  I sat down and watched it to the end.  But I was confused.  It ended too quickly.  Where were the other scenes?  Surely they wouldn’t cut it.  After all TCM shows movies in their entirety.  It’s part of their advertising.  So why did they cut this one?  And the ending?  What happened to the ending?  This is not the same movie, I thought.  But there couldn’t be two.  I remembered some of the characters.  Then I started to laugh out loud.  Memories returned to me.  I’d re-written the ending.  I’d added scenes that weren’t there.  They were only in my head, but they were so ingrained, that I thought they were actually part of the original.

This Could Be the Night is the only movie or book I did this to and didn’t remember my own creation.  I have changed other endings too.  Yes, Gone With the Wind has an alternate ending in my mind.  And not just an ending, there are additional scenes with Scarlett and Rhett away from Tara or Atlanta.  In fact, they’re in Charleston and bear no relation to anything in the novel Scarlett.

Casablanca is my all time favorite romantic movie and the hero and heroine don’t live happily ever after.  Even so, I have never changed the ending of this movie.  I can’t see any other ending.  Even though I wanted Rick and Ilsa to end up together, I could see that the larger stake was world democracy and I was unwilling to fiddle with that even in a movie.  At this writing I’m thinking I could fast forward to after the war, when democracy wasn’t an issue, and bring them back together at that point.  Of course, I’d have to account for what happened to Victor (Ilsa’s husband), but that wouldn’t be difficult. However, I've decided to leave it as Michael Curtiz directed.




I like books that give me an alternate version of the world.  I suppose that’s why 1984 was so popular long before the actual year arrived.  And why it still works today.  1984 posed an alternate world for the future.  Star Trek did the same thing for television and look at the survival of both of these forms of entertainment.




I read Clive Cussler novels.  He writes male adventure stories and his hero is a former Navy Seal named Dirk Pitt.  All the Dirk Pitt novels pose an alternate to something we “know” to be true.  For example, in Raise the Titantic, they raise the old ship and find a document that cedes Canada to the United States.  In another novel, Abraham Lincoln didn’t die at Ford’s Theater, but was captured by the confederates and spirited away on one of the iron clad ships of the day. (Suspension of believe has to be done for his stories, but they are entertaining and almost believable.)


Even Cinderella got my personal ending treatment in relation to the wicked stepsisters.  I’m far less forgiving than the fictional character, so I changed the ending to give the girls and their mother, their due.  Then Ever After with Drew Barrymore was released.  Not only does Cinderella have valid motivation for staying at the house and accepting her plight, but in the end she wins out over the life she was forced into.  And the wicked stepmother and daughter get their comeuppance.  Bravo!

There are endings I can’t change.  I loved American history.  At English and French history, I’m pretty good at remembering the details, but when it comes to Russian history, I was never able to follow all the last name changes and the different families that ruled or their titles.  So when I saw Nickolas and Alexandra and watched their love story unfold, I didn’t like what happened to them in the end.  As I voiced this opinion to my history-major friend, she informed me that I could not change history.  So I let that one stand, but I didn’t like it. I was appeased when I read Anatasia.  It gave me hope, even though I knew the truth.



Dr. Zhivago is a different story, however.  That ending I did change.  Laura looks back and sees Yuri on the bus.  She never lost their daughter.  The couple reunite and live happily ever after.

As you can see, I provide my own alternate endings on a regular basis.  I wonder how Hollywood would have done it if they could go back and reshoot the endings to some of those classic movies.  Would they satisfy my need?  I don’t know, but if it didn’t, I can always change it in my mind.

When I write, I plot the book out, so I know the ending.  If I’m doing a suspense, I know who the villain is.  But in the writing, things change, characters take on new roles and backgrounds come out that might change that carefully plotted ending.  In this case, I have an alternate ending.  However, the reader rarely finds out about it.  In my book One Christmas Night, the ending was exactly as I plotted it.  There are books and movies, like my Christmas book and Casablanca, where no other ending is appropriate. You just have to leave it be.




Happy reading and movie watching.  Let me know if you, too, change endings to suit yourself.










18 comments:

  1. I don't think I've ever changed the ending of a book, but I've been displeased with some endings so maybe I should start providing my own alternate ending in my head. It's amazing how memory works. Sometimes your imagination becomes truth. And at times I can't remember if something actually happened, or if I imagined it, since I'm such a day dreamer. ( :

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    1. I know the feelings. Since that first time with THIS COULD BE THE NIGHT, I've managed to keep my endings separate from the one actually written.

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  2. A great post, Shirley. I wrote an alternate ending on one of my own books. Several years later, I still like the second ending better, but my editor at the time didn't, so the story lives on as it was. Except for this little place in my heart.

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    1. If you get the rights back, you can self-publish it with the alternate ending.

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  3. I love that you are a HEA kind of gal! I hate when something either a book or a movie ends without a satisfying ending. And you had me cracking up thinking about you watching that movie and wondering where all those scenes went! Too funny :)

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    1. I laugh at it now too. I bought the DVD of that movie and each time I watch it, I think about the scenes they missed filming.

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  4. Wonderful post Shirley! I think we all rewrite movie endings if we don't like the outcome. I never thought about coming up with alternate endings for my books. Something to consider... Thanks!

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    1. It usually not your books, because your book is perfect the way it is. You do it for books you read where you're not satisfied with the ending.

      But that's a good idea for extra's to get people to come to your webpage. Thanks, Tara, I think I'll use that.

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  5. I'm a HEA girl, too. And I did the same thing with GWTW! I wonder if Margaret Mitchell hadn't been hit by that bus, would she have written a sequel? I hope so. Never read Scarlett. I write suspense, too, but even though I start out thinking I know who the villain is, sometimes it changes, and I say, "So you're the one who did it?" it always cracks me up.
    Really enjoyed your post.

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  6. Fun post, Shirley! The story I would change - and this is probably heresy to all believers in the Arthur legend - is Guinevere and Lancelot. Though I love the song "If Ever I Would Leave You" from Camelot, I'm not a fan of the bad boy. Even as a teen, I couldn't understand why Guinevere fell for Lancelot when she had Arthur, who was so noble in all things.

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    1. I'd probably not change Lancelot and Guinevere, because I loved the guy who played him in the movie. The story was told from the POV of the little boy we meet at the end. I'd make that boy a character and give him a story. Gee what ideas are coming out of this blog.

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  7. Shirley, what an interesting, informative blog. Love it. I also read Clive Cussler's books. Especially the Dirk Pitt novels. I'm not much of a movie watcher. Only when my kids visit as they are huge movie buffs. Now I'll have to see if I'd change any of the endings. I do like the outtakes when we rent DVDs.

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    1. Roz,

      I love those outtakes too. I used to wait for them at the end of The Fresh Prince of Belair when it was in re-runs. They were always funny to watch the actors get caught in a flub.

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  8. This is such an interesting post, Shirley. I've never really thought about rewriting an ending that I didn't like...hum...now you have me thinking. Castaway is the first movie that pops into my head. The last scene...how I wish she'd never gotten out of that car!

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    1. Oh! I want the woman to open the box. After all those years, I wanted to know what was inside. I envisioned it being something unimportant, but solidifying the notion that FedEx delivers.

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  9. Awesome and thought-provoking post, Shirley! I love watching the bonus footage on DVDs too. Like you, at first I didn't give it a thought but being a huge Seinfeld buff, one day I watched the bonus footage on one of the seasons and thought... what have I been missing?! Now I watch the bonus footage of almost every DVD, if I liked the movie. It's always very interesting! I love seeing how the movies are made and of course, any alternate endings. It's always great to hear the director's comments on why they chose a particular ending, especially if say, it differs from the book's version if the movie was inspired from a book. :)

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  10. The last bonus material I watched was of the movie "The Host" based on the book by Stephenie Meyer. Very interesting stuff! :)

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