Elmore Leonard, who died on Tuesday, age 87, left behind a library of game-changing mystery and crime thrillers – LaBrava, Get Shorty, Rum Punch, Unknown Man No. 89... a daunting list of smart, funny, suspenseful and impossibly cool novels and stories. Leonard’s relationship with Hollywood was impressive, too: in all, 27 of his books and short fiction titles have been adapted for the movies and television -- three of them twice (52 Pick-Up, 3:10 to Yuma and The Big Bounce).
Here’s a list of a half-dozen of the best Leonard book-to-screen adaptations. Also, Ken Tucker, in his savvy appreciation of Leonard in Grantland, singled out the 1957 Randolph Scott western, The Tall T.
3:10 to Yuma (1957) Taut western, with Van Heflin holding outlaw Glenn Ford until the sheriff can get him on the train. A posse of bad guys intervene. Remade in 2007 with Christian Bale and Russell Crowe.
52 Pick-Up (1985) Roy Scheider and Ann-Margret in gritty neo-noir about blackmail and retribution.
Get Shorty (1995) John Travolta as a Miami mobster who comes to L.A. and finds he does just fine swimming with the sharks in the movie biz.
Hombre (1967) Paul Newman is a taciturn, Apache-raised white man caught up in a stagecoach robbery and its bloody aftermath.
Jackie Brown (1997) Quentin Tarantino's homage to blaxploitation is also one of the best homages to Leonard’s books. Pam Grier is a flight attendant playing the Feds against a ring of arms smugglers, and falling in with a bail bondsman (Robert Forster) who has, understandably, fallen for her.
Out of Sight (1998) Jennifer Lopez is a US Marshall taken hostage by George Clooney when he escapes prison. She breaks free, but can’t break her attraction to the guy, who aims to pull off one last job.