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“Ripley” in Books and Film

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“Ripley” in Books and Film

ripley books & movies

In addition to being one of the best TV shows of the year, Netflix’s Ripley has put a fresh spin on one of the most fascinating fictional characters of all time. After first coming to life in a series of novels by Patricia Highsmith, the slippery and amoral con man known as Tom Ripley has also been portrayed on screen by actors such as Matt Damon, John Malkovich, Dennis Hopper, and Alain Delon. If you’re interested in diving deeper into the twisted, tension-filled world of Tom Ripley, here are some books & films you can check out using your Livingston Library card. (Descriptions provided by the publishers / producers.)

Books by Patricia Highsmith

talented mr ripley book

The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955)

Since his debut in 1955, Tom Ripley has evolved into the ultimate bad boy sociopath. Here, in this first Ripley novel, we are introduced to suave Tom Ripley, a young striver, newly arrived in the heady world of Manhattan. A product of a broken home, branded a “sissy” by his dismissive Aunt Dottie, Ripley meets a wealthy industrialist who hires him to bring his playboy son, Dickie Greenleaf, back from gallivanting in Italy. Soon Ripley’s fascination with Dickie’s debonair lifestyle turns obsessive as he finds himself enraged by Dickie’s ambivalent affections for Marge, a charming American dilettante. The Talented Mr. Ripley serves as an unforgettable introduction to this smooth confidence man, whose talent for murder and self-invention is chronicled in four subsequent Ripley novels.

Ripley Under Ground  (1970)

In this harrowing illumination of the psychotic mind, the enviable Tom Ripley has a lovely house in the French countryside, a beautiful and very rich wife, and an art collection worthy of a connoisseur. But such a gracious life has not come easily. One inopportune inquiry, one inconvenient friend, and Ripley’s world will come tumbling down–unless he takes decisive steps. In a mesmerizing novel that coolly subverts all traditional notions of literary justice, Ripley enthralls us even as we watch him perform acts of pure and unspeakable evil.

Ripley’s Game (1974)

Living on his posh French estate with his elegant heiress wife, Tom Ripley, on the cusp of middle age, is no longer the striving comer of The Talented Mr. Ripley. Having accrued considerable wealth through a long career of crime―forgery, extortion, serial murder―Ripley still finds his appetite unquenched and longs to get back in the game. In Ripley’s Game, Patricia Highsmith’s classic chameleon relishes the opportunity to simultaneously repay an insult and help a friend commit a crime―and escape the doldrums of his idyllic retirement. This third novel in Highsmith’s series is one of her most psychologically nuanced―particularly memorable for its dark, absurd humor―and was hailed by critics for its ability to manipulate the tropes of the genre. With the creation of Ripley, one of literature’s most seductive sociopaths, Highsmith anticipated the likes of Norman Bates and Hannibal Lecter years before their appearance.

The Boy Who Followed Ripley (1980)

Tom Ripley meets a young American runaway who has a dark secret that he is desperate to hide. Soon this unlikely pair is drawn into the seamy underworld of Berlin and a shocking kidnapping. In this masterful thriller, Highsmith shatters our perceptions of her most famous creation by letting us glimpse a more compassionate side of this amoral charmer.

Ripley Under Water (1991)

Ripley is confronted by a snooping American couple obsessed with the disappearance of an art collector who visited Ripley years before.

Films

purple noon

Purple Noon (1960, directed by Réné Clément; available on DVD or streaming on Kanopy)

Alain Delon was at his most impossibly beautiful when Purple Noon was released and made him an instant star. This ripe, colorful adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s vicious novel The Talented Mr. Ripley, directed by the versatile René Clément, stars Delon as Tom Ripley, a duplicitous American charmer in Rome on a mission to bring his privileged, devil-may-care acquaintance Philippe Greenleaf (Maurice Ronet) back to the United States. What initially seems a carefree tale of friendship soon morphs into a thrilling saga of seduction, identity theft, and murder. Featuring gorgeous location photography of coastal Italy, Purple Noon is crafted with a light touch that allows it to be at once suspenseful and erotic, and it gave Delon the role of a lifetime.

The American Friend (1977, directed by Wim Wenders)

Wim Wenders pays loving homage to rough-and-tumble Hollywood film noir with The American Friend, a loose adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel Ripley’s Game. Dennis Hopper oozes quirky menace as an amoral American art dealer who entangles a terminally ill German everyman, played by Bruno Ganz, in a seedy criminal underworld as revenge for a personal slight—but when the two become embroiled in an ever-deepening murder plot, they form an unlikely bond. Filmed on location in Hamburg and Paris, with some scenes shot in grimy, late-seventies New York City, Wenders’s international breakout is a stripped-down crime story that mixes West German and American film flavors, and it features cameos by filmmakers Jean Eustache, Samuel Fuller, and Nicholas Ray.

The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999, directed by Anthony Minghella)

Ripley (Matt Damon) is sent to Italy to bring home a rich and spoiled millionaire playboy (Jude Law) but befriends him instead. As he begins to enjoy the rich life, Ripley kills the playboy and assumes his life. Also starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Cate Blanchett, and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Ripley’s Game (2005, directed by Liliana Cavanni; available on DVD or streaming on Hoopla)

Living a life of luxury, Ripley (John Malkovich) attends a party thrown by Jonathan Trevanny (Dougray Scott) and overhears the host making critical comments about Ripley’s fashion sense. Enraged, Ripley immediately plots his retaliation. This comes via his former business partner Reeves (Ray Winstone). Reeves seeks out Ripley’s help in finding an unrecognized assassin to kill a Russian gangster, and Ripley suggests he talk to Trevanny. Trevanny reluctantly accepts the offer and the situation quickly spirals out of control to the point of drawing the attention of the Russian mob, forcing Ripley to intervene. 

Joe, Adult Services & Acquisitions

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