Big-screen remakes of Steinbeck books stuck in court battle
The late John Steinbeck’s stepdaughter told jurors in federal court in Los Angeles on Tuesday that film remakes of “The Grapes of Wrath” and “East of Eden” fell apart because the author’s son and daughter-in-law impeded the projects.
Waverly Scott Kaffaga alleges that long-running litigation over the author’s estate has prevented her from making the most of Steinbeck’s copyrights at a time when marquee names such as Steven Spielberg and Jennifer Lawrence were interested in bringing some of his masterpieces back to the screen.
“The catalog has been dirtied by these legalities,” Kaffaga said. “The whole Steinbeck canon has been put into doubt.”
Kaffaga, daughter of the author’s third wife, Elaine, is suing the estate of stepbrother Thomas Steinbeck, who died last year, and his widow, Gail, and their company.
The lawsuit follows a decadeslong dispute between Thomas Steinbeck and Kaffaga’s mother over control of the author’s works.
Thomas Steinbeck lost most rounds in court, including a lawsuit he and the daughter of his late brother, John Steinbeck IV, brought that spurred Kaffaga to countersue in the current case.
A judge already ruled the couple breached a contract with Kaffaga. Jurors must decide whether Thomas and Gail Steinbeck interfered with deals and should pay up.
Attorneys for Kaffaga did not name a price in court, but Gail Steinbeck said they previously asked the judge for $6.5 million plus punitive damages.
John Steinbeck died in 1968.
Waverly Scott Kaffaga, stepdaughter of John Steinbeck, leaves federal court in Los Angeles on Tuesday.