Five works by Hemingway translated to the screen
Sumner Korins | Framingham, MA USA | 11/28/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Norman Mailer once observed, "There is a particular type of BAD novel that makes a good movie." Conversely, there is a particular type of GOOD novel that cannot possibly be made into a good movie, and this caveat applies to any of the works of Ernest Hemingway.
The problem is two-fold. First, the inimitable style of the writing is de facto completely lost. Hemingway paints his own portraits with words, and in a movie, we don't need the words because we have the pictures. Second is the Hemingway dialogue. No author speaks more intimately to us, whispering his dialogue quietly in our ear. Recite the dialogue aloud and the magic is lost.
However, here are two novels and several short stories, adapted to the screen, and I'll review their virtues as FILMS, rather than their sins of ommission of the Hemingway canon.
1) "The Sun Also Rises" - Hemingway's first novel about the Lost Generation in Paris after the First World War. This film has taken quite a bit of criticism and unwarrented abuse over the years. It's not their fault, nor a crime, that our favorite movie stars grow old, and yes, Tyrone Power, Ava Gardner and certainly Errol Flynn are way too old to be playing young people in their mid- and late twenties. Aside from that, they do a perfectly good job of acting their parts, especially Errol Flynn in the role of the drunken, dissipated Mike Campbell. The Running of the Bulls in Pamploma Spain, which Hemingway turned into a world-renowned spectacle, is especially exciting to watch. The sense of wandering, of existential pointlessness, of post-war stress and post adolescent angst, as in the novel, are clearly defined.
2) "A Farewell to Arms" - In 1918 Hemingway, an ambulance driver for the Italian Army, was wounded and fell in love with his nurse, 10 years his senior. The woman had the common sense to realise there was no future with a boy and broke off the relationship. Hemingway, romantic young swain that he was, turned this into one of the great romantic tragedies in literature. Rock Hudson and Jennifer Jones are adquate in the leads, but the film is way too long and drags. Seasoned film buffs will compare this version to the 1931 version with Gary Cooper and Helen Hayes, which is ruined by its pasted on happy ending. Producer David O. Selznick should be given credit for having the courage to stick to the novel's original, tragic ending.
3) "Snows of Kilimanjaro" - After first viewing this film, one of the 10 highest grossing films of 1952, Hemingway fired off a cable to Producer Darryl F. Zanuck, "Dammit! I sold you the rights to ONE of my stories, not my whole life!" Indeed, this film takes the original short story and tacks on plot lines and characters from "The Sun Also Rises," "For Whom the Bell Tolls," "Across the River and into the Trees," and various and sundry Hemingway stories and sketches. The Hemingway personnae fits hero Gregory Peck like a glove and he looks as rugged and sexy in his hunting khakis as do love interests Ava Gardner and Susan Hayward. A rousing, boisterous adventure film that takes us from Upper Michigan to Paris to Spain to Africa to the Riviera, finally restored to all its glory. Leo G. Carroll as Peck's wise and kindly uncle is especially good.
4) "Under My Skin," taken from the short story "My Old Man," is perhaps one of the most faithful adaptions of any Hemingway story on film, the story of a crooked jockey (John Garfield) who betrays his friends, his lovers and his business associates, but maintains both his peculiar sense of honor and our empathy because of the deep love he has for his son. Classic Hemingway and classic Garfield come together for the second time, the first being a little-known film, "The Breaking Point," a remake of "To Have and Have Not," which, unlike the Bogart classic, remains true to the original novel. It's unfortunate that the same care of restoration was not lavished on this black & white film as were the four other, Technicolor, productions.
5) "Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man," released not long after Papa's death must have surely sent the Old Man spinning in his grave. The story bounces from one Hemingway story to the next, with a few chapters of "A Farewell to Arms" thrown in. Outstanding is Paul Newman's performance as "The Battler," a washed-out, punched-out prizefighter. Some critics have called this film an embarrassment. I wouldn't go that far, but for all its length and all-star cast, it definitely lacks something. Perhaps what it really lacks is Hemingway."
"What's a young man's reality is just an older man's dream.
Byron Kolln | the corner where Broadway meets Hollywood | 08/15/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Director Martin Ritt plumbed one of Richard Beymer's finest performances in ADVENTURES OF A YOUNG MAN (1962), based on the early life and writings of author Ernest Hemingway.
Nick Adams (Beymer), yearning to escape the control of his parents (Jessica Tandy and Arthur Kennedy), leaves small-town Michigan and embarks on an adventure that will take him to the bright lights and bustle of New York; and finally on to war-torn Italy as an army ambulance driver. There he falls in love with nurse Rosanna (Susan Strasberg) and returns home a hero, but not before tragedy strikes...
Based on several stories from Hemingway's early life (including "The Battler" and perhaps the most famous of all, "A Farewell to Arms"); ADVENTURES OF A YOUNG MAN was an effective showcase for the dramatic talents of Richard Beymer, who shares the screen with a parade of movie greats in the supporting roles--notably among them Paul Newman as the lunatic boxer, Ricardo Montalban as Major Padula, Corinne Calvet as the Contessa, and Eli Wallach as one of Nick's army friends. Sadly, Hemingway committed suicide shortly before the movie was released.
In one of those strange "6 degrees of separation" trivia twists, Richard Beymer found himself playing opposite Susan Strasberg, the actress who had originally played Anne Frank on Broadway (Beymer starred with Millie Perkins in the 1959 movie version) and he also shares a scene with another former "Diary of Anne Frank" castmate, Diane Baker!
WHAT A WASTE !!!
SIMEON PATRICIA | CLAMART FRANCE | 06/26/2009
(2 out of 5 stars)
"with such a fine cast ans script, one could expect an outstanding picture, but, alas, this is the early 60's, with the same wrong formula applying for years to any big production : lots of stars, and an inadequate director, leading most of the time to............poor results !!!Martin RITT definitely is unable to give this film an epic form and keep it going, of course the producer Jerry WALD is much to blame, when he should have confined to films like "PEYTON PLACE" or" THE BEST OF EVERYTHING". It is painful to watch fine actors and actresses like Dan DAILEY, Eli WALLACH, Diane BAKER and Susan STRASBERG completely miscast.The only good moment comes from a striking performance by Paul NEWMAN as a dumb "has been" battler, hardly recognizable under heavy make-up."