70 Days With Hemingway And Me

Every Novel, Back to Back, Starting With the First

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The Sun Never Should Have Risen On This Dreadful Movie

July 2nd, 2009 · No Comments · The Sun Also Rises (Movie)

The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway’s second novel, was an interesting, albeit melancholic slice of life about a group of rootless ex-pats living in Paris.

The novel is 259 pages and took me a little under a week to read. The 1957 movie of the same name is 130 minutes yet seemed to take twice as long to watch and seemed twice as empty as the characters it depicts.

In short, the movie The Sun Also Rises is two hours of your life you’ll never get back.

Tyrone Power … Jacob “Jake” Barnes
Ava Gardner … Lady Brett Ashley
Mel Ferrer … Robert Cohn
Errol Flynn … Mike Campbell
Eddie Albert … Bill Gorton
Gregory Ratoff … Count Mippipopolous

On paper, that cast must have looked good to someone, probably a Hollywood bean counter eager to have a bankable cast to ensure box office success.

The problem is, those actors are nothing like I pictured in my mind when I read the book.

The biggest misfire is Ava Gardner as Lady Brett Ashley. Gardner’s Brett is too obviously in love with Jake, too refined, too demure, too nonchalant. When I read the book, I pictured Brett as a blonde, a ditzy Holly Golightly-type blonde (yes, I know Audrey Hepburn’s Holly was a brunette), a devil-may-care barfly who’d charm the pants off boys just to watch them blush.

Not so with Gardner’s Brett. I didn’t find her alluring at all. Nor particularly attractive. I wouldn’t have chased her anywhere, least of all half-way across Europe.

Misfire #2 was Tyrone Power. He hadn’t the demeanor of a newsman. He wasn’t gruff like Lou Grant. He wasn’t dashing like the Tyrone Power of old, an actor the Internet Movie Database calls “One of the great romantic swashbuckling stars of the mid-twentieth century.” He went for refined, as in Cary Grant. But he came off as wooden, as in Keanu Reeves.

It’s interesting to note that Power died in 1958, a year after the movie debuted. He was just 44.

Misfire #3 was the casting of Errol Flynn as Mike Campbell, Lady Brett Ashley’s love interest (in between Jake and Robert and the matador). Errol was long past his swashbuckling days and was, in fact, playing a role in The Sun Also Rises that mirrored his own life – that of an aging alcoholic. His perpetually drunk Mike Campbell was a scene stealer, but in a movie that needed more than just one scene stealer to make it worth watching.

It’s interesting to note that Errol died in 1959, two years after the movie debuted. He was just 50.

Misfire #4 was the plot itself. The book was nearly evenly divided between events in Paris and the trip to and the events in Pamplona, Spain. The characters were well developed. The scenes were vivid. The road trip to Pamplona was fun.

The movie, however, is mostly about Spain and the bullfighting and the fiesta and the running of the bulls. Very little is about Paris. Very few scenes are vivid. Whereas Hemingway’s story is gritty and filled with futility, almost desperation, the movie looks and feels like a Hollywood production, with Hollywood characters, doing Hollywood movie-type things.

I don’t know how the studio managed it. But they turned an interesting book into a very dull movie.


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