70 Days With Hemingway And Me

Every Novel, Back to Back, Starting With the First

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A Farewell to Quality

July 18th, 2009 · No Comments · A Farewell to Arms (Movie)

A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway’s third novel (published in 1929), is a great book, full of interesting characters, unpredictable events, and snappy dialog — set against a backdrop of World War I.

A Farewell to Arms, the 1932 movie based on Hemingway’s book, is a terrible adaptation, largely because the film fell into public domain and has been released by everyone and his brother, with predictably uneven results.

In other words, the film is grainy, dark, and looks like it was made from an old video or TV broadcast. What’s more, this particular studio (Delta) superimposes its logo in the lower right corner of the screen every so often. I’ve never seen that before with a movie studio. On TV, yes. And it’s bad enough there. But on a movie? Very little is as distracting — or unnecessary.

It’s a shame, too. The cast includes Gary Cooper, Helen Hayes, and Adolphe Menjou (as Major Rinaldi, Coop’s sidekick). With a good cast and a good book, you’d think the movie would follow suit, right?

Not always. In fact, that would be the exception to the rule.

Liberties were taken with the movie adaptation, including how Catherine Barkley (Hayes) and Frederick Henry (Cooper) meet, their “marriage” (which, in the book, is — at best — a common-law marriage; but in the movie a Priest actually marries them), and the ending. Ah, the ending. In the book, the ending is typical Hemingway: morose, melancholy, and bleak. In the movie, well, let’s just say it’s a Hollywood ending, not at all a Hemingway ending.

My rating for the movie version of A Fairewell To Arms? On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the best, I’d give this movie a 2. On a good day.


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