Ernest Hemingway wrote only one play, “The Fifth Column.” Written in the late 30’s as his relationship with journalist Martha Gellhorn began to take root, the action takes place in Madrid and features an American who is hard drinking and posing as a correspondent although actually he is acting on behalf of the rebels. Much of the action takes place in a room in the Hotel Florida as Franco’s forces surround the city. Hemingway wrote it in the middle of the Spanish civil War and he didn’t know who was going to win the war so he had no benefit of hindsight.
At the time (1938 was when it was published) Hemingway was already a celebrated novelist. His support was solidly behind republican cause against the Franco forces which were following a fascist path.
Martha Gellhorn was a young journalist but she had written a book and was developing a strong reputation as a journalist herself. She’d met Hemingway in Key West and they’d begun an affair and met in Spain again as both covered the war. They later wed but the relationship went sour. They divorced five years later.
The play was not particularly well received. The main characters are Philip Rawlings and Dorothy Bridges and the plot raises the issues surrounding the Spanish Civil War as well as the ruthlessness of the rival factions fighting.
Actor Simon Darwen is playing Philip Rawlings and he notes, “Rawlings is a guy who is very jaded and very tired and his job is taking a toll on him but there is love for Dorothy. He convinces himself he can’t have her and his work so he makes the choice to be so awful to her that she pushes him away.” Although Martha Gellhorn herself was independent and fearless, Dorothy in this play is clingy, needy, and a bit of a light-weight.
The play just opened in London so we’ll see if it is better received than the original. It is running until April 15th.
I just viewed the trailer and it looks good to me. It echoes Hemingway’s relationship with his great friend, Aaron Hotchner, although this relationship started later in life. Hemingway, for all of his flaws, often was welcoming to young writers and willing to share his personal time and experiences generously.
Please take a look if you have time. Best, Christine
I have had two other posts on the letters so don’t want to over do it. Still, I can’t overemphasize the value in reading a bit about it to know Hemingway personally. This article summarizes why you should read some of them. They are funny, vulnerable, disclosing. Again, He specifically did not want them published. Those were his explicit instructions. Mary Hemingway, controller of his estate legally, went against that mandate. I don’t like that but I have to admit to loving his letters and what they reveal. Read and enjoy. Best, Christine
Across the River and Into the Woods was one of Hemingway’s poorly received books. It was written while Hemingway was infatuated with Adriana Ivancich who was the prototype for Renata. It still sold decently and at one point, there was talk of a movie with a very young Sophia Loren as Renata and Gary Cooper as the Colonel. I liked the book but did not find Renata to be an interesting character or sufficient to draw the intense attention of the Colonel who clearly was partially based on Hemingway himself. Should be interesting.
More of Hemingway’s letters are being published and they are so revealing and fun. For example, Hemingway is known as being a bit of a bully to his wives yet some of the letters show great sensitivities to Martha Gellhorn and admiration and support for her career as a writer. Please take a look when you have time.
This is an interesting article in praise of “purple prose,” the opposite of minimalist prose favored by Hemingway. It does not pan that prose but argues that there is a place for “more.” nice commentary. Best, Christine
Before it is too late, actual collaboration between the U.S. and Cuba is happening regarding the restoration of Hemingway’s beloved Cuban home. He lived there for about twenty years. As mentioned in previous posts, he and Mary left many papers and mementos when they were not allowed to return. Apparently, there remain many writings/notes of historical and literary interest even after Mary was permitted to remove some of them post-Hemingway’s death.
Most of us can’t be a Hemingway even if surrounded by his aura and his home. Still, it has to inspiring. Enter the contest and maybe you can be the one to sit in his chair and banish any thought of writer’s block. Click above link for details.