Gary Cooper and his own FBI File

Good morning! More on the FBI files of the famous in the ’40’s and 50’s. Interesting.   Best, Christine

The FBI Investigated Gary Cooper Over the Fake News of His Rousing Communist Speech

Author Ernest Hemingway (left) with his friend actor Gary Cooper in Havana, Cuba in 1956 (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Gary Cooper was one of Hollywood’s most iconic leading men. He starred in classic movies like High Noon (1952), Sergeant York (1941) and For Whom The Bell Tolls (1943) just to name a few. But while Cooper was a conservative Republican, there was a brief moment when the FBI thought he might be a communist. Seriously.

Gary Cooper was the “man’s leading man” in classic films, playing sheriffs shooting down gunslingers of the wild west and freedom fighters battling the fascists in Spain. Tony Soprano repeatedly refers to Cooper with admiration in the HBO series The Sopranos, wondering what happened to that old school version of masculinity.

“Let me tell you something, nowadays everybody’s gotta go to shrinks, and go to counselors, and go on Sally Jessy Raphael and talk about their problems,” Tony Soprano says in the 1999 pilot episode. “Whatever happened to Gary Cooper, the strong silent type?”

“That was an American,” Tony continues, echoing the already anachronistic anti-PC angst of the 1990s. “He wasn’t in touch with his feelings, he just did what he had to do.”

Cooper was, in fact, loved by people of many political stripes, especially when he stood up for the “common man” in populist films like 1941’s Meet John Doe and 1936’s Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. But Cooper was also a controversial figure when he testified as a friendly witness to the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in October of 1947.

Gary Cooper in the 1943 film about the Spanish Civil War “For Whom The Bell Tolls,” based on Ernest Hemingway’s 1940 book of the same name (Screenshot/Paramount Pictures)

Cooper didn’t exactly “name names” in 1947, but he said that he had turned down roles with scripts that were “tinged with communistic ideas.” The irony, of course, is that by today’s standards many of Cooper’s best films would be considered left of center politically. Maybe even downright socialist if Fox News were to tell it. In Frank Capra’s Meet John Doe, as just one example, Cooper plays an unemployed man in the depths of the Great Depression who accidentally starts a massive political movement built on simply spreading kindness to your neighbor. Sounds pretty commie to me.

Shortly before Cooper’s testimony, there was a period of genuine confusion for the FBI when the agency got reports that Cooper was speaking to a large crowd of communists. And it wasn’t just any crowd of communists either. It was a 90,000 strong group in the middle of Philadelphia. As it turned out, the entire thing was a propaganda effort for South American communists who were capitalizing on his role in For Whom The Bell Tolls, a film about an American fighting on the side of the Republicans and the Communists in the Spanish Civil War. Gary Cooper was never a soldier in the Spanish Civil War, fighting against the fascists. But he did play one in the movies.

For Whom The Bell Tolls was released in 1943 at the height of World War II. Based on the book by Ernest Hemingway, the film stars Cooper as the Robert Jordan, an American fighting against the fascists in Spain. Hemingway was a good friend of Cooper’s, despite their opposing political views, and the writer loved seeing the actor in his movies.

Cooper, according to the newspaper, had given a rousing speech about his admiration for communism. And rather than simply dismiss the idea, the FBI actually went to the trouble of contacting their people in Philadelphia to make sure that there wasn’t a communist rally there where Gary Cooper had given a speech. It all seems so silly now, but Cooper was even asked about it when he testified in front of the HUAC.

But that’s the power of the movies. Cooper became such a symbol of the average American on the screen that he was the natural choice for communists in South America to embody their message. It didn’t hurt that he was often depicted as the one willing to take up arms to defend freedom in other countries, most notably in movies like For Whom The Bell Tolls.

An article of unknown origin in the FBI file even made the explicit leap to Cooper’s portrayal in For Whom The Bell Tolls. The previous page in the file is heavily redacted, so it’s not clear where this article appeared, but it begins by stating as fact that the real life Gary Cooper had gone to Spain to fight in the Spanish Civil War.

Cooper died in 1961 at the age of 60, and despite the fact that he never named names he was still never fully forgiven by many in Hollywood for testifying as a friendly witness to Joseph McCarthy’s witch hunt. But the fictional Tony Soprano and plenty of other very real people still love Gary Cooper’s films.

In fact, his 1952 western High Noon is the most popular movie in the White House. It was screened by presidents Eisenhower, Carter, Clinton, and George W. Bush.

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Show Presents three female perspectives on Legendary Writer

Hello all Hemingway readers and scholars: this is a one woman show in which Hemingway is presented through the lens of willa cather, marjorie kinnan rawlings, and gertrude stein. I added some photos.

On Hemingway’: Show presents three female perspectives on legendary writer

“[Ernest] Hemingway presents a difficulty, because he was abusive to women, and to other men, and most of all, to himself, committing suicide in 1961,” said Betty Jean Steinshouer, a nationally-acclaimed Chautauqua performer explaining why she turned to three of the women she has regularly performed in one-woman shows all over the country since 1988. “Fortunately, three of the women I portray were his contemporaries.”

Steinshouer’s performance style is audience-interactive, rather than theatrical, although what she does has been called “tour-de-force theater.” She aims to have an in-depth conversation with the audience, rather than lecture or merely entertain.

“On Hemingway” consists of three parts, in three women’s voices. First will be Willa Cather, who addresses Hemingway as part of the Lost Generation, that group of writers and ex-patriots who exiled themselves to Europe after World War I.

What Cather says about Hemingway “gets the ball rolling,” Steinshouer says.

“Cather knew him through his contemporaries, especially F. Scott Fitzgerald, but also because Hemingway was particularly nasty to her when she won the Pulitzer Prize.”

Act II is devoted to Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, who shared an editor and publisher with Hemingway, and who adored him even as she realized his foibles. Steinshouer sees Rawlings’ as the most valuable perspective on this great macho-man writer.

“He who glorified bull-fighting, womanizing, and war can be seen from Marjorie’s view as a creative spirit, struggling to make himself understood, against the heavy odds that are placed on boys growing up in this society. Rawlings understood Hemingway as a man, which not many women do.”

In part three, the audience will have a rare opportunity to meet Gertrude Stein, who was Hemingway’s mentor in Paris, when he was working as a newspaper reporter for the Toronto Star and struggling to find his voice in fiction. Sorting out the love-hate relationship between Stein and Hemingway has been one of Steinshouer’s greatest challenges as a scholar.

Gertrude Stein and Bumby in Paris.

“It had a great deal to do with Alice B. Toklas and Hemingway’s need to prove his masculinity to absolutely everyone he met,” she said. “In Miss Toklas he found someone who was unimpressed with his bravado, and who defended Gertrude Stein at all costs.”

One of the most compelling aspects of “On Hemingway” is that each of the three women who speak of him preceded him in death. Cather died in 1947, Rawlings in 1953, and Stein in 1946. For Betty Jean Steinshouer, it lends an emotional impact to what they said, especially Rawlings.

Rue Gertrude Stein

“She says something quite prophetic, although she could not know that he would shoot himself less than a decade later.”

Marco Island Historical Society invites the community to attend a special presentation at 7 p.m., Monday, Jan. 22, in the Rose Hall Auditorium, 180 S. Heathwood Drive, Marco Island.

MIHS members are admitted free and non-members are asked to pay $10.

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Words of Wisdom: Truisms and Questionables: Enjoy

 I enjoyed this and added the media. Thank you as always for reading this blog. Best, Christine

Speaking Words Of Wisdom …


During the past year, I had a desktop calendar delivering me (mostly) daily doses of the “365 Greatest Things Ever Said.” While I could dispute the breadth of that claim, I did hang onto several items that struck a chord with me.

 I’ll share a few of those words of wisdom with you:

“Unless you’re ashamed of yourself now and then, you’re not honest.” — writer William Faulkner.

William Faulkner

• “The best advice I’ve ever received is, ‘No one else knows what they’re doing either.’” — comedian Ricky Gervais.

• “In real life, the hardest aspect of the battle between good and evil is determining which is which.” — writer George R.R. Martin.

“Insane people are always sure they’re just fine. It’s only the sane people who are willing to admit they’re crazy.” — writer Nora Ephron.

“We must believe in luck. For how else can we explain the success of those we don’t like?” — writer/filmmaker Jean Cocteau.

“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like ‘What’s for lunch?’” — writer A.A. Milne.

A.a. Milne

“When you’re right, nobody remembers. When you’re wrong, nobody forgets.” — boxer Muhammad Ali

 “Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to shut your mouth.” — writer Ernest Hemingway.

Hemingway around 50 years old

“Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right.” — writer Isaac Asimov.

Portrait of the american biochemist and writer Isaac Asimov. USA, 1970s (Photo by Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)

“Life would be tragic if it weren’t funny.” — physicist Stephen Hawking.

“Never eat at a place called Mom’s. Never play cards with a man named Doc. And never lay down with (someone) who’s got more troubles than you.” — writer Nelson Algren.

Nelson Algren

• “Honesty may be the best policy, but it’s important to remember that apparently, by elimination, dishonesty is the second-best policy.” — comedian George Carlin

Anton Chekov

• “Love, friendship, respect do not unite people as much as a common hatred of something.” — writer Anton Chekov

•“You’re mad, bonkers, completely off your head. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.” — writer Lewis Carroll.

Philip K Dick “Everything in life is just for a while.” — writer Phillip K. DickPhillip K. Dick

• “I am so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a single word of what I’m saying.” — writer Oscar Wilde

• “Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries.” — writer James. A. Michener.

James Michener

• “Love your Enemies, for they tell you your Faults.” — statesman Benjamin Franklin.

• “I believe in looking reality straight in the eye and denying it.” — humorist/writer Garrison Keillor.

• And finally, if you crave something truly practical to take into 2018, consider these words from poet Maya Angelou: “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.

Follow @kelly_hertz on Twitter.

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Hemingway Huffington Post Trivia: Part Two

Part Two of Trivia:

7. James Joyce would get in bar fights and then have Hemingway beat the person up.

joyce hemingway

Kenneth Schuyler Lynn has a quote in his book, Hemingway, from the novelist about Hemingway and James Joyce’s hangouts together.

“We would go out for a drink,” Hemingway told a reporter for Time magazine in the midfifties, “and Joyce would fall into a fight. He couldn’t even see the man so he’d say: ‘Deal with him, Hemingway! Deal with him!’”

8. According to Hemingway, his eyelids were particularly thin, causing him to always wake at daybreak.

ernest hemingway

This also comes from the New Yorker profile, where Ross wrote, “He always wakes at daybreak, he explained, because his eyelids are especially thin and his eyes especially sensitive to light.”

Hemingway is then quoted as saying, “I have seen all the sunrises there have been in my life, and that’s half a hundred years.” Hemingway continues, “I wake up in the morning and my mind starts making sentences, and I have to get rid of them fast — talk them or write them down.”

9. His daily word count was tracked on a slab of cardboard on his wall.

ernest hemingway

American journalist George Plimpton interviewed Hemingway in a Madrid café during May, 1954. In his piece, Plimton writes:

He keeps track of his daily progress — “so as not to kid myself” — on a large chart made out of the side of a cardboard packing case and set up against the wall under the nose of a mounted gazelle head. The numbers on the chart showing the daily output of words differ from 450, 575, 462, 1250, back to 512, the higher figures on days Hemingway puts in extra work so he won’t feel guilty spending the following day fishing on the Gulf Stream.

10. The ending of A Farewell to Arms was rewritten 39 times.

ernest hemingway

Also in the Madrid café in 1954, Plimpton got a quote from Hemingway about rewriting the ending to one of his most famous works.

Plimpton asked how much rewriting Hemingway does, to which the novelist responded, “It depends. I rewrote the ending to A Farewell to Arms, the last page of it, 39 times before I was satisfied.”

The interviewer wondered, “Was there some technical problem there? What was it that had stumped you?”

Hemingway responded, “Getting the words right.”

11. This is how Hemingway said he wanted to spend his older days …

ernest hemingway

From the New Yorker profile, here is an extended description by Hemingway of how he would have ideally spent his older days:

“What I want to be when I am old is a wise old man who won’t bore,” he said, then paused while the waiter set a plate of asparagus and an artichoke before him and poured the Tavel. Hemingway tasted the wine and gave the waiter a nod. “I’d like to see all the new fighters, horses, ballets, bike riders, dames, bullfighters, painters, airplanes, sons of bitches, café characters, big international whores, restaurants, years of wine, newsreels, and never have to write a line about any of it,” he said. “I’d like to write lots of letters to my friends and get back letters. Would like to be able to make love good until I was eighty-five, the way Clemenceau could. And what I would like to be is not Bernie Baruch. I wouldn’t sit on park benches, although I might go around the park once in a while to feed the pigeons, and also I wouldn’t have any long beard, so there could be an old man didn’t look like Shaw.” He stopped and ran the back of his hand along his beard, and looked around the room reflectively. “Have never met Mr. Shaw,” he said. “Never been to Niagara Falls, either. Anyway, I would take up harness racing. You aren’t up near the top at that until you’re over seventy-five. Then I could get me a good young ball club, maybe, like Mr. Mack. Only I wouldn’t signal with a program—so as to break the pattern. Haven’t figured out yet what I would signal with. And when that’s over, I’ll make the prettiest corpse since Pretty Boy Floyd. Only suckers worry about saving their souls. Who the hell should care about saving his soul when it is a man’s duty to lose it intelligently, the way you would sell a position you were defending, if you could not hold it, as expensively as possible, trying to make it the most expensive position that was ever sold. It isn’t hard to die.” He opened his mouth and laughed, at first soundlessly and then loudly. “No more worries,” he said. With his fingers, he picked up a long spear of asparagus and looked at it without enthusiasm. “It takes a pretty good man to make any sense when he’s dying,” he said.

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Hemingway Huffington Post Trivia: Part one

Happy New year to all:

Below is the Huffington Post’s list of Hemingway Trivia BY TODD VAN LULING. A few were new to me. Best to all for 2018. Love, Christine

11 Things You Didn’t Know About Ernest Hemingway

1. Hemingway apparently once lived, got drunk and slept with a bear.

ernest hemingway

Former New Yorker staff writer Lillian Ross had a long profile of Hemingway published in 1950.

During a section of the story where she’s at a bar with Hemingway, talking about bears at the Bronx zoo, Ross includes an aside about how the writer gets along well with animals, writing, “In Montana, once, he lived with a bear, and the bear slept with him, got drunk with him, and was a close friend.”

As this fact simultaneously seems insane and doesn’t readily appear elsewhere, it’s unclear whether Ross’ aside was an exclusive for her interview or if the story is more of a legend.

2. F. Scott Fitzgerald once had Hemingway look at his penis to judge if it was adequate.

hemingway fitzgerald

In Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast — a collection of stories about his time in Paris as an expat during the 1920s — there’s a long interaction with the Great Gatsby author, F. Scott Fitzgerald. In this exchange, according to Hemingway, Fitzgerald confesses that his wife, Zelda, said that his penis is too small or exactly, “She said it was a matter of measurements.”

Hemingway tells Fitzgerald to follow him to the men’s room and then says, “‘You’re perfectly fine,’ I said. ‘You are OK. There’s nothing wrong with you.” He continued reassuring Fitzgerald, “You look at yourself from above and you look foreshortened. Go over to the Louvre and look at the people in the statues and then go home and look at yourself in the mirror in profile.’”

3. Hemingway once said that he can’t think of any better way to spend money than on champagne.

ernest hemingway
Image: Getty

In the New Yorker profile from 1950, Hemingway gets frustrated at the group he’s having lunch with for thinking they can leave the table before all of the champagne is finished.

“‘The half bottle of champagne is the enemy of man,’” Hemingway said. We all sat down again,” writes Ross in the New Yorker.

Hemingway is then quoted while pouring more champagne as saying, “If I have any money, I can’t think of any better way of spending money than on champagne.”

4. The KGB secretly recruited Hemingway to be their spy, and he accepted.

ernest hemingway

According to a 2009 story in The Guardian, Hemingway went by the code name “Argo,” while somewhat working for the KGB. The article talks about the publication of Yale University Press’ Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America, which claims that Hemingway was listed as a KGB operative in America during Stalin-era Moscow.

According to the documents obtained by the book, Hemingway was recruited in 1941 and was fully willing to help, but never actually provided any useful information. It’s unclear if that’s because Hemingway was doing this all as a lark, or if he just wasn’t that good of a spy.

“The name’s Hemingway, Ernest Hemingway,” is a lot of syllables.

5. While in his later years, the FBI conducted surveillance on Hemingway.

ernest hemingway

Hemingway biographer and personal friend of the author for 14 years, A.E. Hotchner, wrote a New York Times opinion piece in 2011, claiming that Hemingway spent his last days incredibly paranoid that the FBI was following him and that this paranoia ended up being justified.

“It’s the worst hell. The goddamnedest hell. They’ve bugged everything. That’s why we’re using Duke’s car. Mine’s bugged. Everything’s bugged. Can’t use the phone. Mail intercepted,” Hotchner quotes Hemingway as telling him shortly after the author’s 60th birthday. Hotchner remembered thinking Hemingway was losing it as the author went on and on about how his phones were being tapped and his mail intercepted.

Hotchner was then shocked when the FBI released its Hemingway file due to a Freedom of Information petition, where they admitted Hemingway was put on the surveillance list in the 1940s by J. Edgar Hoover. “Over the following years, agents filed reports on him and tapped his phones,” Hotchner wrote. According to Hotchner, he’s had to find a way to reconcile his memories of Hemingway losing it in his final years — which partially led to extensive electroshock therapy — with the author actually being right.

6. Hemingway felt it “would be very dangerous” for someone to not attend multiple fights a year.


In that same New Yorker profile from 1950, Ross writes about what happened when she suggested what Hemingway thought was a lackluster fight:

Hemingway gave me a long, reproachful look. “Daughter, you’ve got to learn that a bad fight is worse than no fight,” he said. We would all go to a fight when he got back from Europe, he said, because it was absolutely necessary to go to several good fights a year. “If you quit going for too long a time, then you never go near them,” he said. “That would be very dangerous.” He was interrupted by a brief fit of coughing. “Finally,” he concluded, “you end up in one room and won’t move.”

Part two to appear in two weeks. Best, Christine

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Lessons from Hemingway: A guide to Life

I found this article by Brandon King to be beautiful and profound. Perhaps you will too.  Some photos added by me. Thank you for reading this blog and happy holidays to all!  Best, Christine

Lessons from Hemingway: A guide to life

Brandon King / Red Dirt Report
“A Farewell to Arms” by Ernest Hemingway.

YUKON, Okla. — I’m sitting an office surrounded by books I’ve read time after time. Each word, each stanza says something different yet I keep reading.

This is what it must feel like to be religious and captured by something through and through.

Each day, I attempt to write something new and original in hopes to capture the spirit of something yet to be said.

This, and many other lessons, I learned from one of the greatest American writers who ever lived.

Ernest Hemingway is more than a writer; he is something which doesn’t pass through life often.

Hemingway was a man of originality who cursed clichés and lived as though death bit at his heels. Eventually, he would give up running.

I began reading Hemingway shortly after high school. As an 18-year- old who had grown up in the small, yet growing, town of Yukon, culture was a commodity few and far between. It was as barren as it was lonely. At the time, I was reading pieces from writers like Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot. They were powerful yet they lacked a punch I wanted to read.

Young Ezra

It wasn’t until a trip to Half-Price Books which my perspectives would change.

Fitz and Hem

A blue book was fringed on the corners from being dropped too often. In silver letters, it read A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway. As a literary nerd, I had heard the name yet the words and meanings were not there yet.

Since this time, I have read all but two of Hemingway’s pieces. In a near obsessive state, I have found a voice which echoes through the halls of time and continues to speak to those tired of the monotony of modern living.

With each novel and short story, Hemingway provides a lesson for each reader. This should be the goal for any writer worth his or her words. Without meaning, a writer is no more than words on a deaf ear.

Before reading Hemingway’s work, I would find myself asking questions that people could only speculate the answer to. By the time I was finished, I would wonder why I hadn’t thought of that solution before. Though his work deals with death and despair mixed with the feelings of age and war, Hemingway shows us that the world can be seen in any light.

Subjects like love and loss are covered in almost every piece of work. It’s easy to summarize the passing of someone you once loved as painful. It’s quite another thing to express it the way Hemingway did.

Working at the Finca

For most readers, we all have experienced what it’s like to fall in love with someone and have the hands of death snatch them before their time.

At least I have.

The lessons of Hemingway can give those without a voice a map to find how to express themselves. This is the problem with society as it progresses; just because civilization continues to survive does not mean that civilization grows.

For you, the reader, when was the last time you picked up a novel and read it for what it was worth? When was the last time you enjoyed yourself as you read something so profound that you could feel it touch your heart?

According to the PEW Research Institute, 26 percent of American adults have not read a single book over the past year. This means that no new ideas and possibly no creative endeavor has been established in over a year.

I could list every reason as to why you should learn the lessons of Hemingway but nothing good ever came free. As I’ve learned from Hemingway, “there is no friend as loyal as a book.”

Lessons come by easier for those wanting more out of life. Complacency is a mutual dish that is best served to those who want to survive. For writers and free-thinkers like Hemingway, there is more to life than survival.


It’s the stakes of being original and true. Listed below are the books that have helped me deal with certain issues. If you are interested, please invest in your local library and read on.

To quote Hemingway, “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”

Hem on beach

A Farewell to Arms: Depression, death and love

The Sun Also Rises: Masculinity, maturity and adventure

The Old Man and the Sea: Aging, death, trying against all odds

For Whom the Bell Tolls: War, destruction, and courage

A Moveable Feast: Dealing with family, memories, and depression

The Garden of Eden: Skepticism, faith and originality

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Words for other writers out there

“For a true writer, each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

EXCLUSIVE American writer Ernest Hemingway (1899 – 1961), in Cuba, July 1940. (Photo by Lloyd Arnold/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)


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Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy: Part Two

Continuing thoughts on the book by Nicholas Reynolds: 

A good portion of the new book deals with Hemingway’s participation in World War II and the liberation of Paris. As those of you who follow this blog know, Hemingway had been working out of Cuba as the “crook factory” and it actually was more than fun and games. He kept very careful journals/records of what he and his gang saw. His crew ran from the former military people, friends, Jai Lai players, gamblers etc., and all kept alert for German submarines that were trolling the Caribbean.

trolling for German subversives


However, when wife Martha Gellhorn became more actively involved as a war correspondent for Colliers, she very much wanted him to join her in Europe.  He initially resisted, but finally did accept a position as a war correspondent.

Hem and Marty


Based on Reynold’s research, Hemingway actively participated in the fighting and in pitching in wherever needed. It was there that he met a friend who would be very close to him for the rest of his life, Colonial Lanham, a British officer known as “Buck” Lanham. Lanham was forever grateful for the friendship and was shocked that Hemingway, as a journalist who did not have to go into dangerous situations where he could be killed nevertheless did.

With Buck

On one occasion, Hemingway had to cross a line of fire in order to get a message to the other side. Many had been shot trying. Hemingway was a lot of things that weren’t good and he could be a fairly obnoxious drunk. However, he was not lacking in true courage or in caring about other soldiers or people suffering. Lanham indicated in his writings that he would remember that moment for the rest of his life, seeing the big man – thus a large target – darting and running to get across.

Hem and Buck
Colonel Charles T. Lanham aka Buck


Hemingway was so involved in the actual doing of things – his regiment of irregulars thought he was their leader despite knowing of course that he was the author and journalist, not a military commander – that charges were brought against him for violations of the protocols of war journalism. He ultimately was cleared of any wrongdoing but there’s no question that other journalists resented him and his notoriety and fame and his jumping into the action.

At the liberation of Paris


Hemingway was on the FBI watch list as a result of his activities in Spain and was eyed with suspicion by J. Edgar Hoover for that, as well as for living in Cuba. That surveillance which many thought was imagined by Hemingway was in fact real and fed into the paranoia he had in the last year of his life.

J. Edgar Hoover

All in all a very good book that concludes Hemingway was not a spy per se. At moments, he was sought out by the Russians who would have liked to recruit him but who did not learn anything harmful to the U.S. Hemingway was too much of a dedicated American for that.

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New Hemingway book: Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy by Nicholas Reynolds: Part one

Happy New Year all readers of Hemingway!  Hope you had a great holiday season!

I just listened with interest (via audio disc) to the new book about Hemingway’s involvement in soviet politics and communist causes. The book is called Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy by Nicholas Reynolds. I’m very familiar with Hemingway’s left-leanings, although my reading suggests not so much left-leaning as anti-fascist leanings. Even by those that would like to argue that he was very involved in communist causes, there is acknowledgement that his greatest leaning was the belief in the individual, which he felt fascism and communism both suppressed.


Reynolds traces the roots of his advocacy to the Key West hurricane of 1934 in which numerous veterans working for the New Deal were killed and left to decay on the beaches. Hemingway blamed the government for indifference. Generally he was on the side of the underdog. In the Spanish Civil War, it was evident that he was more anti-fascist than pro-communist. Still he was actively involved in the movie The Spanish Earth, a film advocating for the anti-Franco rebels, and did most of the narration. He also wrote the play The Fifth Column about that war.


Photos by Robert Capa, the renowned photographer

During his involvement in the Spanish Civil War and his frequent trips to Spain in the late 30s to cover the war and write about the war, it was clear to me that, unlike some journalists and sympathizers with the Republicans (the left side if we have to put labels on it, those against Franco), he was one of the few who was not just an observer but was willing to put his money and his life where his mouth was.

Ernest HEMINGWAY during Spanish Civil War.
In December 1937 Ernest Hemingway was covering the Loyalist assault on Teruel, the walled town in the bleak mountains of Southern Aragon, Gen. Franco was planning to use this corridor route to the Mediterranean thus seaparting Barcelona from Valencia and Madrid. Robert CAPA the photographer and Hemingway would with some colleagues drive daily to Teruel from Valencia and return each evening.
Valencia. Dec. 1937. Hemingway visiting the front line.

He provided the funding for the completion of The Spanish Earth when money ran out. There also was an interesting anecdote about Hemingway being in Spain with another journalist when the car in front of them was attacked and rolled over, its inhabitants gravely wounded, Hemingway jumped out of his vehicle and immediately was providing emergency medical aid and doing anything he could to assist. (He was an ambulance driver in World War I so did know some techniques. His father also was a doctor and he had some exposure to medical procedures during his youth).

ME: FYI. The Spanish Earth is available for viewing on YOUTUBE. About an hour long. Hemingway in NYC introduced it in a showing to raise money for the Republican cause. 

The other journalist just continued taking notes and not lending a hand. Hemingway yelled at him to pitch in or he, Hemingway, would kill him. Numerous times when Hemingway could have been sitting comfortably in Key West or in Cuba, he put himself in dangerous situations. He was a person who believed the individual could make a difference in general, and that included him. He was fairly apolitical, but, that being said, he did take a stance against Hitler and the fascists and was really upset, as was his wife to be, Martha Gellhorn, a journalist in her own right, with the British and the French for not coming to the assistance of the Spanish Republicans.

Hemingway’s frequent visits to support the Republican cause also was crucial to his writing of For Whom the Bell Tolls. The hero in For Whom the Bell Tolls, Robert Jordan, was fighting for the Republicans and the book covers four days in which he’s tasked with blowing up a bridge that will halt the fascists’ progress when an offensive begins. Nevertheless, while exposing the atrocities of the fascists, For Whom the Bell Tolls also doesn’t sugarcoat some of the poor behavior by the communists. For that, he was roundly criticized by his leftist friends. He replied that he tried to tell the truth from both sides.

To be continued

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