Hemingway as Opera or Broadway Musical?

 

            I’ve always wondered myself why no Broadway shows or musicals have ever been made of Hemingway’s work.  It seems that some of them would lend themselves well.  A Farewell to Arms certainly could be a tragic, beautiful story with music – as it is even without the music.

A Farewell to Arms
A Farewell to Arms

             I just read an article by an opera lover opining on this same issue.  Fred Plotkin wrote an article after his visit to Ketchum, Idaho, which inspired him to do more thinking about Hemingway.  He noted that Hemingway wrote little about Idaho, where he spent many years and where he worked on For Whom The Bell Tolls, A Moveable Feast, The Dangerous Summer, Islands In The Stream, A Garden of Eden, and The Shot.  

Ketchum Idaho home where Hem died
Ketchum Idaho home where Hem died

            Hemingway is buried in the local cemetery where his fourth wife, Mary, and his sons Gregory and Jack, are also buried.   

            Hemingway first went to Ketchum, Idaho in 1939 at the invitation of the Sun Valley Resort.  Sun Valley was trying to gain some acceptance as a visitor’s holiday center.  As part of a promotional invitation, the resort also invited movie stars Lucille Ball, Gary Cooper and Clark Gable.  Hemingway was not only known in 1939 as a superb writer but also as an outdoorsman, a hunter and a fisherman, all of which would be attractions for visitors to the Ketchum area. 

            In exchange for some promotional photographs, Hemingway was offered a two year stay.  He ended up dividing those years between Idaho and his home in Cuba.  

            He wrote a great deal of For Whom The Bell Tolls in 1940 when he stayed in a cabin in Sun Valley with Martha Gellhorn and his three sons, Jack, Patrick and Gregory. 

Idaho
Idaho

            In 1946, Hemingway returned with his fourth wife Mary and stayed in various cabins in the area.  He returned for good –well for good part-time – in 1958.  Ultimately, when it appeared that it was prudent to leave Cuba and the FBI would not let him return to get his things, he and Mary settled permanently in Ketchum, although they kept an apartment in New York City for a while.  

Ketchum
Ketchum

            During the intervening years, he had won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 for Old Man In The Sea and the following year the Nobel Prize for Literature. 

            His health also was in decline. 

            Never a snob, Hemingway mingled easily with the local people in Ketchum as he had done in Spain and Cuba.  He was well liked and upon his death, the locals did their best to keep the press out at Mary Hemingway’s request. 

Mary
Mary

            Fred Plotkin notes that he created a list of operas that have been based on American writers’ novels.  Those included An American Tragedy (Dreiser), The Aspern Papers, (Henry James), Bel Canto (Ann Patchett), The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald), Little Women (Alcott), McTeague (Frank Noris), Moby Dick (Melville), Of Mice and Men (Steinbeck), The Postman Always Rings Twice (James M. Cain), The Scarlett Letter (Hawthorne), and Willy Stark (based on Robert Penwarren’s All The King’s Men).   

            It turns out that there is a one act opera version of The Sun Also Rises written by Webster Young.  It premiered at Long Island Opera in 2000.   

            A two act opera, written by a man in the Soviet Union, was composed of Hemingway’s life.   

            Mr. Plotkin would chose The Old Man and the Sea as a chamber opera.  I don’t know much about opera, but he is suggesting that Santiago be sung by an older bass, such as Samuel Ramey or Ferruccio Furlanetto.

            Please read this article directly at this link.  The photos of Hemingway’s view from his porch in Ketchum and his home are well worth looking at:  an inspiration to an amazing writer who used just enough words to say what he wanted to say.

http://www.wqxr.org/#!/story/operatic-ernest-hemingway/

 

 

 

6 Films Portraying Hemingway

Hemingway on film: 6 films that take him from a WWI hotshot almost to the bitter end

Hemingway on film: 6 films that take him from a WWI hotshot almost to the bitter end
Dominic West as Hemingway in “Genius.”

At the end of this post is a link to the article I just read that talks about how Hemingway has been portrayed in film over the last 20 years. He has been written about significantly more than F. Scott Fitzgerald—perhaps because his life was longer and with a few more highs to focus on—but often in film, only one side of Hemingway is emphasized and the total picture of the man doesn’t seem to emerge. He’s either portrayed as a bragging drunkard whose light shown brightest only in his early works or as a macho, thrill-seeking hunter/bullfighting aficionado/fisherman who covered wars and rarely let up on the macho image that blessed and cursed him.

In all of my reading, I have seen another side of him that is very much present. Next to the drunkard braggart, there is also the gentle and insecure man who just wants to be left alone to write. Next to the macho big game hunter is the man who considered his animals part of the family and whom he treated  with caring gratitude and love. When his spaniel Black Dog died, the depression that was already in progress deepened and he said he’d give up all of his fame and money for a case of good claret and “my Black Dog back when he was young and happy again.” And while capable of harshness to all of his wives at moments, he also gave generous support and kind appreciation for what they gave to him, including Martha whom he tended to vilify after the divorce. He readily acknowledged her writing skill and her courage. I don’t see too many of those nuanced aspects of Hemingway being portrayed on film.

In any event, this article talks about the following Hemingway based films:

  1. In Love And War:  Sandra Bullock plays the alter-ego of Agnes Van Kurowsky, Hemingway’s real life love when he was an ambulance driver in Italy. Chris O’Donnell was the Hemingway figure. It was not an intriguing movie.

    In Love and War
    In Love and War

 

  1. The Last Good Country: This is short film portraying Hemingway returning home after World War I, haunted by physical and psychological demons. The film is supposed to be inspired, in part, by Hemingway’s story Big Two-Hearted River. The part of Hemingway is played by Nic Collins and from the reviews, he apparently acquits himself well in portraying the complexity of Hemingway’s war and postwar life.

3. Midnight In Paris: This is Woody Allen’s love film to Paris, but it also shows our stereotypical Hemingway who is portrayed with great fun by Corey Stoll. When Hemingway, apropos of nothing, shouts in a bar, “Does anyone want to fight?” I admit to laughing out loud.

Midnight in Paris
idnight in Paris

4. Genius: This film just came out in June and focuses on Max Perkins, editor extraordinaire to Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Thomas Wolfe. The focus of the movie is on Wolfe, but Hemingway is in it in a few vignettes in which Perkins goes fishing with Hemingway presumably in Key West since this is set in 1929.

  1. Hemingway & Gellhorn: The title is self-explanatory, but was something of a bore. Clive Owen played Hemingway; Nicole Kidman was Martha. Critics found it to be fairly dreadful.

    Hemingway and Gellhorn/ Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman
    Hemingway and Gellhorn/ Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman

 

  1. Papa Hemingway In Cuba: This is also a new movie based on the true story of Hemingway’s friendship with Ed Myers, a young journalist. Reviews were mixed about whether it was not good or whether, as some critics said, “Sparks is superb in the title role and he captures Hemingway’s warmth as well as his irascible nature.”

It’s a fun article and recaps movies in the last 20 years that Hemingway has been captured in.

http://www.msn.com/en-us/movies/news/hemingway-on-film-6-films-that-take-him-from-a-wwi-hotshot-almost-to-the-bitter-end/ar-AAgU4Vj

Even a bad Hemingway film can be look-worthy.  Love, Christine

NO PAIN, NO GAIN Theory of Writing

I just read an article about writers who make themselves physically uncomfortable—perhaps consciously or unconsciously—as a spark to their creative juices. I wrote a blog post a couple of months ago about the strange writing habits of some writers and this is a variation on that theme. Below I will give you the cite for the whole article, but here are a couple of interesting points.

No Pain, no gain.
No Pain, no gain.
  1. Some writers do all of their drafts in the font Courier for the “brutally utilitarian shape of its letters and mono spaced characters marching across the page.” Somehow they feel that when it gets transformed into New Times Roman or Arial in the final version, it looks vastly better and more professional and feels polished compared to the draft.

 

  1. As you all know if you follow this blog, Hemingway often wrote standing up. This was in part due to pain from the plane crashes and in part, he liked it. However, just as often, I see photos of him working at a large rustic table or at his dining room table.

    Writing and not standing
    Writing and not standing

3 Vladimir Nabakov liked to write in his car, hopefully while parked.

 

  1. Friedrich Schiller kept a bunch of rotting apples in his desk that filled the room with “eye watering stench.”

 

  1. Wallace Stevens jotted lines on to scraps of paper while working.

 

  1. Walter Scott wrote while on horseback. This is puzzling.

 

  1. Victor Hugo hid all his clothes save for a grey shawl to prevent himself from leaving the home until he was done meeting his writing requirements.

 

  1. Balzac drank 50 cups of coffee a day. I would think that would make him get up and down an awful lot.

 

  1. Truman Capote “couldn’t think unless he was lying down and described himself as a completely horizontal author”.

 

The theory is that discomfort promotes creativity. I’m not sure.

 

Do you have any weird habits? I feel lucky if I can sit down in front of a fire with the dogs and just write. A glass of wine is welcome, but optional.

 

Review of New Movie: Papa Hemingway in Cuba–Not too good

I am sorry to report that one of the early reviews of the new movie with Adrian Sparks as Hemingway and Giovanni Ribisi as Ed Meyers, a young journalist, was pretty sour. Beyond loving the Cuban scenery, the description of the movie as wooden is an “ouch” moment. Instead of flashing back to some of Hemingway’s allure and greatness, it sticks with his last two years, admittedly not his glory days. I would guess, given that time frame, that there is much drunkenness and fights with wife # 4, Mary. So disappointing. Below is the full review. Best, Christine

 

Review

Papa Hemingway in Cuba

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By DAN LYBARGER Special to the Democrat-Gazette

This article was published April 29, 2016 at 1:53 a.m.

Ernest Hemingway (Adrian Sparks) can’t summon his muse in Bob Yari’s Papa Hemingway in Cuba, the first Hollywood feature filmed on the island since Castro’s revolution.

 Papa Hemingway in Cuba

68 Cast: Giovanni Ribisi, Adrian Sparks, Joely Richardson, Minka Kelly, Shaun Toub, James Remar, Mariel Hemingway

Director: Bob Yari

Rating: R, for language, sexuality, some violence and nudity

Running time: 109 minutes

Papa Hemingway in Cuba is reportedly the first Hollywood film to be shot on the island since 1959. The Almighty has blessed Cuba with captivating scenery, which belies over a century of human turmoil there. It’s too bad the people who stand in front of this scenery in this film aren’t that interesting.

In real life they might have been, but neither screenwriter Denne Bart Petitclerc, who actually knew the title character, nor director Bob Yari (better known as a producer of Crash and The Illusionist) has anything worthwhile to say about Ernest Hemingway or his time there.

Petitclerc has been dead for 10 years, and it’s easy to see why his script sat on the shelf until recently. If he had any unique insights into the Nobel Prize winner and his writing, none have made it into the final cut of this film.

As played by Adrian Sparks, Hemingway is a famous but drunken has-been. When he’s not fishing, he’s prone to bouts of paranoia and yelling matches with his wife, Mary (Joely Richardson). The writer hangs out with veterans of the Spanish Civil War and appears to have ties to the Cuban Revolution. He’s unable at this point in his 59 years to turn a blank sheet of paper into something magical.

Most of this stuff could be gleaned from a high school literature class or from listening to a barroom blowhard unable to discern truth from fiction. Without having samples from Hemingway’s clipped but often powerful prose, viewers are simply given the impression that he was an obnoxiously pompous bore who liked swimming naked. Petitclerc gives Sparks and Richardson plenty of excuses to yell at each other, but one quickly wonders why anyone ever sought these two out.

Instead of examining the author’s complicated life or re-creating the tension that surrounded the fall of Batista’s Cuba, Petitclerc and Yari decide to rehash the old cliche about never meeting your idols. In this case, Petitclerc’s stand-in for himself, Ed Myers (Giovanni Ribisi), writes Hemingway a fan letter and then hides it because he’s not sure if the note is worthy of the great writer’s time. Ed’s girlfriend (Minka Kelly) saves the letter from the waste basket and sends it to Cuba.

Much of the material seems to have been cobbled together from something that might seem more at home on The Hallmark Channel or Lifetime. On second thought, those movies are delivered with more subtlety and craftsmanship. Many shots seem stiff and clumsy, as if the only prerequisite for a successful take was that the actors were standing and breathing.

The folks behind those quickly made offerings might know better than to cast a 42-year-old as a cub reporter. It’s odd to hear Sparks and Richardson call Ribisi “the kid.”

The Revolution, which has been depicted in great films like The Godfather: Part II, Steven Soderbergh’s Che and Mikhail Kalatozov’s I Am Cuba, is prime fodder for great drama, but when Ed has to tell Santo Trafficante (James Remar) to his face that he runs the mob in Cuba, it’s a sign that Petitclerc has no idea how to tell the audience who characters are without having to telegraph the fact.

At least we can see why Hemingway loved Cuba; whenever the stiff, profanity-laden dialogue ends and the people leave the landscape, nature reveals an island full of lush vegetation and gorgeous seascapes. It’s also great to see the distinctive architecture, like Havana’s Malecon seawall, and to hear the infectious music that comes from the island. If Yari were a more capable director (this is only his second effort in a 30-something-year career), he might have put the music more prominently in the mix to drown out Petitclerc’s drivel.

MovieStyle on 04/29/2016

Print Headline: Papa Hemingway in Cuba

 

Update: Review of London opening of The Fifth Column

This is a luke warm and unenthusiastic  review of Hemingway’s only play, but still, if you happen to be in London between now and April 15, perhaps worth a viewing.

The Fifth Column at Southwark Playhouse | Theatre review

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Hardly mentioned and scarcely recognised among Ernest Hemingway’s renowned works, The Fifth Column is an overlooked piece that fits the aims of Two’s Company, which is to present forgotten theatre of the World Wars period. While some critics may argue that there is reason this play is typically disregarded as part of Hemingway’s literary canon, the show at Southwark Playhouse still results in a worthwhile evening.

It is 1937, Madrid; the brutal Spanish Civil War shows no sign of relenting, and impeding Nationalists besiege the city, its inhabitants subjected to widespread hunger and bombardments. Lodged at the Hotel Florida is a pair of American war correspondents who discover in each other a passionate, untimely love. However, in a play that deals heavily in themes of counter-espionage and faltering trust, characters fall prey to duplicity, and the antagonist must face the unmanageable choice between upholding his political convictions or his longing for the fulfilment of love.

Simplified lighting and sound effects are enough to create the tension and intensity of bombardment but not to the extent that they detract from the primary action of the play. Set designer Alex Marker for the most part successfully recreates the hotel as well as other locales in a relatively small space, except for instances in which Simon Darwen, as the lead, must poise himself on an armchair or a bed, and his towering stature dwarfs the stage’s proportions. A scene with the most physical, combatant action involving a Nazi cohort is awkwardly staged due to a lack of space for necessary movement. In addition to Alix Dunmore’s unfortunate wig, the underwhelming choice of costumes for the female roles is not reminiscent of a 1930s period piece, but rather, last season’s clearance rack.

The play is generally supported by a strong cast, even if accents falter a bit in the beginning (they eventually stabilise during the course of the play). Darwen’s portrayal of Phillip Rawlings, a counter-intelligence operative posing as a journalist, is rather aggravating at first, but Darwen’s feat is making an unsavoury character actually likeable. Although Dunmore is a pleasure to watch on stage as Dorothy Bridges (the rather dim-witted beloved), she perhaps misses the nuances of the potentially complex role and instead delivers a superficial character whose every line is meant at face value. The vapid romance between the two results in various scenes with rather uncomfortable dialogue, but this is as much Hemingway’s fault in composition as it is Darwen and Dunmore’s in execution.

Hemingway’s only full-length play pales in comparison to the pioneering style of his other prose works. The Fifth Column is very much a relic of a specific time and place, and, rather than attempting to valourise it as a “forgotten gem” it is probably best viewed as a literary genius’s ineffective excursion into a different genre.

Verdict:

Even a NY Ranger reads Hemingway

NY Ranger who loves Hemingway
NY Ranger who loves Hemingway, Chris Kreider

#Hemingwayandsports

In this latest installment of CNBC’s summer reading series Chris Kreider, a forward with the New York Rangers, provides his top picks for the season. The Boxford, Mass., native and first- round draft pick in 2009, set career highs in the 2014-15 season in goals, assists and points.

Lillian Ross’ Profile of Hemingway

How Do You Like It Now, Gentlemen?

The above is a link to the Lillian Ross interview with Hemingway, a sad betrayal of his kindness and friendship to a young writer.

There’s a famous profile of Hemingway that was published on May 13, 1950 in The New Yorker  done by a very young journalist at the time named Lillian Ross. Hemingway had helped her with her first big article about Sidney Franklin, the first Jewish-American bull fighter. Hemingway and Lillian Ross became friends and as Hemingway often did, he enjoyed taking this younger, very smart woman under his wing and addressing her as “daughter” and sharing some of the things that he knew with her.

Lillian's book after Hem's death
Lillian’s book after Hem’s death
Lillian Ross
Lillian Ross

 

Lillian Ross started working at The New Yorker in 1945 and seemed particularly adept at charming her subjects into saying things they might otherwise not say. She asked to do a profile on Hemingway, who needed the publicity like a hole in the head, but he agreed, hoping to help her career. She shadowed him for months and in particular went with him to New York on a three-day tour. Hemingway viewed it all as a lark.

 

Here’s where my objectivity stops. As I noted in my opening post three years ago, while I try to be objective about Hemingway and his flaws, which were many, I’m on his side. I’m not neutral. Lillian Ross’ article made him look like a self-involved jerk, almost ignorant. He thought she was his friend.

Hem relaxed
Hem relaxed

 

In that article are statements by Hemingway such as “Book is like engine. We have to slack her off gradually.” And then there’s this repeated gem apropos of nothing, “How do you like it now, Gentlemen.” Ross always maintained that it was an affectionate portrait of a wonderful writer, but, in essence, it made fun of him and it made him look ludicrous. If that’s how she saw him, then so be it. The press is free and she can write what she’d like to write, but don’t pretend it was an “affectionate” portrayal.

An older Lillian Ross
An older Lillian Ross

 

At the time, Lillian Ross was 24 years old and it was the opportunity of a lifetime to profile Ernest Hemingway, the biggest writer of the day. Years later, The New York Times wrote that “The effect of her severely unadorned portrait was to create an impression of an unpleasant egotist, a celebrity who, to a pathetic extent, had identified himself with his own public image.”   As one of Hemingway’s biographers, Jeffrey Meyers, wrote later that she’d repaid his generosity with meanness and malice, and established her reputation at his expense.” Quoting Meyers again, he notes that she never recorded or revealed the serious and sensitive side of his character and chose instead to portray him as a boring braggart. So how do you like it now, Gentlemen?

New book
New book

When Lillian published the profile in book form shortly after Hemingway’s death, she still claimed it was a sympathetic portrait of a great, loveable man. Few readers were fooled. She also claimed he was fine with it. True. He read it before publication; felt the dye was cast so said little; and passed on it, but it was not really “fine” with him. He was hurt.

reading
reading

 

If you look at the cover, could Lillian have picked a less attractive, less compelling photo? In a reissue, there’s a nice photo of Hemingway and Lillian on the front, but I believe the original shows a Hemingway looking out of it and bizarre. If I’m wrong on this, someone out there probably knows, so please correct me.lillian_ross_book_01

 

Lillian Ross has written a new book in which Ross has collected selected pieces, including the Hemingway profile along with newer works spanning her sixty year career as a journalist. It is called “Reporting Always: Writings From The New Yorker.” It was published last week by Scribner’s, which, of course, is Hemingway’s publisher.

 

I can’t help being wounded for him. He trusted her and thought they were having some fun together and that she would not portray him as a lout. It’s his fault in part, no question for being too casual and not foreseeing damage for not taking the interview seriously. However, his loyalty was betrayed.ErnestHemingway and cat

 

Take a read and see what you think. Perhaps you’ll see it differently. I’m happy to stand corrected or confronted.

Love,

Christine

anger and betrayal
anger and betrayal

Play in LA about Hem and Scott: UPDATE RE CAST!

Ty Mayberry and Adam J. Harrington in Scott and Hem at the Falcon Theatre (photo by Jill Mamey).

If you are in the Toluca Lake area, this looks good, fun, thought provoking! There is a new cast member playing F. Scott Fitzgerald: now played by Kevin Blake.  Please go to see it if you can!  I have heard good things.

Love, Christine

 

Scott and Hem is a brilliant play about two brilliant literary giants– F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway– being presented at the Falcon Theatre from Oct. 14 to Nov. 15. The show puts the spotlight on F. Scott Fitzgerald (Kevin Blake) and Ernest Hemingway (Ty Mayberry) wrestling with the personal destruction that comes with their sparks of art and the perils of their creativity. It is a combative comedy fueled by Scott and Hem’s friendship and intense rivalry. The two legendary authors reunite in 1937 at Fitzgerald’s home in Hollywood’s fabled Garden of Allah, chaperoned by the saucy Ms. Eve Montaigne (Jackie Seiden). There they explore their mysterious bond and the genius that first brought them together, and ultimately tore them apart. It is written by Mark St. Germain, and Dimitri Toscas is at the helm of the show so perfectly cast. Scott and Hem is presented by Garry Marshall’s Falcon Theatre in Toluca Lake. Go to www.falcontheatre.com. #

Hemingway Exhibit at the Morgan Library/Museum Sept ’15-Jan 31 ’16

on safari in Kenya
on safari in Kenya

#Hemingwayexhibit

Ernest Hemingway was a maker of lists and a collector of his life’s ephemera. For the first time, some of the objects that this American writer gathered during his long career — bullfighting stubs from Pamplona in Spain, boastful fishing logs from expeditions off the Cuban coast, coy letters to a mistress, penciled drafts of stories — will be on display in an exhibition at the Morgan Library & Museum from Sept. 25 through Jan. 31.

Oh, the fun of this. About half of the items in the exhibit are being borrowed from the Kennedy Library (Boston) Collection. Some were private letters so don’t be too hard on him. If letters you wrote to a close friend or lover were made public  .they might not include your most eloquent turns of phrase. If you can manage, this will be a great stroll through Hemingway lore and history.

Always reading
Always reading

Veterans get help from Hemingway Source

Writing Retreat for Military Veterans at Hemingway-Pfeiffer Gets Underway July 24-26

For an intensive weekend, Vets can write and gain access to their creative side at the homestead of Pauline Pfeiffer, Hemingway’s second wife. her Uncle Gus was a generous patron to Hemingway in his earlier years and in fact, Hem dedicated A Farewell to Arms to Gus Pfeiffer.  What a great idea for giving back and enriching the community. Read more.

Pauline when working for Paris Vogue
Pauline when working for Paris Vogue