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:
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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.

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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
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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. #

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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
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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
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What’s Percolating in the Hemingway World?

Mariel
Mariel

I subscribe to a number of RSS feeds and google alerts that keep me posted on all things Hemingway. So here are a few random developments.

1) Mariel Hemingway is producing a movie of Hemingway’s last book, A Moveable Feast, finished after his death and published initially in 1964. (Hemingway died in 1961).

2) Andy Garcia is wrapping up his movie about Hemingway and his boat captain, Gregorio Fuentes.

3) Coming out in the Fall is a possible Oscar contender called GENIUS, about

Max perkins
Max perkins

Hemingway’s editor Maxwell Perkins (played by Colin Firth) and Tom Wolfe (played by Michael Fassbinder).  Dominic West plays Hemingway.  All Brits playing Americans.cadillacinhavana

4) The Cuban government is working on how much access to permit to the Finca Vigia. Right now, the public can peer through windows but cannot go in.

5)Thomasville is having a Hemingway Outdoor furniture collection.

6) A man named Robert Wheeler spent a winter four years ago in Paris, retracing Hemingway’s time there in the early 1920s. He took a camera. And now he’s publishing a book, due out April 7. I can’t wait to se2014-06-16 07.07.40e it.

Furniture from the Thomasville Hemingway collection
Furniture from the Thomasville Hemingway collection

7) Before announcing the winner of the 2015 PEN/Hemingway Award for debut fiction, Beacon Press director Helene Atwan, administrator of the prize, made note of a major gift from the Hemingway family. The cash prize attached to the award was doubled this year to $20,000. Patrick, Hemingway’s remaining son, was on hand to assist in distributing the awards which took place at the JFK Library, home of he Hemingway Collection.

Patrick Hemingway 2013
Patrick Hemingway 2013, JFK LIBE
Paris 1927
Paris 1927
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Hemingway and Cuba Opens Up

The old man and the seaIt appears that for the first time in decades, Cuba will be open to Americans and others around the world.  In reviewing some of the recommended sights to see in Cuba for those eager to take a look, the Finca Vigia is always prominently listed.  For those who followed earlier posts, you may recall that when Hemingway and his wife, Mary, were visiting in the U.S., they were abruptly advised by the FBI that they would not be allowed to return.

John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
Drinking and working with cat
Drinking and working with cat

After Hemingway’s death, Mary was permitted by arrangement through the auspices of President Kennedy to return to the farm to pack up some critical items.  When she and Hemingway left, the phonograph still had the last record they played on it.  She took many papers, but furnishings remained.  Hemingway was devastated to leave his staff high and dry as he was close to most of them and he was devastated to lose his Cuban house.  He knew that something bad was coming as he saw the protests against America and did feel that probably his tenure there was not going to be very long.  However, the suddenness with no preparation was breathtaking.

 

Hemingway was on J. Edgar Hoover’s watch list for years because of his residence in Cuba.  Despite some claims to the contrary, Hemingway was far from close to Fidel Castro.  They met a few times.  I’ve read that they were “fishing” pals but everything else I’ve read does not suggest that that’s the case.  If anyone reading this knows more than I do on this point, feel free to correct me or throw some light on that point.

 

Hem writing standing in the Finca Vigia
Hem writing standing in the Finca Vigia
I love Cuba
I love Cuba

            The Cubans adore Hemingway.  They always have.  Hemingway’s house was in a small run-down town outside Havana, but he frequented Havana often.  He and Martha Gelhorn and later his fourth wife, Mary, renovated the house and made it lovely and comfortable.  It fell into disrepair after Hemingway left and only recently, through the auspices of Maxwell Perkins’ granddaughter, Jenny, have serious efforts been made to bring it back to its former loveliness.  It’s twelve acres on a Cuban hillside, with many rooms opening to patios or with large windows to let in the warm, humid air that he enjoyed.  I just read an article by Reed Johnson published in World News of The Wall Street Journal.  Mr. Reed noted “perhaps no work of art is more emblematic of the countries’ (U.S. and Cuba) tangled artistic affinities than Ernest Hemingway’s Pulitizer Prize winning 1952 novel “The Old Man in the Sea.”  In Hemingway’s taut masterpiece, Santiago, an aging Cuban fisherman and a New York Yankees fan, engages in an epic battle with a giant marlin, with his spiritual idol, Joe DiMaggio, as his invisible first mate.  Hemingway’s portrait of the valiant Cuban is affectionate, respectful and intimately knowledgeable, qualities often lacking in U.S.-Cuban politics, but abundant in U.S.-Cuban art.”

 

All in all, I hope my own future holds a trip to Cuba and Finca Vigia.

 

Last several years
Hem and Castro
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Hem’s 16 Essential Books for Reading

The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof, shit detector.
Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway was notoriously generous to young writers and fans seeking his input.  A.E. Hotchner who became a good confidante and friend met  Hem in the Spring of 1948 when he was dispatched to Cuba on assignment by Cosmopolitan magazine to get an article on Hem about The Future of Literature.  The magazine was putting out an issue about “the future” of everything: architecture, cars, art, etc. You get the idea.  So why not have the lion of literature give an interview on the future of literature.

Hotchner sent a note to Hem saying that he’d been sent down on “this ridiculous mission but did not want to disturb him, and if he could simply send me a few words of refusal it would be enormously helpful to the The Future of Hotchner.” A.E. Hotchner, Papa Hemingway. Page 4.

 Instead, Hem rang him the next day.

“This Hotchner?” he asked

“Yes.”

“Dr. Hemingway here. Got your note. Can’t let you abort your mission or you’ll lose face with the Hearst organization, which is about like getting bounced from a leper colony.  You want to have a drink around five? There’s a bar called La Florida. Just tell the taxi.”  A.E. Hotchner, Papa Hemingway, page 4.

. And thus began a beautiful friendship.

Hem, Mary, and AE Hotchner
Hem, Mary, and AE Hotchner
I recently read an article that detailed how  one Arnold Samuelson hitchhiked 2,000 miles, from Minnesota to Florida in 1934 to meet Hemingway. Samuelson was trying to make a go of it as a writer and was so impressed by the short stories that he traveled to get advice from his idol.
Samuelson wrote, “It seemed a damn fool thing to do, but a twenty-two-year-old tramp during the Great Depression didn’t have to have much reason for what he did.”

A Farewell to Arms
A Farewell to Arms
 Ultimately, Samuelson found Hemingway who provided him with insights, and soon hired him on as his assistant.  Hem gave him a list of 16 books essential to any complete education.  The list is interesting to consider.

Drum roll:  the list is:

1. “The Blue Hotel” by Stephen Crane
2. “The Open Boat” by Stephen Crane
3. “Madame Bovary” by Gustave Flaubert
4.”Dubliners” by James Joyce
5. The Red and the Black” by Stendhal
6.  “Of Human Bondage” by Somerset Maugham
7. “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy
8. “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy
9. “Buddenbrooks” by Thomas Mann
10. “Hail and Farewell” by George Moore
11.”The Brothers Karamazov” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
12. “The Oxford Book of English Verse”
13.  “The Enormous Room” by E.E. Cummings
14.  “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte
15.  “Far Away and Long Ago” by W.H. Hudson
164.  “The American” by Henry James
So what would make your list?  A few of the above escape me but most have stood the test of time.

The Old Man and The Sea
The Old Man and The Sea
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