Hemingway’s big novels have all been made into movies, some several times. He
claims to have hated to go to see his books as cinema. Aside from enjoying the paycheck that came with the adaptations, (he was paid $ 80,000 for A Farewell to Arms in 1932, which was an enormous sum in those day and $ 150,000 for the rights to The Old Man and the Sea in 1958) he was disturbed to see the ending of A Farewell to Arms altered in the first movie version. Death is apparently unacceptable and well, a downer, we know, but that was the true ending. David O. Selznick did better in the 1955 version but Hem was still not thrilled. The entire production of The Old Man and the Sea was a frightening tug of war among all involved.
“Hollywood only made the kind of pictures that people wanted to see and the public had bad taste”, Hem opined.
Still, over fifteen of his short stories and novels were adapted for movies, and Hemingway became a Hollywood star leading to a major gripe he had with Hollywood: that it had no respect for his need for privacy and he became a product available for marketing or, put less benignly, image exploitation. He did not like that one bit.
A few of the novels/short stories that were made into film were:
A Farewell to Arms (1932): Gary Cooper, Helen Hayes ( The ending was changed so that Catherine lived. More recent adaptation called InLove and War with Sandra Bullock and Chris O’Donnell.
For Whom the Bell Tolls(1943): Gary Cooper, Ingrid Bergman
To Have and Have Not (1944): Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall
The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952): Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Susan Hayward. Ending changed so that Gregory Peck lives.
The Sun Also Rises (1957): Ava Gardner, Tyrone Power, Errol Flynn.
The Old Man and the Sea(1958): Spencer Tracy. Anthony Quinn and Tracy had lobbied hard for the role and Tracy won out. Hemingway thought he was too portly for the role of the gaunt Santiago. This movie was two years in development and another two years in production. It was beset with troubles upon troubles despite being a one character story. Hemingway’s contempt for Hollywood was well known but he reacted badly to the first screenplay by Paul Osborn which eliminated all flashbacks and narration and added whole new scenes. Hemingway insisted that Osborn be replaced by Peter Viertel, who had adapted the Sun Also Rises to the screen. Hemingway was named technical advisor. The movie ultimately garnered respect and Academy Award nominations but not before Spencer Tracy almost walked off the set, started drinking during the filming, and tore up a bar with Hemingway.
Ultimately, Hemingway was cynical about Hollywood and his literature. He once said “that the best way for a writer to deal with Hollywood was to meet the producers at the California state line, throw them your book, they throw you the money. Then you jump into your car and drive like hell back the way you came.” Oliver. A Hemingway Retrospective.
All was not a loss however. He met Marlene Dietrich, Ava Gardner, Gary Cooper, Howard Hawkes, and Ingrid Bergman, who all became close friends, especially Gary Cooper.
Next post, I’m going to suggest who could play these roles in modern versions. I have ideas and am interested in yours!