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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Literature > WWI > Melodrama > The Ernest Hemingway Film Collection (Under My Skin/Snows Of Kilimanjaro/Sun Also Rises/Farewell To Arms/Adventures Of A Young Man/20th Century Fox)

The Ernest Hemingway Film Collection (20th Century Fox)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C+ (C- on Arms)     Films: B- (B on Sun)



Adapting novels to film is tough, with many examples of “creative” changes made for a multitude of reasons.  In the case of Ernest Hemingway, reflecting his personal thoughts and ideas represents additional challenges, 20th Century Fox dug in and took on the man and his work at least five times, as The Ernest Hemingway Film Collection demonstrates.  This new set offers the following films:


Under My Skin (1950) is nicely helmed by director Jean Negulesco and stars John Garfield as a banned jockey, who has left the U.S. to pull the same dirty tricks in Europe.  Not necessarily a Film Noir, it does have a gangster (Luther Adams) he crossed who is so mad, he is tracking him overseas and does have a woman in his life who complicates things, but she is not a typical Femme Fatale in the least.  Garfield even tries some redemption moves, but the Noir elements do not always cohere with the Hemingway aesthetic, which is often more melodramatic and opposes the “dark fate” of Noir with his own ideas of individual determinism.  Fascinating and works more than not.  Extras include a fine feature length audio commentary with Anthony Slide, stills, trailer, restoration comparison and fine featurette Racing With Fate: John Garfield Under My Skin.


The Snows Of Kilimanjaro (1952) has been floating around in some lame copies for a long time on DVD (including one we got), but Fox has the original elements and have done a decent restoration job in this love triangle epic with Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner and Susan Hayward in the 1920s as Peck’s character reflects on his life as he lies dying in the title location.  One of director Henry King’s most noteworthy films for the studio, it was a huge critical and commercial success.  Seeing it in this better copy, one can finally see why when movie starts were stars.  Extras include a very welcome feature length audio commentary by Patricia King Hanson & Frank Thompson, stills, trailer, restoration comparison, A Conversation With Henry King, A Conversation With screenplay writer Casey Robinson and fine featurette The Snows Of Zanuck: The Making Of Kilimanjaro.


The Sun Also Rises (1957) brings Henry King back to Hemingway material as well as Ava Gardner) and of all the films here, this is the most remarkable.  Back to 1920s Paris, Tyrone Power is impressive as U.S. veteran Jake Barnes, whose war injury has damaged him sexually.  Loved by Lady Brett Ashley (Gardner) who cannot love him back, she become the love object and obsession of an alcoholic (Errol Flynn), a writer (Eddie Albert) and another lover (Mel Ferrer) all of whom threaten to destroy each other more.  Even a young Robert Evans in his brief acting is very good as a bullfighter in this Grade A studio gem that was very bold in all the mature themes and situations it implies and with a classiness that is worthy of the book.  Fox and Zanuck were serious about this and backed it 100%.  Wish we saw this kind of production more often.  Extras include another fine feature length audio commentary by Patricia King Hanson & Frank Thompson, stills, trailer, restoration comparison, A Conversation With Henry King and two fine featurettes: Hemingway On Film and The Old Men & The Bulls: The Making Of The Sun Also Rises.


A Farewell To Arms (1957) is a much more melodramatic film with soldier Rock Hudson falling for nun Jennifer Jones.  Though Ben Hecht wrote this and Charles Vidor directed, I was surprised how sappy and melodramatic this was, down to Vittorio De Sica as a major and good supporting performances by Oskar Homolka and Mercedes McCambridge.  Maybe Laurence Stallings original play was soapy, but this film did not have to be this unintentionally funny.  It was still a hit and in some ways is a camp classic.  At least the studio went all out for it.  Extras are few here and include a trailer and three Fox Movietone News segments.


Adventures Of A Young Man (1967) is the late entry of the five and because it came out during great social change, may not get the credit it deserves.  Richard Beymer is Nick Adams, a character Hemingway wrote often about and is assumed somewhat based on himself (and not the B-movie actor of the same name) alive back in 1916!  He gets involved with all kinds of people and eventually in WWI.  Episodic as you would expect, it is directed by the great Martin Ritt (already established as great with Hud) and reunites him with Paul Newman.  The rest of the supporting cast includes Diane Baker, Arthur Kennedy, Ricardo Montalban, Susan Strasberg, Jessica Tandy, Eli Wallach, Simon Oakland and an uncredited Sharon Tate.  Extras include the third very thorough a fine feature length audio commentary by Patricia King Hanson & Frank Thompson, stills, trailer, restoration comparison and three featurettes: Remembering Ernest: A.E. Hotchner’s Adventures With Hemingway, Papa’s Last Days and A.E. Hotchner & Paul Newman: A Legacy Of Charity.



A solid set of films overall as one would hope for Hemingway, fans and the interested will not be disappointed.  Joseph LaShelle shot Skin, as 1.33 X 1 film and the only black and white in the set.  It looks good for its age and has some moments of detail and depth from the restoration.  Charles G. Clarke and Leon Shamroy co-shot the 1.33 X 1 Snows, which is the only film in the set released in three-strip dye-transfer Technicolor.  This transfer does not always show that vibrancy, but is a big improvement over other transfers out there.  The remaining films are here in anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 transfer, shot in original CinemaScope and printed in color by DeLuxe, the lab Fox invented so they did not need Technicolor.


Leo Tover lensed Sun, Piero Portalupi, Oswald Morris & an uncredited James Wong Howe lensed Arms and Lee Garmes lensed Young Man.  All are a bit soft and the color is improved, yet not as vibrant as DeLuxe could always be.  All benefit from being upgraded, but it may take Blu-ray to really show off the benefits of the work done here.


Most of the films are in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, though Skin and Snows were originally monophonic and Dolby 2.0 Mono is also included.  Sun has the best audio with Dolby 4.0 with no 2.0 Stereo option, Arms has Dolby 2.0 with Pro Logic surrounds and Young Man has Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo that sounds more authentic than the early films.  Daniel Amfitheatrof’s score for Skin is interesting just for being different than a typical drama score, if not spectacularly so. Snows has an even more interesting score by Bernard Herrmann.  Sun features a score by the underrated Hugo Friedhofer.  Arms comes with a score by the interesting Mario Nascimbene and Young Man has Franz Waxman doing one of his later scores to good effect.


But lists can only begin to show what you get.  Whether you have read the books, will read them or never read them, the films are interesting and ironically show the rise and fall of the Classical Hollywood Studio System, as well as who literature is variously treated.  If you have never sent these films, you should.  They are musts for anyone who claims to know anything about films.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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