PART III (1957 Movie Review)
This is the last post in this small series I am doing on Ernest Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms.” The book was great, the movies were okay.
The 1957 remake was in some ways better, and in some ways worse than the 1932 movie. It is in color, had a large budget, and the sound is much better preserved than in the 1932 movie. These are some of the good points.
On the flip side, Rock Hudson and Jennifer Jones were mismatched for the parts they were cast in. This is especially true of Jennifer Jones, who was too old for the part (being 37 at the time), and not even British. She seems to have totally forgotten to fake a British accent in much of the movie, and when she does, it comes off as inauthentic.
At the time, Jennifer Jones was the wife of the movie’s producer David O. Selznick; but who am I to suggest that had anything to do with the casting decision?
The movie has great visual backdrops, as it was shot on location in Italy and the Alps. The cast included literally thousands of extras. Before computer generated imagery made special effects relatively easy, it was required to actually have that many people if you wanted to show what an army on the move looks like.
For this, and its relatively faithful following of the book’s story, I give praise to the movie makers. This movie, like the 1932 version, was also subject to the censorship of the Motion Picture Production Code. This was industry self-regulation that affected most movies made from 1930-1968.
Interestingly, as I have been reading this book, and watching the movies, I heard a conservative talk show host on the radio reading the MPPC verbatim on his nationally syndicated program. He was suggesting that it would be better for America if Hollywood made at least a minimal attempt to provide movies and music that were more wholesome. (This is a sentiment I agree with, even while I disagree with the idea of censorship.)
As a child of the 1980′s, the thing I knew Rock Hudson for was allegedly engaging in homosexual behavior, and being the first big name celebrity to die of AIDS. It was interesting to watch this movie, seeing him in a production shot during his prime movie making days.
Also, in researching this review, I found out he was a friend of both Ronald and Nancy Reagan. While Hudson was seeking medical care in France, the Reagans placed phone calls on his behalf urging the French government to ensure he received the best possible care while overseas.
In addition to two movies made from the book, a TV mini-series was made in 1966 by the BBC and shown in the UK. I streamed the 1932 movie on Netflix, and the 1957 movie on Amazon. Unfortunately, neither service currently offers the 1966 TV mini-series.
While the 1957 movie did not receive very positive reviews (Ernest Hemingway publicly stated he disliked the movie), I will say this for Selznick: he fought hard to secure rights to make movies based on good literature.
Selznick is more highly regarded for his movie “Gone With the Wind.” It is a pity this movie did not turn out as nicely. It was the last one produced by Selznick.
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