Excellent Account of Life of Hemingway, Well Made and Engrossing
The director Bernhard Sinkel made this excellent mini-series about Hemingway as long ago as 1988, and in 2003 it was finally made available on DVD, but it deserves to be much more widely known. Stacy Keach delivers a magnificent tour de force performance as Hemingway, and carries the entire series with power and conviction, satisfactorily making the transition from a virile young man to an old man suffering from no less than five brain concussions. (The makeup is superb, or this would not have worked.) It is amazing how much money was spent on this series, as extensive location shooting took place everywhere that was important in Hemingway's life. The series concentrates on Hemingway's troubled emotional life, with vivid and searing portraits of his relationships with his four successive wives. Hadley is well portrayed by Josephine Chaplin, with sweetness and devotion, and a helpless resignation to being left by him. It is a pity that Josephine ceased acting many years ago. The most riveting portrayal of a wife is by Marisa Berenson, as the predatory Pauline Pfeiffer. Although, from what Morley Callaghan tells us, Pauline was colder, less sympathetic, and more relentless than Berenson's version, this performance is so powerful and gripping that it is one of the highlights of the series. Lisa Banes is splendid as Martha Gelhorn, the independent and ruthless third wife who dumped her trophy husband when it suited her. Finally, Pamela Reed as the devoted fourth wife Mary Welsh brings just the right delicate touch to her role. There is a very powerful brief supporting performance by Ana Torent as Adriana, a girl Hemingway falls for in Venice. This series has endeavoured conscientiously to be as faithful as it could to the truth of events, which is a tall order! The first part in Paris and Spain goes out of its way to be fair to Harold Loeb (well played by Jerry di Giacomo), having clearly drawn on his memoir giving the truth about 'The Sun Also Rises'. Kitty Canell is well played by Consuelo de Haviland, and Pat Guthrie by Richard de Burnchurch (exactly as one would have imagined him). Fiona Fullerton does moderately well as Lady Duff Twysden (whose name is mispronounced however), though no actress could be expected in a mere cameo to capture the real Duff sufficiently. Dudley Sutton and James Villiers provide particularly good support as minor characters. The only person in the story whom I knew personally was Ezra Pound, and he is portrayed completely wrong by Geoffrey Carey, which was very bad casting, and anyway he was only on film for less than a minute, so no care was taken over it. Sylvia Beach's Bookshop in Paris is lovingly recreated, which was quite a feat. Tremendous effort went into this eminently successful series, which cannot be recommended highly enough for its quality and accuracy. I was very sad at seeing the scenes in the Mayo Clinic near the end, realizing that I was one of the last people Hemingway ever wrote a letter to (from there), and appreciating only now just how much that brief letter to a schoolboy must have cost him in effort, and just how deeply it represented all that was good, brave, and noble about that deeply troubled man tormented all his life by his demons, but retaining his core of honesty and generosity of spirit.
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