A Farewell to Arms (1932) Poster

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  • While stationed at the Italian front during World War I, American ambulance driver Lt Frederic Henry (Gary Cooper) meets, falls in love, and makes love to English Nurse Catherine Barkley (Helen Hayes) all in one night. As their respective duties take them to different places, they meet again when Frederic is taken to a hospital in Milan after he is wounded during an artillery barrage. Against army regulations, they pursue their relationship for several months, even having it sanctioned by a priest (Jack La Rue) (who marries them in the eyes of God, if not military law) until Frederic is sent back to the front, but the couple agrees to write to each other. However, Frederic's friend and doctor, Major Rinaldi (Adolphe Menjou), who wishes to prevent Frederic from 'losing his head over a woman', intercepts their correspondence and has the letters returned to the senders. Frustrated at his inability to maintain contact with Catherine, Frederic deserts the Army and goes in search of her...only to find that she has moved to Brissago, Switzerland to bear his child.

  • The movie is based on the 1929 semi-autographic novel A Farewell to Arms by American author Ernest Hemingway [1899-1961]. The novel was adapted for the film by American screenwriters Benjamin Glazer and Oliver H.P. Garrett. A remake, also titled A Farewell to Arms (1957), was released in 1957.

  • At the very beginning of the film, a written prologue reads: Disaster as well as victory is written for every nation on the record of the World War, but high on the rolls of glory two names are inscribed -- the Marne and the Piave. The Marne is a river that flows through northeastern France, eventually merging with the Seine near Paris. The Marne is infamous as the site of two battles during World War I, the first in 1914 and the second in 1918. The first battle was a turning point in the war with Germany. A map showing the Marne from its origin in the Langres Plateau to its confluence with the Seine can be viewed here: here. The Piave is a river in northern Italy, beginning in the Alps between Italy and Austria-Hungary and eventually flowing into the Adriatic Sea near the city of Venice. The Piave is infamous as the site of Austria-Hungary's last major attack on the Italian Front. The attack failed and is credited with being the decisive battle of WWI on the Italian Front.

  • Rowing a boat the last several miles, Frederic arrives just as Catherine is being wheeled into surgery. He waits and prays that Catherine won't die. Later, after Catherine has combed her hair and put on makeup, the doctors allow Frederico to visit. Knowing that she's about to die, Catherine shares her wishes for the future with Frederico. Realizing that she is actually dying, Catherine suddenly clings to him. They pledge that in their lives and their deaths they will never be parted, and Catherine dies in Frederico's arms. In the final scene, church bells ring as the newspaper announces Armistice Day. Frederico carries Catherine's body to the window to hear the bells. 'Peace,' he says, and dozens of doves are released into the sky.

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