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LEONARD J. LEFF The Sun Almost Rises: Hemingway and the Hollywood Marketplace of Depression America DARRYL F. ZANUCK courted controversy. As head of Twentieth Century-Fox he produced Forever Amber (1947), Pinky (1949), Island in the Sun (1957), and, finally, in late 1957, the "sexy story" of The Sun Also Rises. Reviewers generally hailed the performances and production values of The Sun Also Rises, then turned captious. Lady Ashley and "her Tom-cat following" were too "silly" and the other characters too "frivolous" for general audience appeal, Hazel Flynn wrote in the Beverly Hills Citizen, her opinion borne out by her history of the property. The 1926 Hemingway novel had never before been produced, she noted, "because movie audiences were considered not yet ready for its heroine, Lady Brett Ashley, who had so many love affairs she was practically a nymphomaniac. Nor did studios and code administrators feel we would accept a hero who had lost his virility as a result of war wounds or the subsequent 'spiritual' mating of these two."1 The fears of studios or censors had caused Hollywood to abandon or weaken hundreds of novels, screenplays, and pictures, so what happened to The Sun Also Rises was not unique. It was nonetheless instructive . In the dawn of sound pictures, movie producers were attracted by the colorful setting and characters of the book but daunted by its scant action and somber final chapters. An original work from an original writer, The Sun Also Rises needed an independent producer—or director or performer acting as independent producer—as its advocate and metteur en scène. But in the late 1920s and early 1930s, when the evoluArizona Quarterly Volume 51, Number 4, Winter 1995 Copyright © 1995 by Arizona Board of Regents ISSN 0004-1610 46Leonard J. Leff tion of Hollywood censorship and the consolidation of the studio system worked against tales of lost virility, independents were fast losing ground. For Hemingway the frustration was acute. "As for movie rights [to The Sun Also Rises] please get the best you can i.e. the most money," Hemingway had told Scribner's in December 1926. But money was secondary to the popular audience he had been wooing for almost a quarter century. In 1902 he loved "to be invited to sing for company," Grace Hemingway wrote in her son's baby book, and he performedJohn Brown's Body with "great unction, in his deep voice." He appeared as Sheridan in a high school production ofBeau Brummell, the comedy about a man who fashioned himself into a celebrity; several years later, portraying the character he called Hemingstein, he penned sketches and tales à la Ring Latdnet and O. Henry for Saturday Evening Post and Red Book. He was taught in Patis that audience was secondary to craft but continued to hunger for the glory the movies could confer, the glory he would latet achieve—and publicly scorn—when, in 1932, Paramount released A Farewell to Arms. The case histories of novels adapted for the screen often suggest that Hollywood consecrates authors even as it undervalues their work. The case histories of novels that go unptoduced, however, may prove a more tenable point, especially when the analysis centers on novels unproduced in the 1920s and 1930s, when authors and publishers confronted not only the Hollywood penchant for literature as canned goods but the moral and fiscal crisis that troubled America and the movies in the wake of the Great Depression.2 Charles Scribner stood for "whatever is most courteous, honorable and fruitful of good in American endeavor," declared Princeton University in 1925, when it confetred an honorary Doctor of Letters on the septuagenarian publisher. One year later, back in New York, the board of Charles Scribner's Sons was considering the less than honorable manuscript of The Sun Also Rises. Max Perkins persuaded the "ultraconservative " house not only to publish the novel but to use a dust jacket that would extend its reach beyond the coterie audience that Hemingway then enjoyed. The key art showed a Hellenic figure seated under a desiccated bush, her head bowed, her thigh exposed, one hand draped over her knee, another holding an apple. Rathet like a de Mille...


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