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Hemingway and the Demimonde ofHollywood FrankM. Laurence. Hemingway and the Movies. Jackson:University Press of Mississippi, 1981. 329+ xix pp. GeneD. Phillips.Hemingway and Film. NewYork: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1980. 192+ xv pp. PeterOhlin Onewould have thought that with a subject like Hemingway and the movies it should be impossible to go wrong. On the one hand we have an author who is clearly one of the giants of American prose fiction in the first half ofthe century-an author, furthermore, who made himself deliberately into apublic figure and public performer. On the other is a medium that is defined by its glamorous images and the opulence and sensuality of its stars. The combination seems unbeatable. Well, it isn't. Gene Phillips' Hemingway and Film is a disgrace, born out of the professional need of film and English teachers to get themselves into print, and the complementary greed of publishers hoping to foist all kinds of materials on innocent film courses across the continent. (In fact, the complicity of academics and publishing houses in creating and then vulgarizing and destroying a new field-like film studies-is worth more extensive commentary than I have room for here. But Phillips' book is a prime example.) The book opens with a dedication to Henry King which seems appropriate and generous: as a director (The Gunfighter, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, The Sun Also Rises) King is surely much underrated. But from the dedication onward, it is all downhill. Chapter titles like "Death in the Afternoon of Life''or "Nightmares at Noonday" or "Across the Selznick and into the Zanuck" are typical (though the last one admittedly comes from Hemingway himself) and enough to make anyone skeptical of its intentions. Those intentions Canadian Review of American Studies, Volume 15,Number 1,Spring 1984,85-91 86 Peter Ohlin become blatantly obvious at the end of the book which contains information on film rental sources, a filmography and a very selective bibliography, allof which testify to its ambition to be useful in a classroom context. The main problem is the text itself. Phillips undertakes to describe some basic differences between films and literature, and then to explain how the Hemingway adaptations came about and what they are like. But there isno real justification for any of his remarks: no theory of literature, no theory of film, no theory of communications to account for the differences between them. What he does is to reproduce cliches. For example: "To say that a faithful rendition of a work of fiction on the screen should preserve the spirit and overall thrust of the original story is not to imply that the personal style of the film director is not important to the artistic success of a film" (p. 15). What is meant here by "faithful"? by "spirit and overall thrust"? by "personal style" or "artistic success''? The point is that these concepts never receive a definition or discussion in the text. How could they, since a few lines later Phillips continues: "Asfilm scholar Bernard Dick has written on the relationship of fiction and film, the directors who bring the work of a great writer to the screen are really doing with images what the original ~uthor did with words: 'they shape them into art.'" As criticism this is witless; as information it is worthless. Here is part of the discussion ofFor Whom the Bell Tollsas novel: "Because Anselmo had become a surrogate father for Robert, his death is a tremendous loss for Robert. Physically short in stature, Anselmo is a spiritual giant and as such constitutes the moral norm of the novel. Before his tragic death he teaches Robert a great deal about the meaning of dedication to duty and of human comradeship" (p. 40). And so on. This is the kind of summary that belongs in TV Guide. It is instructive and awesome to realize that in order to write this kind of material the author was supported by academic leave and a summer research grant from his university. One turns with a sense ofrelief to Frank M. Laurence's Hemingway and the Movies. This originated as a Ph.D. dissertation in English at Pennsylvania in 1970...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 85-91
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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