Is there another Certified Big Time Author who’s had worse luck with movies than Ernest Hemingway?
At the bookstore I have DVDs catalogued in various ways, including some categorized by author. There were plenty of good movies to work with from John Steinbeck’s oeuvre: Of Mice and Men has two solid adaptations; Elia Kazan’s East of Eden as well as the not-too-shabby TV adaptation with Jane Seymour as Catherine; John Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath (begging to be remade); David Ward’s nice-try take on Cannery Row (actually Sweet Thursday with a few incidents from its much better predecessor); as well as movies like The Pearl, The Red Pony, The Wayward Bus, Tortilla Flat, and an obscure made for TV version of “The Harness” best remembered by trivia buffs who need to answer: “What’s the worst thing Lorne Greene acted in besides Battlestar Galactica?”
Or how about Graham Greene? Our Man in Havana, The Comedians, The Third Man, The Fallen Idol, The Human Factor, two excellent takes on The Quiet American, and The End of the Affair. (I’m still waiting for Criterion to bring Brighton Rock out of mothballs.) Somerset Maugham’s had a pretty good run, too.
But Hemingway? Aside from the Spencer Tracy version of The Old Man and the Sea, I can’t think of a single Hemingway-based film I’d want to have in the store, much less watch again. I’m predisposed to like anything with Ava Gardner, but The Snows of Kilimanjaro put me to sleep. Islands in the Stream is up there with A Moveable Feast among the best posthumous books, but the film version with George C. Scott is a snoozer. That strong-silently-suffering grace under pressure business has a way of turning mawkish once it leaves the page and the inimitable Hemingway prose style. Can anybody give me a few decent Hemingway movies?