If you haven’t had enough of Papa Hemingway this year, you’re in luck. HBO’s Hemingway and Gellhorn aired last night –Memorial Day — at 8 p.m. CST. While Hemingway’s literary reputation has slipped into decline, his life is a source of endless fascination for the American public. Indeed, the literati like to say that his greatest creation was himself. He is chiefly remembered for his swaggering, self-important masculine manner and his spare, economic prose. Martha Gellhorn is considered to be one of the greatest war correspondents of the 20th century, covering 60 years of conflict throughout her life.
The HBO biopic chronicles the relationship of these two career-focused individuals set against the backdrop of political upheaval and war. Hemingway and Gellhorn met in 1936 in Key West when he was still married to his third wife, Pauline Pfeiffer (with whom he’d been having affair during his marriage to Hadley Richardson). They would cover the Spanish Civil War together. When Hemingway and Paulina divorced in 1940, he and Martha would marry three weeks later. She would later be the only woman to ever ask Hemingway for a divorce.
The title roles will be played by Golden Globe-winner Clive Owen (Closer) and Academy Award-winner Nicole Kidman (The Hours). Philip Kaufman (The Unbearable Lightness of Being) is the director, Walter Murch (The English Patient, Apocalypse Now) the film’s editor.
This film is the latest in an all-things-Hemingway resurgence of interest. Earlier this year, Woody Allen would accept the Academy Award for best original screenplay for writing Midnight in Paris, a romantic comedy that centers on the expat literary scene in a 1920s Paris. Last year, Paula McLain wrote The Paris Wife, a fictional account based on the life of Hadley Richardson, first wife of Hemingway. The book was based, in part, on the recorded conversations between Richardson and her biographer. This summer, The University of Arkansas press will be releasing a Pauline Pfeiffer biography entitled Unbelievable Happiness and Final Sorrow: The Hemingway-Pfeiffer Marriage, by Ruth A. Hawkins.
Hemingway and Martha both committed suicide: he in 1961 (by gunshot) , and she in 1989 (of a drug overdose) after a long struggle with cancer.