Ernest Hemingway. You’ve likely heard of him. Martha Gellhorn? Likely not, unless you tuned into HBO’s 2012 movie about the late macho writer and his third wife. I haven’t paid for premium channels since I began writing seriously three years ago, so I was unaware of this little gem. Rylie and I happened to be browsing the DVDs in our public library when she came across it and said, “Hey Mom, this one looks like one you’d want to watch.” She was right.
The movie starts out in Key West. Martha Gellhorn meets Hemingway at the famous Sloppy Joe’s bar and sparks fly between the two, despite the fact he’s married with children. Papa follows the intriguing war correspondent overseas to the Spanish Civil War and their romance explodes full-force.
They eventually return to the states, his wife learns of his infidelity and refuses him a divorce. Hemingway dedicates For Whom the Bell Tolls to his Marty and leaves for Cuba with her. He ultimately wins his divorce and promptly asks Gellhorn (living with him) to become his third wife. She agrees. Always the roving reporter, she begs him to accompany her to China.
Hem reluctantly agrees. The film alludes to her interest in other men during their travels. Upon their return to Cuba, she is bored with the domestic life and he drinks more heavily, lazing the days away on a boat with his friends. They fight. He hits her, tells her he has taken her Colliers job as war correspondent, and basically destroys the love she felt for him in one fell swoop.
Marty refuses to sit by while Hemingway gets the first-hand account of the war, managing to gain access to a Navy ship floating hospital disguised as a nurse. Hemingway meets another woman (who later becomes his fourth and final wife) and Gellhorn divorces him. Fast-forward to the final events of his life and a glimpse at Gellhorn’s subsequent attitude toward her days as Mrs. Hemingway.
Hemingway to Gellhorn on writing well…
“The whole trick is learning how people talk. Most people don’t listen.”
Hemingway to Gellhorn on war…
“There are a lot of bargains to be had in time of war if you don’t mind wearing the clothes of the dead.”
Gellhorn’s reflecting about her marriage to Hemingway…
“When there wasn’t a war going on, we managed to create our own.”
“I don’t want to be a footnote in someone else’s life.”
Fiery on-screen chemistry between Nicole Kidman as Martha “Marty” Gellhorn and Clive Owen as Ernest Hemingway. Their first love scene is one I won’t soon forget and a reason I’d watch the movie again.
Objective presentation of both figures, allowing the viewer to make her own conclusions about them.
Quick pacing throughout the first three-quarters of the film.
If I were the movie producer:
I would have delved a bit deeper into some of the secondary characters’ connections to Hemingway and Gellhorn’s relationship.
I would have included more details about Hemingway’s writing habits.
I would have ended the film in Cuba while Hem and Marty were still madly in love. Yes, we can guess (if we didn’t already know) that this couple didn’t get their happily-ever-after. The final quarter of the movie was sad and slow for me as it showed the inevitable unraveling of Hemingway and Gellhorn’s relationship and even worse, Papa’s difficult, final years.
For the curious:
Article and photo from the Hemingway-Gellhorn Wedding
Jerome Tuccille wrote the book, Hemingway and Gellhorn (2011).
Martha Gellhorn wrote a memoir, Travels with Myself and Another, that details many of the events touched upon in the movie. The “another” of course, refers to Hemingway.
Boston Globe Review of HBO’s Hemingway and Gellhorn (I read this article after writing mine. I think it’s interesting how the two leads are so similar.)
Has any movie caught your attention recently?