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Friday, September 25, 2015

A Farewell To Arms (1932)

Set in Italy during WWI, an American (Gary Cooper) serving with the Italian Army as an ambulance driver falls in love with an English nurse (Helen Hayes). But his best friend (Adolphe Menjou) and her best friend (Mary Philips) as well as the war work against the relationship. Based on the novel by Ernest Hemingway, the director Frank Borzage brings a needed fluency to the adaptation to work against the often staid dialog. The film is more maudlin than the novel with its emphasis on romance without Hemingway's sober prose. As a pre-code film however, it can be more direct than the 1957 film version. Hayes loses her virginity to Cooper in a cemetery and she sneaks into his hospital room at night to have sex. Cooper and Hayes don't have much of a chemistry. Cooper's acting is often awkward but he has a strong screen presence while Hayes' acting is more assured but she lacks a movie star's demeanor. Hemingway, no surprise, reputedly disliked the film.

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