My weekly movie reviews. You can also read these on letterboxd.

This week focuses on three screen adaptations of Ernest Hemingway’s work. As I prepare to make my own, HEMINGWAY’S THE KILLERS, I am studying some other adaptations of the famous author’s short stories and novels.



Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

I was curious to see how Martin Ritt strung some of the Nick Adams stories together since I recently attempted the same thing in a screenplay I wrote. The results of Ritt’s movie are mixed and for the most part, the experiment of pulling together several Hemingway stories into a feature narrative didn’t work.

Beginning with INDIAN CAMP and some of the tales of Nick’s early life, ADVENTURES starts strong. Arthur Kennedy is quite good as Nick’s father, probably the best performance in the whole picture. THE END OF SOMETHING, one of the best Nick stories, is weirdly short-changed and not given as much dramatic weight as it could have. The American scenery in this section of the film is also stunning.

It’s when Nick gets on the road that things fall apart. THE BATTLER is ruined by a showy Paul Newman performance. Sure, the actor gives it a good go but it’s the kind of ego-driven Hollywood star choice that ends up distracting from the story. A character actor should have taken the role and Newman, too old at that point, should have played Nick. Somehow, leading man Richard Beymer never quite connects. Perhaps that is no fault of his own as Ritt’s pictures meanders along through American episodes to European ones focused on the war. That section of the film, having read Hemingway’s brief, startling depictions of Nick’s war experience, are not nearly as powerful as they could have been.

The conclusion of Nick’s story is effective, the final scenes with Jessica Tandy poignant. It’s not a bad picture but it doesn’t work. It’s hard to say if the concept of pulling together Nick Adams stories into a feature film can work. Maybe I’l find out.

Watched on Amazon



Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Stars

An uneven Hemingway adaptation, THE SNOWS OF KILIMANJARO has its moments but doesn’t come together.

Using flashbacks the way I have in my KILLERS adaptation, the film bounces around through Harry’s life, explaining his current depressive state. The past sequences are stronger than the ones in the present, especially when Ava Gardner is featured. It’s interesting that she was cast in at least three Hemingway movies (am I missing any?), the go-to lady for films based on his works. Here, she lights up the screen and makes all the other women uninteresting to watch. Perhaps that works for Harry’s obsession but it hurts the film as the other two actresses don’t have the screen presence.

Besides the scenes with Gardner, SNOWS falls flat and surprisingly so does Gregory Peck who gives one of his worst performances. Peck is downright embarrassing in some moments as he shouts like a fool during the safari scenes. It’s anti-Hemingway in its delivery and realism. The results here are surprising when Peck and Henry King did such great work together on THE GUNFIGHTER.

Watched on Criterion Channel



Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

A near perfect movie, THE BREAKING POINT is definitely one of the best Hemingway adaptations. However, there’s an argument to be made whether it really should be counted against the other screen versions of his short stories and novels since it doesn’t have much to do with the original source. Then again, TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT has even less connection to its source (the same novel actually).

This film noir owes more to director Michael Curtiz and John Garfield than it does the famous author. Curtiz was such a true master. His blocking of humans in scenes is impeccable. The worlds he created, from the cantinas and docks here to the crowded streets and bars of CASABLANCA and the woods or banquet halls of ROBIN HOOD, cannot be contended with by any other director then or now. His craft is also seamless, unpretentious, and seductive. He makes the filmmakers of today look like silly showmen. Garfield is terrific here, capturing that blue collar ethic and the slow descent of a man trying to always do what is best but somehow making the wrong choice over and over again. Isn’t that the essence of Noir?

P.S. I made a reference to THE BREAKING POINT in my script for HEMINGWAY’S THE KILLERS. We’ll see how many viewers catch it when the film is made and released.

Watched on Criterion Channel.