A Farewell to Arms (1957)

151-152 or 159 mins | Drama | December 1957

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HISTORY

The film's title card reads "David O. Selznick presents his production of Ernest Hemingway's romantic tragedy of World War I, A Farewell to Arms ." Opening credits conclude with the following written foreword: "We tell a story out of one of the wildest theatres of World War I--the snow-capped Alpine peaks and muddy plains of northern Italy. Here between 1915 and 1918 the Italians stood against the Germans and Austrian invaders. No people ever fought more valiantly, no nation ever rose more gallantly out of defeat to victory. But our story is not of war alone. It is a tale also of love between an American boy and an English girl who bade their tragic farewell to arms while the cannon roared." The onscreen credits for Veniero Colasanti and John Moore read "costumes and set decoration."
       Hemingway's novel was serialized in Scribners Magazine (May--Oct 1929). According to news items and memos written by Selznick, as reprinted in a modern source, in 1956, he purchased the rights to the novel from Warner Bros., which acquired them from Paramount in 1946. Warners refused to sell the rights to Selznick until he offered to trade the foreign rights and negative to his 1937 film A Star Is Born (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ). Once Selznick acquired the rights, he negotiated first with M-G-M and RKO, but finally struck a deal with Twentieth Century-Fox to finance and distribute the film, according to HR news items printed in May and June of 1956. Under this agreement, Selznick was subject to severe financial penalties if the ... More Less

The film's title card reads "David O. Selznick presents his production of Ernest Hemingway's romantic tragedy of World War I, A Farewell to Arms ." Opening credits conclude with the following written foreword: "We tell a story out of one of the wildest theatres of World War I--the snow-capped Alpine peaks and muddy plains of northern Italy. Here between 1915 and 1918 the Italians stood against the Germans and Austrian invaders. No people ever fought more valiantly, no nation ever rose more gallantly out of defeat to victory. But our story is not of war alone. It is a tale also of love between an American boy and an English girl who bade their tragic farewell to arms while the cannon roared." The onscreen credits for Veniero Colasanti and John Moore read "costumes and set decoration."
       Hemingway's novel was serialized in Scribners Magazine (May--Oct 1929). According to news items and memos written by Selznick, as reprinted in a modern source, in 1956, he purchased the rights to the novel from Warner Bros., which acquired them from Paramount in 1946. Warners refused to sell the rights to Selznick until he offered to trade the foreign rights and negative to his 1937 film A Star Is Born (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ). Once Selznick acquired the rights, he negotiated first with M-G-M and RKO, but finally struck a deal with Twentieth Century-Fox to finance and distribute the film, according to HR news items printed in May and June of 1956. Under this agreement, Selznick was subject to severe financial penalties if the production went over budget. Selznick then hired John Huston, who was also considered by Warners, to direct, warning that he must work under a tight schedule.
       Rehearsals began in mid-Mar 1957, and, according to a memo, after watching the first two days, Selznick became worried about Huston's slow progress, cautioning the director that he would never be able to stay within budget. Selznick was also angered when Huston proposed changing the script just four days before the start of production. Huston wanted to emphasize the military aspects of the story and thus be more faithful to the novel, while Selznick was more interested in the love story and, according to a 25 Mar 1957 HR news item, tried to foist a more commercial script on Huston, secretly written by three Italians, that built up the part played by Selznick's wife, Jennifer Jones. On 21 Mar 1957, Selznick forced Huston to resign. None of Huston's footage was in the released film. According to the 25 Mar 1957 HR news item, Selznick considered William Wellman , Billy Wilder, Carol Reed, Vittorio De Sica and Pietro Germi to direct before finally hiring Charles Vidor. Selznick borrowed Rock Hudson from Universal for the production.
       In the novel, "Henry" and "Catherine's" love affair does not begin until Henry is sent to the hospital in Milan. According to a memo, Selznick decided to move the affair to the lovers' first meeting to heighten the passion between them. Unlike the film, the character of "Rinaldi" is not executed in the novel, and Catherine's baby is stillborn in the novel. The novel also contained many more love scenes than the film. The NYT review commented that the film [unlike the novel] "lacks all important awareness of the inescapable presence and pressure of war...you scarcely know a war is going on."
       The PCA also played a role in modifying the tone of Hemingway's novel. According to materials contained in the films' MPAA/PCA file at the AMPAS Library, the PCA insisted that many of the illicit love scenes contained in the novel be eliminated and argued that the film must present a definite voice for morality. To this end, the speech in which "Ferguson" condemns war-time romances was added. The PCA also insisted that Henry express his regret that he and Catherine were never married.
       Interiors were filmed at the Cinecittà Studios in Rome, and locations were shot at Misirune, Udine, Milan, Pallanza, Stresa and Lake Maggiore in Italy, according to publicity materials contained in the film's production file at the AMPAS Library. Modern sources add that James Wong Howe completed shooting the last interiors at the Fox Studios in Los Angeles. Vittorio De Sica was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance. A Farewell to Arms was the last production for Selznick, who died in 1965. In 1960, Fox acquired his interest in the picture for $1,000,000, according to a Jan 1960 HR news item. In 1932, Paramount produced the first adaptation of Hemingway's novel, directed by Frank Borzage and starring Helen Hayes and Gary Cooper (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ). In 1955, CBS broadcast a televised version, adapted by Gore Vidal and directed by Allen Reisner, starring Guy Madison and Dianna Lynn. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
21 Dec 1957.
---
Box Office
28 Dec 1957.
---
Daily Variety
19 Dec 57
p. 3.
Film Daily
19 Dec 57
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jul 1948.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 May 56
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jun 56
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Dec 56
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Jan 57
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jan 57
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Mar 57
p. 17.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Mar 57
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Apr 57
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Aug 57
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Aug 57
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Sep 57
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Dec 57
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Dec 57
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jan 1960.
---
Los Angeles Times
12 Apr 1946.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
4 Jan 58
p. 666.
New York Times
25 Jan 58
p. 14.
New York Times
2 Feb 1958
Section II, p. 1.
Variety
25 Dec 57
p. 6.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
2d unit supv
WRITER
Scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
Master grip
Asst cam
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Supv film ed
Film ed
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Key prop man
COSTUMES
Cost
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff supv
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Hair styles
PRODUCTION MISC
Scenario asst
Acknowledgments
Acknowledgments
Acknowledgments
Tech adv
Unit prod mgr
Casting dir
Exec prod assoc
Exec prod assoc
Exec prod assoc
Exec prod assoc
Scr supv
Prod asst
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway (New York, 1929) and the play of the same name by Laurence Stallings (New York, 22 Sep 1930).
DETAILS
Release Date:
December 1957
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles premiere: 18 December 1957
Production Date:
late March--late August 1957 at Cinecittà Studios, Rome
Copyright Claimant:
Selznick Co., Inc.
Copyright Date:
19 December 1957
Copyright Number:
LP10865
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex Recording System
Color
De Luxe
Widescreen/ratio
CinemaScope
Duration(in mins):
151-152 or 159
Countries:
Italy, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
18795
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

During World War I, Lt. Frederic Henry, an American Red Cross ambulance driver assigned to an Italian unit at the battlefront, returns from his leave in Milan to regale his womanizing doctor friend, Maj. Alessandro Rinaldi, with stories of his conquests. Rinaldi retorts that the English have opened a new hospital staffed with beautiful nurses, among them the enigmatic Catherine Barkley. Henry meets the morose Catherine and becomes intrigued when she confides her regrets about not marrying her fiancé before he died in battle. Just before his battalion is to launch an offensive, Henry visits Catherine, who slaps him when he caresses her. When it starts to storm, Catherine, terrified of the rain, begins to sob and after Henry comforts her, they fall into a passionate embrace. After a night of lovemaking, Henry pledges his love but Catherine remains noncommittal. As the troops file out of town, Henry scours the crowd for Catherine, who, experiencing a change of heart, threads her way through the throngs to meet him. After they embrace, Catherine begs Henry to return to her. The ambulances follow the troops on their long trek through the snow-covered mountains, preparing to whisk the injured back to the hospital. When the shelling starts, two ambulances are destroyed and Henry is badly wounded in the knee. His friends hurriedly load him into the remaining ambulance and speed down the mountain to the hospital. Henry is to be sent to the new American hospital in Milan, and so Rinaldi arranges for Catherine to be transferred there, too. The hospital's first patient, Henry is attended to by the stern head nurse, Miss ... +


During World War I, Lt. Frederic Henry, an American Red Cross ambulance driver assigned to an Italian unit at the battlefront, returns from his leave in Milan to regale his womanizing doctor friend, Maj. Alessandro Rinaldi, with stories of his conquests. Rinaldi retorts that the English have opened a new hospital staffed with beautiful nurses, among them the enigmatic Catherine Barkley. Henry meets the morose Catherine and becomes intrigued when she confides her regrets about not marrying her fiancé before he died in battle. Just before his battalion is to launch an offensive, Henry visits Catherine, who slaps him when he caresses her. When it starts to storm, Catherine, terrified of the rain, begins to sob and after Henry comforts her, they fall into a passionate embrace. After a night of lovemaking, Henry pledges his love but Catherine remains noncommittal. As the troops file out of town, Henry scours the crowd for Catherine, who, experiencing a change of heart, threads her way through the throngs to meet him. After they embrace, Catherine begs Henry to return to her. The ambulances follow the troops on their long trek through the snow-covered mountains, preparing to whisk the injured back to the hospital. When the shelling starts, two ambulances are destroyed and Henry is badly wounded in the knee. His friends hurriedly load him into the remaining ambulance and speed down the mountain to the hospital. Henry is to be sent to the new American hospital in Milan, and so Rinaldi arranges for Catherine to be transferred there, too. The hospital's first patient, Henry is attended to by the stern head nurse, Miss Van Campen, and the more sympathetic Helen Ferguson. On the day that Catherine finally arrives, Henry reassures her of his love and proposes. Aware that as a military wife, she will be sent away from the front, Catherine rejects his proposal and asserts that she does not need marriage. Although Ferguson is cynical about wartime romances, she helps conceal Henry and Catherine's affair from Van Campen. When Catherine informs Henry that she is pregnant, he insists on marriage, but she refuses once again and instead they pledge their vows to each other. Soon after, Van Campen discovers Catherine in Henry's hospital bed and indignantly notifies headquarters, assuring that Henry will be sent back to active duty that night. After one final fling in a hotel room, they tearfully bid farewell. Back at the front, Henry finds Rinaldi a broken man, the victim of trying to piece together too many mangled soldiers. The ambulances are dispatched to Capretto, but as they approach the city, they find the area in ruins, its houses bombed, its people fleeing in panic and the Italian army in hasty retreat from the savage Germans. With the Germans in pursuit, the doctors and ambulances are ordered to leave the hospital patients behind and accompany the retreating troops. Henry begs his friend Father Galli to join them, but the priest elects to face certain death and remain behind with the patients. The fleeing masses find the roads littered with the dead bodies of soldiers, women and small babies. When the ambulance loses an axle and breaks down, Rinaldi starts to rant about surrender and is arrested as a German spy sent to undermine morale. After Rinaldi is found guilty and sentenced to die, Henry pleads in vain for his friend's life as Rinaldi is hauled in front of the firing squad. When the court then challenges his identity, Henry deserts, plunging into the river. Taking the clothes from a corpse he finds floating in the water, Henry hops a train back to Milan. Upon finding Catherine, Henry declares that he is through with war and has made a separate peace. Deciding to run away to Switzerland, they brave the crossing in a small rowboat. After being battered by a storm and nearly being detected by a patrol boat, they reach the border and meet Lt. Zimmerman, a Swiss police officer, who sends them to his mother's hotel in the mountains. Six weeks later, Catherine, visibly pregnant, refuses to wed Henry for fear of creating a scandal in the village. With the coming of spring, Catherine goes into labor. After a protracted, painful labor, Dr. Emerich advises performing a caesarian, and soon after, delivers a baby boy. Over dinner that night, Emerich gently informs Henry that his son has died, and Henry declares that his son's death is punishment for his own war crimes. Back at the hospital, Henry learns that Catherine has begun to hemorrhage, and prays for her life. As he clasps her hand, Catherine dies and Henry promises that she will be with him forever. He then leaves the hospital, absorbed in his memories of Catherine. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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