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A Farewell to Arms

A Farewell to Arms(1932)

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The novel A Farewell to Arms was serialized in Scribner's Magazine (May-Oct, 1929). Laurence Stallings' Broadway play was directed by Rouben Mamoulian, who, according to an October 1930 Film Daily news item, was first slated to direct the film version. In its initial theatrical release some prints of the film contained an alternate ending, objected to by Ernest Hemingway, in which Catherine survived the operation. According to the Variety review, the Italian ambassador to the U.S. objected to the film. Paramount story files in the AMPAS Library reveal that the novel was purchased from Hemingway on September 17, 1930 for $80,000, and that the negative cost of the film was $799,519.89. Letters and memos in the MPAA/PCA files at the AMPAS Library reveal that M-G-M and Warner Bros. considered making a film based on the novel as early as 1929, however, M-G-M executives decided that it would be too costly. Filming on the Paramount production began in July 1932. MPPDA officials had several consultations with Harold Hurley, a Paramount executive, to discuss the major difficulties of bringing the story to the screen, in particular the handling of the Italian aspect of the war, and Catherine's childbirth scene. Memos indicate that Paramount consulted with the Italian Embassy in Washington, D.C., and with prominent banker Dr. A. H. Giannini, in order to make changes to any objectionable elements.
       By December 1932, the MPPDA office still found certain scenes in violation of the Production Code, in particular the seduction scene in the early part of the film, and Catherine's childbirth. As offered by the MPPDA office, Hurley elected to have the film viewed by a committee of producers for a judgment, as Paramount was reluctant to make further changes. On 7 Dec, a producers committee that included Joseph Schenk, Carl Laemmle, Jr., Sol Wurtzel and Emanuel Cohen in addition to Hurley, plus officials of the MPPDA office, including Colonel Jason S. Joy and Joseph I. Breen, viewed the film and concluded in a telegram that "because of the greatness of [the] picture and the excellence of direction and treatment that the childbirth sequence was not in violation of [the] Code." In a 10 December letter to Paramount's Adolph Zukor, Will H. Hays, president of the MPPDA, maintained his objection to the childbirth scene, as it was in direct violation of the Production Code, greatness notwithstanding. Hays requested that Paramount "eliminate the footage showing phases of the actual childbirth," otherwise another appeal would have to be made to the board. In a 14 December letter to Hays, Zukor informed him that several changes in the scene in question were made, including references to labor pains and gas, Catherine groaning and hemorrhaging. Although the MPPDA then approved the film, it was rejected by censors in British Columbia and Australia, where the novel was also banned.
       A Film Daily news item noted that Richard Wallace was initially scheduled to direct Gary Cooper and Eleanor Boardman in the starring roles; this would have been Boardman's debut as a Paramount contract player. June 1932 Hollywood Reporter news items note that John Cromwell was also slated to direct, but left Paramount at that time. According to news items in Film Daily, 1500 acres were set aside at the Paramount Ranch, CA, for production. Scenes shot for this film were included in the 1931 Paramount promotional film The House That Shadows Built (see below). A Farewell to Arms was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Picture and Interior Decoration (Hans Dreier and Roland Anderson). Charles Bryant Lang, Jr. won an Academy Award for Cinematography, and Harold C. Lewis won for Sound Recording. Modern sources credit Ralph Rainger, John Leipold, Bernhard Kaun, Paul Marquardt, Herman Hand and W. Franke Harling with the Musical Score; Edward A. Blatt as Associate Producer and include the following cast members: Agostino Borgato as "Giulio"; Paul Porcasi as "Inn Keeper" and Alice Adair as "Cafe Girl." Other films based on the same source are Twentieth Century-Fox's 1957 A Farewell to Arms, directed by Charles Vidor and starring Rock Hudson and Jennifer Jones and a 1955 CBS television adaptation by Gore Vidal, directed by Allen Reisner and starring Guy Madison and Dianna Lynn.