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The film's title card reads: "Darryl F. Zanuck's Production of Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises." The picture begins with the image of a sunrise over Paris. An offscreen narrator then recites a quotation from Ecclesiastes, "One generation passes away and another generation comes, but the earth abides forever...the sun also rises and the sun goes down and hastens to the place he arose." The picture ends in the same manner, except the narration concludes after the words "The sun also rises." After the opening credits are completed, the image changes to modern Paris and the narrator continues, "This is the Paris of today. Our story deals with another Paris, the Paris of 1922, shortly after what used to be called the Great War. We were part of that spectacular lost generation of young people who continued to live as though they were to die...we lived across the river on the Left Bank in the Bohemian world of poets, painters and writers."
The filming of Hemingway's novel had a long gestation period. In April 1934, actress Ann Harding purchased the rights to the novel, intending to star as "Lady Brett Ashley," according to materials contained in the MPAA/PCA file on the film at the AMPAS Library. Leslie Howard was to play "Jake." In December 1944, Constance Bennett considered buying the rights from Harding, and planned to star in and produce the project for United Artists release, according to a September 1944 Hollywood Reporter news item. According to a March 1949 Los Angeles Times news item, Howard Hawks purchased the rights from Harding in 1949. At that time, Montgomery Clift and Margaret Sheridan were to star in Hawks's production for Twentieth Century-Fox. In 1952, Hawks left Fox to pursue a career as an independent producer-director, and took the property with him, which he intended to produce in Europe starring Dewey Martin, according to a December 1952 Daily Variety news item. By 1955, Hawks agreed to sell his interest in the novel back to Fox, but still planned to direct the film, according to an October 1955 Daily Variety news item.
Correspondence between the would-be producers and the PCA during these years reveals why the project was so difficult to bring to fruition: In Hemingway's novel, Jake's war injuries resulted in his impotence and Lady Brett was depicted as a nymphomaniac. The PCA deemed the issues of impotence and nyphomania as "not proper for screen presentation," and thought the novel to be "salacious," its characters "promiscuous and immoral." After Fox bought the rights in 1955, a new approach to the topic was suggested that finally won approval from the PCA. In a memo, Twentieth Century-Fox production chief Darryl F. Zanuck proposed dropping all explicit references to Jake's impotence, thus divorcing it from a specific physical reason and instead putting it in the abstract realm of a "war injury." Zanuck's other tactic was to portray Lady Brett's problem not as nymphomania, but rather excessive drinking. Although the project finally won approval from the PCA because of these changes, in the final film, in Jake's dream sequence, which flashes back to his time at the hospital, Jake is explicitly told by the "Doctor" (Henry Daniell), that he is impotent.
In October 1956, a Hollywood Reporter news item announced that Henry King was to direct and Walter Reisch was to produce the film. Although a screenplay written by Reisch is contained in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, Reisch's contribution to the released film has not been determined. The legal records also add that Ben Wright was originally to play the doctor and Jos ngel Espinosa was to appear as "Zizi."
The city of Morelia, Mexico doubled for Pamplona, Spain, according to a May 1957 New York Times article. Charles Clarke shot the annual running of the bulls in Pamplona. According to a May 1957 Hollywood Reporter news item, location filming also took place in Paris and Biarritz, France. Zanuck directed some of the French sequences while Henry King was filming in Mexico. Studio publicity items contained in the film's production file at the AMPAS Library add that some interiors were shot at the Estudios Churubusco in Mexico City, Mexico. Modern sources note that Jorge Stahl, Jr. worked as director of photography, Manuel Topete was sound recordist, Roberto Silva served as art director and Luis Snchez Tello served as production manager.
Actor and future producer Robert Evans, who portrayed "Pedro Romero" in the film, entitled his autobiography The Kid Stays in the Picture because, according to Evans, during production of The Sun Also Rises, when King and others felt that Evans was not up to the role and should be replaced, Zanuck sent a telegram to King stating "The kid stays in the picture." Zanuck, King and Ava Gardner had previously worked together on the 1953 film The Snows of Kilimanjaro. The Sun Also Rises marked the American screen debut of Juliette Greco. In 1984, NBC TV produced a miniseries based on Hemingway's work, starring Jane Seymour and Hart Bochner and directed by James Goldstone.