Cast & Crew
Vittorio De Sica
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.
Vittorio De Sica
Giacomo Rossi Stuart
Antonio La Raina
Luigi Barzini Jr.
Douglas F. Brunger
Milton C. Burrow
J. Walter Daniels
Albert De Rossi
John M. Foley
R. Dudley Holmes
Harold E. Mcghan
James E. Newcom
Lt. Col. Alessandro Paoletti
David O. Selznick
Gerard J. Wilson
Best Supporting Actor
A Farewell to Arms (1957) -
Selznick had closed his own studio, Selznick International Pictures, in the early 1940s, so he struck a deal with 20th Century Fox to finance and distribute A Farewell to Arms. He asked celebrated screenwriter Ben Hecht to join him in creating a script from Hemingway's story of a tragic love affair during World War I, and hired John Huston to direct. From the outset Selznick's friends advised him against the project. Another illustrious producer, Sam Goldwyn, told him, "It's a mistake to remake a great picture because you can never make it better." Ray Klune, a production designer, cautioned about working with the equally volatile and willful Huston because "You'll kill each other. It's the old law of physics about an immovable object and an irresistible force."
But Selznick forged ahead, immersing himself as usual in every detail of production including casting. He borrowed Rock Hudson from Universal Studios to play Lt. Frederick Henry, an American serving with Italian forces who falls in love with British Red Cross nurse Catherine Barkley (Jones). Then at the peak of his career after playing the lead in George Stevens' Giant (1956), Hudson had also been offered in the leads in two other high-profile films of the time, MGM's Ben-Hur (1959) and Sayonara (1957). To appear in Ben-Hur Hudson would have had to sign a three-year extension of his contract with his home studio. After nixing that deal, he chose A Farewell to Arms over Sayonara because, he said, all the elements "smelled right." In addition to Selznick, Huston and Jones, there was an outstanding supporting cast that included Vittorio De Sica, Mercedes McCambridge, Elaine Stritch, Oskar Homolka and Kurt Kasznar. After A Farewell to Arms failed to achieve the critical and financial success of the other two films, Hudson called this choice of role "the biggest mistake of my career."
The film was shot on location in Italian locations including Rome, Venzone, Lazio and the Italian Alps. Selznick arrived in Rome to take charge of the film in early 1957 and, in characteristic style, began firing off voluminous memos to everyone involved. Hudson recalled that even his prominent Adam's apple was a source of concern for Selznick, who gave him detailed instructions for minimizing it with makeup. The cameraman received a 20-page memo about photographing Jones to best advantage. One memo sent by telegram from Northern Italy was so lengthy that it cost Selznick $750.
As predicted, Selznick began clashing with Huston on a variety of matters, some as trivial as the style of Hudson's haircut, others as major as the degree of fidelity to Hemingway's original story. (Huston considered that Selznick was taking too many liberties in putting the film's focus on Jones.) In mid-March Selznick fired off a memo to Huston -- one of hundreds -- demanding that the director defer to his producer on all major decisions regarding the film's content and style. This particular one sent Huston over the edge, and he resigned, leading Selznick to issue a widely quoted remark: "I asked for a first violinist and got a soloist." Ben Hecht put it another way: "It was the case of two Caesars and one Alp."
Charles Vidor, a director accustomed to domineering producers after years at Columbia under studio head Harry Cohn, was hired to replace Huston. Even Vidor found Selznick's demands overwhelming, complaining that what he really wanted was not a first violinist but "a piccolo player." As filming wore on through the hot Italian summer and into the fall, tempers grew increasingly frayed. During the shooting of a sequence on Lake Maggiore where the two lovers are in a rowboat attempting to elude a German patrol boat, production manager Arthur Fellows dared to question Selznick's unreasonable demands. Selznick slapped him hard across the face, and Fellows returned the blow, breaking Selznick's glasses, cutting his face and making his eyes bleed. Jones tried to join the fray, and the three had to be subdued by crew members. Needless to say, Fellows departed the production immediately.
A Farewell to Arms opened in New York in December 1957 to mostly negative reviews that described it as "old-fashioned" and "overproduced." In his review in The New York Times, Bosley Crowther wrote that the film "lacks that all-important awareness of the inescapable presence and pressure of war. That key support to the structure of the theme has been largely removed by Ben Hecht's script and by a clear elimination of subtle overtones." Crowther went on to note that both Jones and Hudson seemed miscast. Viewed today, the film seems, if nothing else, a handsome and imposing example of old-style moviemaking, with the two stars generating a measure of sympathy for their characters. De Sica, Oscar-nominated as Best Supporting Actor, shines as Major Rinaldi, Hudson's charming Italian friend who has a breakdown after experiencing the horrors of war.
Hemingway himself offered the opinion that "the 41-year-old Mrs. Selznick" looked too mature for his 24-year-old heroine. (Jones was actually 38 at the time of filming.) Although Hemingway had long ago signed away the rights to his novel, Selznick made the gesture of offering him $50,000 from the film's anticipated profits. In response, Hemingway, who had never liked Selznick, commented that it would be "a miracle" if the movie made any money, then offered an obscene suggestion as to what Selznick could do with the proposed payment after converting it into nickels. As it turned out, Selznick did not recover his costs, and Fox made only a small profit. The film, which had cost well over $4 million to make, earned an estimated $5 million in North American rentals upon its original release, with worldwide rentals of $6.9 million. It would be the last film personally produced by Selznick.
By Roger Fristoe
Source: Selznick by Bob Thomas, Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1970
A Farewell to Arms (1957) -
Mercedes McCambridge (1916-2004)
She was born Charlotte Mercedes McCambridge on March 16, 1916, in Joliet, Illinois. After graduation from Mundelein College in Chicago, she acted in local radio, doing everything from children's programs to soap operas. By the early '40s, she relocated to New York, where her powerful voice kept her busy as one of the top radio actresses of her day, including a stint with Orson Wells' radio dramas.
In the late '40s she appeared successfully in several Broadway productions, and this led a call from Hollywood. In her film debut, she was cast as Broderick Crawford's scheming mistress in All the King's Men (1949) and won an Oscar® for her fine performance.
Despite her strong start, McCambridge's film roles would be very sporadic over the years. Her strengths were her husky voice, square build, and forthright personae, not exactly qualities for an ingenue. Instead, McCambridge took interesting parts in some quirky movies: playing a self-righteous church leader opposite Joan Crawford in one of the cinema's great cult Westerns, Nicholas Ray's kinky Johnny Guitar (1954); a key role as Rock Hudson's sister in George Stevens' epic Giant (1956, a second Oscar® nomination), and as a gang leader in Orson Wells' magnificent noir thriller Touch of Evil (1958).
By the '60s, McCambridge's career was hampered by bouts of alcoholism, and apart for her voice work as the demon in William Friedkin's The Exorcist(1973, where the director cruelly omitted her from the credits before the Screen Actors Guild intervened and demanded that she receive proper recognition), the parts she found toward the end of her career were hardly highpoints. Some fairly forgettable films: Thieves (1977), The Concorde - Airport '79 (1979) and guest roles in some routine television shows such as Charlie's Angels and Cagney & Lacey were all she could find before quietly retiring from the screen.
It should be noted that McCambridge finished her career on a high note, when in the early '90s, Neil Simon asked her to play the role of the grandmother in Lost in Yonkers on Broadway. Her return to the New York stage proved to be a great success, and McCambridge would perform the play for a phenomenal 560 performances. They were no surviving family members at the time of her death.
by Michael T. Toole
Mercedes McCambridge (1916-2004)
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-October 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 Hollywood Reporter 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-March 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 March 25, 1957 Hollywood Reporter 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 March 21, 1957, Selznick forced Huston to resign. None of Huston's footage was in the released film. According to the March 25, 1957 Hollywood Reporter 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 New York Times 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 January 1960 Hollywood Reporter 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.
Vvoted One of the Year's Ten Best Films by the 1957 National Board of Review.
Released in United States Winter December 1957
James Wong Howe was used for four days shooting after both Oswald Morris and Piero Portalypi left the production.
Released in United States Winter December 1957