Farewell To Arms, A

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Farewell to Arms, A


English   Country: USA   Year: 1932

Farewell to Arms, A


Frank Borzage


Helen Hayes; Gary Cooper; Adolphe Menjou




From the Hemingway novel, a World War I ambulance driver falls in love with a nurse. Won Academy Awards for Best Cinematography and Best Sound, Recording. Nominated for Best Art Direction and Best Picture. Black & White.


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User Reviews


(Average=3.50 out of 5; Total Number=14)

True Love And Tragedy (rating=3)

Based on an Earnest Hemingway best-selling novel, the 1932 film Farewell to Arms, is a touching love story set in war-torn Italy during World War I. Gary Cooper portrays an American ambulance driver in the Italian Army that falls in love with an English Red Cross nurse (Helen Hayes). The trials of war and the jealousy of a friend (Adolphe Menjou) put their love to the ultimate test. Gary Cooper and Helen Hayes deliver great performances and director Frank Borzage creates the feeling of authenticity of the era. The special effects in a film made in 1932 cannot be compared to the technology involved in today's movies, but Frank Borzage worked wonders with the technology available at the time. The ending gave me mixed emotions. The wonderful delivery of Helen Hayes allowed me to forgive the corniness of the final scene. I liked the movie so much I think I will read the novel.

Can Love Survive A War? (rating=4)

This Hemingway tale is set in Italy during WWI. Gary Cooper plays an American working as an ambulance driver in the Italian Army, while Helen Hayes is a British nurse. They meet under strange circumstances, fall in love, and develop an intense relationship. But the war and various complications, most of them supplied by Cooper's Italian surgeon friend Adolphe Menjou, create problems in their relationship. Both leads are quite good, with particular praise going to Helen Hayes as the outspoken nurse. Menjou is also interesting as the friend who doesn't think love can be found in the war. I've read that the photography of the film is beautiful, but the print I've seen (like many of the ones out there of this film) was quite dark, occasionally making it difficult to see the action. But the film is well made, and the ending of the movie is well played and mounted, and will stick in your mind after it is over.

Novel Into Film (rating=4)

Frank Borsage's 1931 film version of Ernest Hemingway's "A Farewell to Arms" can never have the power of the novel's prose, and its not-quite-so-simple romantic idyll. I first saw the film as a twelve-year old in 1931, when it was released; but I've reread the novel many times, and have seen the film twice in recent years. I am a veteran of World War II and a retired professor of literature. So I can now see AFTA through the eyes and sensibilities of a hopefully more seasoned, if not cynical, old man. In '31, I was too young to "get" the implications of war's tragedy (even though my boyhood was saturated with stories and films about "the Great War"--"All Quiet on the Western Front--the novel&the film--What Price Glory--the play&the film--the 1927 Seventh Heaven with Charles Farrell and Janet Gaynor co-starring, too young--in that earlier age of innocence--to know how babies were made). Now I am touched by Frederick Henry's (not-so)"innocent" affair with Nurse Cathrine Barkley, touched by its initial idyllic quality. But in 1931, I had not read AFTA. Hardly! Or if read would I have understood it. But decades later, I can now see the lacunae, the holes&telescopings and elidings of vital scenes in the novel, one being the couple's "alpine idyll" above Montreux, Switzerland, the row across the lake to Switzerland (which Catherine shares, but not in the film), and which may have contributed to the complications of her baby's still-birth and her own death by loss of blood. Finally, that silly Hollywood ending, with Cooper (an otherwise good performance considering the pre-Method time)picking up Catherine from her (death) bed, murmuringm "Peace! Peace!" to the skies beyond the open window,as bells toll the war's end. Too much, what follows and ends the film--those doves fluttering across that sky. I can now see why Hem was so disgusted at the film. Had it ended in the way the novel ends, we would have had a more powerful and dramatic fadeout, with Frerick Henry walking out of the hospital and back to his hotel through the rain, the rain a dominant motif that runs through the film and the novel, his mourning, his loneliness far into the rest of his life (as Hemingway himself was haunted by the real-life "Catherine," Red Cross nurse Agnes Von Kurowsky). For those many non-readers "in our time," the 1931 film, or its successors, would be salutary--if it motivates them to go to the novel...which no film can ever match.


The 1932 version ofA Farewell to Arms owes as much to the shimmering house style of Paramount Pictures as it does the novel by Ernest Hemingway. If Hemingway purists can get past the romanticizing of the book, however, this film offers its own glossy appeal. On the Italian front in World War I, an American ambulance driver (Gary Cooper) falls in love with a nurse (Helen Hayes, before she became the official First Lady of the American The-a-tah). Cooper was a Hemingway friend in real life, and later played the hero of Hemingway'sFor Whom the Bell Tolls; his boyish simplicity is just right for director Frank Borzage's heartfelt approach. Image Entertainment's DVD release is a stunningly gorgeous improvement on the muddy prints of this film that had been circulating for years, a fitting tribute to the Oscar-winning cinematography of ace cameraman Charles Lang (this is the kind of lush black and white that can capture the glow from a cigarette as it plays across Cooper's darkened face--a breathtaking touch). The jaded battle scenes show the influence of the hit film version ofAll Quiet on the Western Front, especially in a gripping montage depicting Cooper's progress alone through the war zone. Hemingway would have none of it, of course; he once disdainfully wrote that "in the first picture version Lt. Henry deserted because he didn't get any mail and then the whole Italian Army went along, it seems, to keep him company." This is first and foremost a love story, however, and as such it succeeds beautifully, right through to the remarkably intense ending.--Robert Horton