On the 28th of next month, HBO will air Hemingway & Gellhorn, a feature-length drama based on the titular writers’ five-year marriage. Directed by well-known adapter of literature and history Philip Kaufman — he of The Right Stuff, Henry & June, and Quills — the film roots itself in the period of 1936 to 1945, beginning with the couple’s first encounter in Florida and following them into the Spanish Civil War, which provided both of them with vivid material indeed. Americans and Europeans — and no doubt much of the rest of the reading world — need no introduction to Ernest Hemingway, author of such oft-assigned novels as The Old Man and the Sea, The Sun Also Rises, and For Whom the Bell Tolls. As the quintessential high-living, savagely artistic, and academically respected figure movies love, he’s undergone a great many cinematic resurrections this last decade and a half: Albert Finney played him in Hemingway, The Hunter of Death; Vincent Walsh played him in Hemingway: That Summer in Paris; Corey Stoll played him most visibly in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris; and Anthony Hopkins will play him in next year’s Hemingway and Fuentes. Movie-star buffs must have all kinds of expectations for “Papa” as embodied in the ever-rising Clive Owen, but something tells me they’ll have even more to say about Nicole Kidman’s turn as Martha Gellhorn.
If you can’t immediately place the name of Martha Gellhorn in the life of Ernest Hemingway, it’s perhaps because she, herself, helped ensure that. After she divorced him in 1945, Gellhorn specifically requested that her interviewers never so much as bring up Hemingway’s name. Though it counts as no failure to fall under Hemingway’s shadow in the public literary imagination — most writers do, after all — Gellhorn carved out her own sizable place in the history of foreign correspondence, reporting on war not only from Spain but from England, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Finland, Singapore, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Burma, Central America, and the Middle East. Hemingway & Gellhorn, whose trailer you can watch above, seems likely to fill in plenty of biographical details that many of Hemingway’s readers, and even many of Gellhorn’s, don’t know. But you can’t yet watch it on the internet, or on DVD — or in any form at all, for that matter — until after May 28th. Then, presumably, you can see exactly how Martha Gellhorn inspired For Whom the Bell Tolls.