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Have you ever wondered why some critics review films? They don't even seem to like movies that much from what they write. I LOVE movies, and think about them long after the last credits roll across the screen. My reviews are meant to inform, entertain and never have a spoiler.
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Saturday, August 19, 2017

A Farewell to Arms

I opened the drawer that has some games and DVDs stored in it, and wondered how we collected all of them. I am acquainted with people who buy DVDs frequently, and on the other side of the spectrum, a friend who only owns three.

We are somewhere in the middle. I noticed a couple we had inherited from my husband’s mother, and some that were gifts. Still others were an impulse buy at the bookstore or wherever DVDs are typically sold.

I decided to watch some I had never seen, review some favorites and then sell them to my local rental store. Decluttering always feels good! And in the age of streaming services, and DVDs on Netflix, I don’t need to own these at all.

The first one I pulled out was a gift from my sister of A Farewell to Arms, a 1932 black and white feature based on the novel by Ernest Hemingway. Frederic (Gary Cooper) is an American ambulance driver in Italy during World War I when he meets Catherine (Helen Hayes), a British nurse, and falls in love. They secretly marry, and due to the nefarious scheming of Rinaldi (Adolphe Menjou), who is also in love with Catherine, the newlyweds are separated.

The screenplay is not that well written, but it is after all fairly early in the history of filmmaking, and writers had a lot to learn. The cinematography however, is brilliant, and I was pleased to discover after I had watched the movie that A Farewell to Arms won an Academy Award for Best Cinematography for Charles Lang. I can see where the award was a good choice. The camera angles, use of shadows, and choice of subjects during certain scenes was inspired. Charles Lang had a long, illustrious career in filmmaking, and I think you’d be surprised if you look up his other feature films. A Farewell to Arms also won an Academy award for Best Sound Recording.

Gary Cooper is very tall, six foot three inches of handsomeness, and with little petite Helen Hayes at just five feet, they make an unusual pair walking along the streets of Italy. Both actors had long filmmaking careers; this is an early one for both of them.

I have not read Hemingway’s highly regarded novel of A Farewell to Arms, but I have read several of his short stories, and his storytelling abilities and writing is impressive. I think that his novel just didn’t translate to the screen very well, and that his story on the page was likely much more detailed and significant than this film.

The ending, for both my husband and I, left us wanting. He said it was “maudlin” and I just found it cloying and unrealistic. But like I said, it was 1932 after all.

If you are a student of film, you may enjoy watching it for the groundbreaking cinematography by Lang. Otherwise I wouldn’t recommend you take 90 minutes out of your cinema viewing time to watch it.


  1. I saw this film years ago since it was nominated for best picture in 1933 and I wasn't that impressed with it. And I have read the novel, it's not that good either, so the screenplay isn't going to be much better. But the acting is really good, Helen Hayes, Gary Cooper, Adolphe Menjou it makes it just worthy enough to watch at least once in your life.

    1. Hi Adam, Nice to hear from you! Sounds like we had similar disappointments with A Farewell to Arms. Hope to see some reviews of yours soon!

    2. Thanks. Been working six to seven days a week, 60+ hours a week for the past few months. The project will be done in early October and a new hire will come on, so yes I will get back to posting soon.

    3. That is a lot of work! October will soon be here, and for me that's Halloween scary movie watching month! Best to you.