Tough Battlefield For A Farewell To Arms --- Part Two
There were those who still dreamed of A Farewell To Arms. They'd gather at the Academy to screen "Old Oscar Winners" in July 1948 where sixteen-year-old Farewell said Hello again. Maybe this was what got producer Jerry Wald excited, because within weeks he was touting long-retired Greta Garbo's "keen interest" in top-lining A (new) Farewell To Arms. Just For Variety columnist Florabel Muir cattily tabbed GG as a bit beyond the stage of young and bubbling love as exemplified in the Hemingway novel that served Helen Hayes, Gary Cooper, Frank Borgaze, and
|So Whose Kooky Idea Was It To Pair A Farewell To Arms with The Hatchet Man|
For a 1949 Reissue?
A late reminder of A Farewell To Arms came when Gary Cooper faced radio mikes in January 1951 to reprise his Lt. Frederic Henry role, with Tallulah Bankhead essaying the Helen Hayes part. These dramatic highlights were but part of 1/28's The Big Show broadcast, Bankhead's ambitious, and star-laden, weekly visit to home listeners. Coop had maybe been yup-and-nop'ing it too long: Variety's review found the actor stiff, and his monosyllabic style didn't suit (although GC redeemed himself later in the program with a comedy take-off on slow spoken cowboys).
Warners meanwhile looked to sort-of reprise A Farewell To Arms, their variant to be called Force Of Arms, its story an "original" by Richard Tregaskis, but borrowing elements from the Hemingway novel. As WB still owned that, they'd have no worry re poach claims. Plans started out modest in any event, Richard Todd and Ruth Roman to star. The project got upgraded when hot off Sunset Boulevard William Holden came aboard, along with his
Half-part romance with the rest spent on battlefields, Force Of Arms trades well on newly conflicted William Holden, never again the "Smiling Jim" character he so deplored. The suddenly seasoned actor brought cynicism to warring that was at odds with formula-derived GI's surrounding him. We'd not had attitude like Bill's in flag-waving gone before. He represented a 50's-era reappraisal of war, that to culminate five years later with The Bridge On The River Kwai. An equal of his asset to Force Of Arms was directing Michael Curtiz, past a career prime, but so were Warner movies in general. He still works wonder with movement and foregrounds; no composition lacks interest. Curtiz presents the vivid whole of a soldier packed Italian gin-mill with a same authority that enhanced Casablanca Rick's. Force Of Arms would have its own reissue in the wake of William Holden's 1953 Academy win (for Stalag 17), a title change to A Girl For Joe adding confusion as Force Of Arms went out again in 1954 on a combo with another retitled Warner oldie, Guy With A Grin, released originally in 1940 as No Time For Comedy. Did entering customers imagine they would see new features with William Holden and James Stewart? Force Of Arms turns up on TCM and is also accessible from Warner's Archive. A Farewell To Arms is available from Kino in a lovely Blu-Ray.