Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, September 19, 2016

My Year With Hemingway takes to the Sea with Spencer Tracy

At this point in My Year With Hemingway, things are a little slow going. Ironically, perhaps I should have picked up a shorter collection of his short stories as my edition of the first forty-nine that he published is quite the mixed batch.

So, in order to revive my story spirits, I watched the 1958 film adaptation of The Old Man and the Sea, starring Spencer Tracy in the title role. I not only read the book earlier this year but also read a nonfiction account(The Hemingway Book Club of Kosovo) about the influence of the novel upon folks in a war weary situation who happened to have watched this particular film version. So, this has come full circle for me, you could say.

The first thing that strikes you about the movie are the striking visuals that director John Sturges(who had help from Henry King and Fred Zimmerman, with neither one getting any onscreen credit) was able to capture. The beautiful shots of the sky both at sunrise and sunset are breathtaking to behold and aid greatly in setting the tone of the story right away.

One thing that you also noticed right away is the heavy reliance upon narration. Most of the actual text of the book is read by Spencer Tracy and given that this is a novel with very little interaction with other characters and at times a one man show, it's understandable why that creative choice was made.

 However, there are certain scenes(mainly early on in the film) where the narration really isn't necessary to convey what's going on between the characters:

When it gets to Spencer Tracy on his own, battling the great fish that drags him along for days, the film is at it's strongest. He evokes the serene angst of the character as easily as breathing and you do root for him all the long while.

The best asset that this film has to offer is Tracy's performance, which did earn him an Oscar nomination. The movie did win Best Score for Dmitri Tiomkin, who really wrote some gorgeous ear candy that suited the visuals(which won Best Cinematography) splendidly.

Too bad the same can't be said about some of the special effects,particularly the fake marlin they had to built as Santiago's catch. However, given the limits of both the source material and the technology of the day, the cast and crew did a decent job with what they had:

I did at least get inspired to tackle more of the short stories and like Santiago, will give myself more line to reach the end with them. As an adaptation, I would recommend this take on Hemingway's most iconic work even if it felt like a 3-D audiobook at times:

So, I plan to stick with the short stories until the end of October and hopefully by November, I'll be ready to start the final book in my challenge, For Whom The Bell Tolls.  It should be long enough to last me to New Year's Eve, I think.

Since a good deal of this novel was inspired by Hemingway's time during the Spanish Civil War and his relationship with Martha Gellhorn(the most intriguing of the Hemingway wives,imo), I'm pretty eager to check this one out.

Not sure about seeing any of the movie versions of FWTBT, despite the many Oscar nominations that the 1943 adaptation received. It might be best if I read the book beforehand, in order to absorb the depths of the story without having to picture any Hollywood faces for the characters. Some tales are best told on the page,as with Old Man and the Sea, but we'll see with this one:

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