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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

I Hope They Don’t Fuck This One Up

posted by on July 1 at 14:15 PM


Out in Hollywood, they’re about to start work on a Martha Gellhorn biopic. Gillian Anderson (of the incredibly dumb-sounding X-Files: I Want To Believe movie coming out this summer) will produce and star.

If you don’t know who Martha Gellhorn is, you should be ashamed of yourself. She’s probably best known as one of Hemingway’s ex-wives, but she was an amazing journalist and travel essayist. She lived a crazy life, traveling everywhere and meeting seemingly everyone.

There’s one problem on the horizon for this movie already. They licensed the rights to Gellhorn: A Twentieth-Century Life, a recent biography of Gellhorn by Caroline Moorehead. It’s actually nowhere near as good a book as Gellhorn’s memoir Travels With Myself and Another, which everyone should read. The structure and the tone of Travels is so much better than Gellhorn, and ultimately more filmable. But still, anything that’s likely to get her books out to a bigger audience is good news.

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My dear Constant:

We are brothers in arms (to which we will say farewell)! You are quite correct about Ms. Gellhorn -- a tremendous talent, and forever overshadowed by her association with Papa (who was clearly threatened by her talent).

She was my favorite Mrs. Hemingway. Hadley was a frump who lost his stories. Pauline was nutty as a fruitcake (cf, Miriam Noel to Frank Lloyd Wright) and Mary was a little mouse of a thing...his "pocket Rubens"...who kept out of the way and then (mis)managed his posthumous legacy.

Yes, give me Martha, both barrels blazing, over any of them.

And wasn't she referenced in the Pet Shop Boys' "Being Boring":

I came across a cache of old photos
And invitations to teenage parties
Dress in white one said, with quotations
From someones wife, a famous writer
In the nineteen-twenties
When youre young you find inspiration
In anyone whos ever gone
And opened up a closing door
She said: we were never feeling bored.

Nice post -- I'll be your date to the movie if you like.

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | July 1, 2008 2:56 PM

i refuse to feel shame.

Posted by max solomon | July 1, 2008 3:08 PM

Of course they'll fuck this one up. The fact of Martha Gellhorn is essentially beyond the 21st Century mindset. She was a genius, an adventurer, a witness to an enormous block of history and a clear-eyed critic of all she saw. And yet, her writing displayed very little in the way of ideological antagonism toward sexism, classism and so on. I think people of our time are incapable of taking in a narrative in which the protagonist simply does a thing, without talking it to death before during and after. Translating Gellhorn's life of powerful action into the requisite string of declaratives will strip all the subtlety out of her perspective and produce a didactic self-important rant of a film with a lot of swelling string sections in the score. It'll be Saving Private Ryan meets Forest Gump meets The Hours.

Posted by Judah | July 1, 2008 3:47 PM

I (heart) @1 and @3—we should all plan a trip to the movies and then maybe a necessary trip to the bar afterward when it debuts—and even @2's stubbornness is sort of charming today. Everybody wins!

Posted by Paul Constant | July 1, 2008 4:02 PM

Let's drink like Papa and chase women with close-cropped hair!!! I'm booking you in my social diary, Constant.

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | July 1, 2008 4:46 PM

Oh my god. I love this book, and believe that Gillian will do Martha proud!

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Posted by 1800f | July 9, 2008 12:02 AM

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