A Farewell to Arms (1932) Director: Frank Borzage
“The Greatest Love Story of the War”
Frank Borzage’s interpretation of Hemingway’s famous novel stars Gary Cooper -who also starred in the 1943 version of Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls– and Helen Hayes. The film won Academy Awards for Best Cinematography and Sound. A Farewell to Arms is a classic, however it fails to capture much of Hemingway’s novel, and so it falls a bit short in my eyes. Whereas Hemingway’s novel was a sorrowful tragedy, the film focuses exclusively on the undying love between Henry and Catherine.
A retelling of the plot will not do justice to the magnificent novel, however a terse summary here will suffice. Lieutenant Frederic Henry is an American ambulance driver in Italy during the First World War where he meets Catherine Barkley, a nurse. They fall in love and are married while Henry lies wounded and recovering on a hospital bed. Shortly thereafter, their love is discovered and Henry goes derelict from his unit on the Italian front in order to return to Catherine only to find that she has disappeared to Switzerland. She was sent away from her job as a nurse when it was discovered she was pregnant. Henry arrives at her hospital just in time to find her dying while in labor and the child also tragically dies. She dies with Henry by her side.