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Hemingway Adventure

Madrid, Spain (second day)

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Michael Palin - Hemingway AdventureOn our way back to Madrid, near the town of Arganda, we stop at a triple-span bridge over the River Jarama. A big new road is being put through here and in amongst the rubble and the electricity pylons is a ten-foot-high metal star, leaning at an angle, surrounded by weeds. A plaque beside it marks it as a monument to the International Brigade, those volunteers from outside Spain who came over to fight against Franco and Fascism in the war of 1936-­9.

The Spanish Civil War, the second of three wars in which Hemingway saw action, and the one which produced his novel For Whom the Bell Tolls, was the most politically committed time of his life. He wrote commentary and helped raise finance for a propaganda film, shot by a Dutchman, Joris Ivens, and called Spanish Earth.

Orson Welles, enlisted to record the commentary, wanted to change some of the lines which he thought sounded unduly pompous. At a viewing of the film, described by Welles in Cahiers du Cinéma, he and Hemingway came to blows, going at each other with chairs and fists, as the armies fought it out on the screen in front of them.

The two American heavyweights were reconciled over a bottle of whisky, and though Welles still gets the credit in some of the early prints, it is Hemingway's flat, harsh monotone that accompanies the film.
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  • Series: Hemingway Adventure
  • Chapter: Madrid, Spain (second day)
  • Country/sea: Spain
  • Place: Madrid
  • Book page no: 112

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