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Showing posts from 2016

Hemingway, Patton and Leclerc - France and Paris 1944

The city of Paris may have been wide open, but the period between the 22nd and 24th August 1944 was one of intense information gathering, and it has to be said, utter confusion in Rambouillet. Bruce, Hemingway, and Michel Pasteau - a French intelligence officer assigned to Bruce - continually interrogated German prisoners, many of whom were Polish - invariably elderly, or very young - who were keen to pass on what information they could about the retreating German divisions, and the German officers and NCOs who had made them fight at the point of a gun.
It was Bruce's job to get General Leclerc and his French armour into Paris first, but where the hell was he? Bruce had received reports that Patton's Third Army was already in the outskirts of Paris, with several units across the Seine and heading north toward Belgium. Patton had agreed, reluctantly, not to enter Paris until Leclerc had done so, but good fighting time was now being wasted for the sake of diplomatic niceties. Pat…

Hemingway and the Hotel du Grand Veneur - France 1944

The night of the 19th - 20th August 1944 had been a long one in Rambouillet but it was not unpleasant. After clearing the road of mines and booby-traps Hemingway made his HQ at the H̫tel du Grand Veneur, a grey three storied structure with a slate roof and a splendid rustic weathercock. Behind the building there were extensive orchards Рwith beehives - that stretched away into the lush and deceptively peaceful French countryside. But more importantly for Hemingway the hotel had a fine wine cellar and an excellent chef.
But Hemingway was still smarting from Irwin's refusal of arms, and probably in an effort to regain some self-respect, he set off with Krieger and Pelkey to reconnoitre the dangerous Versailles road.
After a short drive they pulled up outside Marie Antoinette's Royal Hunting Lodge and Model Dairy in the grounds of the former summer residence for French presidents, the Chateau de Rambouillet. According to Krieger, Hemingway was really fired-up and wanted to carry o…

Ernest Hemingway Goes U-Boat Hunting 1942

By December 1942, just two months after he began, Hemingway's spying activities in Cuba, and in the Gulf of Mexico – paid for with local FBI money -  were coming under scrutiny from J. Edgar Hoover himself. In a confidential memo from Hoover, of December 17th 1942, to FBI Agent D.M. Ladd, the Bureau Chief writes:
“Any information which you may have relating to the unreliability of Ernest Hemingway as an informant may be discreetly brought to the attention of ambassador Braden. In this respect it will be recalled that recently Hemingway gave information concerning the refuelling of submarines in Caribbean waters which has proved unreliable. I desire that you furnish me at an early date results of your conversations with Ambassador Braden concerning Ernest Hemingway and his aides and their activities.”
Agent Ladd replied to J. Edgar Hoover the same day:
“ Hemingway has been accused of being of communist sympathies, although we are advised that he has denied and does vigorously deny any…

Sherwood Anderson - Hemingway's Great Inspiration

Sherwood Anderson is, with each passing year, becoming less and less well known as a writer (he died in 1941), and even less as the great inspiration for Ernest Hemingway, whose style was born out of the lean photographic style that was Anderson's.
For me Anderson's novel of 1919,Winesburg, Ohio,is his best, and one that bears re-reading at least once a year.
Let me quote from it...
" He was an old man with a white beard and huge nose and hands. Long before the time during which we will know him, he was a doctor and drove a jaded white horse from house to house through the streets of Winesburg. Later he married a girl who had money. She had been left a large fertile farm when her father died. The girl was quiet, tall, and dark, and to many people she seemed very beautiful. Everyone in Winesburg wondered why she married the doctor. Within a year after the marriage she died."
Now that is writing of the first order - vivid, controlled, and new; no wonder Anderson took such …

The Origins of Harry's Bar, Venice - One of Hemingway's Favourite Watering Holes

Anyone who has been to Italy will know immediately why Hemingway loved the country – it's the people, of course, and the beautiful countryside, naturally, and the eternal cities, especially Rome and Florence, and Venice, but above all else it's the hotels, and the bars, especially the bars. And Hemingway loved hotels, and hotel bars, but best of all he loved small out-of-the-way bars, which is why he loved Harry's Bar in Venice. And if you've been there you'll know why Hemingway loved it so much, because it's like his writing: plain, well-scrubbed, and wonderfully sophisticated. 
Harry's Bar came into being on May 13th 1931, and that wouldn't have happened without the help of a quiet young American by the name of Harry Pickering.
This quiet young man was apparently suffering from the early signs of alcoholism, which concerned his family greatly, who, in their wisdom, packed him off on a world tour with an elderly aunt (and her snuffly Pekingese) who ke…

Ernest Hemingway and Louis Armstrong - 20th Century Soundtrack

If Jelly Roll Morton invented jazz (and we have to believe him), then Louis Armstrong invented jazz as an art form: jazz as a means of personal expression, in the same way a poet, dramatist and novelist will use words as a means of expression, or an artist paint. And I don't use this analogy glibly. When Armstrong was at his most creative, in the 1920s, American literature was also being re-invented by Ernest Hemingway. It was a post First World War outpouring of pent-up anger that came out as an aggressive need for a new kind of honesty, coupled with a need for a new hard-edged beauty that was itself a resentment against the strictures of the 19th century, strictures that had come apart at the seams with the bloodbath of 1914 -18.

But in the 1920s Armstrong and Hemingway, and a few others, were far more revolutionary than the gang of despots sitting in the Kremlin, or the Hitler rabble in the  Munich bier kellers.  Hemingway and Armstrong wanted change, and wanted it now; they we…

Ernest Hemingway meets Peter Viertel

Peter Viertel's 1992 memoir, Dangerous Friends, is one of those books that come along too infrequently, but when they do are vital to our understanding of the world of the arts and literature (Michael Meyer's Words Through A Window Pane is another) and of the dynamic personalities who inhabited and contributed to that world, most especially, in Viertel's case, John Huston, Orson Welles and Ernest Hemingway.
Although born in Germany in 1920 Peter Viertel was brought up and educated in southern California, and the hot house of the motion picture industry where his mother worked as a screenwriter and his father as a director. Was it any wonder then, aged eighteen, that Viertel too  tried his hand as a screenwriter for a couple of years until he enlisted in the US Marine Corps, serving in both the Pacific and Europe during World War II, latterly attached to the OSS.
After the war Viertel settled back in California with his wife Jigee, where he worked on several successful screen…

Ernest Hemingway and Mary visit Italy - 1948

Hemingway couldn't wait to get what was his now rather battered old Buik off-loaded from the steamer  Jagiello  and start exploring what he was already describing as “this wonderful country.”
From Genoa they drove (the Hemingways had quickly hired a chauffeur) north to Milan where they were treated like visiting royalty, with Alberto Mondadori, one of Hemingway's publishers, assuring the author that his books had out-sold any other author since the end of World War II.
“ Everyone is reading you, Ernesto, everyone from the common sailor to the nobility.”
Hemingway just smiled, hugged, and kissed his jubilant publisher on the head.
Such was Hemingway's popularity in Italy that he left all of his Italian earnings in a Milan bank, using the money to finance all his future trips to that country – it made good economic sense in a post-war world where there were stringent restrictions on transferring money between countries.
To quote from Carlos Baker's biography, Hemingway&…