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Showing posts from September 19, 2016

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…