Farewell to Arms, A (1932)

Farewell to Arms, A (1932)

“I’ll come back to Catherine — I’ll always come back.”

During World War I, an ambulance driver (Gary Cooper) falls in love with a nurse (Helen Hayes) but his jealous friend (Adolphe Menjou) prevents them from staying in touch with one another.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Adolphe Menjou Films
  • Doctors and Nurses
  • Frank Borzage Films
  • Gary Cooper Films
  • Helen Hayes Films
  • Romance
  • Star-Crossed Lovers
  • World War I

Ernest Hemingway wasn’t happy with this Hollywood-ized rendering of his autobiographically inspired best-selling novel — though he eventually became lifelong friends with Cooper (whose performance he admired). Indeed, Cooper and Hayes are fine as the star-crossed lovers whose happiness is repeatedly doomed by the pesky realities of war:

However, their story is essentially a soaper, so your enjoyment of the tale (directed with atmospheric style by Frank Borzage) will depend entirely on how much you appreciate this type of fare. The film is also notable for being made as a PreCode title, and thus filled with plenty of scenes and insinuations that wouldn’t pass muster just a few years later.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Fine central performances

  • Some refreshingly candid pre-Code content

  • Atmospheric cinematography

Must See?
No; you can skip this one unless you’re a fan of the stars or Borzage.


3 thoughts on “Farewell to Arms, A (1932)

  1. First viewing (4/12/21). Not must-see.

    One reason I avoided this film for so long is its troubled history with versions at different lengths – esp. its existence in a 78-minute form. For awhile now, it has been available in its original 89-minute version, so I watched it.

    ~ but it’s not that pleasurable an experience. I’ve never been a Hemingway fan. I believe I read ‘A Farewell to Arms’ when I was in high school (and probably at least tried to read a few others). I never cared for his style.

    I’ve seen the glossy (non-Peary) 1957 remake and this 1932 version is just about as… sappy. It’s maybe even sappier. How many couples in love really talk this way?: telling each other over and over and OVER and then over again how much in love with each other they are?!!

    I could appreciate Borzage’s (overall) direction. Borzage’s a major romanticist and even *he* seemed to be trying to tone things down a little. And DP Lang’s Oscar-winning work truly makes it easier to get through the thing. But it’s mainly undone by its sappiness.

  2. I was putting off a re-watch of this one since I didn’t remember enjoying it much the first time around — but you’re right, “sappy” is the operative word. Always interesting what gets nominated as a Best Picture. (Lang’s cinematography won, which makes sense.)

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