A Farewell to Arms:

August 12, 2018 2:00 PM to August 12, 2018 5:00PM

Temple Beth-el Heritage Hall - 406 Perry Street, Helena Arkansas

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This classic film, “A Farewell to Arms” was adapted from the novel (by the same name) by Ernest Hemingway who also, at one time, lived in Northeast Arkansas.The 1932 adaptation details the romance between an American ambulance worker and an English nurse in World War 1 Italy. Gary Cooper and Helen Hayes as the soldier and the nurse who find love amongst the blood and guts of battle deliver impressive performances.

Even so, while Director Frank Borzage's cinematic interpretation of the Ernest Hemingway novel was detested by the book's author for some of the romantic liberties it took with his story, this black-and-white melodrama is considered one of the great dramas of the early sound period.

Gary Cooper stars as Lt. Frederic Henry, an American who is in Italy during the First World War driving ambulances for the Italian side. On a pit stop at an army hospital, he meets Catherine Barkley (Helen Hayes), a British nurse known for her chastity and dedication to duty. Frederic's pal Rinaldi (Adolph Menjou) has designs on Catherine, but Frederic swoops in and romances the girl. He takes her virtue the night before he is due back on the front, though not without giving up more than a little of his heart in exchange.

Not to give the story away, the couple’s happiness is not to last forever.How could it with a bloody war going on all around them!After a number of harrowing plot twists and turns, Frederic must return to the battlefield. He leaves without knowing Catherine’s condition. And Rinaldi fears that love will distract one of his finest men so he stops the couple's letters from getting through.

The film sticks to the essential skeleton of the Hemingway novel.The soldier's flight from the battlefield is the most stunning sequence in Borzage's film, shown as a montage of atrocities, with battlefield and graveyard images reminiscent of Raymond Bernard's “Wooden Crosses," released that same year. His quieter scenes behind the lines have an otherworldly, almost idyllic design to them, with the medical staff holing up in churches and the absence of civilians allowing for a certain pageantry. The women are in flowing skirts and capes, the men in their dress uniforms, complete with medals, epaulets, and fancy hats.

Cooper and Hayes has strong chemistry together, making for a particularly emotional finale. You might want to have some tissue nearby to dry your eyes when the end titles appear.This is one of those rare love stories made of the stuff that is entertaining to both women and men! 

Here is a little film trivia that some might find interesting.Watch closely.To the modern discerning eye, the use of miniatures is apparent in some scenes. If one looks very closely at the first scene, you will notice that ambulance trucks driving up a winding mountain road are well crafted miniatures.

Also, there’s a night attack.You World War 1 history buffs will know that there was very little flying at night and the night attacks that did occur were limited to big cities. It was almost impossible for a plane to attack specific targets in a large city. So effectively attacking people on a road in the dark was not possible at all and did not happen.

While perhaps a bit melodramatic for modern day film critics, back then, this film set the standard for all that would follow. Considered one of the great movies of the early sound period, the second film presented in the DCC’s WW1 series is an extension of the DCC’s exhibit “Over Here, Over There:Sons and Daughters of Arkansas’s Delta at War” which honors men and women from the Delta who served in the war,  The exhibit is on display at the DCC through February 2, 2019.

“A Farewell to Arms” has a screening time of 1 hour and 32 minutes. It is highly recommended! Admission is free. For more information contact Richard Spilman, Delta Cultural Center education coordinator, 870.338.4350, or [email protected].Visit the DCC at




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