Hemingway on Broadway

Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms opened on Broadway on this day in 1930, adapted by Laurence Stallings. The play closed after three weeks, but it gave the 1929 novel another boost — most reviews told theatergoers to buy the book instead — and the literary historians say that the play was “the earliest and most tangible product of the Hemingway industry.” When Paramount adapted Stallings’s script for their 1932 movie, they kept as much of the sex as they dared; below, the two taglines they used in the promotional appeals:

“Let’s love tonight,” they said, “There may be no tomorrow!”

Every woman who has loved will understand.

 F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tales of the Jazz Age was published on this day in 1922. Hollywood saw an opportunity with this too, the pitchmen promoting the 1929 movie, The Jazz Age, as “A Scathing Indictment of the Bewildered Children of Pleasure … Riding the Gilded Juggernaut of Jazz & Gin.” Though many of the stories fall this side of Indictment or Juggernaut, many are on the far side of “Bernice Bobs Her Hair,” cover-story of Flappers and Philosophers (1920), Fitzgerald’s first collection. One of the Tales is “May Day,” introduced by Fitzgerald as a story about the battalions of returned WWI veterans who crowd New York, the entire city “exulted because the young men returning were pure and brave, sound of tooth and pink of cheek, and the young women of the land were virgins and comely both of face and of figure.” At the end of the glittering, all-night party, one of the brave young men would rather kill himself than be just-married, while the evening’s two most desperate celebrants are last seen “in an elevator bound skyward”:

“What floor, please?” said the elevator man.
“Any floor,” said Mr. In.
“Top floor,” said Mr. Out.
“This is the top floor,” said the elevator man.
“Have another floor put on,” said Mr. Out.
“Higher,” said Mr. In.
“Heaven,” said Mr. Out.

Daybook is contributed by Steve King, who teaches in the English Department of Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland. His literary daybook began as a radio series syndicated nationally in Canada. He can be found online at todayinliterature.com.