Losing his Head Over Love
Having moved to Europe, American Frederic Henry (Gary Cooper) finds himself enlisting when the first world war stats to become an ambulance driver in the Italian army which is where he becomes friends with Rinaldi (Adolphe Menjou) who together drink and flirt with the women in the bars. It is there in the midst of a bombing that he meets English nurse Catherine Barkley (Helen Hayes) who manages to tame the cad as they fall deeply in love and secretly marry. But between the war with Frederic having to go where duty takes him and those who oppose their relationship and try to keep them apart it seems that true love might not survive.
Wow, considering this is a movie from 1932 a lot of people have a lot to say on it. From referencing this being the first Ernest Hemmingway novel to be adapted into a movie to the fact it comes before the Hays Code and subjects such as sex and pregnancy are dealt with in a more blatant manner than they were a few years later. In fact there is a lot of waffle in some reviews which discuss the camera work, the changes in the screenplay and so on to the point they almost seem to have missed the point, this is a piece of entertainment.
So as a piece of entertainment, an old movie, "A Farewell to Arms" is an interesting experience, a mixed bag of things which work and other which don't. Take for example this romantic storyline which sees this couple falling in love after Frederic has forced himself on her in a church yard under the night sky, yes I did say forced, the way they are together but are torn apart with the war and friends coming between then is one for romantics as is their secret marriage performed by a romantic priest. Yet the verbose nature of the dialogue, typical of this sort of movie from this era, is now too flowery and stiff which whilst you would never want it changed is a sticking point.
It leaves me conflicted because I enjoy the romantic drama and its developments but the dialogue puts me off. But then there are the performances and the combination of Helen Hayes and Gary Cooper is wonderful with Hayes with those big eyes and beautiful smile which could warm the coldest of hearts. And on top of that there is the comedy of Adolphe Menjou who brings plenty of spark as Rinaldi. The casting could not get any better with a fun spark between Hayes and Cooper which makes you fall in love with them.
What this all boils down to is that I can understand why many love this version of "A Farewell to Arms" as there is much to love about it from the performances to the camera work. But it is a movie from a time when dialogue was flowery and no matter how much I enjoy the movie the verbose nature is now a stumbling block although some of it still works because of the snappiness of it.