In the beginning of the end for Ernest Hemingway, as a 1954 trip to Africa is called in the new PBS documentary “Hemingway,” the great American novelist breaks his skull for the second time in his life during a plane crash in the outback.
Trapped as flames spread to the cabin, Hemingway is forced to use his head as a battering ram to create an opening in the twisted metal of the plane’s wreckage.
It’s the last of at least five major concussive head injuries that Hemingway sustained throughout his adult life and punctuates a growing problem. This time, his symptoms include slurred speech, double-vision and recurring deafness.
Editor’s Note: Above photo, text: “1946: Living in Cuba.. The couple settled into Cuba on a plantation named Finca Vigía. They would live in the village outside of Havana for more than a decade.
Whether you’ve read one of his novels or have simply heard something described as “Hemingway-esque,” chances are you’re familiar with the direct prose the influential author adopted in the 1920s.
It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that Hemingway’s personal life is just as interesting as what lives on his pages. Now, more than 50 years after his death, take a look back at rare photographs of the American writer’s life.
Editor’s Note: Books and images from Hemingway’s life and works are shown in the PBS Exhibition. It’s done in conjunction with the new Burns’ documentary, “Hemingway.”
Corporate funding for HEMINGWAY was provided by Bank of America. Major funding was provided by the Annenberg Foundation, The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, and by ‘The Better Angels Society,’ and its members John & Leslie McQuown, the Elizabeth Ruth Wallace Living Trust, John & Catherine Debs, The Fullerton Family Charitable Trust, the Kissick Family Foundation, Gail M. Elden, Gilchrist & Amy Berg, Robert & Beverly Grappone, Mauree Jane & Mark Perry; and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and PBS.
Ken Burns and Lynn Novick started working on their new docuseries about Ernest Hemingway almost seven years ago, when conversations about toxic masculinity and cancel culture were still at least a presidency away. But you’d be forgiven for thinking the series was a pandemic project, because Hemingway, and the conversations that take place within it, feel utterly of the moment.
From gender fluidity and mental illness to sexual misconduct and racism, today’s most charged topics are discussed at length in the series because they were part and parcel of the iconic, mercurial writer, whose own ex-wife Hadley Richardson once described as having so many sides to him that he defied geometry. Throughout the three-part, six-hour series, Hemingway is portrayed as both violent and tender, self-aware and self-aggrandizing, with an equal, outsize capacity for both joy and depthless depression.
It’s no wonder then why the writer Michael Katakis says at the start of the series that Hemingway the man is so much more interesting than the whiskey-doused, hypermasculine myth that obscures him. In separate interviews, Burns and Novick walked us through how making the film transformed the way they understand Hemingway—the man, the myth, and his literary legacy. Below, we’ve spliced together the two conversations, which have been edited and condensed for clarity.
By Steve Paul Special to The Star, April 04, 2021 05:00 AM, Updated April 04, 2021 08:44 AM
Three and a half decades ago, the earth moved beneath the foundation of the Ernest Hemingway industry. The old-school, tired image of the great American writer as a brawling, blustery simpleton took a self-inflicted punch in the gut.
Hemingway — master of the fishing rod, the shotgun, the declarative sentence — had killed himself in 1961. His literary stature was stuck in a long recession, but, as had happened three times earlier, an unfinished manuscript was plucked from his archives, tailored into a certain commercially agreeable shape, and, in 1986, landed before the reading public, this time with startling revelations.
One of the more unsettling moments in “Hemingway,” the latest documentary from Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, finds Ernest Hemingway, big-game hunter, chronicler of violence and seeker of danger, doing one thing that terrified him: speaking on television.
It is 1954, and the author, who survived airplane crashes (plural) earlier that year in Africa, had been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. He agreed to an interview with NBC on the condition that he receive the questions in advance and read his answers from cue cards.