Stark Young


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Young, Stark.  "A Farewell to Dramatization." In Monteiro, George, ed. 
        Critical Essays on Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms.
        York: G.K. Hall & Co., 1994: 91-95.

        [Young's review was published in The New Republic in October, 1930, by which time Laurence Stallings had written a stage version of A Farewell to Arms.]  Young explains why it isn't so easy as it seems to turn a Hemingway novel into a stage play, even with so much dialog.  He lists several kinds of passages that can't be adapted to plays--from passages where Hemingway is "getting away with murder" to brilliant, rhapsodic passages.  Even the obscenities are better than one hears on stage because they are so integral to character and situation.  Since Hemingway's style is both realistic and poetic, it can't be recreated on stage; that is, where Hemingway evokes our imaginations, the stage supplies actors.

        Playwright Lawrence Stallings recreates the war well enough but in the end transposes the war with Catherine's death, skipping the desertion and Switzerland entirely.  The meeting of Catherine and Frederic, however, and her grieving the loss of her fiancé in the Somme along with the strain of the current front make their need for each other convincing.  Young praises Stallings' handling of the dressing station scene at the end of Act I in the way it touches on several themes of the story.  He slams the directing of the play for being pushy.  He laments the acting of the hero in the scene on the bed with Catherine, but praises his intensity.  He praises Elissa Landi, an English actress who portrayed Catherine, except in the scene where she tells Frederic she is pregnant.  Finally, he praises two minor roles and kicks the scenery designer for being "mawkish."

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