Ernest Hemingway has been very much back in the media again, due to filmmaker Ken Burns’ 3-part PBS documentary exploring the author’s life, work and legacy. I have yet to see it but probably will eventually as I do appreciate both Ernest Hemingway’s and Ken Burns’ talent.
Hemingway has always been an interesting subject and much of his work was required reading in school, and with good reason. Personally, I preferred his short stories more than his novels and it’s with that in mind, a connection can be made between Ernest Hemingway and Lee Marvin. The most obvious even has the author’s name officially in the title: Ernest Hemingway’s The Killers (1964).
Purists of Hemingway’s work have looked down on the revamped version of the film but there is still some strong Hemingway influence in there. Keep in mind it was a simple story (published in 1927) of the title characters coming to kill a man who doesn’t run from his fate. In fact, he invites it.
The story goes that the original film’s screenwriter, Richard Brooks, met the drunken Hemingway in a bar and asked him what he thought the reason was that ‘Swede’ didn’t run from the killers. “Damned if I know,” the author responded. Adding, “Why do you think they wanted to kill Swede?” Brooks thought for a moment and said, “Probably had something to do with big money or maybe a special woman.” Hemingway’s response: “Or maybe both.”
Granted, the subject in the Marvin film is a race car driver not a boxer but the fact is the title characters become a major focus of the film based on on the 3,000 word short story, as Hemingway may have intended. It’s TV-movie roots aside, it’s still a hell of a movie and one of Lee Marvin’s best so thank you, Ernest Hemingway.
There’s also another less obvious Lee Marvin connection to Ernest Hemingway. No, it’s not their shard love of deep-sea fishing. Another wonderful Hemingway, short story, “The Snows of Killimanjaro,” was the source material for Marvin’s audition at the Actor’s Studio under the watchful eye of Lee Strasberg.
I discovered the story and thought it a great way to introduce the actor and his legacy to the readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank. If you don’t know the somewhat bawdy tale, you can find it in the book linked above. Feedback is always welcome.
– Dwayne Epstein