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Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman play the title roles in HBO Films’ ‘Hemingway & Gellhorn’, debuting Monday, May 28 exclusively on HBO. The combined magnetism of Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn ushered them into social circles that included the elite of Hollywood, the aristocracy of the literary world and the First Family of the United States. As witnesses to history, they covered all the great conflicts of their time, but the war they couldn’t survive was the war between themselves.
With no official press credential, the ever-resourceful Gellhorn manages to talk her way onto a hospital ship bound for Omaha Beach, becomes a stowaway and, disguised as a nurse, is among the first reporters on shore during the historic D-Day landing.
Meanwhile, in a London pub, Hemingway meets a woman named Mary Welsh [Parker Posey]. A drunken car accident lands him in the hospital and Gellhorn is called back from the front in France. She arrives to find a bandaged Hemingway entertaining his friends, with Welsh cozied up to him on his hospital bed. Hemingway asks Gellhorn sarcastically, “What are you doing here?” She responds, “I guess I just stopped by for a divorce.”
“I want to be myself and alone and free to breathe, live, look upon the world and find it however it is…I want my own name back, most violently, as if getting it back would give me some of myself…And do not worry and do not feel badly. We are, basically, two tough people and we were born to survive.” – Martha Gellhorn
“If two people love each other, there can be no happy end to it.” – Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway’s life rapidly accelerated into paranoia and depression. Prior to his suicide in 1961, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Following Hemingway’s death, history seemed to forget Gellhorn. She was relegated to being “the third Mrs. Hemingway,” a mere footnote in the great writer’s life.
Undeterred, Gellhorn continued to cover all the major world conflicts, from the Dachau concentration camp, to the Vietnam War, the Six-Day War in the Middle East, the civil wars in Central America and, finally, at age 81, the U.S. invasion of Panama. She did not listen to “official drivel” and told the truth as she saw it. She was a pioneer. As the London Daily Telegraph wrote, Gellhorn was “one of the great war correspondents of the century; brave, fierce and wholly committed to the truth of the situation.”
Following Gellhorn’s death in 1998, noted writer and editor Bill Buford wrote, “Martha was passionate, glamorous and exciting. She was hugely entertaining. She was motivated by a deep-hearted, deep-seated concern for justice; she was a friend of the dispossessed, the oppressed, the neglected…Gellhorn was blonde and thin and sassy, a starlet of the highest order, a young Lauren Bacall…There was a glamour about Martha Gellhorn, the glamour of black-and-white movies. It was in her manner and her way with the ways of the world. She was a dame…and she was a good writer.”
Gellhorn’s remarkable contributions and pioneering efforts anticipated such reporters as Christiane Amanpour, Lara Logan and the late Marie Colvin, who died recently in war-torn Syria. Colvin, who has been called “the Martha Gellhorn of her time,” narrated the 2003 BBC documentary “Martha Gellhorn: On the Record.”
In addition to her war reporting, Gellhorn wrote numerous books, including “The Face of War” and “Travels with Myself and Another,” an account of her solo travels and her trip to China with Hemingway.
The year after her death, the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism was established to award journalists “whose work has penetrated the established version of events and told an unpalatable truth that exposes establishment propaganda.” In 2008, Gellhorn was honored by the United States Postal Service with a first-class postage stamp.
Image Courtesy of HBO