Talking Pictures just showed this to honour the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI. *
Which means EITHER the programmer only read the logline (it features a climax at 11 o’clock, 11 November 1918) OR s/he is a radical pacifist…
Based on Hemingway’s 1929 novel, it’s less a faithful adaptation than the ultimate Frank Borzage doomed romance. Gary Cooper plays a deserter from the Italian army (not very Armistice Day…) and Helen Hayes is the nurse he loves. Being pre-Code, it’s startlingly frank about their desire for each other. It even includes a first-person kiss (from Gary Cooper’s PoV)! (Also there’s about a foot difference in height between the two – but it just doesn’t matter. They’re in love…)
Equally good are the support: Adolphe Menjou (even more right-wing than Cooper!) as the nonchalant Italian officer who calls Cooper ‘baby’; and Mary Philips (the first Mrs Humphrey Bogart) as Hayes’s fiercely loyal fellow nurse. Philips was more of a stage actress, but her occasional films included her unforgettable mother in Leave Her To Heaven, quite unable to do anything with her daughter, Gene Tierney, except to look on and despair.
The strangest thing about this as a ‘lest we forget’ film isn’t the pacifism but the fact that Hayes dies and Cooper survives. There are so many films when the military hero dies in the end. So to go with this one probably just means carelessness…
Anyway, it’s a great opportunity to see the absolute no. 1 Borzage movie. He was born in the same year as my (WWI-decorated) grandfather – 1894 – and died in 1962, the year before I was born. He was the son of an Italian immigrant (surname BorzagA) to Salt Lake City, one of 14 children. (His younger brother Daniel played the accordion and was a member of John Ford’s repertory company; he can be seen in the almost-wedding scene of The Searchers, among others.)
Lest we forget… 😏
* Also available for free on YouTube