He grants his lifelong friend and biographer the rights to adapt his works for a TV audience.
Many of the great works of Hemingway have made their way to the stage and to the screen. But when it came to television Hemingway was ambivalent deeply, as he was suspicious of Hollywood and reticent to make the jump to TV, while also seeing the potential for a desirable expansion of...
Many of the great works of Hemingway have made their way to the stage and to the screen. But when it came to television Hemingway was ambivalent deeply, as he was suspicious of Hollywood and reticent to make the jump to TV, while also seeing the potential for a desirable expansion of the reach of his works and the profit from such adaptations. In the end he decided to embrace the possibility, and he chose a A. E. Hotchner, a freelance writer, to guide him with this new medium. In Hotchner, he found a friend, fellow writer, biographer and surrogate son. The two would maintain a lifelong friendship, inaugurated in Cuba and commemorated in the compilation of their correspondence, “Dear Papa, Dear Hotch”.
As that book relates, “In January 1950, a cognac-inspired conversation with Ernest in Italy about converting one art form into another prompted Hotchner’s first foray into adaptation.” This occurred in 1953 at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, when “The Capital of the World” set to a ballet was televised nationally. This made little money but established a mutual trust between the two. This was followed by “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” in 1955 and “The Battler” later that year, and 3 other works in 1957 and 1958. At this time, “teleplays” were the predominant form of adaptation of theatrical and other works. These teleplays were often live but as technology progressed some were pre-recorded on tape.
Did Hemingway approve of adaptations of his great works? Albert Defazio, who edited “Dear Papa”, notes that Hemingway appears only to have watched one adaptation. On March 16, 1959, Hotchner visited the Hemingways in Ketchum, ID and helped them in their car drive south. In a motel in Phoenix, they watched part two of Hotchner’s TV adaptation of “For Whom the Bell Tolls”. Approving of what he saw, just a month later in a meeting in New York, he gave Hotchner free reign to continue with his adaptations in this very document.
Document Signed, New York City, April 23, 1959. “I hereby grant to A.E. Hotchner, in consideration of his services, the right and authority to present a theatrical program based on my writings, this authority to include all forms of ‘live’ performances in any place of his choosing.”
Hotchner would go on to create 9 adaptations for television based on this document, and these would cement Hemingway’s reputation as a writer with mass appeal, one who could cross media platforms.
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