Thursday, May 31, 2012

Martha Gellhorn -- Movie and Play

Fans of writer and foreign correspondent Martha Gellhorn (1908-1998) can get their fill of her these days. First, her tumultuous relationship with Ernest Hemingway is the subject of the HBO movie - Hemingway & Gellhorn. Next, Love Goes to Press, the WWII comedy in three acts she co-authored as a lark with Virginia Cowles (1910-1983), is being resurrected at the Mint Theater. According to Gellhorn: A Twentieth Century Life by Caroline Moorehead, Love Goes to Press (the only play written by the women) originally opened in 1946 in London to good reviews to audiences desperate for humor after the war. It later transferred to Broadway in 1947 but Americans (not as impacted by the war) were not as kind and it ran for five measly performances. 


Watching a recent preview performance of Love Goes to Press, one can easily tell that Gellhorn and Cowles were having a lot of fun with the script for this farce about Jane Mason and Annabelle Jones two driven female war correspondents in a male dominated press camp in Poggibonis Italy. The women will do anything for their story including crossing enemy lines while the male correspondents sit around playing cards complaining that the women “…run this lousy war on sex-appeal.” Eventually, the women’s romantic entanglements require them to decide whether to carry out their “duty” to write or give up being shot at to settle down with an ex or “…a house with ten bathrooms all full of hot water, and a husband who never tops saying ‘Are you comfortable, my sweet?’”


Both Hemingway & Gellhorn and Love Goes to Press have flaws. Hemingway & Gellhorn received mixed reviews with the NYT criticizing the movie for having “nothing new or interesting to tell us about Hemingway or Gellhorn or the times they lived in.”  And Love Goes to Press is not quite as hilarious as I thought it would be; furthermore, the ease with which the women fall in love simply is not credible for me. With that said, Martha Gellhorn is no doubt a fascinating subject and the movie as well as the play - which features intrepid career women in the 1940s - may be worth exploring. 


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