For whom the death knell tolls on Arte: the dictator Franco had the film modified – Actus Ciné

Adapted from Ernest Hemingway’s novel, which covered the Spanish Civil War, “For Whom the Bell Tolls” was not greatly appreciated by Franco’s dictatorship, which sent its diplomats to pressure Hollywood to change the script of the film.

In the Spanish night, in the middle of the civil war, a train explodes. Two men run away, soldiers on their heels. One of them is hit. To save him from falling into enemy hands, his companion finishes him off.

The latter is called Robert Jordan, he is American and fights alongside the Republicans. His next mission: to blow up a bridge during a major assault against Franco’s troops. In the mountains, the “Inglés” joins a group led by a woman, Pilár. This took in the young María, whose parents were killed by the Francoists. Robert and María fall in love…

How to translate the novel’s idealism and dark romanticism to the screen For Whom the Bell Tolls ofErnest Hemingway ? Paramount, which had bought the rights to the book, wanted to turn it into a melodramatic blockbuster filmed in the Californian Sierra Nevada. And did a lot to overlook the political context; essential backdrop to the work.

Hollywood’s benevolence for dictator Franco

An immense writer, future winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954, Ernest Hemingway was one of theAndré Malraux or his colleague John Dos Passosof these writers marked on the left who engaged during the civil war which ravaged Spain between 1936 and 1939.

A commitment to varying degrees moreover: if Malraux committed himself alongside the Republicans by buying weapons and even commanding a squadron, Hemingway covered the war as a journalist.

Generalissimo and dictator Franco, who ruled the country with an iron fist until his death in 1975, logically had an aversion to Hemingway and his writings, to the point that his works were banned. He even mobilized his diplomatic services in order to change the script of the film produced by Paramount. And Hollywood, at that time, was not entirely insensitive to the demands of the Spanish head of state…

A newspaper article El Pais, dated 2013, recounts this interesting anecdote. An American academic by the name of Douglas LaPrade, author of a thesis defended in 1988 on the banning and censorship of the writer under the Franco regime, pointed out during his research that the regime’s censorship services mandated the consuls Spaniards as well as the ambassadors stationed in the United States to put pressure on Hollywood concerning the script of the film, in order to make changes to it.

For whom the death knell tolls on arte: the dictator franco had the film modified - actus ciné
Paramount Pictures.

They insisted, for example, on removing the words “phalangists” or “fascists” from the dialogues, replacing them with the word “nationalist”. Where Hemingway referred to the ‘loyalist republicans’, Franco’s diplomatic delegation preferred to speak of the ‘Reds’. It is immediately clearer…

José Félix de Lequerica, Franco’s foreign minister and future Spanish ambassador to Washington, accused the script of For Whom the Bell Tolls of “presenting historical facts in a distorted way”.

“It is well known that the studios in Hollywood were inclined to satisfy Franco’s demands” explains the university. “In the United States he had a lot of support, they didn’t want another enemy in Europe. You have to keep in mind that the war against Hitler and Mussolini was going on, and they didn’t want to open a new forehead”.

Released in 1952, when America was in the throes of McCarthyism and anti-Communist paranoia, The Snows of Kilimanjaro ofHenry King was mutilated by the scissors of the censor, to the great satisfaction of the Spanish diplomats. For the record, the film was an adaptation of a short story written by Hemingway.

The consul in office in the United States, José Pérez del Arco, expressed this reservation concerning this film: “after reading the script, it retains, as expected, the old terminology of ‘loyalists’ and ‘rebels’, and presents the Spanish red zone in a distorted way, as has been presented in many many novels and films in this country. I made a series of corrections to the screenplay, with the aim of focusing it on the historical truth”.

Besides, what did Hemingway think of all these blackouts and this obsession of Franco’s government for his work? “He didn’t care. He had made so much money and was so famous” concludes Douglas LaPrade.

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