The reviews are pouring in for Hemingway & Gellhorn, an HBO movie starring Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman as the famous writers and journalists. As Martha Gellhorn, Kidman plays the Farewell to Arms writer's third wife, who he first met in Key West, Fla. Directed by Philip Kaufman (Quills, Twisted), the film provides a view into the couple's complicated relationship, which started when Hemingway was still married to his second wife.
Hemingway was known to be a difficult person who didn't like the idea of sharing the limelight, and Gellhorn famously said she refused to be a footnote in someone else's life, so we can only imagine how smoothly that ship sailed before they divorced in 1945.
Gellhorn isn't the only Hemingway wife to have captured the interest of fans of the For Whom The Bell Tolls author. The late biographer Bernice Kert, for example, published The Hemingway Women in 1983, which looked at the major female figures in his life, including his mother. Author Paula McLain's 2011 novel The Paris Wife took a fictional look at Hemingway's relationship with his first wife, Elizabeth Hadley Richardson.
Let's take a look at Hemingway's four wives. Looks like he wasn't too far behind Henry VIII!
Elizabeth Hadley Richardson
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Elizabeth Hadley Richardson was eight years older than Hemingway, but that didn't seem to bother the dashing young man. They had a son in 1923, but divorced in 1927. Hemingway had already been having an affair with his next wife, which brings us to...
Pfeiffer originally hailed from Iowa. She and Hemingway had an affair while he was still married to Richardson and got married in Paris four months after he and Richardson divorced. Hemingway and Pfeiffer eventually settled in Key West, Fla., the location of the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum. They had two sons, Gregory and Patrick. They divorced in November of 1940, after Hemingway had already commenced an affair with another journalist by the name of...
Martha Gellhorn, a journalist and writer, enjoyed a thriving career as a war correspondent. Her resume included covering the Spanish Civil War, D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge. She and Hemingway first met in Key West's Sloppy Joe's bar when she was 27 years old and the two reconnected a few years later. He was still married to Pfeiffer when they started canoodling, and Gellhorn and Hemingway married the same month he and Pfeiffer got divorced. Gellhorn was no saint herself: She also committed infidelity, which isn't seen in the HBO film, Salon writer Willa Paskin pointed out. The marriage ended in 1945. Gellhorn committed suicide in 1998. The Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism was set up in her name (past winners include WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange).
In 2006, Stephen Amidon wrote an article about Gellhorn's letters for Salon magazine, and pointed out the words of wisdom the woman once wrote to her son: Never marry a guy who has a record of hating his mother.
Now I know enough to know that no woman should ever marry a man who hated his mother, she wrote. Deep in Ernest, due to his mother, going back to the indestructible first memories of childhood, was mistrust and fear of women. Which he suffered from always, and made women suffer; and which shows in his writing.
Seems like Hemingway's next wife wasn't warned...
Mary Welsh Hemingway
Mary Welsh Hemingway, like Gellhorn, was a journalist. She hailed from Minnesota and Hemingway was her third husband. They began their affair when she was still married to her second husband. Welsh and Hemingway were still married and living in Idaho when he committed suicide in 1961. She died in Idaho in 1986.
Why these four women, not to mention other lovers and girlfriends, went for the troubled writer is no mystery. Hemingway had strapping good looks to match his literary prowess. Photos of the young buck do show him in Red Cross uniform and in possession of a nice head of hair (not counting that mustache). Now to see whether Owen and Kidman, as Hemingway and Gellhorn, can capture the fire between the two late writers.