Famous Faces

Dorothy Parker

During 1936-9 the Conservative government in Britain, plus the governments in America and France, adopted a stance of ‘non-intervention’ in the Spanish Civil War. In fact, this amounted to support for the fascists because of the various outcomes these governments desired a fascist victory over a victory for the Spanish people. Of course, Britain, America and France paid heavily for this stance because it encouraged Hitler and Mussolini, and this led to the Second World War.

With no support from overseas governments, the Spanish people relied on individuals and organisations for support. Dorothy Parker held her hand up and stepped forward as one of those individuals.

A celebrated poet, writer and wit, Dorothy Parker was one of the founders of the Anti-Nazi League in Hollywood. She helped to raise $1.5 million ($65 million at today’s value) for Spanish refugees. For her trouble, she was blacklisted during the McCarthy era, ‘the time of the toad’, as she called it. However, history smiles on Dorothy Parker while McCarthy’s name is associated with all that is dark about humanity. 

While in Spain, in October 1937, Dorothy Parker said, “It makes you sick to think of it. That these people who pulled themselves up from centuries of oppression and exploitation cannot go on to a decent living, to peace and progress and civilisation, without the murder of their children and the blocking of their way because men want more power. It is incredible, it is fantastic, it is absolutely beyond all belief…except that it is true.”

Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Miller Hemingway (21 July 1899 –  2 July 1961) was an American journalist, novelist, short-story writer and sportsman. His writing style, known as the iceberg theory, was economical and understated, and it had a profound influence on twentieth century fiction. Via Robert B Parker, Hemingway also influenced my writing.

Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway talked the talk and walked the walk. His adventurous lifestyle and macho image impressed some, but repulsed others. Personally, I found his love of bullfighting difficult to stomach, although in fairness he did acknowledge that, “Anything capable of arousing passion in its favor will surely raise as much passion against it.”

The period 1925 – 55 saw Hemingway at his most prolific. During this period he published seven novels, six short-story collections and two nonfiction works winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. Indeed, many of his books are considered classics of American literature. 

In 1918, during World War One, Hemingway served as an ambulance driver at the Italian front. Seriously wounded, he later wrote about his experiences in A Farewell to Arms.

From 1937, Hemingway reported on the Spanish Civil War. He arrived in Spain in March of that year with Dutch filmmaker Joris Ivens to screen-write The Spanish Earth, a propaganda film in support of the Spanish Republicans. He also mixed with American volunteers from the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, men who supported the Spanish Republicans. 

Ernest Hemingway (centre) with Dutch filmmaker Joris Ivens and German writer Ludwig Renn during the Spanish Civil War, 1937

Hemingway met journalist Martha Gellhorn in 1936 and she joined him in Spain. The couple married in 1940, but divorced in 1945 when Hemingway met Mary Welsh. Late in 1937, while in Madrid with Martha, Hemingway wrote his only play, The Fifth Column

After a sojourn at home in Key West, Hemingway returned to Spain. He was present at the Battle of the Ebro, the last stand mounted by the Spanish Republicans. With a small group of British and American journalists, he was among the last to leave the battle as they retreated across the river.

Earnest Hemingway’s personal life was tempestuous. He married four times while two successive plane crashes left him in considerable pain. Sadly, he took his own life in 1961.