The Spanish Earth
|The Spanish Earth|
|Directed by||Joris Ivens|
|Produced by||Herman Shumlin|
|Written by||Ernest Hemingway
John Dos Passos
|Narrated by||Orson Welles
Jean Renoir (French language version)
|Editing by||Helen van Dongen|
|Distributed by||Contemporary Historians Inc.|
|Release dates||July 11, 1937|
|Running time||52 min.|
|Language||English / Spanish / German|
The Spanish Earth (1937) is a propaganda film made during the Spanish Civil War in support of the democratically elected Republicans, whose forces included a wide range of the political left, communists, socialists, anarchists, centrists, and liberalist elements.
The film was directed by Joris Ivens, written by John Dos Passos and Ernest Hemingway, with music composed by Marc Blitzstein and Virgil Thomson. Although the film's credits state that it was narrated by Orson Welles, it is actually Ernest Hemingway's voice that narrates the film.
In December 1936, several literary figures, including Lillian Hellman, Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, Dorothy Parker, and Archibald MacLeish, formed and funded a company they named Contemporary Historians, Inc. to back a film project proposed by Ivens. Hellman and MacLeish collaborated on the story. Ernest Hemingway was a major contributor as well. The film's backers specifically meant the film to demonstrate support for the Republican forces and the Americans of the Abraham Lincoln Battalion who fought against the Nationalists, unlike Hollywood's only other effort on the subject, the apolitical Last Train from Madrid (1937). A later film Blockade (1938) was also sympathetic to the Republicans.
A review in the New York Times found Hemingway's narration "a definitely propagandist effort" and preferred the camera work that "argues gently and persuasively, with the irrefutable argument of pictorially recorded fact, that the Spanish people are fighting, not for broad principles of Muscovite Marxism, but for the right to the productivity of a land denied them through years of absentee landlordship." The same reviewer in a longer essay concluded that: "Contemporary Historians, Inc...are Ivens' employers and it is their right to dispose of his product as they see fit. They have used it as a violent outcry against fascism. Ivens might have made it lasting art as well."
George Eastman House has preserved the film, which was shown on Turner Classic Movies on December 14, 2011. This version has the narration read by Orson Welles, while later versions had the narration read by Hemingway.
- Carl Rollyson, Lillian Hellman: Her Legend and her Legacy (NY: St. Martin's Press, 1988), 106
- William Wright, Lillian Hellman: The Image, the Woman (), 136
- Deborah Martinson, Lillian Hellman: A Life with Foxes and Scoundrels (NY: Counterpoint 2005), 120
- Martinson, Lillian Hellman, 121
- New York Times: "'The Spanish Earth', at the 55th St. Playhouse, is a Plea for Democracy," August 21, 1937, accessed December 21, 2011
- New York Times: John T. McManus, "Realism Invides Gotham," August 22, 1937, accessed December 21, 2011
- New York Times: Bosley Crowther, "More Grief than Hope," January 21, 1947, accessed December 21, 2011
- The Spanish Earth at the Internet Movie Database
- Stephen Koch, “The Breaking Point: Hemingway, dos Passos, and the Murder of Jose Robles” reviewed by George Packer, including many references to the film