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Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man

The early short stories of Ernest Hemingway, representing some of his finest writing, centered upon his own youth, translated into the character of Nick Adams. Many of these ebullient vignettes were put together to form this often stirring, exciting film with Beymer as the wide-eyed, curious youth who begins his escapades in rural Michigan, hitting the open road to New York and some vague awaiting fame. The richness of the script is abetted by the arresting characters surrounding Beymer who make him look much better than his often wooden portrayal would have done on its own: Dailey as a drunken advance man for a cooch show for whom Beymer briefly works; promoter Clark; Montalban as an understanding Italian officer commanding Beymer in France during WW I; Wallach, one of the hospital orderlies who takes Beymer under his wing when he becomes an ambulance corps officer; Hernandez, a kindly trainer; and the alcoholic, punchdrunk fighter Newman (who can hardly be recognized under masterful gargoyle makeup by Ben Nye)--a shattering cameo performance wherein Newman took small billing just to enact the difficult role of Ad Francis, whom Hemingway featured in "The Battler." Beymer meets the has-been pug on the open road and is warmly invited by Newman to join him and Hernandez at their campsite and share their meager food. The awestruck Beymer thinks of the decrepit fighter as a hero. After a nap, Newman awakens with a murderous look, forgetting Beymer is a guest, accusing him of stealing his food, looking upon him as a strange interloper. Before he can attack the befuddled youth, Hernandez knocks out the fighter from behind with a skillet lid to protect the youth from harm. This sequence is worth the whole film, which later falls off in pace and almost comes to a standstill when Beymer, wounded in Europe, falls in love with an ill-starred nurse, Strasberg, whose performance exudes nothing more than a million-mile stare and a consistent monotone delivery which further infects Beymer's own lackluster performance, much to the discredit of director Ritt. The screenplay by Hotchner is slick, a good copy in dialog of the clipped Hemingway style, but then he had the master's original work from which to cull his scenes. The Waxman score is uplifting and moving, and kudos go to cameraman Garmes for his crisp photography.