11 November 2007 | bkoganbing
An Ideal Existence
With Islands In The Stream, George C. Scott took his place as an existential Hemingway hero along side such Hollywood luminaries as Gary Cooper, Humphrey Bogart, Gregory Peck, Spencer Tracy, Tyrone Power and Rock Hudson. With that beard he grew for the film he even looks the part of Hemingway.
In this partially autobiographical novel it's first set in the Bahamas where Scott, a painter has gone to get away from the rest of the world. He fishes, he consorts with loose women, and when he's got time and a need for cash, he paints and sells the product to keep going. It sounds like an ideal existence.
Unfortunately World War II intervenes and his three sons by different women all visit him. The oldest, Hart Bochner, has made his mind up to enlist in the Royal Air Force. The two youngest go back to Europe.
One of Scott's good friend is charter boat captain Gilbert Roland who has a side living smuggling refugees, mostly Jews, from Europe to any place in the western hemisphere he can drop them off. A lot times that's Cuba, but the Cuban government is taking a dim view of his activities.
Scott also has as two good friends, native Bahamian Julius Harris, and David Hemmings a young man with a drinking problem. Hemmings's character is ripped off from Hemingway's previous story, To Have and Have Not although Walter Brennan was a good deal older. He even used the same name.
Claire Bloom is also around as the first wife who visits after their son leaves for service. Scott still loves her in his own way, but she's well aware of his fidelity problem. To remind them both is working girl Susan Tyrell.
Ernest Hemingway wrote the story in the early Fifties and discarded it and his widow published it in the early seventies. Probably Papa Hemingway didn't think all that much of it. It certainly doesn't rate with some of his better known work. But second rate Hemingway is better than first rate from most writers.
The cast all give uniformly good performances and the cinematography is just great. Reason enough to see it.