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Posted: May 1st, 2012, 11:44 am
by feaito
For all the people who have not seen this film you must watch it. Thanks to Theresa's high praise of it after watching the movie on the big screen (WOW) and her telling me that it's avaialable on youtube, I'm posting it here, because due to its quality it deserves a thread of its own. I recentley read a book about the Korda family, but this film in particular is not discussed much.

I watched it in March 2012, thanks to dear Moira who shared a copy with me and I was highly impressed -and by the way I've just remembered that this was the first time I saw Jean Gillie onscreen!-, here's the review I wrote at that time:
Thanks to Moira again, I got to see the rousing adventure film and complex psychological study, based upon a Hemingway novel or story: "The Macomber Affair" (1947), directed by Zoltan Korda. One of the best movies based upon Hemingway's material I've ever seen. Joan Bennett is sublime as the sexy wife of millionaire Francis Macomber (very well played by Robert Preston) who sets her eyes on Gregory Peck (playing a hunting guide) during a trip to Kenya, in which Mr. Macomber wants to prove to his wife and himself that he can hunt a lion and other animals; he wants to prove he's a full-fledged man and not a coward. The characters are not one dimensional at all, they are all very complex and deftly performed by the fabulous leading actors. Joan Bennett plays such an attractive, impetuous woman; teasing Peck in front of her husband; and hating and loving Preston at the same time. Such a female! Wow! Can't believe this same woman went to play the perfect "mother" in "Father of the Bride" three years later! Superb film charged with tension and passion, with wonderful location shooting. Jean Gillie is an awesome beauty who plays a girl who works in a bar and has a weakness for Peck. She died very young. A pity.

Peck's character in way predates his role in "The Snows in Kilimanjaro", but this movie is superior.

by feaito
Sun Mar 28, 2010 11:28 pm
Forum: General Chat
The link to the complete film:



Posted: May 2nd, 2012, 7:58 am
by CineMaven
"And you’re a coward."

Emily Dickinson wrote:

"A word is dead
When it is said,
Some say.

I say
It just beigns to live
That day."

Our movies have such a strong moral code. The bad must pay. And bad women must pay...dearly. Whether the law metes out justice for our deeds or we issue a self-imposed justice for what's in our hearts (Robert Young in "THEY WON’T BELIEVE ME"), the moral code is inescapable, and apparently essential. It runs through our American cinema, literature and souls like our carotid artery.

I, too, was stunned by "THE MACOMBER AFFAIR” It stayed with me quietly throughout the festival. I'd have mini-flashbacks while I waited on line for another movie with tiny uncontrollable shaking of my head and softly clucking my tongue. I couldn't quite put my thoughts into words without a second viewing, and fat chance of that. Leonard Maltin's intro of the film already told us the 'Macomber' rights issues. I finally saw one of my personal holy grail films and now I wanted a second helping? Ha! Greedy greedy Capricorn. Who knew I'd be a click away from the grail. (Does Leonard Maltin know about this?) So I cozily settled in for a second viewing. Now, I still don't have the right words (my heart is so much more eloquent than my brain), but here are the words I could pull out:

Hemingway gives us the story of the disintegration of a marriage using the safari as subtext. I liked the use of flashback here (without voice over). Gregory Peck as white hunter, Wilson, is not talking to Father Confessor/Magistrate Reginald Denny. He's thinking of past events. How he could know what the Macombers talked about in their private tent is one of the conceits I was willing to go with). I cotton to the inevitability flashbacks give to events. We start off not knowing anything.

Just that a man is dead.


The Macomber Affair: its marriage, its affair...the hunt. Marriage is a partner-ship of love, support, desire, respect. (All you married posters out there can correct me if I've romanticized things). The Macombers look good on paper. They are an attractive and successful couple. (Hey, safaris ain't cheap). Francis Macomber is a good dancer too. I liked when she calls him to dance since the great white hunter couldn't quite cut a rug. And they have that good-natured Nick & Nora repartee going on. When Wilson compliments Macomber on his attractive wife:

MR. MACOMBER: "Wilson, you don't know what it does to a man's ego to constantly be reminded he's married to a beautiful woman."

MRS. MACOMBER: "Usually what it does to yours darling, air does to a balloon."

But when things go down hill, it goes down like a water buffalo. Francis starts off confident, and deferentially willing to learn from his safari guide, Wilson. And he's so boyishly cute rekindling his attraction to his wife:

"I believe I'm in love with you again."

Is there really an affair, or just an attraction between Wilson and Margaret Macomber. Even I think the flirtation is somewhat harmless; maybe part of the ticket to the safari...the charm Wilson thinks wives expect out there in the jungle while their husbands are busy proving their manhood against lions and tigers and impalas...oh my! Emotions are heightened out there in Mother Africa with its veldt, and heat, and wild...animals. Gable, Granger...dashing, virile, alpha males in khaki shorts living by the gun and their code. How intoxicating. I like how Wilson calls Mrs. Macomber a "beautiful sensation." I like how he gets the help to pipe down outside so Mrs. Macomber can sleep. (I love how the head guy, Kongoni also brings in Mr. Macomber's name in terms of sleep. Yeah...him, too). Oh Wilson's definitely attracted to Margo Macomber. Korda leaves it to our imagination...Wilson sitting outside his tent smoking a cig and Mrs. Macomber leaving her tent.

I liked the details of surfin' safari-ing; the talks of the types of gun. I just liked the verbal attention to those details (not a proponent of hunting down animals at all). I guess the attention to safari details is due to Hemingway's passion (hunting). But I did like it and the aplomb and believability Peck played all that off as though this La Jolla native was to the safari born.


I audibly gasped when I saw that. I was in total shock. I was just expecting a good old-fashioned affair. Not this.

We all want our men to be white hunters, brave, heroic, to protect us whether in the jungle or in suburbia; the heartlands or midtown. The disappointment was chilling. I really was in shock.

It truly turned the tide on things and eroded everything. It was the death of everything. When Margo kisses Wilson full on the lips in front of her husband, I was again in shock. WHOA! What a ballsy move!!! What a slap in the face. Now Margo really plays up to Wilson, but he's not comfortable with that:

WILSON: "Say you wouldn't mnd dropping my beauty as a topic."
MRS. M.: "I just started."
WILSON: "Let's chuck it."

Joan Bennett as Margaret Macomber was wonderfully horribly contemptuous. At first I liked it, but then I was angered by it. She was a bully. And needled and needled; wanted Francis to get his beauty rest...shrank from him. And Robert Preston did a really fantastic job as a man shamed; shamed in front of his wife, shamed in front of another man. My heart broke for him. He wasn't a blowhard. He seemed like an average guy.

"What about my wife. She’ll look at me like a rabbit for the rest of my life."

He sulks. He's impotent.

I hadn't expected these turn of events. And in 1947 to boot! Hemingway?

How does one come back from shame. What he liked and admired about everything before, he now hates and loathes, including Wilson. Macomber's already beating himself up. Now his wife nails his impotency to the wall like one of those animal heads. Before I started disliking her, I marvelled at her smiling disdain when she comes back into the tent and figures he knows she was gone (his arm is over his eyes). OMG Joanie! She has risen in my little black book of lethal ladies. No one shows contempt like Joan Bennett (sorry Bette, sorry Babs!)

MR. MACOMBER: "You think I'll take anything don't you?!"
MRS. MACOMBER: "I know you will, Sweet!"

Bulls eye.

Beating up the servant made him look small as well, like a little boy beating up a littler kid. I liked how Kongoni jumped in there and even though he was forcibly stopped by Wilson, I really liked the healthy respect Wilson and Kongoni had for each other. There was a team work with them, not subserviency. But you can't go hitting the clients even if they act like pr...knuckleheads.

I was really checking out Wilson's reaction. He was very even-handed about it all. He didn't coddle or wet nurse Macomber, but he wasn't judgmental either. I didn't know what to expect. I was all turned around now. After all, he wanted Margo too. I was surprised and warmed to see Wilson support and encourage Macomber; like a big brother not a rival. Now of course, this is a business and part of his job is not to talk about his clients. And women getting mixed up in this safari business was bad business he initially said. He wanted Macomber to get a back bone with Margo. "...order her not to go," he said. My dander raised for a hot second, but then I calmed my "I-am-woman-hear-me-roar" self down. The thought also crossed my mind this second time around that Wilson wanted Macomber strong if he were going to fight to get his wife. The same way he wouldn't shoot an animal from the jeep b'cuz he had unfair advantage, he wanted to fight a man, not a wimp.

And now a different turn of events occurs when. Macomber gets his confidence back with more hunting. I thought to myself '...listen Francis, you may get your confidence back...but you'll never be able to touch Margo again,'. But you know what, I don't think he wants her back now.

"Without you're knowing it, you've always wanted me as a mouse. Well now you're going to have to get used to me as a man."

Well good for him!

And now even Wilson sees that Margo is really being a beeyotch. Seems like he and Macomber are kind of bonding now (much to Margo's chagrin). They're not exactly Spanky & Alfafa in the He-Man Woman-Haters' Club, but they are bonding and having a mutual respect.


WHAT THE HECK!!!! I usually see it coming in these old movies, but not this one. Brother! Did she or didn’t she? This was a little mixed up for me. Was it too explanatory, why were we not shown hints of this before. Or were we? Was it foretold? Does she pull a Dorothy Mackaill in "SAFE IN HEL" meting out her own justice? As upset as I was with her b*tchiniess, I want her to escape like Bette in "THE LETTER." Maybe not get the guy...but not get hanged either. Do we have to pay for what's in our hearts?

Again a shout out to the actor who played Kongoni. And please let me not forget the barmaid played by Jean Gillie.

"A woman would do things a man would never dream of doing. I’d murder for a man I was crazy about."

(Sadly so sadly...this actress dies shortly after this film is made, at age 34). How she simmers and smolders here. Sure they had a fling out there. He took it for what it was, and she fell in love. As Aimee, she silently speaks volumes about her relationship with Wilson with that slow husky voice of hers without saying much. She has as much depth as the Mariana Trench, saying little, and knows the fate of things to come as though she were a modern-day Cassandra. Okay, she's no Cassandra. She's just a woman in love. She suffers from unrequited love, like Suzanne Pleshette in "THE BIRDS." Do you think she’ll be waiting for Wilson after Margo’s trial?

They also serve who only stand and wait.


Posted: May 2nd, 2012, 7:59 am
by CineMaven
...And I enjoyed Miklos Rosza's score as well.


Posted: May 2nd, 2012, 8:39 am
by feaito
Wonderful & heart-felt essay Theresa! :D

Arguably Joan Bennett's best role? It might be.

Do you know if Hemingway was pleased with this film? He should have been. I seem to recall reading that in all his life he was pleased with "To Have and have Not" and thet he disliked intensely the cinematic adaptations of "A Farewell to Arms", "The Snows of Kilimanjaro", "For Whom the Bells Toll" et al. This film is something to be proud about. I regard it as perhaps Zoltan Korda's best.

I'll revisit this masterpiece soon!


Posted: May 3rd, 2012, 10:42 pm
by movieman1957
It's been a long time since I've seen two characters I wanted to slap. How the Macombers ever got to a point where they agreed to come is baffling. They are, or at least have become, awful people. He's a wimp. She's a weasel.

Having said that they are exceptionally well played by Robert Preston and Joan Bennett. It is hard to imagine how they came to the point where they hate each other and, I think, themselves. Preston can't get past his weaknesses. No matter how hard Peck puts them aside for him he can't let it go. That feeds Bennett's hatred and for a while Peck's. She is more than brazen. She is vindictive. With Peck falling for her it is hard for me to figure whether that says more about her or him.

Peck is fine as well as he is sort of an enigma. At first he's grumpy and a bit of a smart aleck. He alternates between friend, adversary, referee and finally supporter. He probably curses the day he met them no matter how accepting he is of his fate. It certainly did him no good.

The safari setting is a perfect one for bringing out the beast (sorry) in these people. The action set pieces are well filmed and I agree with the others that the music score is terrific.


Posted: May 4th, 2012, 10:15 am
by feaito
Very well put Chris, this film definitely should be better known. I think it's even ahead of its time in some aspects. The performances are truly first-rate.


Posted: May 15th, 2012, 12:17 pm
by kingrat
Maven, I love your discussion of THE MACOMBER AFFAIR. Hemingway thought it was the best adaptation of his work, and it's based on a short story. How well-written this script is. I'm not thinking so much of the fine dialogue as of the way the plot, always believable, has unexpected twists and turns, as Maven detailed for us, and each turn of the story takes us deeper into the characters and makes us see them in a new way. The actors and director don't have to work to make up for the shortcomings of the script, as often happens. Jean Gillie's character is an addition, and a welcome one. It's hard to like the Macombers, but it's hard to forget them, which shows how successful this film is.

If you've ever tried to act or know something about acting, you know how hard Robert Preston's role is. A lesser actor would simply pre-judge the character and play a generalized coward or generalized bad rich guy--Billy Zane's character from James Cameron's TITANIC on safari. Preston gives us all the messy, conflicting ways that Macomber sees himself. He isn't afraid to identify with Macomber and bring him a certain boyish charm at times. Zoltan Korda deserves credit for wanting adult complexity rather than Cameron's comic book approach.


Posted: May 16th, 2012, 8:16 am
by CineMaven
Thanxx so much King Rat. The film resonated with me at the festival. Then when I had the chance to watch it again in the quiet storm of my apartment, I saw it wasn't a fluke. It wasn't that I was all caught up in the festivities of the festival and liking and loving everything. I found the film spoke to me about marriage and love and shame and honor. You say it so well when you say: "...each turn of the story takes us deeper into the characters and makes us see them in a new way." I remember Maltin saying Hemingway was pleased with this adaptation and I thought Jean Gillie was wonderful in her quiet hushed smoldering all knowing way. She made me sit up and take notice. She had Wilson's number, didn't she. ( :) ) I didn't like or dislike the Macombers. I accepted that they were part of the fabric of this tale.
If you've ever tried to act or know something about acting, you know how hard Robert Preston's role is. A lesser actor would simply pre-judge the character and play a generalized coward or generalized bad rich guy--Billy Zane's character from James Cameron's TITANIC on safari. Preston gives us all the messy, conflicting ways that Macomber sees himself. He isn't afraid to identify with Macomber and bring him a certain boyish charm at times. Zoltan Korda deserves credit for wanting adult complexity rather than Cameron's comic book approach.
So true Brother Rat. And you say it very well! Robert Preston is not an actor that I really cotton to. But in this film...he was phenomenal. He took me on a ride with him. And that's all I want from actors.


Posted: June 20th, 2012, 1:41 pm
by charliechaplinfan
I thought it was a brilliant film too, Gregory Peck, although the star isn't really mentioned that much on this thread, it goes without saying that he played his role well and was a romantic figure as the professional hunter. The disintergration of a marriage and the cruelty of the hunt, you put the animals out of their misery if you're the professional hunter but if you're the Macombers you let it suffer, just like you let each other suffer. The hunting theme just increases the suffering and the morality issue in the film, although I'm not sure that that is what Hemingway would have intended. Times change and tastes change, although there are still big game hunters, the thought of someone slaughtering a lion just for fun, just highlighted how impotent man is when faced with a power of nature.


Posted: June 20th, 2012, 2:58 pm
by feaito
I am glad to read that there's another admirer of this little-known film, arguably the best adaptation of a Hemingway story.


Posted: June 20th, 2012, 3:33 pm
by charliechaplinfan
I like Borzage's treatment of A Farewell to Arms, in my opinion he improved on the book even if he wasn't completely faithful to it.


Posted: June 20th, 2012, 5:18 pm
by feaito
I agree with you Ali, but Borzage transformed "A Farewell to Arms" (1932) in a creation of his own, and, as you say it's not as faithful to the book, because it focuses much more on the love story than on the War aspects of the story.

"To Have and Have Not" (1944) is also a great film based on a -inferior- Hemingway story. Hawks' in this case improved on the source material creating a near-masterpiece.

But, as I've read, "The Macomber Affair" (1947) as a film as well as an adaptation of hemingway's work is the best in that category.


Posted: June 26th, 2012, 3:59 am
by Ann Harding
Thanks to Fernando, I was also able to discover this very interesting Zlotan Korda feature. I am amazed how mature the film feels compared with the tedious The Sun Also Rises. I felt the script gave an opportunity to all the characters to show their depth psychologically. The hunting party evolves throughout the film as raw emotions are unveiled. I was really riveted by the performances of all the actors, including Peck who sometimes disappoints me. Hemingsway's obsessions are well delineated: you are a he-man only if you can shoot a wild animal and females are to be kept at bay. Zlotan Korda was certainly a very good director and deserves better recognition with this film and The Four Feathers. Thanks Fernando!


Posted: June 26th, 2012, 8:09 am
by feaito
Welcome Christine, much obliged! :D


Posted: June 27th, 2012, 4:32 pm
by kingrat
AnnH, I'm also an admirer of Korda's CRY, THE BELOVED COUNTRY.