August 23, 1957 – The Curtain Rises on “The Sun Also Rises”

On August 23, 1957, Ernest Hemingway’s classic novel, The Sun Also Rises, came to life on silver screens across America.  Set in 1920s France and Spain during the dissolute backlash following World War I, the story centers around wounded expatriate American journalist Jake Barnes, lovely but careless British Lady Brett Ashley, her fiance Mike Campbell, Jake’s college friend Bill Gorton, Jake’s other college friend Robert Cohn (Jewish, tortured, ex-boxer), and a young hunk bullfighter named Pedro Romero.

Hemingway shared his obsessions and passions for drinking, bullfighting, fishing, writing, and sex in The Sun Also Rises.  In producer Darryl F. Zanuck’s and director Henry King’s film treatment, Tyrone Power plays the semi-autobiographical role of Jake.  Jake loves Lady Brett but, to the infinite frustration of both, can’t sustain a relationship with her for a mysterious reason related to his “war wound”.  Ava Gardner (Frank Sinatra’s at-the-time main squeeze) played Lady Brett with her liberated short hair, short skirt, and tendency to short lead-time-before-hopping-in-the-sack with Robert, Mike, Jake, and finally, Pedro.  Errol Flynn played Mike, Eddie Albert played Bill, Mel Ferrer played Robert, and a young actor named Robert Evans played the initially pure and beautiful artist of the bullring, Romero.

Yes, that Robert Evans.  Bob claims he was a persona non grata on the set.  Hemingway, Power, Gardner, and most of the cast and crew wanted him fired from the production, he later wrote in his autobiography, The Kid Stays in the Picture.  Zanuck refused to get rid of Evans, saying – you guessed it – “the kid stays in the picture”.

Later in his career, Robert certainly proved his prowess as a producer of blockbuster hits.  Starting in the 1970s with Chinatown, Marathon Man, and Black Sunday, in the 1980s with Urban Cowboy, Popeye, and The Cotton Club, and tapering off in the 1990s with The Two Jakes, The Phantom, and The Saint, Evans made a big name and a big fortune for himself in Hollywood – where success is possibly more tricky to achieve and survival more in doubt than in any bullfight ring.

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