A Farewell to Arms is a corking flicker [from the novel by Ernest Hemingway]. Director Frank Borzage skims over two hyper-delicate situations with deftness and ingenuity. He makes wholly palatable (and highly believable) the premise that a fleeting one hour’s meeting behind the front with the resulting seduction (Gary Cooper and Helen Hayes) is the culmination of a love which, in another sphere, would have followed only a long span of courtship and flowers.
Equally acute is the hospital situation where she, as one of the nurses, violates every regulation and remains with the convalescent Cooper in his room.
All this builds up to the finale where Cooper deserts his regiment, to brave frontiers and sentinels to ultimately reach the woman.
Casting Hayes as Catherine Barkley was a natural. Cooper and Adolphe Menjou are aces in the two other major roles. Menjou’s suave Italian Major Rinaldi becomes distinguished more through personal histrionics than the script’s generosities. Cooper’s sincerity as the enlisted American lieut attached to the Italian army, who abjures the dashing Rinaldi’s penchant of patronizing joy palaces, once the romance sequences get under way, is consistently impressive in a none too easy assignment.
[At the time, a happy ending, in which Catherine survives, was also made available to exhibitors. Version reviewed is the New York roadshow premiere one, faithful to Hemingway’s original novel.]
1932/33: Best Cinematography, Sound Recording.
Nominations: Best Picture, Art Direction