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Ken Burns Film Takes New Look at Hemingway

Three-part documentary on PBS begins on Monday
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 4, 2021 5:00 PM CDT

(Newser) – A new Ken Burns documentary on Ernest Hemingway—powered by vast but little-known archives kept at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston—is shedding new light on the acclaimed novelist, per the AP. Hemingway, premiering on PBS on three consecutive nights starting April 5, takes a more nuanced look at the author and his longstanding reputation as an alcoholic, adventurer, outdoorsman, and bullfight-loving misogynist who struggled with internal turmoil that eventually led to his death by suicide at age 61. The truth about the man many consider America’s greatest 20th-century novelist—whose concise writing style made him an outsized celebrity who became a symbol of unrepentant American masculinity—is much more complex, said Lynn Novick, who collaborated with Burns on the three-part film.

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Much of the documentary deals with Hemingway’s complicated relationship with the women in his life, from his mother and sisters to the nurse he fell in love with while recovering from wounds suffered in World War I, to his four wives. “So much of what he did in life was about love: running to it, running from it, and ruining it,” Burns said. While considered the archetype of American manhood, the truth about Hemingway's masculinity was more complex, the filmmakers found. As a child, Hemingway’s mother treated him and one of his sisters as twins, often dressing them in identical outfits, sometimes as boys, sometimes as girls. He explored gender fluidity both in his books and in life, letting his hair grow as his wives cropped theirs short. “We wanted to push back against this idea that Hemingway didn't like women," Novick said.

(Read more Ernest Hemingway stories.)

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