The Macomber Affair (1947)

Genres - Adventure, Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Adventure Drama  |   Release Date - Apr 20, 1947 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 89 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

The Macomber Affair is an unsuccessful attempt to translate one of Ernest Hemingway's best-known short stories to the screen. Hemingway is a hard one to make work on film. If lifted straight from the page, his dialogue can sound stilted. The underlying messages of his stories, which are developed through careful prose stylings, are hard to convey subtly in a different medium. And reduced to their plot essentials, without the genius that his meticulous prose brings to them, they can seem a bit blunt and obvious. All of these problems are present to varying degrees in Macomber, but they are compounded by a Hollywood-ized wrap-up that is amazingly untrue to the spirit of the original -- and to even what has come before it on the screen. On the page, it seems clear that the wife's shooting of her husband was no accident; on the screen, this is cleaned up to allow the possibility that it was an accident, thus negating the impact of the story. Zoltan Korda's direction is surprisingly tame, given the ferocity of the material. Gregory Peck is likewise much too tame, uncomfortable in a role for which he is not ideal casting. Joan Bennett is somewhat better, but she too is not the best choice for the role. Only Robert Preston turns in a good performance, and his makes up for many of the film's flaws. Although modern audiences will deride the juxtapositions of location shooting and studio scenery, the former is quite good.