A Farewell to Arms (1932)

Gary Cooper, Adolphe Menjou, Mary Phillips and Helen Hayes
Cooper, Menjou, Mary Phillips and Helen Hayes

'A Farewell to Arms' is a romantic drama movie made in 1932, directed by Frank Borzage and starring Gary Cooper, Helen Hayes and Adolphe Menjou. The film was the first adaptation of the novel of the same name by Ernest Hemingway. It was warmly received by the public and was the third most popular movie at the U.S. box office for 1932.

The movie was remade twice, firstly in 1957, starring Rock Hudson and Jennifer Jones and as a TV mini-series in 1966 with George Hamilton and Vanessa Redgrave.

'A Farewell to Arms' received four Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, and won two, for Best Cinematography and Best Sound.


The action of the film takes place over a nine month period between February and November, 1918. Gary Cooper plays Lt. Frederick Henry, an American ambulance driver serving in the Italian Army, who meets an English Red Cross nurse, Catherine Barkley, played by Helen Hayes. The two fall in love despite being separated by Fredrick's jealous friend, Major Rinaldi, played by Adolphe Menjou. Henry is sent to the front and a now-pregnant Catherine sends him many letters but the jealous Rinaldi makes sure that the letters never reach Henry. Henry makes his way to Switzerland looking for Catherine. Love finds a way but there is a tragic twist at the end.


The director of the movie was first earmarked to be John Cromwell, a relative novice, but he was soon replaced by the more experienced Frank Borzage. This caused Fredrick March, originally set to play the lead role of Lieutenant Frederic Henry, to pull out, leaving the part free to be taken by Gary Cooper.

Before Helen Hayes was cast as Catherine Barkley, Paramount also considered other top actresses of the time such as Claudette Colbert, Ruth Chatterton and Eleanor Boardman.

In the opening scene, the ambulances seen in the distance driving up a windy mountain road are actually miniatures, created especially for the scene.

Two Endings

Unusually, two endings were filmed, one tragic, following the novel and one happy. Paramount instructed theater owners to use the one they thought their customers would prefer. Ernest Hemingway, who treated with contempt this first ever adaptation of his work, unsurprisingly, did not like the twin ending idea and fought strongly for his original ending to be retained.

Main Cast

Helen Hayes ... Catherine Barkley
Gary Cooper ... Lieutenant Frederic Henry
Adolphe Menjou ... Major Rinaldi
Mary Philips ... Helen Ferguson
Jack La Rue ... Priest
Blanche Friderici ... Head Nurse
Mary Forbes ... Miss Van Campen
Gilbert Emery ... British Major


Director ... Frank Borzage
Producer ... Edward A. Blatt, Benjamin Glazer
Screenplay ... Benjamin Glazer, Oliver H.P. Garrett
Based on … the novel 'A Farewell to Arms' by Ernest Hemingway Music ... Milan Roder
Cinematography ... Charles Lang
Distribution Company … Paramount Pictures
Release date ... December 8, 1932
Running time ... 85 minutes

Academy Awards

Two Wins:
Best Cinematography ... Charles Lang
Best Sound, Recording ... Franklin Hansen (sound director)
Two Unsuccessful Nominations:
Best Picture ... Paramount Pictures
Best Art Direction ... Hans Dreier, Roland Anderson