Ernest Hemingway’s first novel may have been turned into a movie but he was not pleased. “A Farewell to Arms,” a book he mostly wrote while staying with his wife Pauline Pfeiffer and her family home in Piggott, Ark., in the late 1920s, was set to premiere in that same small town.
Hemingway, who would become one of the iconic writers of the 20th century scoffed when asked if he would attend. The movie director had changed the end of the book, and despite his wife’s family’s enthusiasm, he refused to go when it hit the big screen Dec. 8, 1932.
During the next decade he continued to visit Piggott and he continued to write. There is even some speculation that he started to write “For Whom the Bell Tolls” before he and Pauline divorced in 1940.
Hemingway is the subject of an upcoming three-part, six-hour documentary series directed by award-winning filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick coming to Arkansas PBS April 5-7. Hemingway’s time in Arkansas is mentioned in the first episode in context to he and Pauline moving to Piggott just before their son Patrick was born.
“Many readers are surprised to learn that Ernest Hemingway has an Arkansas connection,” A-State Heritage Sites Director Adam Long said. “The Pfeiffer family, Ernest’s in-laws, were a prominent farming family in Clay County.
“Ernest was a regular visitor in Piggott during his most productive writing years. He wrote portions of ‘A Farewell to Arms’ and several short stories in the loft of the Pfeiffers’ barn, which the family converted to a studio for him. A visit to Piggott is the perfect supplement for an Arkansan watching this documentary.”
Arkansas State University operates the restored Pfeiffer home and Hemingway Barn-Studio as one of its four Heritage Sites. The Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center is located at 1021 West Cherry Street in Piggott.
Additionally, Arkansas PBS and the Division of Arkansas Heritage are partnering to share the author’s Arkansas story and will co-host a virtual screening event in March.
“Heritage tourism sites in Arkansas provide a unique way to explore our state’s past,” Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism Secretary Stacy Hurst said. “The Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum welcomes guests from around the world who want to see where the Nobel Laureate wrote ‘A Farewell to Arms’ and gleaned characters and situations for his stories.
“But, don’t let your visit stop there. Explore the ‘Air Mail’ mural created with Depression-era funding at the National Register-listed Piggott Post Office, or venture to the nearby Johnny Cash Boyhood Home in Dyess. There are many adventures to be enjoyed in our beautiful state.”
Additional educational and local engagement opportunities include a virtual tour of the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum, archival content and little known anecdotes, and a blog series.
“Hemingway” paints an intimate picture of the writer – who captured on paper the complexities of the human condition in spare and profound prose, and whose work remains deeply influential around the world – while also penetrating the myth of Hemingway the man’s man, to reveal a deeply troubled and ultimately tragic figure.
The film also explores Hemingway’s limitations and biases as an artist. Narrated by long-time collaborator Peter Coyote, the series features an all-star cast of actors bringing Hemingway, voiced by Jeff Daniels, his friends and his four wives – voiced by Meryl Streep, Keri Russell, Mary-Louise Parker and Patricia Clarkson – vividly to life.