The Hemingways After Ernest
There is perhaps no name more widely renowned in modern American literature than Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms, The Sun Also Rises, For Whom The Bell Tolls— the titles of Ernest Hemingway’s works are synonymous with honest prose and brave characters, many of whom relate to Hemingway’s own life experiences. He is remembered for being a global author, writing about topics as wide-ranging as the Italian front during WWI and the everyday lives of men and women in pre-Castro Cuba.
The Nobel Prize-winning author, four times married with three sons, is more often associated with his literary legacy than his personal one. Hemingway had close relationships with all three of his sons in their youth, but became more distant in his later years. In his book, Papa: A Memoir, Gregory Hemingway wrote, “The man I remembered was kind, gentle, elemental in his vastness, tormented beyond endurance, and although we always called him papa, it was out of love, not fear."
Hemingway’s vices were as integral a part of his personality as his virtues, however. Prone to heavy drinking and bouts of depression, he was temperamental and had a difficult time maintaining adult relationships. “Writing, at its best, is a lonely life.”, the author famously said in his Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech.
The Hemingways after Ernest continue to intrigue both those well-acquainted and those less familiar with his work. A documentary about the Hemingway family, shot by the Academy Award-winning filmmaker Barbara Kopple, is currently in the works.
The continued fascination with the Hemingway name poses a question: What do we expect from the children of fame? Though we prize family traditions (Francis Ford and daughter Sofia Coppola), we are equally compelled by differences (Gloria Vanderbilt and son Anderson Cooper). Do genetics predetermine greatness or is upbringing to blame?
The Hemingway name lives on in a cast of characters no less literary than their progenitor. Margaux, Mariel, and Dree— descendents of the famous writer— have each made their own names and have their own stories to tell.
By her younger sister Mariel’s account, Margaux’s personality was always larger-than-life and almost certainly larger-than-life in the small town of Ketchum, Idaho, where she grew up. Anecdotes are telling. Mariel writes that her older sister “became the youngest patron of the Pioneer Bar in town, at the age of fourteen. She was completely wild…She partied all weekend on the ski hills, filling her bota bag with wine or tequila and fearlessly bolting down double Black Diamond runs stoned and drunk.”
Margaux’s personality had notes of ambition and promise, but ended with a bitter finish. After leaving the Hemingway estate in Ketchum, Idaho for the promise of New York City, Margaux began a short-lived but spectacular modeling career, becoming the first model to be paid over a million dollars for a cosmetics contract and appearing on the cover of both Time magazine and Vogue in 1974. With a talent for social-networking that was before its time, Margaux found her way into the Studio 54 scene and continued an unhealthy relationship long in the making.
“I never thought then that alcohol would become a problem,” she would later recount for People magazine.”In my grandfather’s time it was a virtue to be able to drink a lot and never show it. And like him, I wanted to live life to the fullest, with gusto.” She shared several qualities with her famous grandfather, including a struggle with alcoholism and depression. Her modeling and acting career peaked in the ‘70s and faded in the ‘80s. Family drama led personal problems to worsen, and in 1996 Margaux’s short life ended when she overdosed on barbiturates.
Wide-eyed and classically beautiful, Mariel Hadley Hemingway is best known for her Oscar-nominated role as Tracy in Woody Allen’s Manhattan. The then 16-year-old Mariel shared her first real kiss with Woody Allen while shooting a scene for the film. Reportedly, she then turned to the cinematographer and asked, “We don’t have to do that again, do we?” (as quoted in the Washington Post).
Mariel was named after a Cuban fishing village that was a favorite of both grandpa Ernest and her father, Jack Hemingway. Born in California, Mariel grew up on the Hemingway estate in Ketchum, Idaho, living a fairly peaceful existence until older sister Margaux secured a role for her in the 70s cult-classic Lipstick. The film’s controversial subject matter, along with Margaux’s critically received acting debut, precluded any mainstream success but brought 14-year-old Mariel recognition for her small but poignantly acted role.
With Manhattan, Mariel’s success quickly eclipsed her sister’s, eventually leading to an Oscar nod for Best Supporting Actress and some negative emotions on Margaux’s part. Ultimately, fame proved difficult to keep. Mariel’s acting career consisted of little other than a handful of B-list movies and walk-on parts in TV shows. Now 47, Mariel has found success as a lifestyle expert and has authored a series of cookbooks.
Dree was one of a long line of Hemingway children who grew up in Ketchum, Idaho and survived a family rite-of-passage— attending Ernest Hemingway Elementary.
A decade or so later, she would revisit the school to shoot an editorial for British Vogue. Though the shoot was probably a decision made by Vogue editors with a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, it was symbolic of Dree’s own life experience. English class is difficult for a Hemingway, Dree attested, “the people who go craziest when they hear the name Hemingway are my English teachers” (according to the New York Times).
After high school, she joined a modeling agency and quickly rose to the top of the ranks, debuting at the Fall 09-10 Givenchy show in Paris. Since then, she has appeared in a virtual United Nations of Vogue covers (Japan, Russia, China, Germany, Britain, and France are represented, and Vogue Pakistan is eagerly vying for membership).
Does the literary gene survive? The model and socialite was trained in classical Shakespearean acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. Or perhaps the acting gene has proven more resilient? “I would love to get into acting”, Dree said in a recent interview with Elle Canada, perhaps following in the footsteps of her mother, Mariel.
The Hemingways still conjure up images of glory and fame, past and present. And even though the brood haven’t followed in the late, great Ernest’s footsteps, it’s clear that his shadow still looms large on the legendary Hemingway name.
Photos of Ernest Hemingway by Fotopedia. Photo on the main page: Jean Patchett and Ernest Hemingway in 1950.
Photo of Margaux Hemingway on the cover of Time Magazine; film still of "Manhattan" starring Mariel Hemingway and Woody Allen; photo of Dree Hemingway on the cover of Russian Vogue, 2009 (photo by Alisdair McLellan).