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Monday, April 3, 2017

'Cooper & Hemingway: The True Gen' VOD: Real McCoy Narrates Doc on Notable Friendship of Screen and Literary Legends

Image result for cooper and hemingway the true gen

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Unreal TV has run an article on a recent interview with "Cooper" director John Mulholland.]

Transmultimedia Entertainment awesomely blends the old and the new by recently releasing the 2013 documentary "Cooper & Hemingway: The True Gen" on VOD platforms that include iTunes and Amazon. Unreal TV looks forward to the special features in an upcoming Blu-ray release and will provide updates regarding when it will hit real and virtual store shelves

This film by veteran Cooper (and other Old Hollywood topics) director John Mulholland comprehensively chronicles the parallel lives/20-year friendship between that member of Hollywood royalty (who has his period of being box-office poison) and a Pulitzer and Nobel winning author (whose work includes remainder bin wonders).

Modern Hollywood royalty Sam Waterston (a.k.a. Jack McCoy of "Law & Order") puts his oratory skills to excellent use narrating "True Gen." One of the best moments in the documentary is the even-toned and laidback Waterston discussing Cooper being a natural actor whose lack of inflection makes it seem that that real-life rancher/covert culture vulture is talking, rather than acting.

Equally notable narration comes via veteran actor Len Cariou standing in for the deceased Hemingway regarding reading journal entries, correspondence to Cooper, and other documents. Some of this writing is better than the published works of Papa.

Aptly for a movie produced by a company that features the term multimedia in its name, "True Gen" utilizes virtually every film technique except for animation. One such method is a series of written quotes by Presidents Obama and Clinton and several other 20th and 21st century notable people. Mulholland also uses this method to communicate that the term "true gen" in the title refers to a  Hemingway-coined phrase; it essentially means the genuine article.

This literal cradle-to-the-grave project states early on that Cooper and Hemingway are turn-of-the-century babies who grow up under the "rough rider" influence of Teddy Roosevelt. Cooper is a real cowboy and Hemingway is a suburban one. We metrosexuals generally think of these macho types as "real men" who would rather starve than eat quiche.

Mulholland then illustrates how the early childhoods and careers of matinee idol Cooper and literary god Hemingway parallel each other until they achieve their mutual wish fulfillment when their bromance of the century begins in 1940. The basis for the admiration includes the performance by Cooper in the 1932 film adaptation of the Hemingway novel "A Farewell to Arms."

Much of the Cooper/Hemingway story is told by folks who either were there or know people who were. The most notable is Hollywood royalty Patricia Neal, who is a former co-star and lover of Cooper. Other celebrity highlights include must-see reminiscences by Charlton Heston and Kirk Douglas. (The fact that many younger readers do not recognize at least one of these names illustrates the importance of the work of Mulholland and his peers.)

Numerous segments that feature academics provide additional historical perspective. Getting insight from recently deceased (and greatly missed) film historian Robert Osborne reinforces the tragic truth that we are losing all the greats such as Cooper, Hemingway, and Osborne.

We also hear from Hemingway son Patrick and other son Jack's widow.

An amusing and relatable aspect of the roughly 20-year friendship is that the wives did not like the "other woman" in the life of their husbands. Veronica "Rocky" Cooper objected to Hemingway putting everything in the context of a manly pursuit, and Hemingway spouse Martha Gellhorn had enormous problems with the conservative politics of Cooper. Cooper cooperating with the McCarthy era House Un-American Activities Committee hearings did not help.

The award for most creative segment goes to illustrated scrolling lists of '50s-era stars and novelists in a portion of the film that discusses the generation of artists who come after Hemingway and Cooper getting their share of the spotlight.

Although Mulholland does not explore this aspect of the lives of our subjects, the death of an ailing Hemingway not long after the passing of Cooper arguably reflects the feelings related to one elderly spouse dying within months of losing his or her husband or wife; the survivor simply cannot get along without the other.

This love between two men with more than their fair share of women in their lives further demonstrates that a soulmate is not necessarily of the opposite sex. It further prompts asking the "what if" questions of whether Hemingway and Cooper would have enjoyed a romance if one had been born a woman around 1900 or if had both been born men in the more progressive era of 100 years later.

Anyone with questions or thoughts regarding anything discussed above is strongly encouraged to email me; you also can connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.


  1. Since I watched True Gen after having read both Mr. Nelson's cogent review and his illuminating interview with filmmaker John Mulholland, I cannot say whether my feelings would be different about these two men and their friendship had I watched it cold. However, having absorbed the review and interview, I watched it with these very much at the front of my thoughts. And to answer Mr. Nelson's question about what might their friendship look like were they around today, I am utterly certain that both men would be openly gay and very likely married. Mulholland's approach, focusing on how their entire lives were spent hiding who they were, without directly saying so, leaves no other interpretation. Throughout, Mulholland hints -- again, without saying so -- that both men were in closets of their own making. Emotionally, intellectually, artistically. It is no stretch to add sexuality to these. I like how Mulholland found a couple of pix of Hemingway slipping a shirt on the bare-chested Cooper. Mulholland even frames their friendship as intrigued lovers in a courtship, then a squabbling pair, and finally as an entwined twosome become one. Until, as Mr. Nelson astutely points out, the surviving "spouse", unable to live without his true love, takes his own life. A couple of other reviewers have also picked up on the understated homosexual "vibe" -- as Mr. Nelson says. It is a brilliant film, and one I recommend highly; especially to those, like myself, in the LGBTQ arena.

  2. Couldn't agree more with both the review by Matt Nelson and this comment by Vince. The gay -- or homosexual -- vibe is so prevalent, am mystified why others haven't picked up on it. It is intriguing to consider, as Matt Nelson asks, what might their relationship be if they were artistically coming of age today. It is truly tragic when you consider their lives from this prism-of-vision, that they had to hide their true selves and their true love. Have to thank Mulholland for how clever he was in crafting the documentary with such a solid undercurrent. Since Mulholland himself is gay, he knows how to put together a work which we in the gay world will pick up on even as others might not realize it. But it is good that the gayness quotient of their lives has been brought into the open.
    Chris Holden

  3. The LGBT Center in NYC held a screening last week of Design For Living. I was surprised and delighted when John Mulholland came on stage to introduce the film, offering some background on the film. Even better, he came back after the film and offered more on both the film and Gary Cooper's presence in the film. He then opened it up to questions, and needless to say, most of them dealt with Mulholland's documentary on Cooper and Hemingway. And since this was a gay audience, the questions honed in on the film and its gay subtext. At first, Mulholland seemed annoyed, apparently frustrated with the emphasis on the sexuality of both men. But finally he threw up his hands and asked the audience how many were non-gay. Not one hand went up and he laughed, and his mood lightened and he took seriously the questions. On whether he believes Cooper and Hemingway were sexually active with each other, he said no. But stressed that didn't mean they weren't attracted to one another. He believes they were, deeply. When he was asked if he intentionally framed the storyline to accentuate a gay subtext, he had an interesting answer. He said that his gayness certainly doesn't define him, but it is integral to who he is. How he perceives the world and the people in it. So he agreed that the framing served as an umbrella for the gay subtext: Were they gay. He believes that Cooper and Hemingway, were they around today, 30 years old, both would be openly gay. He pointed to Hemingway's ferocious masculine posturing, as if defending himself against another man within. He said that had he known when he made it what he has since learned about Cooper, information only revealed in the last year or so, he would have painted Cooper with a broader gay brush. It has apparently been recently revealed through letters that Cooper lived with openly gay director Edmund Goulding when Goulding directed Cooper in Paramount On Parade. Three months. Recent scholarship has revealed that openly gay photographer Cecil Beaton wasn't just making it up that he and Cooper had sex. Letters and hotel records reveal that Cooper and Beaton lived on and off together for 18 months in 1931/32, in hotels in London, NYC, and LA. This makes, Mulholland said, the rumors about Cooper and Anderson Lawler being a same-sex couple in 1929 and 1930 far more credible. That is three same-sex affairs which we know of, and Mulholland pointed out that there were no doubt far more we don't know of. Mulholland said that Cooper's almost desperate womanizing throughout his life could well have been a defense against his natural self -- same sex attraction. Which brings both Cooper and Hemingway in line with one another. There was much more, Mulholland explained that the evening made him realize what a testy jerk he had been to some of the gay critics who interviewed him. Said he was testy, didn't want to dwell on the gay thing, wanted to discuss the broader story. But as he closed, Mulholland admitted that gayness, same-sex attraction, is at the heart of their friendship. If can put down some notes, will try to add more about the evening.

  4. figure4jack@yahoo.comJune 1, 2019 at 8:20 AM

    These comments strike me as projecting. There is nothing gay-themed within this documentary. This has nothing to do with my not being gay, simply that there is nothing in it which even hints at a same-sex relationship. Whether today they, in fact, might have been in a same-sex relationship, who can say? But there is nothing in the documentary which deals with this. It is about a friendship between two men; two men who grew up under a specific image of masculinity and who lived their lives according to this image. That it ended up harming them, to an extent, as men and artists has nothing to do with their sexuality. I don't know anything about John Mulholland, his personal life, but there is nothing in his work which lends itself to his own sexuality, whatever it is. These comments border on the irresponsible. Not because there is something negative about whatever one's sexuality, but because sexuality is being used as a prism-of-vision, not the work itself.

  5. figure4jack@yahoo.comJune 2, 2019 at 2:55 PM

    Hadn't clicked on Chris's name my first visit, but it is a live link to Wikipedia's page, LGBT Culture in NYC, where John Mulholland's name is prominent among notable LGBT New Yorkers in Film & Television. While this is a helpful link to confirm his sexuality, not sure that it adds anything to the documentary itself. Knowing this does not change my feelings about what it is about. Nor do I believe, had I known it beforehand, that this knowledge would have changed my attitude. But thanks for the link, Chris! Fascinating listing. Such a huge list. Get the idea that a hefty majority of the most talented and successful creative New Yorkers are LGBT.

  6. Good stuff here on this comment thread. Very interesting. Given the information within the comments, I will never again read anything by Hemingway without factoring in the man hidden inside. That is, a closeted gay man. Nor will I ever again watch a Cooper film without factoring in that he, too, was a closeted gay man. I will admit that, as a gay guy myself, I picked up the same "homosexual vibe" that Matt Nelson did. At times it wasn't even a subtext, it was the text. When one of the speakers says that "there was a spark in Ernest with Cooper that I never saw with anyone else." Hmmmm. Or when another speaker mentions that traits which Hemingway would criticize in others, but would accept in Cooper. And several other equally "homosexual vibe" moments. I wonder that this documentary isn't also placed in the LGBT section. It would be a valid entry. Matt Nelson is one of the few critics who has honed in on the gay reality behind their public masks. Congrats, Matt. That Mulholland himself is gay only adds to the strength of the gay reality. And since Mulholland is gay, another reason also to slot this into the LGBT section. Mulholland has never openly dealt with an LGBT subject (other than his documentary interview with Liza Minnelli) in his work. However, in his section on Rob's Gay Info site, Mulholland has announced that his next documentary after Elmore Leonard will be on the Harlem Renaissance, through his own perspective as a gay writer. Look forward to that! Thanks for your great work, Matt!

  7. figure4jack@yahoo.comJune 4, 2019 at 10:56 AM

    Can see I am in the minority here. Perhaps it is because I am not watching through a so-called gay lens that I do not see any of the gay text or sub-text. It is about a masculine friendship. Period. Flawed masculinity, for sure. But masculinity without a hidden gay subtext. As I said, were they here today, I do not know if they would be openly gay and dating or even married. Have no way of knowing. However, there is one suggestion I am in complete agreement with; that is, placing Cooper & Hemingway The True Gen under LGBT documentaries. Since Mulholland is gay, I believe he deserves his work showcased and promoted within the LGBT categories, while continuing to be available as it is now. Given the response within this thread, would very likely increase its audience by a sizeable stretch!

  8. Kanopy -- website linked with libraries, hundreds of films available for streaming -- has an excellent LGBT section. I went on last night, scrolling LGBT directors for ideas. John Mulholland is of course among the LGBT Filmmakers. Clicked on him and up pops Cooper & Hemingway The True Gen. In the LGBT section! I was astonished, and delighted. This means we on this thread are not alone, nor is Matt Nelson as a critic alone. If Kanopy is showcasing True Gen as an LGBT documentary, then consensus is forming that what Matt Nelson and many of us picked up as the "homosexual vibe" has become part of the mainstream tapestry. Hurrah! Go to, click on LGBT, etc.

  9. In line with most of the above comments, I agree that Mulholland's homosexuality is integral to the gayness vibe running throughout. He filtered information through his own gay prism-of-vision. That those of us who are LGBT picked up on this tells me that he knew who would understand what he was saying. On his entry on Wikipedia's History of Gay American Men, his powerful comments about his idol, LGBT documentarian and activist Marlon Riggs, are cited. They are a perfect summation of why Marlon Riggs matters and why Mulholland's gayness matters to his work.

  10. John Mulholland is known for getting testy when his sexuality is broached during interviews about his work. Reading these comments, I sympathize with him. Much of what is discussed here is Mulholland's gayness in relation to the documentary, not the documentary itself. To read whatever Mulholland happens to do as a metaphor for the fact that he is gay seems to undervalue his work as a creative artist. Matt Nelson merely asks a question in his solid review about whether Cooper and Hemingway might have been an open couple had they been born in our ETA today. And while I suspect that they very likely would have been openly gay today, Nelson doesn't run the entire film he has watched through an LGBTQ sieve.