THE MACOMBER AFFAIR ( 1947 )

“And you’re a coward.”

JOAN BENNETT ( I )
Robert Preston, Joan Bennett and Gregory Peck

It’s a jungle out there.

1947 BLOGATHON

I believe there are a couple of banner years for classic films. 1939, of course, is the Gold Standard. I’m finding 1932 a pretty special year as well ( pre-code, baby ). But you’ve got to take a gander at 1947. Now this is my own list of personal favorites for this year. But I’m here to share the love of 1947 with others by participating in The 1947 Blogathon. It’s being hosted by Karen of Shadows and Satin and Kristina of Speakeasy.

Our Hollywood-American movies have a strong moral code: THEBADMUSTPAY. And bad women must pay…dearly. Whether the law metes out justice for our deeds or what’s in our hearts ( The Postman Always Rings Twice” “A Place In the Sun ), the Moral Code in movies is inescapable and apparently, essential. It runs through our American cinema, literature and souls like an artery to the heart.

I was stunned by THE MACOMBER AFFAIR.” I first saw it at the 2012 TCM Film Festival and it stayed with me throughout the rest of the festival. Now, I might not have the right words to describe how I feel about this movie ( my heart is so much more eloquent than my brain ), but here are the words I managed to pull from my heart’s brain:

I…love…this…movie.

Hemingway gives us the story, and director Zoltan Korda takes us inside the disintegration of a marriage by using the safari as metaphor. Hey, this marriage is over long before any lions come on the scene. GREGORY PECK plays the great white hunter, Robert Wilson. The movie’s story unfolds in a flashback which plays out as Peck ponders what to put in a police report. I like the inexorability flashbacks give to events. No going off the beaten track. No forks in the road. What happens happens. You’re riding this trolley to the end.

MY MACOMBER IS SPOILED – IT WAS SITTING IN THE HOT AFRICAN SUN WITHOUT A HAT! SPOILERS AHEAD

Marriage is a partnership of love, support, desire and respect. ( You can prioritize the order of these qualities as you see fit. ) The Macombers look good on paper. They are an attractive, successful and wealthy couple. ( Hey, safaris ain’t cheap. ) They have that good-natured ‘Nick & Nora’ repartee thing going on in the beginning. They are played by JOAN BENNETT ( Margaret ) and ROBERT PRESTON ( Francis Macomber ).

When Peck compliments Preston on his attractive wife:

MACOMBER AFFAIR ( X )

MR. MACOMBER: “Wilson, you don’t know what it does to a man’s ego to constantly be reminded he’s married to a beautiful woman.”

MRS. MACOMBER: “Usually what it does to yours darling, air does to a balloon.”

GREGORY PECK ( MACOMBER AFFAIR - I )Things start off well amongst the three of them. Francis Macomber ( Preston ) is confident and deferentially concedes to Wilson ( Peck ), willing to learn from his safari guide. I liked the details of safari-ing; the talks of the types of guns and all the verbal attention to details. My guess is the attention to details is due to Hemingway’s passion for hunting. I liked the aplomb and believability Peck delivers as though this La Jolla, California native was to the safari born. Macomber is so boyishly cute as the African air and the thrill of the kill rekindles his attraction to his wife:

“I believe I’m in love with you again.”

Maybe there was a touch of hero worship from Macomber to Wilson. I’d say there is definitely an attraction between Wilson and Margaret Macomber. I think the flirtation is somewhat harmless; maybe part of the whole travel package of the safari – the charm Wilson thinks wives expect out there in the jungle while their husbands prove their manhood against lions and tigers and impalas, oh my! I like how Wilson calls Margaret “a beautiful sensation.” 

But when things go down hill, they go down like a water buffalo.

40 thoughts on “THE MACOMBER AFFAIR ( 1947 )

    • I saw “THE MACOMBER AFFAIR” at one of TCM’s film festivals on a Sunday…at nine in the morning…with Leonard Maltin introducing it. I cannot tell you how my JAW DROPPED at the way the plot played out. I hope you get to see it, and that my spoilers haven’t ruined much for you. Again…I really appreciate your reading my blog and taking the time to make a comment. There are other good films for 1947 included in the blogathon as well. Thanx again.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Patricia…who as a little kid understood WHAT grown-ups were doing. LOL! They were wacky. But I do hope you get to see “THE MACOMBER AFFAIR” with your adult experience under your belt. If only just to drool at Gregory Peck in his safari outfit. It’s a good solid film. Thanx for reading.

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  1. Great pick, Theresa! I have heard of this movie (kind of), but I’ve never seen it — and, boy, do I want to now! (You had me at “I…love…this…movie.”) I enjoyed your insights and your humor (“Hey — safaris ain’t cheap”), and I hope this film isn’t too hard to find, because I can’t wait! Thanks for a first-rate contribution to the blogathon!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi there…thanxx for commenting. I’ve never been a Robert Preston fan ( except for “Victor/Victoria” and one or two other films. ) But he did an excellent job in this film as the very small husband. But it’s Joan Bennett who makes the film for me. She really is an under-rated great of the 1940’s. I do hope you can see this movie. And if you do, please let me know your thoughts.

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  2. Dear Tess, another excellent choice and another excellent review! To be able to see “The Macomber Affair” on the big screen must be something. I saw a so-so print some years ago and I was entranced by this rousing adventure film and complex psychological study. I have read that it is one of the best (if not the best) movies based upon Hemingway’s material and it is defintely one of the best films I have ever seen. Joan Bennett is simply sublime as the impetuous, attractive, sexy wife of millionaire Francis Macomber, who is very well played by Robert Preston. What a wonderful trio. Mrs. Macomber sets her eyes on the hunting guide; Macomber wants to prove to himself and his wife that he can hunt a lion and other animals; he wants to prove he’s a full-fledged man and not a coward. Mrs. Macomber teases Wilson in her husband’s presence. She’s bold. IMO she despises and loves her husband at the same time. This film is charged with sexual tension and passion, the location shooting is very good and I bet on the big screen it must look great. I was also impressed by Jean Gillie, an actress who died very young and who plays a girl who works in a bar and who’s very fond of Wilson. Keep the good work pal!

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    • Dear Feaito, thank so much for stopping by with a basket full of compliments! Thanx. Seeing it on the big screen at TCM’s festival was a WoW experience; not only just their print but the story I saw unfold before me. I never compare a book to a movie or vice versa. Two different mediums for me, so I’m not personally aware if this movie is the best based on Hemingway’s story. But the movie for the movie’s sake was excellently realized, and very well-cast. It IS a wonderful trio like you say. I was shocked, SHOCKED to find Joan Bennett kiss Gregory Peck full on the mouth right IN FRONT of her husband ( played by Preston! ) My jaw dropped. Despises AND loves her husband? Yeah…I can get behind that. I thought Preston was very astutue when he told her that now she’s going to have to deal with him as a man. Very very all around interesting. Jean Gillie makes quite the impression ( poor girl…gone too soon ) but Joan Bennett is the whole movie for me. Thanks again for weighing in.

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  3. Pingback: 1947 Blogathon: Day 1 Recap | shadowsandsatin

  4. First, this film’s lack of availability on North American DVD is one reason I have such huge disdain for the DVD makers.

    Second, this was a film I’d seen on a big-screen as a teenager, and ten years later again and discovered how much I had missed because of my mere ten years’ aging. But I also remembered what I had learned, even as a younger lad: falling in love with beautiful women was going to be an adventure, not just a passion.

    No film ever made this more clear than MACOMBER. There are only a few dozen films that, if I was lord and master of our universe, I’d demand to be on DVD – MACOMBER is at the top.

    As it is, I have total disdain for those rightsholders who agree to Spain’s marketplace but refuse the North American one.

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    • Poor Ollie. I do so feel your pain. And if a trip to Spain is what you have to do…I suggest you pack up the wife and kids and hunt down “Macomber…” L0L. What a difference ten years makes in the life of a lad exploring women. I see you are quite a devotee to that subject; a noble and life-long explorer. It’s great to have these movies on DVD to ponder, gaze and wonder all manner of woman…or man. ( Ya just gotta have the DVD. ) I really enjoyed this film and glad to see you have too. Thanxx for stopping on by. You can kvetch with me anytime.

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  5. Hi, Ms. Maven! LOL! I’ve been talking to you a little on Facebook, love your sense of humor, and asked for a friend spot! You have a really good blog, very well put together and with some really fun things to visit listed at the top. I went to your conversation about “Leave Her To Heaven” and really enjoyed it; would have left a comment if possible. Your article about The Macomber Affair is just great. I saw Caftan Woman’s response, and I’m in the same way. I saw this as a teen, and of course had a whole different feeling about it than I would now (as a very-much-NOT teenager). I have to see it again now, as someone who has lived a life and learned a lot! I particularly like your writing style — conversational, great humor, and insight. I liked: “Bulls eye. Game. Set. MATCH. Stick a fork in him, he’s done.” Poor Macomber — for one important thing, he didn’t deserve to be treated like that because he RAN FROM A LION! What was wifey doing at the time? Standing toe to toe with the raging beast? What a slimey dame! Oh, and one more thing — don’t you think Robert Preston would have benefitted from shaving that dumb moustache? He looks a lot more manly without it, lion or not!

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    • Becky, I thank you so much for all these compliments. Wowee! I’ve looked at a bunch of blogs before I threw my hat in the ring and I wanted mine to be easily navigable. And it’s pretty easy to maintain. I’m not covering the waterfront ( what’s playing in theatres around my New York City ). All I’m writing about are movie that I enjoy. I don’t snark at movies, or laugh at them or think I’m superior to these great old classics. I want to just keep things positive and talk about ( and suggest ) movies I enjoy. Humor? Ha! That’s the only way to fly. With “THE MACOMBER AFFAIR” I’ve ONLY seen it AS an adult so that’s the only perspective I have of it.

      Few of us could probably face a raging lion. It takes a special kinda person. But I think Macomber’s failing was acting like that Big Man On Campus. He needed to be brought down a peg. Remember the scene with him fighting with the servants? With Peck’s right hand man: Kongoni? Preston…a bully who is a big man with people at a lesser station than he. But when he DID gain his balls back…I was happy for that. As for that mustache…HA! Girl, I’ve always had a problem with Preston as a screen presence so I was just happy to like him in this; like his portrayal of Francis Macomber. As for that slimy dame…Joan Bennett? She could do no wrong in my book, so I let her have at it. Men, beware!!!

      As for FaceBook…my life is insane there. I’m pretty politically to the Left, live in the “Blue” State of New York, am pro-choice, pro-LGBT, pro-Voting Rights and a whole slew of things; I’m also finding some friends not as Left as I thought they’d be, so I’m reassessing ALL my friendships there, deletions and shuffling folks around. It’s crazy girl…KA-RA-ZEE. Thanks again for checking out my blog. Keep readin’. 🙂

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      • Well, Facebook is not a big deal, and I know just what you mean. You have a good point about Macomber’s bragging and puffed-up ego, as well as his meanness to his servant. My take was just more on the humorous side when I read your article. Personally, I fell madly in love with Robert Preston in The Music Man, and two other lesser-known, but fabulous movies, “All the Way Home” and “The Dark At the Top of the Stairs.” I haven’t seen these in years. Maybe they are locked up in some kind of copyright thing? (Finally, to Macomber — shave that moustache!)

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      • Hey Becky, sorry if I read the humor part wrong. I usually am always laughing. I don’t know “All The Way Home” but I definitely know him and Dorothy McGuire in “Dark At the Top of the Stairs.” ( Love that title, but don’t ask me why. )

        And I’m with you. Macomber…shave that moustache. 😉 (I think Preston was a good lesser character in “Reap the Wild Wind” too.)

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  6. Excellent post on this should-be-better-known film; really enjoyed your perceptive comments on the Bennett-Preston relationship and what’s simmering beneath the surface. I saw this film many, many years ago and would love to see it again – why isn’t is played more often? As told, the plot sounds like film noir on the veldt, which should make people seek it out. And I ADORE Jean Gillie, a major actress who died too soon. If it’s not yet already, I hope this film comes out soon on DVD.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Film Noir on the Veldt. I am SOOOOOOOOO jealous that I didn’t think of that as a title. Brilliant! Jean Gillie was great in her brief moment. What potential she had but to die so young. ( Have you seen her in “Decoy”? It might be considered a B-Noir, but she’s wonderfully committed to being bad in it. ) I’m not sure what the rights issue is with “Macomber…” I had heard about it, and saw it at the TCMFF on a Sunday at nine in the morning. If I really knew how to hook up a dvr to my television set, I would make a copy of it for you off my cable’s dvr. Thanks so much reading and commenting. I appreciate it.

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      • Yes, I’ve seen Gillie in Decoy, and she’s utterly memorable. What a shame her career was cut short.

        Never understood these arguments over rights when it comes to releasing films on DVD. Owners/distributors have to start being practical: If you don’t release it, how can you make any money from the sales?

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      • I’m with you…beats me about rights issues. Let those companies make money. Let us classic film fans see some great movies.
        (( Sigh! ))

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  7. Good insightful take on a terrific picture. It was one of my Holy Grail titles for many years until I caught up with it on TCM last year and I was happy to find that it was worth waiting for. Peck and Preston are very good but for me the MVP is Joan Bennett. You’re so right about her frigid stare, it can be lethal. I’m a big fan of hers and she is so terribly under-appreciated, which I think held true in her time as well. The fact that she never scored as much as a single Oscar nomination despite at least three worthy performances, this, Scarlet Street and The Reckless Moment, if not more is appalling.

    Hemingway by and large didn’t have a lot of luck with adaptations of his work but this one and the John Garfield starrer The Breaking Point, which is a much more faithful version of To Have and Have Not than the Bogie/Bacall film, have the feeling of his work.

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    • Joel…you are so astute ( especially since I agree with every single point you make about Joan Bennett. L0L! ) Now I admit…I am a new devotee, acolyte, groupie to Joan Bennett. Two of my friends are instrumental in beating me over the head to take a gander at Miss Bennett’s career. ( I’m gandering…I’m gandering! And I’m HOOKED! ) She’s unjustly neglected in the business. In fact, I now can look at “Father of the Bride” and push Elizabeth Taylor to the side ( thanks to my friend’s urging ) and look at the beauty and finesse that Joanie brings to her part in those comic proceedings. Don’t mean to get far afield from talking about “Macomber…” but in “Scarlett Street” ( hey YOU brought it up Joel ) when she lets ‘Eddie G.’ paint her toenails and says: “They’ll be masterpieces” it was the coldest, most contemptuous line reading I’ve ever heard in all of the 1940’s. ( Think I’ll nominate Bennett as should have received an Oscar nod. )

      In fact, on my cable box’s dvr, I have “The Macomber Affair” still recorded on there from LAST YEAR’s TCM airing. I’m not a big reader of books anymore and basically don’t compare books to movies, or vice-versa. But if this screen adaptation turned out to serve Hemingway’s story well, goody. I like it AND “The Killers.” Hell, this should have been the story Hemingway wrote. ( If you have any time, you can read what I wrote about “The Reckless Moment” HERE. Thanx for your comments, Joel.

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  8. I’ve read about this one (and have it) but never got around to seeing it yet. Great cast, great source material and anything that made such an impact on you and earns your rave makes me very interested! Thanks so much for covering this one for the blogathon!

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    • Kristina…stop blogging. Put down your keyboard. Get the dvd and load it up. Turn off your phone. Sit down in the dark with some popcorn or ice cream or whatever your cinematic creature comfort is…and watch “The Macomber Affair.” I expect to read a full post sooner than later. Thank you and Karen for including my blog in this 1947 blogathon. I am really discovering that 1947 was a great year, and my intent is to read every last one of the blog posts submitted. Now let me stop writing…you’ve got a movie to check out: “The Macomber Affair.” Get going…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yay! ( I really am curious as to what you’ll think about the movie. Lemme know. ) Another blogathon put to bed. You and Karin did an incredible job. Whew! The entries. I can’t read ’em all, but I’m going to give it the good ol’ college try to read as many. I might learn something.

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    • Hey Steve. Thank you for reading my 1947 contribution. I’ve never read the book, so I didn’t know WHAT the heck to expect. I sat there in the theatre with my jaw dropped several times during the movie. Dude, you’ve really got to find a way to see this movie. Thank you again for reading.

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  9. I’m another one who hasn’t seen this movie, so it’s a good thing you’re featuring it in the blogathon. Just look at all the new converts to this film you’ll be creating! (I just saw a couple of places to stream it online – yay!)

    You sure know how to “sell” a movie, and I mean that in the best way possible. I can’t wait to watch this one!

    Liked by 1 person

    • With all the blogs out there, for mine to be read feels like I’m a needle in a wonderful haystack someone plucked out and read. It was great to offer up this contribution to the 1947 Blagathon.

      Hey there S.S. Now THIS is the kind of converts I’m talkin’ about. I will “climb ev’ry mountain” to proselytize on behalf of “THE MACOMBER AFFAIR.” I got’chu on the “selling” point…and that’s the idea behind all my reviews. A positive spin and talking about movies I like. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on this film. That’s always the scary part…hoping one likes a film as much as I did. Now everyone, here…onto Shirley Temple!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Anything in ANY WAY associated with Hemingway is already in my ‘good’ book so thanks for flagging this (I think he considered this to be one of his best short stories). And Peck’s involvement pretty much seals the deal (not that I needed that!).
    From what I know, this stays pretty close to the original source with just the flashbacks added in (this is near-impossible to find in the UK, hence why I know quite a bit about it without having seen it!) but it was that staunch production code that forced the ‘punishment’ – I think Zoltan asked Hemingway to come up with an acceptable ending that didn’t compromise the plot but he never responded to their requests.

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    • Hi! Everyone who’s read the book says this is a good adaptation. I’ve not read it, so all I can say is, this is a very good film I enjoyed. Gee, I hope you can see it some day. See if the people in your head, match up with what’s in the book. Then again having Gregory Peck and Joan Bennett in one’s head…what’s to lose?

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  11. I need to watch this one! I read the whole collection of Hemingway short stories while on vacation last summer; “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” was one of my favorites. And with Gregory Peck in the cast, it gets moved even higher up my to-watch list haha. Thanks for bringing this adaptation to my attention!

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    • Hi there Lindsey. I’m glad I was able to spotlight this film that seems to be a favorite among Hemingway fans. Gregory Peck is very good in this. I do hope you see it. Thank you for reading. By the by, I see you’ve written about one of my favorite films…and not only of 1947: DARK PASSAGE.” I look forward to reading your post. I thought Agnes Moorehead was the bees’ knees in that movie; so venomous…she crackled. Thanks again.

      And by the way…FYI…my birthday is January 18th; your blog and I were born the same date. LOL!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Pingback: JOAN BENNETT: UNDER THE RADAR | CineMaven's ESSAYS from the COUCH

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