Hemingway in Sun Valley


Photo by Robert Capa  © 2001 Cornell Capa/Magnum Photos
Photo by Robert Capa © 2001 Cornell Capa/Magnum Photos 

'Best of all
he loved the fall'

Ernest Hemingway's autumns in Idaho
By Gregory Foley

On a warm autumn day in 1939, Ernest Hemingway stood in the Ketchum Cemetery and methodically read aloud what some local friends believed to be one of his finest works of prose. It was a eulogy for his friend Gene Van Guilder, a publicist for Sun Valley Resort who had been killed in a tragic bird-hunting accident in the Hagerman Valley, near Twin Falls.

Hemingway praised Van Guilder’s talents, as a writer, artist and communicator, and in uncommonly lyrical verse painted an indelible image of his friend’s deep love for the landscape of central Idaho.

“He loved the warm sun of summer and the high mountain meadows, the trails through the timber and the sudden clear blue of the lakes. He loved the hills in the winter when the snow comes,” Hemingway said. “Best of all he loved the fall … the fall with the tawny and grey, the leaves yellow on the cottonwoods, leaves floating on the trout streams and above the hills the high blue windless skies. He loved to shoot, he loved to ride and he loved to fish.”

Later, some Hemingway scholars and acquaintances came to believe that Papa—as he was known to family and friends—did not write the eulogy only for Van Guilder, whom he knew only for a short time, but also for himself. Indeed, the words strike several of the chords that were the complex symphony of Hemingway’s life. And although Hemingway had many interests—from writing, women and wine to watching bullfights and fishing for giant marlin—from that fall of 1939 until his death, spending the autumn “shooting season” in the heart of Idaho repeatedly captured his focus.

“I think the fall was his favorite season,” said Pat Hemingway, 77, Hemingway’s only living son. “That shows up in his writing.”

Pat, who retired to Montana in 1975 after careers as a safari outfitter and wildlife management instructor in East Africa, said his father was very much at home in the Idaho mountains from 1939 to 1947, when Papa spent five fall seasons in Sun Valley and Ketchum. “He was very fond of that area. He had a lot of good friends in Ketchum,” he said. “My fondest memories really are of those early years, before the war.”

Ernest Hemingway first came to Sun Valley in September 1939. He had been invited to stay at the new Sun Valley Lodge as a guest after Van Guilder determined he would enjoy the hunting in the area and would generate good publicity for the resort.

Pat Hemingway—who had his own nickname, Mouse—said Papa was in all likelihood attracted to the area not only by the offer from the resort, but also his friendship with poet Ezra Pound, who was from Hailey. And, during that fall, Papa was becoming estranged from his second wife, Pauline Hemingway, Pat’s mother. “When that broke up he had to have somewhere to go,” Pat said.

Photo by Lloyd Arnold, Courtesy of Regional History Dept, The Community Library

Pat Hemingway watches proudly as Papa measures the rack of a mule deer Pat shot in October 1946. The buck was Pat's first big game trophy. Photo by Lloyd Arnold, Courtesy of Regional History Dept, The Community Library

In those early years, Hemingway was at a high point in his writing career, enjoying a certain degree of fame as he worked on what some critics have hailed as his best full-length novel, “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” Every day, Papa wrote or edited in the morning hours until about noon, and then made his way outdoors, often to hunt.

“I think he was in search of the vanishing frontier,” said Marty Peterson, a Hemingway scholar and assistant to the president of University of Idaho. “I think he was in search of a place where he could have some anonymity, where the hunting and fishing was still good. And he found that in Central Idaho.”

Hemingway immediately met a band of friends in Sun Valley. The group included Sun Valley Resort’s chief guide, Taylor Williams, resort photographer Lloyd Arnold, Arnold’s wife, Tillie Arnold, and eventually, a young Picabo rancher named Bud Purdy.

In the fall of 1939, Hemingway stayed with his girlfriend, writer and journalist Martha Gellhorn, in Suite 206 of the Sun Valley Lodge, which he soon dubbed “Glamour House.” Hemingway worked diligently on “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” and soon became enamored with duck hunting at Silver Creek, near Picabo, and pheasant hunting at points south, near Shoshone, Dietrich and Gooding.

Purdy, who at 87 still manages thousands of acres of ranchland around Silver Creek, said Hemingway seemed to like the area because of its geography—which reminded him of Spain—and the people—who were friendly, a little rough around the edges and didn’t make a fuss about his celebrity. Purdy often took Hemingway hunting for ducks, mostly mallards, on Silver Creek, a popular waterfowl migration stop.

“We just jump shot,” Purdy said. “He didn’t like sitting in the blind. … He was a good guy to be out with.”

That November, after Van Guilder’s funeral, Gellhorn left for Scandinavia on a work assignment. Through the rest of an Indian summer, Hemingway hunted, read and completed numerous chapters of “For Whom the Bell Tolls” before leaving Sun Valley in December to return to his home in Cuba.

Hemingway returned to Sun Valley Resort the following September with Gellhorn and his three sons, Jack, Pat and Gregory. He completed editing work on “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” played tennis and hunted birds, at times with a new friend, actor Gary Cooper. He and his family returned again in the fall of 1941.

Pat Hemingway said Papa taught his sons how to shoot and hunt, generously allowing them to discharge 200 or 300 rounds of ammunition per day. Being a “social hunter,” Papa liked having his kids and friends around, but also liked his hunts to be well organized. “We mostly hunted ducks, doves and pheasants,” he said. “And we did a lot of rabbit hunting in those days.”

Rabbit hunting was common in the early 1940s, Pat Hemingway said, when the animals—some of them diseased—would descend upon agricultural lands by the thousands. Indeed, Purdy recalled one rabbit hunt in the Dietrich area during which a group of 20 or so hunters, including Hemingway and Cooper, shot about 400 or 500 of the rodents.

Purdy said Hemingway enjoyed the art of hunting but was also fond of shooting.

“He liked to hunt not just to kill stuff,” Purdy said. “It was the thrill of the hunt. A lot of times he didn’t get a lot of birds and he didn’t seem to mind that.”

In the fall of 1941, Hemingway enjoyed one of his finest moments while hunting in Idaho. In the Pahsimeroi Mountains, near Challis, he was stalking antelope with his sons and some hunting friends from Sun Valley, including Lloyd Arnold.

Hemingway and his boys were trailing Arnold, who was trying to capture a few images of the pronghorns, Arnold recalled in his book “High on the Wild with Hemingway.” After Arnold’s metal lens cast a reflection of the sun, the antelope ran. Arnold motioned for Hemingway to make his move and he did, cursing as he passed Arnold some 20 yards, before halting, raising his rifle and firing a single shot cleanly into the shoulder of a large buck.

Hemingway stood proudly and then asked Arnold how far away he was when he shot. Arnold measured the distance at 275 yards. According to Arnold, Hemingway said, “I’ve made fair shots in my time but this ranks them all.”

The only story Hemingway ever wrote about Idaho, called “The Shot,” loosely described the Pahsimeroi hunt, including a Saturday night bar fight in the mining town of Patterson, during which Papa reportedly dropped a huge, angry miner with several left hooks. It was published in “True” magazine in April 1951. “He always prided himself on being a very good rifle shot,” Pat Hemingway said.

During World War II and until the fall of 1946, Hemingway was unable to get back to Idaho. Once, after his return, Purdy said Papa went down to Silver Creek and discovered the rancher tending to some traps he had set for magpies, predatory birds that were considered pests.

“He looked over at these traps and said, ‘What do you do with those magpies?’” Purdy recalled. “I said we just wring their necks. He said, ‘Why don’t we let ’em out and shoot ’em.’

“So, we’d have a hundred in a trap. We’d let one of the kids throw them up in the air and we’d practice live trap-shooting. He was a good shot. Hemingway was the champion magpie shooter.”

Although some evidence suggests Hemingway sometimes loved to shoot for shooting’s sake, there is no doubt his time in Idaho revealed a gentler side. Purdy said he made friends easily and always spoke in a quiet voice. In addition, he said, Hemingway never boasted about his work or his stature as a writer, even after he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954.

“He never talked about his writing,” Purdy said. “And we never talked about politics. I think he was a Democrat, but I’m not sure of that … He was a real gentleman, I think.”

The only time Hemingway spoke about his writing to Purdy, the rancher recalled, was during a lunch one day at the Alpine Club in downtown Ketchum, now Whiskey Jacques.

“He decided he wanted something to drink, so he went across the street to get some wine,” Purdy said. “He was really feeling good. He said, ‘I wrote a thousand words today and it’s worth a dollar a word.’”

Hemingway “liked to party,” Purdy noted, but never drank while they were out hunting, with exceptions amounting to a few sips from a bota bag when all the shooting was done. “He wasn’t an alcoholic at all. No way,” Purdy said.

Photo Courtesy of Regional History Dept, The Community Library

Ernest Hemingway, left, and Gene Van Guilder show off their bounty on the opening day of pheasant hunting in 1939. Photo Courtesy of Regional History Dept, The Community Library

During the fall of 1946, Hemingway and his fourth wife, Mary, stayed at MacDonald Cabins, on the south side of Ketchum—now the Ketchum Korral. He worked on “The Garden of Eden,” a novel he never finished but which was ultimately complete enough to be published posthumously in 1986. Hemingway returned to Ketchum and Sun Valley in the fall of 1947 and stayed through Christmas that year. During that stay, he enjoyed the company of Hollywood stars such as Cooper and Ingrid Bergman, who played the lead roles in the film version of “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”

At times, he continued work on the “The Garden of Eden,” Peterson said, “cranking out 800 words a day.”

In 1946 and 1947, Hemingway’s doctor in Sun Valley forbid him to go hunting in the mountains; he had put on weight and his blood pressure was high. Still, he ventured out to shoot ducks and pheasants.

Purdy said Hemingway would hang his game birds by the head for three or four days to let the meat age and would then incorporate them into sundry feasts. “He really liked duck. But they had to be almost raw,” Purdy said.

After leaving Idaho in January 1948, Hemingway did not return for a decade. During those times, Peterson said, Hemingway was busy with numerous projects and settled into his life in Cuba, where he pursued perhaps his greatest outdoor passion, deep-sea fishing. He wrote “Across the River and Into the Trees” and “The Old Man and the Sea,” a novella that won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953.

In the fall of 1958, Hemingway returned to the Wood River Valley and continued to hunt.

According to friend Tillie Arnold, now deceased, one day at Silver Creek Hemingway shot and injured an owl in the wing, thinking he could use it as a live decoy to attract and shoot crows for sport. The owl ultimately became a pet, named Owlny. “He would shoot blackbirds at Silver Creek to feed the owl,” Purdy said.

Ultimately, when Purdy started trapping magpies, the owl was no longer needed and was eventually set free, the story goes.

In 1959, Ernest and Mary Hemingway purchased for $50,000 a house outside Ketchum along the Big Wood River. It had excellent views of the river and the nearby Boulder Mountains.

To a friend, Gen. Buck Lanham, Hemingway wrote: “This place ... was a wonderful buy. I plan to live here in the shooting months, which correspond to the hurricane months and the early northers in Cuba. My health and Mary’s needs a change of climate from the subtropics for part of each year.”

While residing at his Ketchum estate, Peterson said, Hemingway worked on “The Garden of Eden” and did a substantial amount of editing and rewriting on “A Moveable Feast,” a lively memoir of his early days as a writer in Paris.

But all was not well. Friends and family noticed changes in Papa as he battled various health ailments. And, he was having trouble writing.

“You must remember that he was pretty well a broken person when he came to Idaho in those final years,” Pat Hemingway said.

Ernest Hemingway died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in the front foyer of his Ketchum house in July 1961. He was 61 years old.

“The ending of his life was kind of traumatic to me. He was such a great guy,” Purdy said. “I guess if he couldn’t write, it got so life wasn’t worth living for him.”

Pat Hemingway said if there is one thing people should recognize about Papa, it should not be that he was a great hunter, fisherman or father; it should be that he was a writer who crafted stories like few others could.

“He was to writing what Einstein was to physics,” he said. “He was undoubtedly one of the greatest writers in the 20th century in any language.”

Hemingway was buried in the Ketchum Cemetery, not far from the grave of Gene Van Guilder.

About five years later, a memorial to Hemingway was erected east of Ketchum, near the Sun Valley Lodge. It is a simple bust of the author, carrying an edited excerpt from the Van Guilder eulogy that starts with the words, “Best of all he loved the fall.”

Separating fact from fiction

By Gregory Foley and Marty Peterson

Photo courtesy of Regional History Dept, The Community Library
Photo Courtesy of Regional History Dept, The Community Library

Ernest Hemingway lived a life that seemed somehow larger than life. He was not only the preeminent writer of his time—a recipient of the Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize for Literature—he ran with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, hunted big game in Africa, adorned the cover of “Life” magazine, was injured in combat and mingled with celebrities.

Nonetheless, despite all of the research that has been directed toward establishing a comprehensive record of Hemingway’s life and times, myths about the writer—both great and small—have been perpetuated over the decades since his death. Marty Peterson, assistant to the president of the University of Idaho and a respected Hemingway scholar, through years of study discovered that some of those myths involved Hemingway’s time in Idaho. Here are some of the myths Peterson has been trying to dispel:

Fiction: Hemingway became a legal resident of Idaho.

Fact: He owned a state liquor permit (which allowed him to buy liquor in the state dispensary), and owned stock in Idaho Power, but he never had an Idaho driver’s license, had a non-resident hunting and fishing license and never registered to vote in Idaho.

Fiction: Hemingway came to Idaho only because Sun Valley Lodge offered him free lodging.

Fact: While the offer of free lodging did prompt him to finally go to Idaho, he had expressed interest in visiting the state as far back as 1928.

Fiction: Ernest Hemingway liked to visit Idaho to ski with other celebrities at Sun Valley.

Fact: Hemingway was an avid skier in his youth and took winter ski trips to the Alps when he was living in Paris with his first wife, Hadley, but he never skied at Sun Valley.

Fiction: When Ernest Hemingway posed for a photo shoot while fishing in the Big Wood River, it was the only time he fished in Idaho.

Fact: A January 1958 issue of “The Fisherman” magazine featured a story by Hemingway’s friend Taylor Williams. In the article, Williams describes at length his experiences fishing with Hemingway in the Big Wood River and Silver Creek.

Fiction: Hemingway is not considered an Idaho author because none of his published works were written in Idaho.

Fact: Hemingway wrote portions of “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” “Islands in the Stream” and “The Garden of Eden” while in Idaho, and also worked extensively on “A Moveable Feast.” •

Hemingway guns give insight into Papa

By Sabina Dana Plasse

Photo courtesy of Regional History Dept, The Community Library
"Hemingway's Guns: The Sporting Arms of Ernest Hemingway" by Silvio Calabi, Steve Helsley and Roger Sanger. Published by A Shooting Sportsman Book. 180 pp $40.

Ernest Hemingway continues to endure as one of America's most admired writers, a celebrity and an avid hunter. Hemingway, an alpha male, was a hunter and conservationist. Shooting was one of his biggest passions. Hemingway owned and used a variety of guns throughout his life, including a .22-caliber Colt Woodsman pistol, .577 Nitro Express big-game rifle, a Winchester Model 12 pump shotgun and a Thompson submachine gun.

The stories of Hemingway's guns, the people with whom he enjoyed hunting and the gun he used to take his life are collected in a new book, "Hemingway's Guns: The Sporting Arms of Ernest Hemingway" by Silvio Calabi, Steve Helsley and Roger Sanger.

"The research for the book led us to discover that Hemingway gave away many guns," said co-author and part-time Ketchum resident Roger Sanger. "When Hemingway died, his wife, Mary, got rid of his guns and sent them to Abercrombie & Fitch, who were a gun broker."

Sanger said the book took two and a half years to compile, with many calls and lots of online research. An instrumental person in finding information was Bud Purdy, who hunted with Hemingway in Idaho.

"I talked to Bud at his ranch," Sanger said. "He said Papa had guns made in Spain. He would often give these guns away."

The book should find an audience with gun collectors, especially those interested in "blood history."

"People want to know about the guns that killed Al Capone or John Dillinger," Sanger said. "The gun that killed Hemingway was sliced into pieces and is buried under Adam West's house."

He said the book is more than a history of Hemingway guns, it's also a history of people and photos collected from all over.

"There are stories about Hemingway shooting magpies off a deck at Silver Creek and rabbit hunts on farms around Idaho when it was legal to do so," Sanger said. "Hemingway would always ask permission to hunt. He would perform random acts of kindness, giving farmers food or fixing their autos."

Sanger said he didn't think Hemingway owned many possessions and was not a hoarder, but guns were important to him.

"The stigma of a gun should not keep people from reading the book," Sanger said. "There are a lot of photos collected in the book because Hemingway was a major celebrity of his time."

The book is available for $40 at Silver Creek Outfitters and Iconoclast Books in Ketchum and online.

Feeling puny?

Bone up on real man-style living with ‘The Heming Way’


Courtesy image Marty Beckerman, a frequent contributor to hip chronicles like Salon magazine and frequently called on for celebrity profiles, studied harder than a college kid to write about Hemingway in a refreshingly humorous way.

There aren't a lot of things that I won't try to make light of, but I have learned there are times when funny won't fly. One such situation was on a tour of Elvis' Graceland. Reverence is demanded, and the tittering are unceremoniously removed from the tour line by pursed-lipped, bee-hive-coifed tour guidettes.

Here in Sun Valley, where Ernest Hemingway died by suicide 50 years ago, the Nobel Prize-winning author is nearly as big a draw with tourists from as far away as Japan who make the trek to stay in the Sun Valley Lodge room where he wrote parts of "For Whom the Bell Tolls." Many a scholar has tackled the image and the prose of the man, trying to reconcile the reality of his life with his superhuman image. No one took that more seriously, claims author Marty Beckerman, than he did. Though Beckerman's take is undoubtedly the most irreverent seen yet, it is arguably as well researched and thoughtful as any other good thesis on the man. "The Heming Way" will either inspire, disillusion or amuse you—perhaps all three—depending on your opinion of the man. Beckerman chatted with the Idaho Mountain Express between his doubtlessly meat-heavy Fourth of July celebrations. Quotes are from the book.

"A better time once existed. We can undo this calamity. All we need is a teacher, a savior. Not a messiah, but a mansiah. All we need ... is Ernest Hemingway."

Marty Beckerman

"The Heming Way"

IME: What went into producing such a pitch-perfect parody? Was there an immersion process? CliffsNotes hunker down?

MB: To do parody well, you need to know your subject inside and out—even the most obscure references. So I read every major Hemingway novel, every short story and 15 biographies. A bunch of jokes about misogyny and alcoholism took a doctorate's amount of research.

"As a boy, though, Hemingway was a girl. His unhinged momma dressed him in pink gowns with flowered lace bonnets, forced him to grow his hair as long as his sister's—and encouraged him to play with teacups, sewing kits and dolls. This might, just might, have something to do with his lifelong quest to prove his manhood to everybody on earth."

IME: Were you coming at Hemingway as a fan or as a myth buster?

MB: I'm definitely a fan, but the Hemingway cartoon character—which he spent years creating and publicizing—is such a perfect target for parody because it's a ridiculous product of massive insecurity. Even though I have fun at his over-the-top persona's expense, I hope my book inspires young people who've never read "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and "The Old Man and the Sea" to go back to the original sources, because I really love his writing. My generation barely has the attention span for YouTube videos of kittens playing with string, so it takes a shocking, humorous approach to get their attention. Hemingway would love YouTube videos of kittens playing with string, by the way, especially if they had six toes.

"At the age of three Hemingway was a precocious killing machine; while his peers scribbled with crayons and drooled on themselves, he could load, cock, and shoot a musket ... animals 'were made to shoot and some of us were made to shoot them,' because a truly moveable feast is no longer moving."

IME: Could this have been career suicide taking on such a literary icon? Was there a risk or are you just a savvy opportunist?

MB: Most Hemingway fans have a sense of humor about the guy and his trigger-happy, booze-soaked antics. This book isn't an attack on him; it's a loving tribute to a guy too eccentric and adventurous to exist in the modern world. We now spend our days on computers and tablets and smartphones 24/7 instead of exploring and enjoying the physical world. Everything we know comes from Wikipedia, but everything Papa knew came from experience, which is definitely worth emulating. Blasting our faces off, however, isn't quite worth emulating.


"Burial is better than boredom: 'When you stop doing things for fun, you might as well be dead.'"

IME: How did you know when to stop? Comparing Hemingway to Jesus leaves little wiggle room, but did you pull back in any way?

MB: A good joke is always going to offend somebody; that's the nature of satire going back thousands of years. You can write G-rated Popsicle stick jokes and offend no one, but you'll also make no one laugh, because humor is truth without safety pads. I struggled with this for a long time, because I'm a nice Jewish boy who just wants to make people happy, but ultimately it's more important to speak harsh truths than polite banalities.

"Unlike the average modern American, Hemingway knew that death isn't the worst thing in the world: 'cowardice is worse, treachery is worse, and simple selfishness is worse.' Dying on the job is better than shying from the job."

IME: You seemed to have embraced that sentiment. Will this go down as one of the great journalistic humiliations you mention on your website, or does this have its own category?

MB: I've been probed with a vibrating sex toy for journalism, covered with lab-grown sperm for journalism, and had my entire body waxed for journalism. In comparison, this book is something I can finally show my mother.

"'I spend a hell of a lot of time killing animals and fish so I won't kill myself.' In the end, Hemingway was his own final trophy."

IME: Would Hemingway ultimately approve? Have you heard from any in his camp?

MB: He said that writing parody was one step removed from writing graffiti above urinals, so he might have mixed emotions about it. But hey, I'm trying to get the Twitter generation interested in his books, which I have to think he'd appreciate.

"Men have a problem. We know in our hearts, in our DNA, that we are mindless, reckless, pleasure-seeking violent slobs. (This is not the problem.) But we are torn between masculinity and modernity."

IME: How have you "manned up" since the project?

MB: Honestly, all the Hemingway research makes me want to go hunting, which I've never done—

except for cockroaches in my New York apartment—because I no longer think it's ethical to eat an animal if you're not willing to kill it yourself. Hemingway spoke a lot about this. We delude ourselves into believing meat is just a product that comes wrapped in plastic at the grocery store, so we never fully appreciate what died for our sustenance. We're just paying others to do something we would rather not. So I want to prove to myself that I can do it, or else—by my own code of honor—I'd have to join PETA. And the only group I hate more than PETA is Alcoholics Anonymous!

"In its obituary, The New York Times predicted that 'generations not yet born of young men' would study Hemingway's masculine philosophy."

IME: Is there any subject too taboo to parody?

MB: Not if you're funny enough. Mel Brooks settled this question a long time ago.

High Times at Glamour House

How Sun Valley Lodge helped Ernest Hemingway become one of America's greatest writers.

By Gregory Foley

September 1939, Ernest Hemingway was riding high. He was in love with an up-and-coming female writer who didn't wither under his larger-than-life persona. He was well along on a new novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls, something to rival his great works of the Roaring '20s. And he was headed for a new province, a Western oasis where he could cross the i's and dot the t's on his contract to be America's greatest living author.

A year later, the contract was complete. In October 1940, the Charles Scribner's Sons publishing house released For Whom the Bell Tolls, a 507-page epic about love, war and death. The book—dedicated to his soon-to-be wife Martha Gellhorn—flew off the shelves. In January 1941, when the book had already sold more than 400,000 copies, Hemingway and Gellhorn were featured in a lengthy Life magazine photo essay titled "The Hemingways in Sun Valley—The novelist takes a wife," solidifying them as a bona fide celebrity couple.

The Life story featured photos of Ernest and Martha laughing on a deck of the Sun Valley Lodge, Ernest writing with a pencil and paper, and the couple dancing, dining and drinking at Trail Creek Cabin, the resort's cozy alpine retreat. The introduction gushed praise for Hemingway and his new novel: "His style, so terse and clean, yet vivid and rich, has been imitated by many, but matched by none. His dialog is the envy of all."

In 1941, "Papa," as Hemingway was known to those close to him, was at the peak of his illustrious career. And the novel that got him there was inextricably linked to the mountain resort that used his fame to cut its brand.

Hemingway's "Glamour House," his suite in Sun Valley Lodge. Photo by David N. Seelig

Papa finds the 'suite' life

Hemingway was invited to stay at the Sun Valley Lodge as a guest after Gene Van Guilder, the publicist for the chic new resort, determined the famed author and outdoorsman would enjoy the mountains of Idaho and might generate some good press—like the story in the oversized, glossy pages of Life.

Upon arrival in Sun Valley on September 20, 1939, Hemingway and Gellhorn were assigned to Room 206, a plush suite at the end of a long hall. It had a wooden desk where Hemingway could work, and a terrace with views of the mountains above Sun Valley and Ketchum. Papa called it "Glamour House."

Marty Peterson, an Idaho resident and noted Hemingway scholar, said going to Sun Valley in 1939 was an important step in Hemingway's career.

"At that time, Sun Valley was trying to get as much publicity as they could get," Peterson said. "The company was picking up all of his charges. It was a fairly sweet deal. For the first time in Hemingway's life, he was really well-heeled."
Hemingway and Gellhorn settled in quickly and made some close friends, including Lloyd Arnold, the resort's photographer, and Lloyd's wife, Tillie. The Arnolds and Taylor Williams, the resort's chief guide, tried to keep the couple busy and happy hunting, fishing and going out on the town.

But life at Glamour House wasn't all play. Tillie Arnold, in her memoir The Idaho Hemingway, said Papa made it clear from the outset of the friendship that he had to work while in Sun Valley. Recalling a conversation among the men about hunting, she wrote, "Ernest confessed that he had a heavy commitment to a big book he was writing … that his primary interest in coming to Sun Valley was to hole up and work on his book without interruptions."
Peterson concurred. In the fall of 1939, he said, Hemingway was "totally focused" on For Whom the Bell Tolls; he had set aside all other projects.
Papa was religious about getting his work done early in the day, Peterson said. "Hemingway had almost a lifelong routine of writing in the morning and playing in the afternoon," he said.

Lloyd Arnold, in his memoir Hemingway: High on the Wild, said Hemingway took a liking to writing at Glamour House; it provided a nice change from his beloved second home, the tropics of Cuba.

After a day of hunting in the mountains to the north, he wrote: "The following dawn the work on the novel continued as scheduled, we learned at a lingering lunch, and it went better in the mountain cool than it had in months of heat in a hotel in Havana. He said he was on the rough of Chapter 13, and had worked the name Sun Valley into it. We lifted brows. How could he do it, time-wise?" Hemingway grinned and replied, "The freedom of fiction."

Robert Jordan comes to life

For Hemingway, Idaho was an ideal place to work on his epic novel about an American fighting in the Spanish Civil War. The Sun Valley area reminded him of Spain. The hills, the evergreens, the bite in the clean air, all helped engage him in the scene of his novel.

The entire story of For Whom the Bell Tolls takes place in a span of three days in May 1937. Robert Jordan, a young American in the International Brigades, is ordered to blow up a bridge over a deep gorge behind fascist enemy lines. To complete the job, Jordan enlists the help of guerillas who live in the rugged territory. If he and his Spanish comrades can destroy the bridge just as a major loyalist offensive begins, and the offensive succeeds, the estimable fight against fascism will be one step closer to success.

Of course, in true Hemingway fashion, the soldier falls in love—with a beautiful young rebel named Maria. "Her teeth were white in her brown face and her skin and eyes were the same golden tawny brown," Hemingway wrote. Affectionately, Robert Jordan calls her "rabbit." In Chapter 13 of the novel (written in Sun Valley), the protagonist dreams of a future with Maria but is constrained by the ever-looming shadow of death. "He did not believe there would be any such thing as a long time anymore but if there ever was such a thing he would like to spend it with her … Why not marry her? Sure, he thought. I will marry her. Then we will be Mr. and Mrs. Robert Jordan of Sun Valley, Idaho."

Hemingway's "Glamour House," his suite in Sun Valley Lodge. Photo by David N. Seelig

Writing and making friends

Sun Valley was good for Hemingway, emotionally and professionally, Peterson said. Papa liked to explore the frontiers of the world, places where he could work in peace and stay somewhat anonymous.

"In the early years, being in Sun Valley gave him an opportunity to return to his youth," Peterson said. "The locals he became friends with, by and large, were just good, old regular people. He became Ernest Hemingway the person, not Ernest Hemingway the celebrity."
One of those friends was Picabo rancher Bud Purdy, who got to know Papa in the fall of 1940. They often went hunting for ducks at Silver Creek, and sometimes met at one of Papa's favored drinking and dining establishments—The Ram in Sun Valley, or the Alpine and the Christiania in Ketchum. Papa didn't talk much about his writing, Purdy said, but one day at the Alpine he suddenly did. "He said, 'I had a great morning, I wrote a thousand words and it's worth a dollar a word,'" Purdy said.

When Tillie Arnold was getting to know Papa in the fall of 1939, he occasionally made references to the book he was working on, but rarely elaborated. Eventually, though, Papa opened up. He told Tillie and Lloyd that he had completed 24 chapters of the novel—more than half—and asked them if they would like to read it. They took some of the pages home each night. "We read his chapters avidly," Tillie wrote in her memoir. "It was a very good story and sometimes we would discuss it with Ernest the next evening."

Then, over cocktails, Papa told his group of local friends that he had new insight into a title for the story. "… He retrieved a book of John Donne's poetry and read us the passage that includes 'For whom the bell tolls' … With feeling he said, 'Christ, if a man could just write like that.'"
Meanwhile, work on the big novel continued. Papa even commissioned Bernice Hicks, a secretary at the resort, to type and retype most of the first 24 chapters he had finished. And, Tillie Arnold recalled, Papa and his entourage stuck to their social routine: "drinks at Glamour House and dinner together, usually at The Ram."

The final touches

In 1940—after wintering in Cuba—Hemingway and Gellhorn returned to Sun Valley on September 6. In his first weeks back, Papa was "holed up" in Glamour House, getting the novel ready for publication, Tillie recalled in The Idaho Hemingway. "He had the final galley proofs of his book and he was going over them methodically, making last minute changes and corrections," she wrote.

It was on October 10 that Papa went into the resort's camera shop and announced that he was done, that the galleys were ready to be mailed to Scribner's. Tillie helped him mail the package. The next day, Lloyd took some additional publicity photos of Papa. Scribner's had already chosen a now-famous shot of Papa sitting at his typewriter in Sun Valley to be on the dust jacket of the novel. Now, the publisher wanted a photo to blow up into a life-size image for use in a sales display in New York City.

By all accounts, Papa relaxed considerably after the galleys were sent off. He and a new friend, actor Gary Cooper, hunted and played tennis by day and enjoyed cocktails and dinner at Trail Creek Cabin by night. Cooper didn't stay all fall, but the seeds of a solid friendship were sowed.
The book was published on October 21, 1940. Copies soon arrived in Sun Valley, and by October 25, Paramount film studio offered $100,000 for the movie rights to For Whom the Bell Tolls—the highest price ever for a novel. Paramount released the film in July 1943. The lead role of Robert Jordan was played by Gary Cooper. The beautiful, young Maria was played by one of the leading actresses of the time, Ingrid Bergman.

A place in history

For Hemingway, the success of For Whom the Bell Tolls was a big boost to an accomplished career that had started to wane. His most celebrated novels prior—The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms—were both published in the 1920s. "The book won incredible acclaim," Peterson said. "It was a huge best-seller and it really got Hemingway back on track."

Purdy, who still lives and works where he took Papa duck hunting at Silver Creek, said he wasn't always as "impressed" with Hemingway as others were, mainly because he just viewed him as a good friend—and able outdoorsman—not a celebrity author. He had read Green Hills of Africa and some of Papa's short stories and liked them but never felt inclined toward lavish praise. Then, last winter, he picked up an old, signed copy of For Whom the Bell Tolls that Papa had given him. He read the book and developed a new appreciation for Papa's writing. "I liked it," he said. "I liked the descriptive sentences. It was very different."

Valerie Hemingway, a Montana writer who served as Papa's secretary in 1959 and 1960 and later married Papa's son Gregory, said she sees For Whom the Bell Tolls as one of Papa's top three novels and one of the most important works of fiction from the 20th century.
In 1959, Valerie visited Spain with Papa. "We walked on the bridge that Robert Jordan and his companions planned to blow up and paused at the exact spot where Jordan died, as Ernest described how he devised the final passages," she said. "Hemingway often built his fiction around actual places and incidents, which is one of the reasons his stories are so real and believable that the reader forgets it is fiction."

The glamour lives on

Today, Glamour House is one of Sun Valley Resort's finest suites. Papa's image—and to some, his ghost—looms everywhere. Papa hunting. Papa laughing with his Sun Valley friends.

It has been 60 years since Papa stayed there, but one can easily imagine him seated before the French doors, breathing the cool morning air, clutching his pen and pages. As he appears in the photos of Life, one can picture him laughing on the outside deck with his new wife, prepared to take his throne among writers—hoping the bell will toll no time soon.