Scope and arrangement
The Hemingway legal files collection contains the records of Hemingway's lawyers Maurice J. Speiser (1929-1948) and Alfred Rice (1947-1969). The papers include letters, contracts, and documents concerning foreign and domestic licensing of Hemingway's work for stage, ballet, radio, film, and television; litigations concerning the use of his writings and libel cases; and the management of Hemingway's estate (both property and literary) before and after his death. Present throughout the collection are letters and telegraphs (mostly carbon copies or typed copies) from Hemingway to his lawyers, letters to his family concerning his estate and legacy, and two bank deposit books in Hemingway's hand. In his communications with his lawyers, Hemingway expressed his thoughts on licensing material for adaptation and asked questions on international copyright and libel laws. He occasionally provided updates on writing progress and news on travel and other personal activities.
The Hemingway legal files collection is arranged in three series:
- 1930-19714 boxes
The Legal Rights and Permissions Requests series contains Hemingway's legal dealings with domestic and foreign movie, television, radio, recordings for the blind, stage, and publishing companies. Hemingway received a barrage of requests to publish and adapt his novels and short stories. Without a literary agent, his publisher, Charles Scribner's Sons, filtered these requests directly through Hemingway's lawyers Maurice J. Speiser (from 1929 to 1948) and Alfred Rice (from 1945-1969). Much of the materials are retained carbon copy responses from the lawyers to rights requests and re-typed copies of Hemingway's letters. These document contract negotiations for 22 of Hemingway's short stories and novels.
Among the prominent adaptations documented are Paramount Pictures' For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943), Twentieth Century Fox's The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952), Warner Brother's The Old Man and the Sea (1958), and a CBS television production of For Whom the Bell Tolls (1959). Also of note are communications regarding the aborted Ernest Hemingway Theatre television series, proposed in 1955 by Republic Pictures, which planned to create 39 episodes based on Hemingway short stories. Additionally, Speiser and Rice communicated with Columbia Pictures, MCA, MGM, RKO, and Universal Pictures, along with various magazine and anthology publishers. International business included rights permissions for companies in Australia, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Luxembourg, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, and Sweden. Of note is a folder of letters to the editor of Cosmopolitan magazine both praising and disparaging Hemingway's writing, with one letter impugning his character and morality.
The Estate series contains some additional rights and permissions dealings, managed by Hemingway's executors.
- 1939-19561 box
The Litigation series documents Hemingway's legal conflicts concerning copyright, international piracy, and libel, as well as Hemingway's testimonies given in court cases. The copyright and piracy cases relate to the unauthorized publication of translations of Hemingway works overseas. These include suits in Argentina, India, Italy, the Netherlands, and Russia. Libel cases were both against and on behalf of Hemingway. Of note is a series of letters between Hemingway and Speiser concerning a possible Canadian libel suit over "The Snows of Kilimanjaro." The complaint came from the widow of Canadian air force pilot Lieutenant Colonel William Barker, who is briefly mentioned in the short story. Hemingway heard of Barker's murderous escapades from several Canadian aviators who were present at the incident. Also of interest is Hemingway's testimony for the case Easton vs. 20th Century Fox fought over Alfred Hitchcock's movie Lifeboat (1947). This file includes a copy of Hitchcock's telegram asking Hemingway to write the script for the movie.
- 1899-19693 boxes
The Hemingway Estate series consists of material concerning Hemingway's last will and testament, property deeds, inventories of possessions, assignment of copyrights, ownership of manuscripts, establishment of trusts for Hemingway's children, and estate issues after his death.
Much of the series centers on Hemingway's house and property, including an extensive library, in Cuba that had been seized by the Cuban Government. These files hold an official appraisal of the Cuban property, which consists of a detailed description and 6 photographs of the house and land; a room-by-room description of the contents of the house; a partial list of Hemingway's library left in Cuba; and tax claim documents submitted by Mary Hemingway to the federal government. Also of note are five photographs and various magazine clippings that Mary Hemingway sent to Rice depicting their home library. The images are largely undated but capture Hemingway and his family at his home in Cuba. One image shows Hemingway holding a fishing pole inside his house and another pictures Hemingway at his writing desk, with Mary on the couch in front of him. The photographs are accompanied by a letter from Mary Hemingway describing each picture. This file also contains a photograph of Hemingway's Idaho home (ca.1959). Other real estate records relate to properties in the Bahamas, Cuba, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, and Michigan.
The series contains the lawyer's copy of Hemingway's last will and testament, documents related to trusts set up for Hemingway's sons, and papers regarding the future custodianship of his writings. One such item is a letter, with Hemingway's signature, labeled: "Important To Be Opened In case of My Death," that ordered his executors to block any publications of his personal letters. These files also contain requests from magazine and book publishers from around the world inquiring on unpublished material, as well as from the Library of Congress, Houghton Library, and the Harry Ransom Center concerning the acquisition of Hemingway's letters and unpublished papers.