Skip to content

Digging “The Spanish Earth”

primary_youtube_id: j6fSee019TI
Extract 2
Extract 3
The people, politics and passions involved in the making of the Spanish Civil War classic. People interviewed include Martha Gellhorn, George Seldes, Helen van Dongen.
Physical formats available:
Betacam SP
Digital formats available:
Audio & visual:
Sound, Color
Producer, Director: Peter Davis
CU of person’s hands loading film into a projector. With narration (Tom Shandel) introducing documentary and title sequence from The Spanish Earth. Footage of a dead soldier and workers in a field. Title sequence.
B-roll of Depression era, public in streets. Marching Nazi soldiers, Hitler giving Nazi salute, Mussolini addressing Italian crowds and Stalin.
B-roll of 1930s US congress in session. Image of Josep Renau designed communist propaganda poster and a fascist parade.
Map of the Iberian Peninsula. Narration about Spain being the “crucible of Europe’s divisions.” B-roll of Republican activity in 1930s Spain, footage of Dolores Ibárruri (La Pasioaria) speaking from stage. Propaganda images.
B-roll of workers in fields with narration telling the beginning of the revolution against the Spanish feudal system. B-roll of workers and revolutionaries.
Footage of General Franco with an official. Troops from Spain’s Moroccan colony marching. B-roll of nationalist army on parade and Catholic priests. Images of anti-communist propaganda. B-roll of Italian troops and Luftwaffe dropping bombs. Burning map of Spain. With narration.
B-roll of Manuel Azaña’s speech and b-roll of peasants fighting in the fields.
Group of people on a historical guided tour. Pilgrimage of tourists making a pilgrimage to battlefields of the Civil War.
Alex Vernon, author, speaks about Hemingway. B-roll of a bullfight and a still of Hemingway at a bullfight. Still of Hemingway reclining with a bull and image of his book, Death in the Afternoon.
Almudena Cros, AABI (Asociación de Amigos de las Brigadas Internacionales) president, speaks with Juan Antonio Mayoral, surviving veteran of the Spanish Civil War. FS of them walking through the landscape with team. B-roll of President Roosevelt seated with officials, image of cemetery with white crosses, Hilter and Mussolini giving Fascist salute. B-roll of Roosevelt’s speech.
MS of George Seldes, independent journalist, at typewriter (1987). B-roll of opinion polls from American Institute of Public Opinion. MS of Seldes speaking about US opinion on the Spanish Republic (“Communist, run by Russia and to hell with it.”) B-roll of family and workers listening to radio, voice of Father Coughlin, American Catholic radio priest, is audible. B-roll of Coughlin speech.
B-roll of American newsreel. MS of Seldes speaking.
Still of Helen van Dongen, filmmaker, from 1930s. MS of van Dongen, seated, talking (1981). Various stills of John Dos Passos, writer. With narration on his background. van Dongen talks about her film Spain in Flames. B-roll of Republican fighters marching.
Still of van Dongen with Joris Ivens. Ivens speaking (1981). Still of Ivens developing film. Footage from Ivens’ 1933 film Song of Heroes with narration. Ivens speaking.
B-roll of anti-fascist march in America. B-roll of Condor Legion bombing. Damaged buildings and casualties.
CU of Ivens talking. B-roll of heavy, wartime artillery discharging in the field.
B-roll of an American newsreel showing corpses at a Catholic church entrance. Propaganda images. EXT MS of Vernon talking about right-wing propaganda and Hemingway. Still of American poet and writer, Archibald MacLeish. Narrator talks about Hemingway’s and Dos Passos’ friendship and mutual respect for one another. B-roll of wartime scenes and Hemingway with Dos Passos. Vernon expands on this and talks about Hemingway being appointed chairman of the ambulance committee that would “supply ambulances for the Republican cause”, assigned as a war correspondent and to work on The Spanish Earth.
B/W still of Hemingway. INT MS of Ivens talking about Hemingway. B/W still of Ivens and b/w still of cameraman John Fernhout. Footage from The Spanish Earth.
MS of Vernon talking next to the Arganda bridge. Camera pans landscape to shot of bridge. Map of area with Hemingway’s narration. Footage of Hemingway.
INT CU of Ivens talking. B-roll of Republican fighters marching through streets. Footage of Hemingway. B/W still of Ivens with Hemingway next to a destroyed vehicle. EXT MS of Vernon, seated, talking about their close friendship and professional relationship. B/W still of them together, filming.
On screen quote by Hemingway regarding “Ivens and Ferno [sic]”. CU of NANA (North American Newspaper Alliance) dispatch from April 14, 1937. MS of Ivens talking. B-roll of International Brigades servicemen in train carriages with narration. EXT MS of Vernon talking. ZO B/W still of Hemingway with German writer and journalist, Gustav Regler. Footage of Hemingway with servicemen of the International Brigades.
Footage with Hemingway’s narration. MS of Ivens talking about Hemingway’s physical help. Footage from The Spanish Earth with Hemingway’s narration.
B-roll of Madrid traffic and street scenes, 2013. Shot of Vernon and Cros walking with narration. CU of Cros pointing to one of the buildings that features in The Spanish Earth. Camera fades to film footage. CU of Vernon talking about locations, particularly the site of the Hotel Florida. Ivens talks about the hotel’s significance. Stills and b-roll. Vernon and Cros identifying a significant location with footage from The Spanish Earth.
B-roll of General Franco on the battlefield and heavy artillery firing. B-roll of damaged buildings in central Madrid. MS of Seldes talking. Stills of Hemingway and New York Times reporter, Herbert Matthews. Seldes talks about the dangerous measures taken by Hemingway and Matthews in order to film the “loyalist trenches” and the “Franco trenches” from an outpost in Madrid. Narrator talks about Ivens and Fernhout joining Hemingway and Matthews to film.
B-roll of pro-Republican graffiti on a University campus wall (close to where Ivens, Fernhout, Hemingway and Matthews filmed). B/W stills of Hemingway and Ivens and b/w portrait stills of war correspondent, Martha Gellhorn. Narrator tells of Gellhorn’s background. B/W portrait still of Eleanor Roosevelt.
INT MS of Gellhorn talking (1981) about her experiences in Madrid and becoming the war correspondent for Collier’s magazine. B-roll of heavy artillery fire, casualties and field surgery. B-roll of wounded in hospital bed with audio from Gellhorn.
MS of Ivens talking about Gellhorn. B-roll of heavy artillery fire, damaged buildings in Madrid. Audio and images of Gellhorn talking. B-roll of Gellhorn and Hemingway walking together in a small crowd. MS of Ivens talking and expressing admiration for Gellhorn.
ZI to still of Gellhorn, seated, with Ivens and Hemingway, landscape. MS of Gellhorn talking. B-roll of Mussolini shaking hands with Hitler. B-roll of bombing and heavy artillery fire. Image of a dead Italian soldier. Footage from The Spanish Earth with Hemingway’s narration.
INT CU of Vernon talking about the allied powers signing a non-intervention treaty with Italy and Germany regarding the Spanish Civil War and that Italy and Germany were violating this pact - evidence of this was filmed in The Spanish Earth. B/W still of Ivens with Republican fighters. B/W still portrait of Fernhout, Ivens and Dos Passos. Footage from The Spanish Earth.
Footage of Dolores Ibárruri (La Pasioaria) giving a speech. EXT CU of Vernon talking about the execution of José Robles. Narrator talking about the prevailing of “communist discipline” and Hemingway’s The Fifth Column. B/W still of Hemingway with his audio. Vernon talks further about the declining relationship between Ivens and Dos Passos. Narrator talks about Hemingway’s and Dos Passos’ broken friendship. B/W still of Dos Passos seated and looking pensive, narrator talks about him becoming an “ardent ant-communist”. B-roll of communist parade with narration.
B/W still of Hemingway, Ivens and van Dongen seated at a table. Audio of van Dongen talking about her editing technique. B/W portrait of Ivens with narration. B/W stills of van Dongen at work with audio of her talking.
B/W still of Carnegie Hall, NYC. Narrator talking about The Spanish Earth premier. EXT MS of Vernon talking about how the premier was “basically put on by the communist part of the United States of America.” B/W still of Hemingway with Gellhorn. INT MS of Gellhorn talking. Vernon talks about Ivens talking the audience through the “rough cut” of the film. Vernon talks about Hemingway’s public speaking appearance at the premier. B/W still of President Roosevelt, seated in an open top car with his wife, Eleanor.
INT MS of Gellhorn talking about how she arranged the screening at The White House with her “friends, the Roosevelts”. MS of Ivens talking about this experience at The White House. B-roll of Ivens sat with Roosevelt and footage from The Spanish Earth. CU of Ivens talking about the American arms embargo.
INT MS of Gellhorn talking about how Roosevelt and his wife were moved by thee film and the propaganda surrounding the war.
MS of Ivens quipping about when Roosevelt asked him why he didn’t get an objective view from Franco’s side to which he replies, “I wouldn’t be here, you know, I would [have been] executed.” Still of Roosevelt with narrator telling that “a few years later, Roosevelt would admit that failure to help republican Spain had been the greatest error of his foreign policy.”
B-roll of the Hollywood Sign. Narrator tells that Ivens and Hemingway make their way to California as Ivens believed that Hollywood is “the world’s greatest centre of propaganda.”
EXT MS of Vernon talking about Hollywood’s left-leaning people. B/W still of Ivens with John Garfield and Rouben Mamoulian. Narrator talks about the “McCarthy-era witch hunts of the 50s.”
INT MS of Gellhorn and EXT CU of Vernon both talking about how the film raised money for Spanish ambulances. Footage from The Spanish Earth. Vernon explains that after a screening, either Ivens, or Hemingway, would pitch for a donation to the cause.
B-roll of MGM buildings. Still of The Spanish Earth one-sheet. Narrator talks about lack of major distribution for the film (“too politically sensitive”) but receiving distribution from left-wing company, Prometheus Pictures. Still of Playhouse theatre screening The Spanish Earth. Still of various one-sheets. Narrator talks about international reception. B-roll of destroyed buildings and families with children walking through the rubble.
B/W still of Hemingway and Gellhorn. Narrator tells of their return to Spain in 1937 to witness the end of the Republic. B-roll of landscape and buildings pouring with smoke. INT CU of Gellhorn talking. B-roll of Spanish refugees fleeing to France and piles of dead. INT CU to ZO MS of Gellhorn talking. B-roll of Franco’s victory parade.
INT MS of Ivens, animatedly and passionately, about objective filmmaking and reporting.
B-roll of burning buildings. Narrator announces the arrival of the Second World War. Footage of Franco shaking hands with Hitler. B-roll of Spain honoring the Nazi Condor Legion, landscape, parade and dead Spanish soldiers on the Russian steppes.
Stills of Hemingway’s book For Whom the Bell Tolls, his marriage to Gellhorn, their war reporting and in a field together with rifles.
B/W portrait of Ivens. Title footage from his 1943 film, Action Stations. Narrator talks about Ivens being under FBI surveillance as “a dangerous communist.” 00:47:26 INT CU of Gellhorn talking about being a “premature anti-fascist” in context with Ivens’ FBI scrutiny.
Cros and Vernon in a bus heading to Fuentidueña, talking to the driver about how Spanish people feel, currently, about the war. Audio in Spanish with subtitling. Narrator tells the history of the town after Franco’s death with b-roll of nearby roads. Narrator tells of Cros’ and Vernon’s search for traces of Julian — a Republican soldier — who in The Spanish Earth, returns home on leave. Footage from The Spanish Earth.
CU of old man talking about Julian and what became of the soldier. Footage from The Spanish Earth.
Cros speaks with shopkeepers regarding the whereabouts of Julian. Shopkeeper expresses his familiarity with the film and that he had met Ivens.
MS of Cros sat speaking with Pedro Mora Camara, former major, about recovering The Spanish Earth post-Franco and Ivens’ return to Spain. B/W stills of Ivens in Fuentidueña.
At the Fuentidueña town hall. MS of staff member talking about a 1982 screening of The Spanish Earth and Julian in attendance. Staff member points out key sites on a map. Footage from The Spanish Earth. Sites from the film then and now. INT shot of bakery. Shot of loaf, camera fades to b-roll of loaf with UGT (affiliated with the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party) stamp and b-roll of bakery. MS of Cros, excitedly, talking to a woman, 80, whose sister appeared in The Spanish Earth.
Cros and Verson walking in the streets of Fuentidueña locating key sites. They discuss with the proprietor of Bar Salobre, looking at images (CU on a phone) of the fields where some of the bombing took place. Camera cuts to footage of The Spanish Earth with workers in the fields.
Franco-era newsreel celebrating the restoration of the old feudal system with fascist salutes. Spanish and English narration.
B-roll of modern tractor working the fields. WS of landscape around Fuentidueña. Cemetery for fascist heroes. Images (negative) of improvised burial of Republican. B-roll of mass grave and skeletal remains. B-boll of wheat fields in the sun to audio of Hemingway’s “On the American Dead in Spain”. Footage from The Spanish Earth. MS of Ivens clapping “cut” as the film ends. Credits.
End of shotlist
Peter Davis
Collection of Peter Davis Stills, Films, and related items in the archive.
Digging The Spanish Earth / Spanish Civil War
The people, politics and passions involved in the making of the Spanish Civil War classic, and related materials.