Island History

The movie “Islands In the Stream” (1977), based on Ernest Hemingway’s posthumously published novel of the same title, starring George C. Scott, was filmed on Kaua‘i during October 1975.

Visiting Kaua‘i for the filming was journalist Mary Hemingway, Hemingway’s fourth wife and widow.

At a lu‘au in her honor at Kukui‘ula Harbor, which had been transformed by movie set builders into a Bimini, Bahamas, village, she and friends filled the evening air with sounds of Cuban songs, which the Hemingways had delighted in listening to during the 1940s and 1950s while residing at Finca Vigia, their estate outside Havana, Cuba.

It was at Finca Vigia in the late 1950s that Hemingway began work on “Islands in the Stream.” Mary recalled that he wrote there while standing and wearing only shorts in the early morning coolness before the day warmed.

After he committed suicide in 1961, the manuscript, in three parts, was stored for several years until Mary began editing it for publication. Portions were taken out, but not a word was added, making it entirely Ernest Hemingway’s work. “Islands in the Stream” was published in 1970.

Set in the late 1930s through 1940 in Bimini, “Islands in the Stream” is the story of artist Thomas Hudson, played by Scott, a study in contrasts much like Hemingway himself — sensitive yet tough and vacillating between erudition and boorishness.

Hudson has exiled himself on Bimini, where he sculpts metal, carouses in the village and fishes for marlin.  His attempt to transport Jewish refugees to sanctuary in Cuba by boat through the Cuban Coast Guard costs him his life.

Interestingly, two models of Hemingway’s boat, “Pilar,” built to specifications, were used in the film.

Hemingway’s only visit to Hawai‘i occurred in 1941 with his third wife, war correspondent Martha Gellhorn.

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