Surviving Hemingway



Surviving Hemingway
Mariel Hemingway and friend take in
the Idaho scenery. Fendi Mongolian lamb
fur coat ($9,370).
The legacy of America’s greatest literary superhero has been handed down
at great cost—suicides, depression, alcoholism. But Mariel Hemingway and
her daughter Langley are determined to create some new
family traditions, including health and happiness.
By Ne l l C a s e y
Photographed by
Styled by
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K a t e Yo u n g
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Langley Crisman, aka artist Langley Fox,
moves with the ephemeral grace seen in her
own ink and watercolor drawings. Gucci silk
chiffon dress ($2,695);
Valentino Garavani heels ($945).
s u rv i v i n g
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un Valley, Idaho, is nestled among low-slung mountains with gentle
curves that can be seen in every direction, giving an intimate feel to
an otherwise expansive Western landscape. Beyond these diminutive
mountains are steeper ones—including the tremendous, 9,150-foot Bald
Mountain, affectionately known as Baldy and etched with 75 ski runs—
that make the town a powerful draw for the adventurous and athletic.
Sun Valley is also, of course, a lure for business titans, celebrities, and the
plain old very rich.
The high-watt/low-key combination of this small town makes it a
fitting backdrop for 49-year-old actress and writer Mariel Hemingway, who herself mingles a mythic history with a rugged sensibility.
Mariel grew up here, a place her father, Jack Hemingway, became
fond of after his father, the Nobel Prize–winning writer Ernest Hemingway, one of the early celebrity settlers, first came to Sun Valley, in 1939.
Today the granddaughter of Papa Hemingway and onetime 16-year-old star of Woody Allen’s
Manhattan sits on the front porch of a log cabin, dressed casually in a trim green button-down blouse,
jeans, and flip-flops. A cameraman and sound man quietly circle us. Mariel is the subject of a future
documentary directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Barbara Kopple and produced by the Oprah
Winfrey Network. The ever-present crew serves as a modern Greek chorus commenting on the eternal fascination with the Hemingway family. Mariel conveys a blasé familiarity with these concentric
circles of media attention. Seated next to her—and a little less at ease—is her 21-year-old daughter,
…and wore. A shipping trunk, duck boots, leather satchel, and wading sandals at Ernest Hemingway’s house
in Ketchum, Idaho. The writer and his wife Mary bought the house in 1959.
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s u rv i v i n g
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h e m i n g way
This page and opposite: The house where
Hemingway lived—and, on July 2, 1961,
died—looks much as it did decades ago.
The property has been owned by the Nature
Conservancy since 1986 and is rarely seen
by the public. (It may be viewed, by
appointment, by scholars and reporters.)
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Langley rests against a
backdrop of quaking aspens.
Dress and jewelry, her own;
Stetson leather Roxbury
hat ($60).
s u rv i v i n g
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Langley Crisman, a beauty of a more ethereal
design than her mother, whose appeal was, and
still is, more tomboyish, with her strong, angular features and athletic figure.
Along with Mariel’s other daughter,
23-year-old Dree, who works as a fashion
model and was traveling overseas when I visited, Langley represents the fourth generation
of the family to have lived here. In fact, Mariel,
Langley, and Dree all attended the same local
grade school: Ernest Hemingway Elementary.
(In 2010, Dree was photographed in front of
the school sign bearing her family name for
British Vogue.) “I was super-shy and extremely
awkward,” Mariel recalls of her school days
there. “I got picked on a lot. They called me
‘rich bitch’ and said things like, ‘You own the
school.’ So that was a bit rough.”
“It wasn’t really a big deal,” Langley says,
countering with her own memory of being
a student at Ernest Hemingway. “I had, like,
one friend. I don’t know what other people
were saying.” It would not be the last time
during our conversation that mother and
daughter—who both now live in Los Angeles but return to Sun Valley often—would
narrate their family experiences with diverging stories. In many ways this is because the
family’s history has taken a dramatic turn
with Mariel at the helm.
Much has been made of the Hemingway
legacy over the years. Ernest Hemingway—
war hero, foreign correspondent, big game
hunter, sport fisherman, and celebrated alpha
male—enjoyed a stratospheric rise as a writer,
pioneering a style of economic eloquence that
virtually defined 20th-century American fiction. This would become the basis for his posthumous deification (and an endless parade of
imitations), making him a god among writers. But Hemingway also suffered continually
throughout his life—from depression, alcoholism, and a romantic restlessness that resulted
in four marriages. (Mariel’s father Jack was the
son of Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley.)
On July 2, 1961, he abruptly ended his own life
with a shotgun in the vestibule of his home
in Ketchum, the town adjacent to Sun Valley.
Hemingway’s father and two siblings also died
by their own hands. “To me the Hemingway
legacy has been to change it,” Mariel says with
a kind of steely enthusiasm when discussing
IN T H E D E TAILS Rare glimpses inside Ernest Hemingway’s house in Ketchum—with its magnificent
mountain and valley views—reveal a spare stillness not unlike the writer’s prose.
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this cluster of deaths. “I don’t want there to be
a legacy. I want Langley and Dree to be able to
go off in their lives and not have to carry the
burden of thinking, Oh, because there is mental illness in my family, I’m going to go crazy. I
think it’s been my responsibility to open that
up and really look hard at myself so that I didn’t
give them any crap.”
Mariel’s mother, Byra Louise Whittlesey,
nicknamed Puck, gave birth to three girls over
the course of 11 years: Joan (nicknamed Muffet), Margaux, and Mariel, who was born four
months after the suicide of her grandfather.
All three daughters received the good looks of
their “heartbreakingly lovely” mother—the
strict cheekbones and the piercing eyes. They
also, in varying degrees, inherited the artistic
sensibility of their paternal grandfather, along
with his fragile temperament.
According to Mariel, Puck and Jack (whom
Ernest and Hadley called Bumby) were not a
happy couple, and their home thrummed with
h e m i n g way
the resentment that had quickly built between
them in their marriage. Muffet became a heavy
drug user in her teens and was later diagnosed
with bipolar disorder, sending her in and out
of mental hospitals. (Today, at 60, she lives
with a caretaker in Twin Falls, Idaho, about
80 miles away.) Margaux, seven years older
than Mariel, also rebelled against the seething
unhappiness of their home life, frequenting
bars at 14 and partying on the slopes, “bolting
down double Black Diamond runs stoned and
drunk,” as Mariel put it in her 2003 memoir,
Finding My Balance.
In the early 1970s, Puck was diagnosed
with cancer. “I was 11 when my mom got sick,”
Mariel says. “I cared for her for five years, from
the time I was 11 to 16. It was full-on. That is
what I did: I took care of my mom. And it just
got too hard for me. I couldn’t do it anymore.”
At 16, Mariel moved to New York City.
By that time Margaux had also escaped to
New York, where she [ C ontinued on page 1 6 4 ]
H a i r b y T i m R o g e r s f o r S a l l y H e r s h b e r g e r S a l o n / c o n t a c t n y c ; m a k e u p b y L u c y H a l p e r i n f o r C l o u t i e r R e m i x / NARS
s u rv i v i n g
Mother and daughter at one
of Sun Valley’s celebrated
fly-fishing creeks. Mariel’s
father Jack was a noted flyfisherman. On Mariel:
Michael Kors poncho
($2,495); Tiffany & Co.
chain ($175) and assorted
charms (from $1,400). On
Langley: Jason Wu lace
paillette embroidered gown
($10,995); Kwiat diamond
studs ($414,000); Macklowe
Gallery antique Victorian
diamond and sapphire ring
($12,800); Paula Rubenstein
Ltd. vintage Navajo rug
(price on request). For more
details see page 164.
A pair of Ernest Hemingway’s alpine boots remain locked in place in his American Fork and Hoe Co. snowshoes,
propped up against a wall at the house in Ketchum.
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Shopping & Credit
P ower in Numbers
bracelet, Bergdorf
Goodman, NYC, 212-872-2579; Verdura bracelet, 212-758-3388; Cartier watch and bangles,
800-CARTIER; Faraone Mennella bracelet,; Michael Kors bangle,;
akris shirt, Bergdorf Goodman, NYC, 800-558-1855.
Page 74 : Monica Rich Kosann
S urviving Hemingway
coat, 212-759-4646.
Valentino Garavani heels, 212-772-6969.
Page 116 : Stetson hat,
Page 119 : Michael Kors poncho, 866-709-5677;
Tiffany & Co. necklace and charms,
800-526-0649; Jason Wu gown,;
Kwiat diamond studs, Macklowe
Gallery ring, 212-644-6400; Paula Rubenstein Ltd.
rug, 212-966-8954.
PAG E 111: Fendi
Page 112 : Gucci
Beautiful Creatures
Page 127: Gucci
coat,; Linea Pelle belt,
Page 128: Jason Wu blouse, Neiman Marcus, L.A.,
310-550-5900; Bill Blass skirt,
Page 129: Hermes boots,
Charles Owen helmet and Beval crop,
Page 130 -31 : Louis Vuitton blouse and skirt,; Victor Osborne hat,
212-677-6254; LaCrasia gloves,;
Coach boots,
Page 132: Yves Saint Laurent blouse and pants,
212-980-2970; Suzanne Couture Millinery hat,
212-593-3232; Oscar de la Renta belt,
Page 133: Moschino jacket, 212-243-8600;
Yigal Azrouel blouse,;
Nina Ricci skirt, Neiman Marcus, L.A., 310550-5900; Ralph Lauren Collection boots,
­ Page 1 34: Hermes cuff, hermes
.com; Oscar de la Renta coat, Bergdorf Goodman,
NYC, 800-558-1855.
from page 118 ] quickly found her way
into the city’s inner circle by becoming one of
the original supermodels, ultimately landing a
$1 million campaign with Fabergé, the largest
advertising contract ever signed by a woman
at that time. (She appeared on the March 1975
cover of this magazine.) While still living in
Sun Valley, Mariel had taken a small role in
the 1976 film Lipstick, in which Margaux
starred; it had provided Mariel a glimpse of
a life outside the claustrophobic one she had
come to lead at home. “When I got a taste
of making movies, and when I saw that not
everybody was worried and scared all the time
the way I was, that was a revelation,” she says.
“I thought, I can’t go back to caring for my
mother. I had a lot of guilt about that, though,
because I thought it was my job.”
But once she arrived in New York, a new
source of familial tension sprang up. Mariel
received positive reviews for her turn in Lipstick, while Margaux was panned. After dismissing Margaux as “not much of an actress,”
Vincent Canby of the New York Times wrote
that “the revelation of Lipstick is another
Hemingway, first name Mariel, Margaux’s
14-year-old sister, who plays her sister in the
film. As the chief witness to the events within
the movie, and its ultimate victim, she gives
an immensely moving, utterly unaffected performance that shows up everything else as a
calculated swindle.”
Based on her performance in Lipstick,
Woody Allen cast her opposite himself as
the wise-beyond-her-years teenage girlfriend in Manhattan. “Mariel was immediately a great, natural actress,” Allen told me.
“All the emotions came easily to her. She was
highly intelligent, and this gift, combined
with her sensational looks, made for a very
potent package.” Mariel’s character, Tracy,
reflected a natural poise that was true to the
actress’s own composure in the face of the
chaos constantly being ­created by the adults
surrounding her. “I was a boring teenager,
because I was afraid not to be,” Mariel wrote
in Finding My Balance. “I had it wrapped up
in a concise little package—order, discipline,
and control in all issues would prevent problems with my body and mind.”
She went on to star in Robert Towne’s Personal Best, which explored the romantic relationship between two female athletes training
for the Olympics, and as Playboy playmate
Dorothy Stratten—who was murdered by
[ Continued
her estranged husband—in Bob Fosse’s Star 80. After that Mariel continued to work steadily in film and television, eventually guest-starring
on the sitcom Roseanne, where she—returning to an earlier theme in
her work—shared a controversial same-sex kiss with Roseanne Arnold,
garnering 30 million viewers for the episode. (She still takes small roles
once a year or so.)
Margaux, meanwhile, continued on the roller coaster of her life. Two
marriages came and went, she checked into the Betty Ford clinic in 1988,
failed to stay sober, declared bankruptcy in 1990, struggled to revive her
career, and battled bulimia and epilepsy as well as depression. In 1996 she
too succumbed to suicide, by an overdose of phenobarbital—a cause of
death that Mariel, ever loyal, once disputed.
“When it happened, I was like, ‘No, you’ve made a mistake. You must
mean my other sister, because she’s the one who had problems,’ ” Mariel
recalls. “It made no sense. I had spoken to her only a week prior, and she
had seemed totally fine. But then we came to discover Margaux was
hearing voices and was having a really rough time. It was determined
a suicide by the coroner, but my family didn’t want to say that it was a
suicide—my dad especially. Probably he just didn’t want to have to deal
with that. He just didn’t want to accept that that could have happened
again.” Although Mariel and Margaux had had a turbulent relationship
early on in New York—Margaux once, as Mariel tells it in her memoir,
drunkenly wrapped her hands around Mariel’s throat and whispered,
“You think you know it all, but you’re not the big sister, you know”—
they’d grown closer as Margaux seemed to be trying to steady her life.
In 1984, 12 years before Margaux’s death, Mariel met and married
Stephen Crisman, then the manager of the Hard Rock Café in New York.
The couple began a restaurant business together that quickly expanded,
with locations in New York, Dallas, Houston, Miami, and Los Angeles.
They had Dree and Langley in quick succession. Then, in 1988, Puck died.
“She got sick when I was 11, and she died when I was 27,” Mariel says
plainly. “It felt like she was always about to die.” In 2000 her father, who
had become known as a passionate fly-fisherman and conservationist,
passed away, at age 77. Mariel felt the weight of accumulated loss—the
death of her father led her to finally grieve her mother and sister, too—
and she began to investigate her history with a thoroughness she hadn’t
allowed herself before.
“About five or six years ago I was a speaker at a suicide prevention
dinner, and basically I said, ‘There are suicides in my family: my grand­
father, two great-grandfathers, my great-uncle, my great-aunt.” And
then I paused and looked at all those faces of people who have been
touched by suicide, and I said, ‘And my sister Margaux.’ It kind of came
out, and I just knew it was true. Who was there to say I couldn’t say it?
It was very validating, and a relief. It just felt like a burden let go.”
he psychological unburdening has been successfully transferred
to the latest generation of Hemingways. “I don’t really think
about a Hemingway legacy, ever, unless I’m asked, obviously—
and I’m not asked a lot,” says Langley, who is soft-spoken and almost
defiantly shy. “I think my great-grandfather, like anyone, had problems.
I still think it’s a great family, and I don’t think that the people before
me, just because I have the same bloodstream, are going to affect any
decision I make. I make my own decisions, and if I start going down a
dark path, that is my life.”
Mariel insists that both her daughters have a strong sense of their
own direction, free from the fears that long haunted their mother. Even
so, the past echoes in their work. Dree, who goes by Dree Hemingway
professionally (as opposed to her birth name, Dree Crisman), is an internationally known model, appearing in Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, among
many other fashion magazines. She has also modeled on the runway
for Givenchy, has fronted a campaign for Salvatore Ferragamo, and can
be found nuzzling Justin Bieber in advertisements for his Someday fragrance. Some of the pictures of Dree, glamorously adorned and staring
at the camera with frank confidence, are eerily reminiscent of shots of
Mariel and Margaux in their heydays. Langley, who is known professionally as Langley Fox (Fox is her middle name), is an artist who draws
intricate characters in pencil or ink on paper or wood, every line of their
beings painstakingly created. “Every time I draw a character there is
a story in my brain,” says Langley, who studied fashion design at Otis
College of Art and Design in Los Angeles and at Parsons in New York.
“My brain works in fantasyland, so I think of scenarios all the time that
would be fun to explore. A lot of my stories are very…I don’t know,
mystical and magical.” Perhaps the modernistic imagination of Ernest
Hemingway has found new, 21st-century expression.
As for Mariel, she too continues to move forward. She hopes to keep
acting and to branch out into other areas of filmmaking. For many
years she has been trying to make a film of A Moveable Feast, her grand­
father’s memoir of his time with Hadley and Bumby in Paris, and has
even dreamed of directing the movie herself. “The business is so difficult,
and it’s hard to get anything done. What I do know is I’m producing it,”
she says emphatically. “And I’ve already lined up an amazing writer for
the screenplay: Michael Hirst, who wrote The Tudors and Elizabeth. He
has just such a great take on it. Who knew it could take so long, though?
At one point I thought I’d be in it, but now I’m too old!”
She is also busy working on a soon-to-be-launched lifestyle website,
the Willing Way (, which will offer guidance on what
has become a mission for her: leading a healthier and happier life. Mariel
is an avid hiker and yoga devotee, and she’s developing the site with her
partner, adventure athlete and raw-foodist Bobby Williams. They’re also
co-authoring a book on the same subject. (Mariel and Crisman broke
up in 2007. They remain friends, and he lives full-time in the Sun Valley
house where his daughters grew up.)
“We live in a society that is tough,” Mariel says of the Willing Way
philosophy. “You’re running fast and you don’t take time for yourself
and you think you’re not supposed to and it’s not easy. So there has
to be some point in the day where you take a deep breath and go, ‘It’s
okay. I can make a choice for myself because that is actually going to
help everybody.’ ” It’s advice that has been wrought from her own
hard-won happiness.
Mariel and Langley are ready to visit a small gallery in Ketchum that
is showing a few of Langley’s drawings. Kopple’s documentary crew follows as mother and daughter stroll through the exhibit. “I don’t love this
one,” Langley says, pointing to her largest illustration, a pen-and-watercolor drawing of a couple walking in profile, the man lagging behind
the woman, both slightly hunched, as if in exhaustion or defeat. Langley
prefers instead her smaller pieces, ink drawings of whimsical girls with
beautiful and determined faces. There is a moment of silence, the camera,
for once, almost forgotten. Mariel nods in agreement but doesn’t ask
her daughter why she feels this way. She doesn’t need to—she made the
same choice long ago. •
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