Louis Bromfield, The Man Who Had Everything

Louis BromfieldSome people knew him as America’s best-selling novelist who rivaled the likes of Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Powerful Hollywood producers courted him to write movie screenplays, while others credited him with saving America from a second dust bowl.

The Man Who Had Everything, the only documentary about Louis Bromfield, chronicles the life of a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, successful Hollywood screenwriter and a true Renaissance man. This celebrated author and screenwriter became one of America’s most famous farmers. The documentary is narrated by film legend and close friend Lauren Bacall.

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An original member of the writing staff at Time Magazine, Louis Bromfield (1896-1956) gained international fame in the 1920s and 30s as a best-selling novelist. The author of 30 books, Bromfield also wrote screenplays that starred the likes of Hollywood stars Greer Garson, Humphrey Bogart, Myrna Loy, Mae West, Lana Turner, and James Cagney.

While writing his popular books, first in New York City, and later in Paris, his celebrity status and engaging personality brought about friendships with people ranging from American actors to Indian maharajahs to British royalty. After leaving Paris, Bromfield moved to Malabar Farm in 1938 to pursue his childhood dream.  There he hosted the “secret” wedding of his close friends, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, placing Malabar Farm and his radical agricultural experiments in the national spotlight.

The Man Who Had Everything uses rare audio recordings and never-before-seen film footage from the family archives. Exclusive first-hand accounts from family members, friends and neighbors complete this dramatic story. Bromfield’s daughters both reveal that even as a child, Bromfield was torn between becoming an author or a farmer. While chronicling his early success as an author and the growth of his fame and wealth, they also describe their father’s unique drive and growing dissatisfaction with this lifestyle that led him to return to his roots and seek a self-sufficient life on a farm.

Max Drake, Malabar’s first farm manager, discloses how Bromfield became obsessed with telling others of the importance of conservation methods, and how 25,000 people a year were soon visiting Malabar Farm to hear Bromfield describe his work, his farm, and ultimately his life’s dream.

Who Was Louis Bromfield?

Louis Bromfield attained worldwide acclaim in the 1920s as the author of “Early Autumn,” his third novel and winner of the 1926 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. At age 29, Bromfield was regarded as one of America’s most promising young novelists, compared to the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.

His books created a path to the world of Hollywood; Bromfield’s novels were among the first adapted for feature-length sound films. By the mid-thirties, he had attained fame and riches in an era when reading was an international pastime and movies had just begun to influence American culture.

A large, energetic man with an outgoing personality and a keen intellect, Bromfield wrote by day and led an active social life in celebrity circles in New York and Hollywood by night, making friends with some of the best-known people of his generation. Entertaining, witty, and never afraid to speak his mind, Bromfield was recognized, celebrated, and sometimes reviled for his powerful ego, explosive temper, and forceful personality. Yet the wealthy and talented clamored to be at his side. Bromfield was a man who wanted to experience everything life offered.

He spent money and traveled the world.

Bromfield moved to France with his family in the late 20s; he had fallen in love with the country while serving in the French Army during World War 1. While already well-known for his literary work in Europe, Bromfield and his wife Mary became famous in French social, celebrity and expatriate circles for their entertaining; their house became a retreat for American and French elite such as Gertrude Stein, Picasso, and Sinclair Lewis.

Bromfield continued his busy lifestyle, writing novels, venturing into movie screenplays, and traveling the world. And never forgetting his boyhood passion for life on the land, Bromfield relaxed by devoting time to a one-acre garden where he grew vegetables and over 350 varieties of flowers.

But Bromfield was not happy. At age 40, he thought he had everything: fame, wealth, friends, and family. But it wasn’t enough; something was missing from his life. He yearned to return to the dream from which he had walked away 20 years earlier, to live a self-sufficient life on the land. He dreamed of buying a farm.

The house of Pulitzer Prize-winning author  Louis Bromfield, Malabar Farm, preserved as it was in 1956, is now both a working farm and state park. During Bromfield’s life at the farm, he gained recognition as a world-famous author of popular fiction and became one of America’s most influential farmers.

Louis Bromfield hosted many glamorous guests in his home, including famous authors and movie stars. Bromfield’s good friends, actor Humphrey Bogart and actress Lauren Bacall, were married at Malabar Farm.