The dramatic, sexy and surprisingly funny story of the private and political passions of Philip Rawlings, a counter-espionage agent working for the Republic during the Spanish Civil War. At the heart of the play is a romance between Rawlings and Dorothy Bridges, a journalist in over her head professionally and head-over-her-heels personally. Against a backdrop of treachery and danger, Dorothy and Philip take solace in each other’s arms and dream of peace—a dream that threatens Rawlings’s commitment to the cause.
Hemingway wrote The Fifth Column in 1937 while in Spain as a correspondent for the North American Newspaper Alliance. Franco’s army had four columns advancing on Madrid and a “Fifth Column” of hidden fascist sympathizers within the city using terrorist tactics to bring down the government. “While I was writing the play the Hotel Florida, where we lived and worked, was struck by more than thirty high explosive shells. So if it is not a good play perhaps that is what is the matter with it. If it is a good play, perhaps those thirty shells helped write it.”
Hemingway was having an affair with Martha Gellhorn at the time; she eventually became his third wife. Gellhorn was also in Madrid as a journalist; Spain’s Civil War was the first of many conflicts that she covered in her storied career. Tall, blond and glamorous, Gellhorn served as the model for The Fifth Column’s Dorothy Bridges.