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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Men in "suits of light," bullfighting, Hemingway and the Spanish Civil war, February 12, 2010
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This review is from: Double-Edged Sword: The Many Lives of Hemingway's Friend, the American Matador Sidney Franklin (Hardcover)
Updated--5/3/2010

Bart Paul's Double-Edged Sword is a well-researched story of the life of Sidney Franklin (born Sidney Frumpkin), the first gay, Jewish American matador, a friend of Ernest Hemingway, a matador trainer, an actor and an author. Paul draws on Franklin's autobiography, works by contemporaries, news articles and interviews with those that knew him. Paul began Doubled-Edged Sword as a research project for a film that was not made.

Sidney Franklin was born near the turn of the 20th century in Brooklyn, one of nine children of Abram (Abe) and Lubba. Sidney's parents were orthodox Jews, who had emigrated from Russia in 1888. His father was a New York City policeman, a tyrant who bullied Sidney and his brothers. As a child, Sidney was small and sickly, characteristics that did not sit well with Abe. Sidney showed a preference for the arts, another trait that did not endear him to Abe. While his brothers had respectable jobs as a doctor, an accountant and a policeman, Sidney dropped out of high school to begin a commercial silk screening business.

It isn't clear when Sidney realized that he was gay, but the defining event in Sidney's life occurred when, at nineteen, he spent a couple of days with a male friend at a hotel in Asbury Park. On his return, Abe knocked Sid unconscious with a punch to the head. Abe's motivation was not clear, but the thrashing provided the impetus for Sidney's long journey that led him to bullfighting, Spain and Hemingway.

A short time after the incident with his father, Sidney left Brooklyn for Mexico City. Sidney opened a printing and poster shop where he became intrigued with bullfighting. He became a student of Rodolfo Gaona, who agreed to train Sidney gratis. Sidney fought bulls and became a celebrity in Mexico. But he aspired to greatness, to fight in Spain and become first American matador by taking his alternativa.

With the help of his mother, Sidney was able to leave for Spain, where he was able to meet bullfighting promoters through the assistance of friends he had made in Mexico. Through bullfighting in Spain, he met Hemingway and Hemingway's second wife Pauline. Hemingway wanted an entrée into bullfighting to do research for a book that became Death in the Afternoon. Sidney and Pauline became fast friends. It was during this time that Sidney's attempt to become a matador almost ended tragically.

For the next several years, their lives were intertwined. After Spain, Sidney tagged along with Hemingway to the US and provided Hemingway and Hemingway's new girlfriend, Martha Gellhorn, with a way into Spain during the Spanish Civil War. Somewhere along the way, Sidney and Hemingway had a falling out possibly because of Sidney's homosexuality or because of Hemingway's treatment of Pauline.

Sidney eventually returned to bullfighting in Spain to take his alternativa and became a matador. He spent much of the rest of his life bouncing between Spain, Mexico and the US, writing his autobiography, working on films and taking potshots at Hemingway.

Should you read this book? If you are a fan of bullfighting or Hemingway, the answer is yes.
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