For Whom the Bell Tolls Film Details
Overview: During the Spanish Civil War, an American allied with the Republicans finds romance during a desperate mission to blow up a strategically important bridge.
Tagline: Thunderous! Tender! Touching!
Review: Among the cast which, in the novel consists of one American idealist and the rest Spanish guerrillas in the Civil War of 1937, I counted two actors actually born in Spain, one Mexican, one half-Cuban, a Yugoslavian, a Swede, two Greeks, two Hungarians, one Maltese, a Siciliano, and the rest Russian. Oh, and Gary Cooper. Hollywood in the 1940s was never particular about these niceties. A foreign accent was a foreign accent. In many of the movies of the period, a British accent would serve for Axis spies. But who cares, right? This is Hemingway after all and old Ernie can overcome this kind of wanton casting. Except that Hemingway was always difficult to transpose to film. His best passages — those pebbles in the clear stream; the frozen carcass of the leopard on Mount Kilmanjaro — tended to be descriptive. His dialog, sometime very funny, could also be very purple, ultra violet even, and those seemed to be the particular pieces of dialog that appealed to writers and producers. Here we’re stuck with Ingrid Bergman’s first kiss. “Where do the noses go?” And that long, incomprehensible explanation by Gary Cooper of why Bergman must leave him and his broken leg behind to provide a rear guard for the others. “If you go, we both go. Go and we go together. But if you stay, we don’t go, so we don’t go together.” (Something like that.) At least he doesn’t say, “Forget about me. Save yourselves.” And we’re also spared, from the novel, the observation that when Cooper and Bergman have sex, “the earth moved.” Hemingway had a fable about dealing with Hollywood. You drive up to the California border. The producers are on the other side. You throw them the manuscript and they throw you the check. Then you drive away fast. The movie is really constructed in four acts. I: Gary Cooper, the ex prof, is introduced to the dozen or so guerrilla fighters hiding out and slowly rotting in the mountains. II. Cooper romances Bergman. III. El Sordo (Joseph Calleia, the Maltese) is trapped on a mountain top and dies fighting Franco’s troops and airplanes. IV. Cooper and his companeros blow a bridge and some of them are killed, including Cooper. The locations were shot in the beautiful crisp air and granite rocks and evergreens of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. The outdoor imagery is very impressive. Most of the scenes are shot in a damp, dark cave that looks studio-built. The robust and ugly Katina Paxinou livens up these scenes and it’s a good thing because most of the dynamics are a little gloomy. Akim Tamiroff, in a dramatic part, is half coward, half burnt-out revolutionary. Some of his grimmer lines are, in context, almost funny, what with his echt-Russian accent. Sullen and resentful, his face painted a ghoulish green, Tamiroff swills down wine and insults people at random until people punch and slap him and threaten to kill him. His mantra is smothered in sour cream and mushrooms and cabbage soup — “I doan prowoke.” Cooper is pretty good. He’s handsome and virile; he manages to activate both facial expressions, and it fits the part. And Ingrid Bergman is nicely tanned considering that she’s just spent a winter in the icy mountains of Spain. Her short haircut detracts not at all from her fresh beauty. She glows with her love for Cooper. At one point the script has her become hysterical as her lover rides off to battle. “Oh, please bring him back safely. Please. I big you. I will do anything you say!”, and she buries her sobbing face against the neck of an indifferent horse. I wonder if the writers deliberately tried to torpedo what virtues were found in the novel. The film, like the novel, takes sides. Well — it HAS to. Who, in 1943, was going to give a break to Hitler and Mussolini? But the Republican side doesn’t come off as exactly saintly. When they take over a town they drunkenly torture and kill anyone who was linked to the loyalists. It’s a horrifying scene, a flashback narrated by Paxinou. Overall, a film with considerable impact, even today.
Country: United States
Language: English, Spanish
Duration: 170 min
Genre: Adventure, Drama, History
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