Monday, 25 June 2012

For Whom The Bell Tolls (1943)

All the GIFs (Moving Pictures) in this post belong to me. All the pictures apart from the poster, illustrations of Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman and the black and white portrait are also mine. Please don't redistribute without crediting or asking for permission.

This film had been waiting on my shelf for months and months for a watch. Believe it or not, I ordered it about a year and a half ago and it's been sitting there and I've been putting off watching it for ages! I'm not a great Gary Cooper fan but I may just have been converted by For Whom The Bell Tolls (based on the novel of the same name by Ernest Hemingway)... It was a lot better than I expected. Admittedly I fell asleep the first time I tried to watch this but I did nearly faint a couple of minutes before I put it on... This time I didn't fall asleep but I did take a break to go shopping - come on guys, it's two and a half ours of Spanish revolution!

Set in the Spanish Civil war, Roberto (Gary Cooper) is an american fighter for the republic who is assigned the job of blowing up an important bridge currently held by the nationalists. He is sent with an old man to sort out the job with a group of rebels and gypsies living high in the mountains. Leader of the group is Pilar (played by greek actress Katina Paxinou who won an oscar for her work in this film) followed by Pablo. Pablo is very apprehensive about fighting for any side and is an increasing problem in the group.

The group has recently picked up 19 year old orphan Maria (Ingrid Bergman) who was assaulted and kidnapped by nationalists who killed her family.

She had her head shaved so when asked by Roberto how long she has been in the mountains she pulls he hair and says "This long". She and Roberto immediately feel a chemistry between them and soon fall in love which creates even more problems in the group. Will they be able to pull together to pull off the dangerous operation of securing and blowing up the bridge?

Director Sam Wood did a masterful job with the direction of this complex epic. The lighting of the early colour film is beautiful and ethereal yet raw. The script is romantic and full of suspense, leaving enough room for the actors to add a lot of their own flair. I don't know how much the dialogue was kept from the original book by Hemingway, but it does sound very poetic.

Hemingway hand-picked Ingrid Bergman and Gary Cooper for the film. There was a bit of trouble caused by this. He sent Ingrid a signed copy of his book and said in the front cover "You are my Maria." She went to her studio and told them and showed them the book, but alas, Paramount had purchased the rights. Paramount said they had their own actors and didn't need to borrow Bergman. They cast another gril opposite Cooper but it was so obvious that Ingrid was perfect that after around two weeks on the picture they fired the other girl and cast Ingrid. 

They said "Ingrid, you'll need to cut your hair off..." and she said "I'd cut my HEAD off for that part!"

Ingrid Bergman was wonderful again, she showed aspects of her ability of performance that you don't often see in her. She is totally loveable as the lonely yet happy Maria who has lost everything but still has hope that she'll get through everything. I was a nervous wreck *SPOILERS* in her scene at the end with Gary Cooper, her face when he tells her he has to stay and then the way she is writhing around on her horse screaming "ROBERTO! ROBERTO!" Guys, come pick me up off the floor I'm lying in puddles of my tears. She's a total inspiration for me as an actress.

Gary Cooper. I've never been a great fan - a bit too naturalistic I thought, but after watching his tender and brave performance in FWTBT then I might just be a convert. He and Ingrid Bergman work very well in the way that she does with Gregory Peck, they are both sensitive and a little shy. Also, can we discuss how handsome he is...

Katina Paxinou and the rest of the supporting cast did a sterling job with their hard and physical roles. The fight scenes were well crafted and convincingly acted. 

I love me a war film.

I would definitely say go watch this now. It feels like something you should watch at least once. It's worth it for the lead performances alone.



Liam and Pearl said...

This is one of our favourite movies ever!
Nice review

Pearl and Liam

Paul said...

I also have owned this movie for over a year, but haven't watched it yet. I don't know why I have kept waiting, but I will get bump it up on my watch list because it sound better than I thought it was going to be. I love Bergman and I tend to enjoy Cooper especially in this type of role. Thanks for the review.

silverscreenings said...

I didn't know Hemingway hand-picked these two actors to star in this movie. Good review!

Julie said...

Hemingway and Cooper were opposites politically, but couldn't have been closer friends ... Gary starred in The Sun Also Rises earlier in his career ...

Julie said...

Sorry for the mistake, I meant A Farewell to Arms in my earlier comment ...

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