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Francis L. Sullivan
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Spain in the 1930s is the place to be for a man of action like Robert Jordan. There is a civil war going on and Jordan who has joined up on the side that appeals most to idealists of that era -- like Ernest Hemingway and his friends -- has been given a high-risk assignment up in the mountains. He awaits the right time to blow up a bridge in a cave. Pilar, who is in charge there, has an ability to foretell the future. And so that night she encourages Maria, a young girl ravaged by enemy soldiers, to join Jordan who has decided to spend the night under the stars. Written by
Dale O'Connor <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Ernest Hemingway was most particular about how is work should be portrayed on screen. He had hated the version of A Farewell to Arms that was done ten years earlier.
What he did like was Gary Cooper's portrayal of a Hemingway hero. He and Cooper got to be good friends, so he was Papa's first and only choice to be Robert Jordan in For Whom the Bell Tolls.
The novel grew out of Hemingway's experience in the Spanish Civil War that raged for almost four years. A number of generals not liking the leftist trend the new Spanish Republic was taking pulled a military coup d'etat. The whole world took sides with the Soviet Union aiding the Republic's defenders and Italy and Germany aiding the Nationalist Generals.
The USA was officially neutral, but people had their opinions. Believe it or not many supported the rebelling generals seeing them as upholding traditional Catholic Spain. But some in America organized the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, a group of volunteers who fought for the Republic. Some in there were U.S. Communist Party members, but a whole lot were idealists. All of them had a lot of difficulty after World War II, for shall we say being to prematurely anti-Fascist.
Gary Cooper plays just such a volunteer and he's got a mission, to blow up a key bridge in the Guadarrama mountains. He makes contact with the guerrilla band of Akim Tamiroff and Katina Paxinou. Of course fighting with them is Ingrid Bergman, so we had some romantic interludes there which steamed up the screen.
This was quite a year for Ingrid, she did Casablanca as well that year and her name became synonymous with romance. She was not the first choice here. Director Sam Wood did not like his original leading lady Vera Zorina and replaced her with Bergman who he really wanted in the first place.
In fact Wood was a second choice. Paramount originally scheduled this film for Cecil B. DeMille. I'm betting there were some creative differences between DeMille and Papa Hemingway. If this had become a DeMille type film, it would have been a disaster.
Gary Cooper, Ingrid Bergman, Akim Tamiroff, and Katina Paxinou all got Academy Award nominations. Only Paxinou won the Oscar for this film. A great performance, but also probably a tribute to her refugee status. She had fled her native Greece when the Nazis took over where she was a leading member of their national theater. She accepted her Oscar in memory of her late colleagues there.
The only criticism of the film came from those that thought it lingered too long on Cooper and Bergman's romance. Something by the way they were having in real life as well.
But Ernest Hemingway liked the film just fine and I think most will as well.
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