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For Whom the Bell Tolls
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Reviews & Ratings for
For Whom the Bell Tolls More at IMDbPro »

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55 out of 64 people found the following review useful:

One Of The Greats!!!!

10/10
Author: Thomas W. Muther, Jr. (twm-2) from Topeka, KS
10 June 2004

Reading some of the comments here left me wondering, in some cases, whether the writers had this film confused with some B-movie potboiler. Some have written scathing contumelies with not a single positive remark to be found. It's amazing how differently two people from the same planet, same culture, can view the same thing. For me, this has always been one of my favorite movies, with very few flaws to be found. Gary Cooper could never be accused here (or anywhere else) of over acting. His style has always been one of understatement. He, in fact, was one of the actors who helped change the style of acting from the theatricality of the silents, to the more realistic method still in vogue today. Here, he is perfectly cast (Hemingway would accept no other)--the quiet, stoic, ruggedly handsome American.

Ingrid Bergman is my favorite actress, so it's probably hard for me to be objective, but I feel this is one of her greatest roles, playing the damaged, yet still innocent, Maria (it was, in fact, the role for which Bergman felt she would be most remembered). True, her accent could hardly be mistaken for Spanish, but this seems trivial when this is stacked up against her immense talent as an actress. The criticisms about her appearance have no justification at all, as has been pointed out by others. All Spaniards do not look alike. Ms. Bergman is absolutely radiant, luminous, stunningly beautiful. Her scenes with Coop are wonderful. You can see "Roberto's" interest in her immediately, first of a carnal nature, but increasingly with tenderness and concern. Their's is one of the best love stories on film.

The supporting characters are superlative; Akim Tamiroff is fine as the once courageous but now cowardly (and possibly treacherous) Pablo; Vladimir Sokoloff as the lovable aging guide--but where did they find Ms. Paxinou? Her Pilar is a fascinatingly vibrant character, full of grit and valor and indomitable courage, and yet capable of being deeply wounded by the thoughtless actions of a child. She apparently never did another film either before or after this one--just taking her well deserved Oscar and slipping away {Edit (Dec. 2005): I've since discovered that Ms. Paxinou DID appear in a few less prominent films after this one.}

It's true that war is not romantic, and the film shows some of the horrors of this enterprise. It is also true that it does to some extent romanticize this war in that it emphasizes the self-sacrifice and courage of these people. In any case, I feel most people will find themselves moved by the sacrifices and **SPOILERS** the doomed romance of the leads. The story has been altered a bit from the wonderful novel, but this is inevitable. Still, it follows it much more closely than most Hollywood filmizations. The scenery is spectacular--the color, the cinematography are top notch, and Victor Young has composed a lush and moving score that wonderfully underscores the action and emotions of the players--his creation being among the best in cinema history. The direction strikes an excellent balance between showing us the details of day to day survival by these hunted insurgents, the suspense of battle, and the growing romance. Some have criticized the dialogue, but I find it quite believable. That last speech of Jordan's and his thoughts right after, have in particular been singled out for scorn. But for me, it is extraordinarily real. He doesn't utter some plasticized ideal of what a parting speech should be--no it's something someone might actually say, filled with simple but heartfelt phrases.

Well, dear reader, you simply must see this film. Then judge for yourself whose comments are more accurate--those above, or those who have reviled the film. I know where I'd put my money.

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31 out of 36 people found the following review useful:

The Bell Tolls for Republican Spain

9/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
15 August 2006

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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24 out of 30 people found the following review useful:

"the best screen adaption of any Hemingway novel"

Author: pae-sk from Framingham Massachusets
2 January 2001

Set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War, the prelude to WWII, this is one of the great action/adventure films of all time and the best screen adaption of any Hemingway novel. Cooper and Bergman set the sparks flying like Bogie and Bacall, and are sexier on screen without ever taking their clothes off than any of todays red hot lovers stark naked. Coop's hat alone deserves an honorary Oscar for Best Costume. Old pros like Vladimir Sokoloff, Akim Tamiroff and Fortunio Bonanova (whom film buffs will recognise as the opera coach from "Citizen Kane") keep that inimitable Hemingway dialogue moving at a brisk pace and Katina Paxinou, who copped the Best Supporting Actress award, is the embodiment of one of Hem's greatest characters. I have the 156 min version taped off cable and the added footage makes you hungry to see the whole 170 minute version (if it still exists). Don't miss this one. Four stars.

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17 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

Plot Summary

8/10
Author: richardann from United States
15 August 2005

The film opens with a tolling bell and a quotation from John Donne's "No Man Is an Island." Then the action literally explodes on the screen with an act of sabotage by Robert Jordan (Gary Cooper), who has just struck a blow for the young Spanish Republic against the fascist Nationalists. As one of about 60,000 foreigners who have come to fight for Spain's freedom, Jordan's story plays out against a background of cataclysmic world events.

Jordan is immediately assigned the task of blowing up an important bridge behind the Nationalist lines in the Guadarrama Mountains, near Segovia. The main story line follows him as he joins a ragtag troop of guerrillas in pursuit of his mission. The guerrillas are led by the forceful Pilar, in an Academy Award-winning portrayal by Katina Paxinou. An equally pivotal character in the band is cunning, treacherous Pablo (Akim Tamiroff), who may at any moment defect to the Nationalist side if it profits him. The guerrillas are a motley crew of pan- European characters, each with his own life story and reason for being in that place at that time.

And then there is the innocent, vulnerable, incredibly beautiful Maria (Ingrid Bergman), who was rescued from Nationalist rapists and is now protected by the guerrillas. Under Pilar's watchful eye Robert and Maria fall in love. With the signing of Ingrid Bergman to play the role of Maria, Paramount jumped on the post-"Casablanca" bandwagon. Echoes of the earlier film that were not in Hemingway's novel crop up as Robert morphs from the stalwart freedom fighter to the lover who is torn between duty and love.

A lengthy film of about 160 minutes, FWTBT takes time to explore the relationships between characters, even the lesser lights. We find out who is strong and weak, who is in favor of the war and who is not, and get a glimpse into how each one might react when the chips are down. A particularly meaningful interchange is when Robert explains to the guerrillas that although the Communists are on their side (under orders from the Soviet Cominterm), the fascist governments of Germany and Italy are supplying the Nationalists with Panzer tanks and Stuka dive-bombers. In reality those governments were testing their armament in preparation for the coming world war.

SPOILER: The end of the film is a whirlwind series of scenes in which Robert almost single- handedly demolishes the bridge as the Nationalist army approaches. Then fate takes a hand. To escape, the guerrillas must ride across an open area through a hail of enemy machine-gun and light artillery fire. Everyone makes it across but Robert, bringing up the rear, who is blown from his horse by an exploding shell. Too wounded to ride, Robert must be left behind with a machine-gun to slow the advance of the Nationalists.

With courage and great pain Robert delivers his "hill of beans" and "where I'm going you can't follow" speeches to Maria. He promises that they will be together in spirit but stops short of saying, "We'll always have Guadarrama."

Maria is thrown onto the back of a horse and the band gallops away, her screams fading into the distance. Fighting nausea and unconsciousness, Robert sets up the machine-gun and fires directly into the camera (mirrored at the end of "Bataan" with Robert Taylor). Smoke and cordite fill the screen, and the scene dissolves to the giant bell tolling a warning to mankind.

In 1943 Hemingway and the everyone in the film knew to their sorrow that the Nationalists had won the Civil War in 1939 and that Spain now lived under the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco. They could not know that, ironically, with Franco's death in 1975 Spain named King Juan Carlos I sovereign of the democratic constitutional monarchy that rules the Kingdom of Spain today.

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7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

For Whom the Bell Tolls

8/10
Author: Davey van Lienden from Netherlands
24 August 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I have this movie on DVD for weeks, I thought: this would be a long and boring movie. So I waited a long time and today I thought let's give it a chance and I had a really good time, the movie is great and a true classic, that every classic movie fan must see. It tells the story of a bomb expert (Gary Cooper) he get's the order to destroy a bridge, he stays with a few people in a cave. The leader of the gang Pilar (Paxinou) is a woman with girl power, the misfit pablo (Tamiroff) and the young Maria (Bergman) during the story Cooper and Bergman fell in love, but they both can't help that Paxinou steals the show with her great acting, she plays the stars from heaven and she really deserves her Oscar for best supporting actress, unfortunately we never saw great things of her later. You can also see that this movie was made to win a lot of Oscars, you really should see this movie.

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17 out of 29 people found the following review useful:

I no provoke, Inglis!

Author: (patrick.hunter@csun.edu) from Northridge, Ca
15 January 2001

I have read most of Hemingway's novels and enjoy him for the romantic he is (why is it some people view him as a realist?). However, when I see this film, as well as the Tyrone Power version of THE SUN ALSO RISES, I am left wondering if the problem with Hollywood adaptations of his work was that they were TOO faithful. That's right, all you Hemingway lovers: too faithful. The man's dialog works on paper, but when spoken by the actors--good actors at that--it becomes downright silly.

Hemingway once wrote a play, THE FIFTH COLUMN, that was snickered by theatre-goers in 1937. He learned his lesson and never wrote another play. Some of the Hollywood scriptwriters might have also learned, if not from the reviews of THE FIFTH COLUMN, at least from the film of THE KILLERS: the best way to adapt Hemingway is to steer away from his dialog, not stick so close to it.

That said, I must confess I enjoy this film like the others...though I can't help but chuckle at it sometimes.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

A Spanish Microcosm

8/10
Author: zolaaar from Berlin, GER
20 May 2008

Based in Ernest Hemingway's world famous bestseller, this film is one of those classical melodramas, even though not in a Douglas Sirk style and maybe of quite another matter. In the book, Hemingway worked up his own experiences in the Spanish Civil War of the 30s - the film was shot in the middle of World War II - and that is why certain things are plain "clear". Of course, the whole plot of the film takes place solely within the lines of the Republican forces. Of course, it takes an unequivocal stand against Franco's fascism and its followers. Of course, the male lead, an expert for explosives, is a sincere American who stands on the right side. But without any cynicism, For Whom the Bell Tolls is in an utterly positive sense straight, straightforward, "clear", or however you want to word it.

Sam Wood shaped the story through three strands: the love between María (Ingrid Bergman) and Robert (Gary Cooper), the preparations of a detonation and the conflict in the group with Pablo (Akim Tamiroff). Here, Wood presents a set of excellent characters. Pablo, brilliantly played by Tamiroff, as the most enigmatic of the ensemble, does not only bring trouble into the group, but also impersonates a man who is torn between friendship/solidarity and personal interest. Robert is a sober, prudential, reflecting man who knows what he wants, but sees danger in his love for María. He is not an ignorant macho, but someone who carefully listens, evaluates and then decides. And then there is Pilar, played by Katina Paxinou, this rough, angular, active woman with heart, a heart which is not only on the right place, but also has a deep feeling for what is going wrong in her country and what danger is coming up for her and her people if Franco might win the war. It seems as if Wood adapted a real and important protagonist of the Civil War with the character of Pilar: the Communist leader Dolores Ibarruri aka "La Pasionaria".

With this variety of human patterns, Wood gives us a cross-section through a small, "spatially limited" civil society where the story line can be interpreted in context to the events in 1943 in Europe. Hitler and his allies are at the high peak of their conquest- and extermination campaigns. In this respect, the film asks the question, how democracy is going to work after the terror is defeated, taking also those into account who are erratic and cowardly like Pablo. And it asks the question for consideration between betrayal and solidarity, love and necessity.

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14 out of 24 people found the following review useful:

Going well and fast and far

Author: tmonigan from Gastonia NC
13 September 2002

Not enough time to deliver the proper material here, so will return another day. But as for this quibbling with the casting, etc., etc. Some negative reviews mention the word "turgid." But for years, in the Sunday New York Times weekly TV listings, the capsule finished with "Thank you Victor Young." Sooooo -- Akim Tamiroff IS Pablo, gives the performance of his life, should have won the Oscar. Joseph Calleia as El Sordo is just one example of how the supporting cast carries this flawed giant on its collective back. Watch young Joaquin's lips move as he prays his last prayer while El Sordo and his men die fighting. Watch Pablo tell Anselmo, "Do you want to die? Then shut up." Watch Pilar tell Pablo, "No one understands you -- not God, nor your mother, nor I." BUT ABOVE ALL ELSE is Victor Young's score, and Young's love theme is among the most beautiful ever used in ANY MOVIE ANYWHERE. It's final appearance comes as Jordan sends Maria away, and no one cries better than Bergman. "Now you're going, and you're going well and fast and far...." Heart rending is not done with a finer edge than this. One of my life's true regrets is I didn't get to see in in a real movie theatre of my childhood. So go ahead and whine about all the faults. Tears still come to my eyes every time. And that's what Hollywood is all about. If Hemingway were here right now, drunk or sober, he'd say the same thing, with some cussin' thrown in.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

For Whom The Bell Tolls

Author: jhkp from United States
28 February 2014

This is a fine film, very popular in its day for depicting the desperate fight for freedom that even civilians engaged in by choice, at a time when democracy was in fact truly threatened and there was a very real possibility it would disappear from the earth. Because of the bravery of so many men and women of that time, the freedom that many today take for granted was assured. But it is by no means permanent.

The film is relatively heavy but certainly many modern films about current events are equally heavy. One is either involved or not but I found it a great story of a small group of people who have survived a great deal of pain in life and who have little to lose. The film presents the characters very well, allowing us to like and understand them. It was shot in Technicolor on realistic locations and beautifully designed by William Cameron Menzies. The music by Victor Young is outstanding.

In case anyone may not know, Ingrid Bergman was the choice of Ernest Hemingway. In fact, he went out of his way to see to it that the ballet dancer and actress Vera Zorina, who was originally cast and who had begun shooting the film, was replaced by Bergman. Hemingway also wanted Gary Cooper and no one else to play Robert Jordan. How can these actors be 'miscast' when the author who created the characters felt they were perfect for the roles?

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

" Regardless of where you go, I'll always be with you "

6/10
Author: thinker1691 from USA
26 October 2013

It was said that Ernest Hemingway wrote " For Whom The Bell Tolls " with Gary Cooper in mind to play Robert Jordan. The story itself tells of an America teacher who joins the rebel cause to fight against Government forces with the specific task of destroying a crucial bridge. Once in, he meets up with the rebels and discovers much dissension in their leadership, which is further complicated by falling in love with Maria (Ingrid Bergman). However his most difficult task is among the leaders and especially with Pablo (Akim Tamiroff) whom he doesn't really trust. Integrated within the story is a passionate love affair which transfers easily from the novel to the silver screen and becomes more memorable in the treacherous and rugged landscape of the lofty Spanish mountains. There is much conflict between characters as well as explosive forces of the two belligerent sides. Central to the conflict is the theme of the bloody Spanish Civil which explains much to the audience and which in the end creates a definite Classic between Ingrid Bergman and Hollywood leading man Gary Cooper. Although acknowledged as a bit lengthy it's still a must see movie for fans of both stars****

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