An ancient Inca rope bridge spanning a chasm in the Peruvian Andes collapses, sending five travelers to their deaths in the gorge below. A monk who was nearby, Father Juniper, decides to investigate the lives of those who died in order to see if the tragedy was a result of chance or some divine plan. Written by
Though this version of The Bridge Of San Luis Rey got an Oscar nomination for Dimitri Tiomkin's musical score, it was like watching half a picture.
The novel is as much about the Brother Juniper character's inquiry into the lives of the six victims who died when the Inca rope bridge broke as it is about their lives. What Donald Woods as Brother Juniper was trying to do was seek for some meaning in the tragedy. Was it dumb luck or was some divine plan in operation?
Years ago Felix Frankfurter who was of Viennese Jewish heritage was quoted as saying that when Chief Justice Fred Vinson died it was the first time he had seen evidence of the existence of God and hence a divine plan. Vinson was wrestling and unsuccessfully with desegregation cases and when Ike appointed Earl Warren as Chief Justice those situations were resolved and the Supreme Court was unanimous in Brown vs. Board of Education which ended segregation. Not too mention a host of other decisions that changed American life. That was what Brother Juniper was trying to determine, was some divine plan in operation? That's a question that is usually filed under the Lord moves in mysterious ways. Trying to see those ways makes you a heretic questioning things best left to the Divine. That's the real story, all Donald Woods becomes here is a chronicler of a tragedy.
Not that some of Thornton Wilder's characters don't have their moments. Louis Calhern makes a crafty Viceroy and he's equally matched by Akim Tamiroff's even craftier official snitch. Lynn Bari was all right in a part that cried for a Rita Hayworth. And Alla Nazimova is a regal countess.
Still Wilder's whole novel was cut in half and the story he was telling went with it.
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