For Whom The Bell Tolls Review

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Having been brutalised by Franco's forces, Maria, rediscovers a zest for life on meeting Robert Jordan, an American with the International Brigade, who joins a Republican guerilla band in the mountains above Segovia in order to destroy a key Loyalist bridgehead.


Paramount paid a record $150,000 when it acquired the rights to Ernest Hemingway's Spanish Civil War epic. Originally, it had been earmarked for Cecil B. DeMille. But he fell by the wayside, along with Vera Zorina, who threatened to sue the studio after it dropped her on seeing the rushes of the first three weeks shooting in the Sierra Nevadas. Much to the relief of Hemingway (who had already insisted on Gary Cooper after his performance in the 1932 version of the author's classic, A Farewell to Arms), his personal choice, Ingrid Bergman, was awarded the role of Maria and her intense, yet naturalistic performance earned her first Oscar nomination and confirmed the superstar status that had already been conferred by Casablanca.

Yet, the Catholic Church and the Spanish government did everything they could to persuade the US State Department to have the picture suppressed. However, Paramount chief Adolf Zukor insisted that the film had no political agenda, even though its Republican sentiments were as clear as its exortion to all repressed peoples to rise in active resistance against Fascist tyranny.  

Despite its propagandist value and air of literary prestige, the film was accorded a mixed critical reception, with many complaining of its excessive length and deriding Sam Wood's melodramatic handling of the love scenes. Yet, when the picture was reissued in the mid-1950s, it was George Coulouris and Konstantin Shayne's scenes that were cut rather than any of the interminable close-up clenches.

 Bergman approaches poetic realism in the scenes in which she describes her gang rape and bids farewell to Cooper as he embarks upon his heroically doomed mission. But fellow Europeans Akim Tamiroff and the Oscar-winning Katina Paxinou bring some much-needed grit as the war-weary leader of the guerillas and the mistrusting peasant who took control of the band when she saw his purpose waning.

Once the political correctness is side-stepped, this contains classic chemistry from its two leads