A Bridge Too Far (film)

A Bridge Too Far (film)

Infobox Film
name = A Bridge Too Far

caption= original film poster
imdb_id = 75784
writer = Cornelius Ryan (book)
William Goldman (screenplay)
starring = Dirk Bogarde
James Caan
Michael Caine
Sean Connery
Edward Fox
Anthony Hopkins
Hardy Krüger
Laurence Olivier
Robert Redford
Maximilian Schell
director = Richard Attenborough
producer = Joseph E. Levine,
Richard Levine
cinematography = Geoffrey Unsworth, BSC
editing = Antony Gibbs
distributor = United Artists
released = June 15, 1977
runtime = 176 min.
language = English
budget =

"A Bridge Too Far" is a 1977 epic war film based on the 1974 book of the same name by Cornelius Ryan, adapted by William Goldman. It was directed by Richard Attenborough.

The film tells the story of Operation Market-Garden, and its ultimate failure, the Allied attempt to break through German lines and seize several bridges, with the main objective the bridge over the Lower Rhine (Neder Rijn) River, in the occupied Netherlands during World War II. The name for the film comes from a comment made by British Lieutenant-General Frederick A.M. Browning, deputy commander of the First Allied Airborne Army, who told Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery before the operation, "I think we may be going a bridge too far."

The ensemble cast includes Dirk Bogarde, James Caan, Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Denholm Elliott, Elliott Gould, Edward Fox, Gene Hackman, Anthony Hopkins, Jeremy Kemp, Laurence Olivier, Robert Redford, Liv Ullmann, Maximilian Schell, Hardy Krüger and Ryan O'Neal. The music for the film was scored by John Addison, who was a soldier with the British XXX Corps during Operation Market Garden.

Plot summary

The film begins with a montage of actual archival film footage and narrated by a Dutch woman, Kate Ter Horst (Liv Ullmann), describing the state of affairs five years into the war. D-Day had come and gone and the Allies are bogged down by overextended supply lines. Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower had to decide between U.S. General George S. Patton and British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, each of whom had competing plans for ending the war quickly, and being the first to get to Berlin. Under political pressure, Eisenhower chose Montgomery's Operation Market Garden. In September, 1944, the Allies are advancing but have paused in Belgium, near Lommel.

A Dutch family, part of the Dutch resistance underground, observes the German withdrawal toward Germany and awaits the impending arrival of Allied forces. Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt (Wolfgang Preiss) arrives in the Netherlands and discovers he has few resources in men or equipment and morale is very poor. The underground resistance leader (Siem Vroom), along with his 13-year old son (Erik van 't Wout), keep careful notes of German troops evacuating throughout Arnhem, information he will later pass on to the Dutch resistance.

Operation Market Garden envisions 35,000 men being flown 300 miles from air bases in England and being dropped as much as 64 miles behind enemy lines in the Netherlands. The largest airborne assault ever attempted, laying a "carpet of airborne troops" to seize key river bridges with "thunderclap surprise" and hold them until they can be taken over by Allied mechanized units, the 20,000 vehicles led by XXX Corps. Arnhem's bridge crosses the Lower Rhine (Neder Rijn) River, the last major river between the Allies and the German heartland, and seizure of the bridge will allow vast Allied armies to turn east into Germany. The general consensus among the British top brass is that resistance will consist entirely of "Hitler Youth and old men on bicycles".

The plan is to begin in seven days time, and for XXX Corps to reach Arnhem two days after the drop. The U.S. 101st Airborne Division, under Major General Maxwell D. Taylor (Paul Maxwell), is responsible for the road and bridges from the north side of Eindhoven to the south side of the Maas (Meuse) River at Grave. The U.S. 82nd Airborne Division, under Brigadier General James M. Gavin (Ryan O'Neal) is responsible for the bridge crossing the Maas, and from the north side of the Maas to the north side of the Waal River bridge, just north of Nijmegen. The 1st British Airborne, under Major-General Robert E. Urquhart (Sean Connery) is to land northwest of Oosterbeek, and take and hold the north side of the Lower Rhine River to the bridge at Arnhem. The Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade, Polish Major General Stanislaw Sosabowski (Gene Hackman), are to secure the south side of the Lower Rhine and make contact with Lieutenant-Colonel John Dutton Frost (Anthony Hopkins), and Second Battalion, who is to work his way east along the banks of the river. XXX Corps, lead by Lieutenant-General Brian G. Horrocks (Edward Fox), and spearheaded by Lieutenant-Colonel John O.E. Vandeleur (Michael Caine) on point, are to cross the Maas-Schelde Canal on the north side of Lommel and push up the road, as quickly as possible, to Arnhem. Hooking up, and linking, with the U.S. 101st, U.S. 82nd, and finally British 1st, at the Lower Rhine River bridge.

Field Marshal von Rundstedt and Field Marshal Walter Model (Walter Kohut) agree that American General Patton will be chosen to invade the Netherlands. Lieutenant General Wilhelm Bittrich's (Maximilian Schell) II SS Panzer Corps (includes 9th SS and 10th SS Panzer divisions) is due for a rest, off the front lines. Rundstedt suggest they be pulled back to Arnhem and Model agrees.

Polish Major General Sosabowski (Hackman) who remains silent during the Market Garden command briefing, after which he voices his deep doubts that the plan can work. He is one of two dissident voices that are shuttled aside but correctly forecast defeat. American command worries about parachuting in daylight (no major drop had been previously attempted) but note it is a "no moon period" anyway meaning a night drop would be difficult.

The Dutch teenager manages to pass through German lines and discover that Field Marshal Model is at the German command HQ, an important bit of information for the underground because Model is a prominent figure and is always accompanied by crack German troops.

A young British intelligence officer, Major Fuller (in the film; actually Brian Urquhart; played by Frank Grimes), asks The British commander, Lieutenant-General Frederick A.M. Browning (Dirk Bogarde), to allow another low level reconnaissance mission of the Arnhem area. His request is granted.

British commanders planning the drop note they are badly short of transport aircraft and the area near Arnhem is ill-suited for a landing. They will have to land in an open area eight miles (13 km) from the bridge. Sosabowski walks up to check the R.A.F briefing officer's (Jeremy Kemp) uniform insignia and says "Just making sure whose side you're on."

In a briefing led by General Urquhart (Connery), describing 1st British Airborne plan at Arnhem, tells that the key for the eight mile distance from the drop zone to the bridge, is the use of gliders to bring in a special reconnaissance squadron with Jeeps, and mounted with twin Vickers machine guns. Everyone at the briefing is surprised they are going to attempt a landing so far from the bridge, but of course they have to make the best of it. Browning lays out that if any one group fails, the entire operation fails. As British officers, they keep a "stiff upper lip" and do not question their orders. Sosabowski thinks about asking for a letter from General Browning (Bogarde), stating that he is being forced to act under Browning's order in case his men are massacred.

British technical support preparing the portable radios for the mission note they are not likely to work for the long distance from the drop zone to Arnhem bridge. Lieutenant Cole (Peter Settelen) who used the radio equipment in the desert of North Africa, had no trouble with it. But, Cole's superior, Major Robert Steele (Stephen Moore) thinks that the water and trees of Holland will cause the radios not to work. As with most others with doubts about the mission, they choose not to rock the boat and do not convey their concerns up the chain of command.

Learning a German Panzer tank division might be near the Arnhem area, intelligence officer Major Fuller (Grimes) brings the reconnaissance photos to General Browning (Bogarde) and it is quite clear Panzers are present at Arnhem. Browning speculates the tanks are not in fully serviceable, dismisses the photos, and also ignores the confirmation reports from the Dutch underground. Browning does not want to be the one to tell Montgomery of any doubts because 16 consecutive previous airborne drop operation have been canceled. Major Fuller's concerns are brushed off and he is actually removed from duty, and informed by a British doctor (Gerald Sim) whose diagnosis is that the officer is too stressed to perform his duties.

At the ground forces (XXX Corps) briefing, the overall plan is outlined, laying out the bridges that will be taken by the paratroopers, held and then secured by ground forces. Speed is the vital factor. Arnhem must be reached within 2-3 days. It is the crucial bridge, the last means of escape for the German forces in the Netherlands and an excellent route to Germany for Allied forces who hope to finish the war by Christmas. The major road that connects Lommel with Arnhem (Lommel-Valkenswaard-Eindhoven-Son-Veghal-Uden-Grave-Nijmegen-Elst-Arnhem) is only a single highway linking the various key bridges. It is passable for two regular cars, but trucks and tanks have to squeeze to the shoulder to pass. The road is also elevated, approximately three to six feet, causing anything moving on the road to stand out.

The initial phases of Market Garden go as planned, the airborne drops catch the Germans totally by surprise, and there is little to no resistance. Additionally there are no Axis aircraft to push the troop transport off of their landing zones. Most of the men came down in soft plowed fields. The drop for the 101st was the best they had during the war. The men were more likely to get hit by falling equipment than get shot by the Germans. Model, thinking that the Allies must be trying to capture him personally, doesn't think about the bridge, but retreats from Arnhem. General Gavin (O'Neal) broke two discs in his back during his landing. The special reconnaissance squadron, lead by Freddie Gough, with the special Jeeps (with Vickers machine guns), some of which either didn't arrive by gliders at all or were shot up in an ambush. Meanwhile, Bittrich and his subordinate, General Lugwig (Hardy Krüger), realize the situation and send forces to reinforce Nijmegen and Arnhem. When a German soldier captures the actual plans for Market Garden from an abandoned glider, Model brushes them off as fake, but still knows they will be able to repel the paratroopers.

Expected German resistance begins slowing XXX Corps' progress immediately. The advance is also curtailed by the narrow highway. As the 506th of the 101st, led by Colonel Robert Stout (Elliott Gould), approaches the bridge over the Wilhelmina Canal, at Son (Zon), German 88 mm guns hold them off until the bridge is blown. It takes many hours to bring up Bailey bridging equipment. In Nijmegen, part of the 82nd Airborne is forced to perform a dangerous river crossing in flimsy canvas-and-wood assault boats. As the British cross the bridge, the Germans fail to destroy it. However, it makes no difference: the XXX Corps' progress is still slow and the German close in on the 1st Airborne, as they were not expecting to fight two SS Panzer Divisions. British paratroopers do take and occupy parts of Arnhem, but can only hold so long. British Armour continues to fight its way up the corridor, but is hopelessly delayed by events. After days of house-to-house fighting in Arnhem, paratroops versus crack SS infantry and Panzers, the paras are either captured or forced to withdraw. Operation Market Garden has failed.

Production notes

Air filming was done in the first weeks of September 1976, culminating in a series of air drops of a total of 1,000 men, together with the dropping of supplies from a number of Dakota aircraft. The Daks were gathered by the film company Joseph E. Levine Presents Incorporated. All aircraft were required to be CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) or FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) registered and licensed to carry passengers. An original deal for the purchase of ten fell through when two airframes were rejected as passenger configured without the necessary jump doors. Eleven Dakotas were procured. Two Portuguese, ex-Portuguese Air Force, 6153, and 6171, (N9984Q and N9983Q), and two Air International Dakotas, operating from Djibouti in French Somaliland, F-OCKU and F-OCKX, (N9985Q and N9986Q) were purchased by Joseph E. Levine. Three Danish Air Force, K-685, K-687, and K-688, and four Finnish Air Force C-47s, DO-4, DO-7, DO-10 and DO-12, were loaned for the duration of the parachute filming.

Aircraft 6171 doubled as the camera ship on most formations, with a camouflaged Piper Aztec, G-AWDI. A camera was mounted in the astrodome, one on the port upper mainplane surface, with a third camera on the outside of the forward port cabin window and a fourth under the aircraft centre section. In addition, centre escape hatches were removed to make additional camera ports available, provided that no troops were aboard during filming. A second Aztec, G-ASND, was a back-up camera ship on some shots, but it was not camouflaged. An Alouette, G-BDWN, was also employed. After a mishap with G-AWDI, two locally-hired Cessna 172s, PH-GVP and PH-ADF, were also used. Ten Horsa glider replicas were built, but a windstorm damaged almost all of them. Seven or eight were hastily repaired for the shoot. Dakota 6153 was fitted with tow gear and Horsa replicas were towed at high speed, though none went airborne. A two-seat Blaník sailplane, provided by a member of the London Gliding Club, Dunstable, was towed aloft for the interior take-off shots.

Four Harvards portrayed American and German fighters. Their original identities were PH-KLU, PH-BKT, B-64 and B-118, the latter two aircraft loaned by the Royal Netherlands Air Force. These were flown by members of the "Gilze Rijen Aero Club", which also provided an Auster III, PH-NGK, which depicted an Auster V, RT607, in wartime camouflage. Spitfire Mk. IX, MH434, depicting a photo reconnaissance variant, coded AC-S, was lent by the Hon. Patrick Lindsay, and was flown by aerobatic champion Neil Williams. [Hurst, Flt. Lt. K.J., DC-3 Project Officer for the film; "AIR International", July 1977, Volume 13, Number 1, p. 33-34, Talkback column] The scenes around the 'Arnhem' bridge were actually shot in Deventer, where a similar bridge over the IJssel was still available. The bridge at Arnhem, while still unchanged from 1944, was by the mid-1970s sitting in modern urban surroundings which could not be used to portray a 1940s city. A few scenes were shot in Zutphen, where the old municipality house (a white building which in the film featured the Nazi command centre) and the main church can be seen.

The movie's treatment of military history is somewhat misleading compared to the original book; in particular, the reasons for the delay in XXX Corps reaching the Arnhem bridge, which led to the failure of the attack, differ considerably from the book.

According to an episode of the Dutch TV history programme [http://geschiedenis.vpro.nl/programmas/2899536/afleveringen/19032793/"Andere Tijden"] (site in Dutch) (English: "Different Times") about the making of this movie, the producer Joseph E. Levine told the Deventer town government that their town should host the world premiere for "A Bridge Too Far", on June 14, 1977. This never came to be, though, and Deventer even missed out on the Dutch premiere, which was held in Amsterdam.

Military consultants

* Major General John Dutton Frost
* General James M. Gavin
* Lieutenant General Brian Horrocks
* Major General Roy Urquhart
* Brigadier J.O.E. Vandeleur

Cast and roles (Allies)

Historical accuracy

The film was never intended to be a literal retelling of the book, and certain liberties were taken. Nevertheless, it tried for a high degree of accuracy, presenting one of the most realistic portrayals of a World War II battle within the confines of the movie format.Fact|date=December 2007

* During the conference between Model and von Rundstedt where they discuss moving II SS Panzer Corps to Arnhem, the marker designating that unit incorrectly reads, "II SS Panzer Div".
* German military policeman properly wear the appropriate gorget while on duty.
* The "such power at my disposal" dialogue attributed to General Bittrich as he watched the massive Allied air armada was actually only thought by German paratroop expert General Student.
* On the German side, there was no "Maj. Gen. Ludwig". He is a composite of Generals Harzer and Harmel of the 9th and 10th SS Panzer Divisions. In the film's meeting between "Ludwig" and Bittrich right after the initial British landings, Bittrich says he'll handle Arnhem and that Ludwig should deal with the Allied troops in Nijmegen. In reality, the 9th SS (Harzer) was ordered to deal with the British in Arnhem and the 10th SS (Harmel) was ordered to Nijmegen.
* British tanks are of the right color and, impressively, wear the appropriate divisional insignia of the Guards Armoured division. However, there are no short-barrelled 75 mm Shermans in evidence, which should still be the predominant type in service in late 1944.
* The anti-tank guns used by the Germans defending against XXX Corps' advance look like 75 mm PAK 40s, which would be correct. However, their light grey color is wrong and the muzzle for some pieces are incorrect.
* In a road clearing operation, a British Guards Armoured division tankdozer pushes a knocked out M24 Chaffee out of the road. But the Allies did not use M24s during that period. The tank only became available in small numbers to American units during the Battle of the Bulge.
* Unusually for a film of this period, many actors representing Waffen SS soldiers wear the correct, distinctive uniforms of the Waffen SS. However, by 1944 the party insignia on Waffen SS helmets was usually not worn.
* For the attack by the 9th SS Aufklärungs Abt, commanded by SS-Hauptsturmführer Graebner, it was understandably impossible to accurately recreate that unit's armoured cars and half-tracks, although a reasonable attempt was made. Vehicles that somewhat resemble Sdkfz 231s and Sdkfz 222s were built for the film. Also, authentic Sdkfz 7 prime movers (although Graebner's unit did not deploy those) and Kübelwagens were also used. The actor portraying Graebner rides in what looks like a Sdkfz 251/3 command/communications half-track which was correctly used by his HQ company. But in reality Graebner reportedly rode in a captured British Humber Armoured Car.
* The vehicles of the 9th SS Aufklärungs Abt bear the correct insignia of the "Hohenstaufen" division, and the correct tactical sign for the unit.
* In reality, the first few German armoured cars of Graebner's column made it across the bridge unscathed due to the fact that they took the defenders by surprise. The British had laid mines on the bridge's approaches and these were expertly avoided by the speeding German drivers.
* Leopard 1 tanks of the Dutch Army portrayed German armour (presumably intended to be German Panzer IVs or Panthers). Their light grey color was incorrect for any German armour of WWII.
* When the lone "Tiger" attacks the British at Arnhem, it attacks from the southern end of the bridge. In reality, after Graebner's failed attack, no more German armoured attacks came from that direction.
* In the film, the British kill or disperse the resting crew of a German tank, thus allowing General Urquhart to return to his headquarters. In reality, while a number of German tanks (including King Tigers) were lost in the battle to British PIATs and 6-pounders, in this case, he just waited for the German tank to move on.
* On the American side, there was no "Col. Robert Stout" of the 101st Airborne. The character is based on Colonel Robert Sink, commander of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment whose troops were about to seize the Son River bridge when it blew up in their faces, and who hastily built a temporary bridge in its place. (Sink was portrayed by Capt. Dale Dye, USMC (ret.) in the 2001 miniseries "Band of Brothers", which also covered Operation Market-Garden.)
* In a few scenes filmed in Nijmegen, the Sint Stevenskerk (Saint Stevenschurch) isn't partially destroyed, which it was, because of the bombardment of February 22, 1944 by the Americans.
* The incident where a British paratrooper is killed bringing back a supply canister full of red berets is only partially accurate. In reality the paratrooper survived.
* The Dutch physician 'Dr Jan Spaander' played by Laurence Olivier was a fictional character.

Facts and figures

* Joseph E. Levine financed the $22 million budget himself. During the production, he would show footage from the film to distributors who would then pay him for distribution rights. By the time the film was finished, Levine had raised $26 million, putting the film $4 million in the black before it had even opened.
* To tempt the distributors, Levine needed to assemble an all-star cast. The principal players were paid $250,000 a week, though Sean Connery held out for a total of $750,000. The part of Major Cook came down to a choice between the two biggest box office stars, Steve McQueen and Robert Redford. Attenborough pushed for McQueen, with whom he had worked as an actor on "The Sand Pebbles" and "The Great Escape". But McQueen wanted $3 million, plus $50,000 for his entourage, $470,000 to buy a house he couldn't sell and to have his part scheduled so he could immediately begin production on another film for which he was being paid $3 million. Levine turned him down and Redford agreed to play the part for $2 million.
* Shooting of the American-led assault on the Bridge at Nijmegen was dubbed the “Million-Dollar Hour”. Because of the heavy traffic, they had permission to film on the bridge between eight and nine o'clock on the 3 October 1976, and if they couldn't shoot the scene, they would have to reschedule at a cost — including Redford's overtime — of at least a million dollars. For this reason, Attenborough insisted that all actors playing corpses keep their eyes closed.
* Michael Caine's scripted line to order the column of tanks and armoured cars into battle, was "Forward, go, charge". Luckily for Caine, Lieutenant Colonel Joe Vandeleur was on the set, so he could ask him what the actual line was. Vandeleur told him, "I just said quietly into the microphone, 'Well, get a move on, then'", which is what Caine says in the film as released. Vandeleur was apparently enamoured of Caine playing him, telling him that he was taller and more handsome than in reality.
* Steven Spielberg's idea for putting his "Saving Private Ryan" and "Band of Brothers" actors through boot camp was originally done by Attenborough for this film. Attenborough put many of the extras/soldiers through a mini-boot camp and even had them housed in a barracks of sorts during filming.

ee also

*War film
*Theirs is the Glory
*Piet J. Kroonenberg
*Replacements (Band of Brothers)



External links

*imdb title | id=0075784| title=A Bridge Too Far
*amg title|id=1:7107|title=A Bridge Too Far
*tcmdb title|id=15854|title=A Bridge Too Far
*A Bridge too far at http://www.britishcinemagreats.com/films_page/a_bridge_too_far/a_bridge_too_far_page_one.htm"

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