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Thursday, May 28, 2015

For Whom The Bell Tolls (1943)

During the Spanish Civil War in the year 1937, an American professor (Gary Cooper) joins the Republican guerrilla forces fighting against the fascist forces of Francisco Franco. An assignment to blow up a strategic bridge finds him holed up in the mountains with other guerrilla fighters. It is there where he meets the girl Maria (Ingrid Bergman) and falls in love. Based on the celebrated novel by Ernest Hemingway, the film can't hope to approximate the Hemingway novel (at least with the restrictive cultural taboos of the time) but director Sam Wood has done a pretty decent job of transferring the novel to the screen nonetheless. It helps that he has Cooper and Bergman who have a nice romantic chemistry (a chemistry that spilled over in real life reputedly) that anchors the film. Wood does a neat balancing act with the romantic elements and the action scenes and a fine supporting cast who bolster the film considerably. The film was a huge moneymaker in its day. The score by Victor Young was very popular, too. With Katina Paxinou in her justifiably Oscar winning performance. The scene where she describes her life as an ugly woman is simply terrific. Also in the cast: Akim Tamiroff, Joseph Calleia, Arturo De Cordova, Vladimir Sokoloff and Fortunio Bonanova.

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