The film was originally released in a roadshow format, at 170 minutes (not counting intermission). For re-release, it was trimmed to 134 minutes, and it was not seen at its full length until the late 1990s, when it was archivally restored to 168 minutes. This restored version is the one that has been released on DVD. The restoration was photochemical, not digital, and the titles and some of the scenes in the early reels are slightly to significantly out-of-register.
For Whom the Bell Tolls is a very long adaptation of the Ernest Hemingway novel of the same name. It was the highest grossing film of 1943 and earned 9 Academy Award nominations. Yet today, its melodramatic acting makes it seem very dated. There are a few action scenes, but its interminable length on top of the melodrama made it difficult for me to enjoy.
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Bergman first came to Hemingway’s attention when he saw the young Swedish actress in the 1939 Hollywood remake of Intermezzo. Despite her Nordic appearance, Hemingway thought Bergman would be perfect for the role of the young Spanish woman Maria in For Whom the Bell Tolls. As Bergman explains in the interview, Hemingway sent her a copy of the book with the inscription, “You are the Maria in this book.”
The other drama in the camp is caused by the power struggle amongst the guerrilla band. Pablo, the leader when Jordan arrives, is a fallen man. Once brave, he now is content to remain hidden in his cave in the mountains. He tries to veto Jordan's plan, but is overridden by the other men and most humiliating, by his own woman, Pilar, whom it turns out has more balls than most of the men in the movie. Katina Paxinou, deservedly won an Oscar for Best-Supporting Actress in the part.
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There was a Lux Radio Theater version broadcast on February 11, 1945, which retained the principal cast from the film: Gary Cooper, Ingrid Bergman, and Akim Tamiroff.
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Old friends Ward and Phillip both become smitten with Phillip's mother's attractive young secretary Stella. But Stella marries Phillip and stands by him as his behavior becomes more and ... See full summary »
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An opportunistic Texas gambler and the exiled Creole daughter of an aristocratic family join forces to achieve justice from the society that has ostracized them.
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Not horrible, but if you really want to know this story, don't bother with the movie at all. Go out and read the book.
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As part of Selznick’s systematic campaign, he invited Life magazine to photograph Bergman’s lunch with Hemingway and his wife, Martha Gellhorn, at Jack’s Restaurant in San Francisco. The magazine published a series of photos along with a caption quoting Hemingway as saying, “If you don’t act in the picture, Ingrid, I won’t work on it.”
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I agree with Scott about the dialogue. Another stupid line of Bergman's is when she says, "I do not know how to kiss, or I would kiss you. Where do the noses go?" How young is her character supposed to be, 13? It is not just that some of the dialogue is bad but that there is just too damn much of it. Too often it is just a series of conversations between the same small group of people that barely, if at all, advance the plot.
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Ingrid Bergman in an unusual role as an enabler to stoic Cooper during the Spanish Civil War.
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Ingrid Bergman, Katina Paxinou, and Gary Cooper in For Whom the Bell Tolls.
As Patrick wrote, Wood often filmed Bergman and Cooper in extreme close up to take advantage of just how photogenic and charismatic they were. To accentuate just how attractive they were, he had everyone else buried under all kinds of makeup that made their skin look grayish and dirty. You never forget who the stars are, just look for the two cleanest people on screen.
As a boy, I never understood my father’s disdain for Hollywood and all the stars with their awards shows. Now as I look back, with some age and I hope a little wisdom, I understand his feelings. Like most young men, he was in the Pacific fighting the war, while all these people stayed home having their ace licking contest.
Scott, when you say most of it was filmed on location I know you are referring to the fact that they left the studio backlot and went up into the California mountains. They did not, however, go to Spain, just to be clear. The cinematography is quite gorgeous though and takes full advantage of both the scenery and the incredible faces of its two stars.
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For Whom The Bell Tolls (1943)
For Whom the Bell Tolls was Ingrid Bergman's first Technicolor film. Hemingway handpicked Cooper and Bergman for their roles. The film became the top box-office hit of 1943, earning $7.1 million. It was also nominated for nine Academy Awards, winning one. Victor Young's film soundtrack for the film was the first complete score from an American film to be issued on record.
As in his silent film days, Wood liked to work with an actor more than once. This was Wood's second of three movies in a row with Cooper. The other two, The Pride of the Yankees (1942) and Casanova Brown (1944) are far shorter and more entertaining and watchable films.
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There have been many great on-screen romances, but I never felt like this was one of them. Also, although reportedly Hemingway himself wanted Bergman for this part, I am left wondering why they hired a Swedish Actress to play a Spanish woman and then never even bother to dye her hair black, but instead just give her a very heavy foundation that completely fails to make her look Spanish in the tiniest bit. She just looks like a blue-eyed Swedish woman with a tan.
An English nurse and an American soldier on the Italian front during World War I fall in love, but the horrors surrounding them test their romance to the limit.
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Of course, as Scott mentioned, when dealing with great literature it's always better to read the novel than to merely watch a movie adaptation. As he pointed out, there is so much that cannot be translated from page to screen. In fact, seeing For Whom the Bell Tolls made me want to go out and buy a copy of the book; it's one I have been meaning to read for years but have never gotten around to.
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists: