81 Days With Oscar And Me

Every Academy Award-Winning Movie, Back to Back, Starting With the First

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Bridge On the River Kwai, The

September 18th, 2009 · No Comments · 1957, Adaptation, Bridge On the River Kwai, Cinemascope (Wide Screen), Colonel Bogey March, Color, Columbia Pictures, David Lean, Drama, Jack Hawkins, War

Bridge On the River Kwai The second color movie in a row! And – surprise! – another adaptation!

I love making-of featurettes. The one for this movie, The Bridge On the River Kwai, is outstanding. An hour in length and worth many conversations with friends and family, this behind-the-scenes feature is as remarkable as the movie itself.

Watching it, I discovered (a) it took many screenwriters to create the script, (b) the film makers encountered many problems as they created this movie, (c) William Holden made many dollars from the film, more than he could spend in his lifetime, and (d) the song the prisoners whistle as they march into the camp has a title and lyrics, which are humorous, if not profane. The song is called “Colonel Bogey March”:

Göring has only got one ball
Hitler’s [are] so very small
Himmler’s so very similar
And Goebbles has no balls at all

The song is a metaphorical middle finger to the Japanese guards in the POW camp because the Japanese wouldn’t know the lyrics, but all of the prisoners, mostly British soldiers, would.

This is the first widescreen (Cinemascope) movie that won an Academy Award for Best Picture. Seeing the black bars at the top and bottom of the screen was a shock at first (after seeing every movie in “full screen” to this point). But we grew accustomed to it.

THE PLOT (from IMDB):
The film deals with the situation of British prisoners of war during World War II who are ordered to build a bridge to accommodate the Burma-Siam railway. Their instinct is to sabotage the bridge but, under the leadership of Colonel Nicholson, they are persuaded that the bridge should be constructed as a symbol of British morale, spirit and dignity in adverse circumstances. At first, the prisoners admire Nicholson when he bravely endures torture rather than compromise his principles for the benefit of the Japanese commandant Saito. He is an honorable but arrogant man, who is slowly revealed to be a deluded obsessive. He convinces himself that the bridge is a monument to British character, but actually is a monument to himself, and his insistence on its construction becomes a subtle form of collaboration with the enemy. Unknown to him, the Allies have sent a mission into the jungle, led by Warden and an American, Shears, to blow up the bridge.

THE CAST
William Holden (1918-1981)………………………..Shears
Alec Guinness (1914-2000)…………………………Colonel Nicholson
Jack Hawkins (1910-1973)…………………………..Major Warden
Sessue Hayakawa (1889-1973)…………………….Colonel Saito
James Donald (1917-1993)………………………….Major Clipton
Geoffrey Horne (1993- )……………………………..Lieutenant Joyce
André Morell (1909-1978)…………………………..Colonel Green (as Andre Morell)
Peter Williams (1915- )……………………………….Captain Reeves

I’m not sure what to say about this movie other than it was directed by David Lean (1908-1991), who also directed the movies Oliver Twist (1948), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), and Doctor Zhivago (1965) and based on the novel by Pierre Boulle (1912-1994), who also write the novel on which the movie Planet of the Apes (1968) was based.

Okay, I know what to say about this movie: It’s too darn long. Length, even when it is unnecessary, seems to be important to Academy Award voters. I mean, look at Around the World in 80 Days. A bigger waste of film I can’t recall. The Bridge On the River Kwai is a very good movie. It was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won seven of them, including Best Picture, Best Actor In a Leading Role (Alec Guinness), Best Cinematography (Jack Hildyard), Best Director (David Lean), and Best Screenplay (Pierre Boulle, Carl Foreman, and Michael Wilson).

But many of the scenes went on too long. And the movie, at 161 minutes (nearly three hours!), seemed too long by about a half hour.

The ending of the movie – the blowing of the bridge – is well worth waiting for. In fact, it’s one of the most dramatic and monumental ever filmed. I just wish I didn’t have to wait nearly three hours to see it.

“Madness! Madness!”

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