Thursday, November 15, 2018

CONSENSUS #99 Bridges at Toko-Ri

SYNOPSIS: "The Bridges at Toko-Ri" is an air combat movie set in the Korean War. The main character (William Holden) is a naval fighter-bomber pilot who has been drafted away from his idyllic family. The commander of his carrier (Frederic March) is a father figure who has to send men like him to their deaths for the good of the noncommunist world.  The climactic mission is a very dangerous one to take out some bridges in North Korea.  To remind you what Brubacher is risking, he is visited by his wife (Grace Kelly) on R&R in Japan.  Mickey Rooney has a showy role as a rescue helicopter pilot.

BACK-STORY: The Bridges at Toko-Ri is a war movie based on the novel by James Michener. The movie was released in 1955, just one year after the book was published. The movie was a hit and got an Oscar for Best Special Effects for John Fulton.  He used miniatures for the bridge attack. The producers had the full cooperation of the U.S. Navy which allowed the use of nineteen ships. The credits mention that the movie was made as a tribute to U.S. Navy pilots. William Holden and Grace Kelly had an affair during the filming.

            TRIVIA -  imdb, Wikipedia, TCM
1.  William Holden learned how to taxi a jet on the carrier deck for close-ups.
2.  The US Navy cooperated with 19 ships, including the USS Oriskany ( and when it was no longer available, the USS Kearsarge).  The Oriskany was later sunk as an artificial reef off Pensacola, Florida and is a popular diving site.
3.  James Michener wrote the novel after spending time on the USS Essex during the Korean War.  Neil Armstrong was a pilot at the time.  The incident involving the bombing of bridges and the rescue of a downed pilot was based on actual events.  However, the downed pilot and his attempted rescuer were actually captured and survived the war.
4.   Holden’s brother was a navy pilot in WWII who was killed in action.
5.  In the book, the jet is the F2H Banshee, not the F9F Panther.  The Panther was probably substituted because it was more photogenic.
6.  Holden insisted the novel’s ending be retained.  He did not want the typical Hollywood happy ending.  This worked well because although the movie came at the end of a wave of WWII/Korean War formulaic offerings, it stood out.
            7.  The movie won the Oscar for Best Special Effects and was nominated for Best Editing.
8.  Holden and Grace Kelly conducted an affair during the shoot.  This was not uncommon for him, even though     he was married.  When Kelly invited her to her home, her father shook his fist at Holden and evidenced his displeasure with the affair.  Holden left the house upset.  The affair did not continue after the movie was finished.
9.  Mickey Rooney got the role partly due to his friendship with Michener.  One day, Rooney was needed for an unscheduled scene, but could not be found.  He turned up later as co-pilot of a jet having bribed the pilot to fly him to Tokyo for the horse races.

Belle and Blade  =  2.5
Brassey’s              =  3
Video Hound       =  3.8
War Movies         =  4.4
Military History  =  #73
Channel 4             =  not on list
Film Site                =  yes
101 War Movies  =  no

OPINION: Although the novel is short, if you do not like to read this movie will give you the classic novels plot in cinema form. It follows the book religiously. It also accurately reflects the novels themes of self-sacrifice, loyalty, and the senselessness of war. But most significantly, the movie does not change the downer of an ending just to suit the audience. Kudos for that! In some ways it is the All Quiet of the Korean War.

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