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A Bridge Too Far


A Bridge Too Far Score

A Bridge Too Far a 1977 British-American epic war film based on the 1974 book of the same name by Cornelius Ryan, adapted by William Goldman. It was produced by Joseph E. Levine and Richard P. Levine and directed by Richard Attenborough.

The film tells the story of the failure of Operation Market Garden during World War II. The operation was intended to allow the Allies to break through German lines and seize several bridges in the occupied Netherlands, including one at Arnhem, with the main objective of outflanking German defences in order to end the war by Christmas of 1944.

The name for the film comes from an unconfirmed comment attributed to British Lieutenant-General Frederick Browning, deputy commander of the First Allied Airborne Army, who told Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, the operation's architect, 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, Edward Fox, Elliott Gould, Gene Hackman, Anthony Hopkins, Hardy Krüger, Ryan O'Neal, Laurence Olivier, Robert Redford, Maximilian Schell and Liv Ullmann. The music was scored by John Addison, who had served in the British XXX Corps during Market Garden.

The film begins with a montage of archival film footage narrated by a Dutch woman, Kate ter Horst, describing the state of affairs in September 1944. The Allied advance is being slowed by overextended supply lines. A Dutch family, part of the Dutch resistance underground, observes the German withdrawal toward Germany. The Germans in the Netherlands have few resources in men or equipment and morale is very poor.

U.S. General George S. Patton and British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery have competing plans for ending the war quickly, and being the first to get to Berlin. Under political pressure, Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower chose Montgomery's Operation Market Garden.

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, with Lieutenant-General Frederick Browning saying, "We're going to lay a carpet, as it were, of airborne troops over which armored divisions of XXX Corps can pass and confidently suggests that we shall seize the bridges - it's all a question of bridges - with thunderclap surprise, and hold them until they can be secured".

Two divisions of U.S. paratroopers, the 82nd & 101st Airborne divisions, are responsible for securing the road and bridges as far as Nijmegen. A British division, the 1st Airborne, under Major-General Urquhart is to land near Arnhem, and take and hold the far side of the bridge at Arnhem, backed by a brigade of Polish paratroopers under General Sosabowski. XXX Corps are to push up the road to Arnhem, as quickly as possible, over the bridges captured by the paratroopers, and reach Arnhem two days after the drop.

After the Market Garden command briefing, General Sosabowski voices his deep doubts that the plan can work. American commander Brig. General Gavin of the 82nd worries about parachuting in daylight. British commanders brief that 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. The British officers present at that briefing do not question the orders, but Sosabowski walks up to check the RAF briefing officer's uniform insignia and says "Just making sure whose side you're on." Later, when General Urquhart briefs his officers, some of them are surprised they are going to attempt a landing so far from the bridge, but they have to make the best of it. General Urquhart tells them that the key for the eight mile distance from the drop zone to the bridge is the use of gliders to bring in reconnaissance Jeeps. Browning lays out that if any one group fails, the entire operation fails.

The consensus among the British top brass is that resistance will consist entirely of "Hitler Youth or old men on bicycles", but young British intelligence officer, Major Fuller, brings reconnaissance photos to General Browning showing German tanks at Arnhem. Browning dismisses the photos, and also ignores reports from the Dutch underground. Browning does not want to be the one to tell Montgomery of any doubts because many previous airborne operations have been cancelled. Major Fuller's concerns are brushed off and he is removed from duty, sent on 'sick leave'.

British officers note that the portable radios are not likely to work for the long distance from the drop zone to the Arnhem Bridge amid the water and trees of the Netherlands. They choose not to rock the boat and do not convey their concerns up the chain of command.

At the XXX Corps briefing, the overall plan is outlined by Lt. Gen. Brian Horrocks, laying out the bridges that will be taken by the paratroopers, held and then secured by ground forces. Speed is the vital factor, as 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. The road to Arnhem, however, is only a single highway linking the various key bridges - trucks and tanks have to squeeze to the shoulder to pass. The road is also elevated causing anything moving on the road to stand out. The XXX Corps column would be led by the Irish Guards, under Col. 'Joe' Vandeleur.

The airborne drops catch the Germans totally by surprise, and there is little resistance. Most of the men come down safely and assemble quickly, but the Son bridge is blown up by the Germans, just before the 101st Airborne secures it. German Field Marshal Model, thinking that the Allies are trying to capture him, panics and retreats from Arnhem. However, soon after landing, troubles beset Urquhart's division. Many of the Jeeps either don't arrive by gliders at all or are shot up in an ambush. Their radio sets are also useless, meaning no contact can be made with either paratroopers moving into Arnhem under Lt. Col. John Frost or XXX Corps. Meanwhile, German forces reinforce Nijmegen and Arnhem. Meanwhile, US Sergeant Eddie Dohun is driving his jeep searching for his commanding officer, Captain Glass. He finds the captain with a bullet in his head and thinking he is alive decides to take him to medical care. He encounters German troops but manages to avoid them. Arriving at the hospital, Dohun takes the captain to an Army physician (Medical Corps Colonel) who refuses to look at the captain until Dohun threatens to shoot him. The medic manages to get the bullet out of the captain's skull and says he'll possibly live. He places Dohun under arrest for 10 seconds as punishment for pointing a gun at him.

XXX Corps' progress is slowed by German resistance, the narrowness of the highway and the need to construct a Bailey bridge to replace the destroyed bridge at Son. XXX Corps is able to move onto the Grave bridge without much resistance, but is halted at Nijmegen. There, soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division perform a dangerous daylight river crossing in flimsy canvas-and-wood assault boats. Ultimately, despite heavy casualties the river crossing is successful, and the Nijmegen bridge is captured. The Germans close in on the isolated British paratroopers occupying part of Arnhem at the bridge. Urquhart is separated from his men, and the supply drop zones are overrun by the Germans. German attacks on the paratroopers at the bridge are repelled. British armour continues to fight its way up the corridor, but is delayed by strong German resistance.

After securing Nijmegen Bridge, XXX Corps waits several hours for its infantry to secure the town. Finally, Sosabowski's troops enter the battle, yet they are unable to effectively reinforce the British at Arnhem. The Germans, now on full alert, intercept and gun down numerous Poles during their drop; only a handful survive to reinforce the British. After days of house-to-house fighting at Arnhem, pitted against crack SS infantry backed by panzers, the outgunned paratroops are captured or forced to withdraw. Arnhem itself is indiscriminately razed. Although Operation Market Garden is determined by Montgomery and his High Command to be 90% successful, most of those who actually carried it out feel quite differently. Urquhart escapes Arnhem with fewer than a fifth of his original 10 thousand crack troops; those who were too badly injured to flee stay behind and cover the withdraw, then give themselves up. Urquhart confronts Browning about his personal sentiments regarding the operation: does Browning think it was as well as Montgomery estimates? Browning's reply (and the film's last line of dialogue, not counting the Allied prisoners who sing Abide With Me en route to the German POW camp) contradicts his earlier optimism for Market Garden: "Well, as you know, I always felt we tried to go a bridge too far."

In the film's final scene, Kate ter Horst (Liv Ullman) and her children are forced to abandon their bombed-out residence. Placing their belongings in a cart which is drawn by Dr. Jan Spaander (Laurence Olivier), they pass through their front yard - which has been converted to a cemetery for fallen Allied troops - and trek across the countryside to an uncertain future. One of the children brings up the rear, marching with a rifle-shaped branch he has found.


Marlies van Alcmaer - Underground leader's wife Alun Armstrong - Cpl. Davies - 2nd Battalion, 1st Parachute Brigade, 1st British Airborne Division
Richard Attenborough - Lunatic wearing glasses (uncredited cameo) David Auker - 'Taffy' Brace - Medic, 1st British Airborne Division
Michael Bangerter - British staff colonel - British XXX Corps staff officer at General Browning's HQ Hartmut Becker - German Army sentry
Dirk Bogarde - Lieutenant-General Frederick "Boy" Browning - GOC I British Airborne Corps, and at HQ First Allied Airborne Army as its deputy commander, British Army at Nijmegen Michael Byrne - Lt. Col. Giles Vandeleur - acting CO, 2nd Battalion (Armoured), The Irish Guards, British Guards Armoured Division. Cousin to 'Joe'
James Caan - Staff Sergeant Eddie Dohun - (based on Charles Dohun) runner for Captain LeGrand King "Legs" Johnson, CO, Company F, 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division U.S. Army (attacking Best) Michael Caine Lieutenant-Colonel J.O.E. Vandeleur CO, 3rd Battalion (Infantry), The Irish Guards, The Guards Armoured Division, XXX Corps, British Army
Nicholas Campbell - Capt. Glass - (based on Captain LeGrand King "Legs" Johnson) - CO, F Company, 2nd Battalion, 502PIR Erik Chitty - Organist
Paul Copley - Pvt Wicks - Batman to Lt. Col. Frost, CO, 2nd Parachute Battalion, British Army Michael Graham Cox - Capt. Jimmy Cleminson - T/Capt., [Sir] James Arnold Stacey "Jimmy" Cleminson - Officer Commanding, 5 Platoon (B Company), 3rd Parachute Battalion, British Army, Arnhem
Sean Connery Major General Roy Urquhart GOC, 1st British Airborne Division, Arnhem Hans Croiset - Old Dutch lady's son
Ben Cross - Trooper Bins Donald Douglas - Brigadier Gerald Lathbury - CO, 1st Parachute Brigade, British Army in Arnhem. Wounded and briefly paralysed, Lathbury made a complete recovery and escaped captivity during Operation Pegasus
Keith Drinkel - Lieutenant Cornish - (based on Captain Eric Mackay, 9th Parachute Sqdn R.E.) - 1st Airborne Division Peter Faber - Capt. Arie D. "Harry" Bestebreurtje - Liaison officer with the 82nd Airborne Division, Office of Strategic Services, Royal Dutch Army
Colin Farrell - Corporal Hancock - 1st British Airborne Division, Urquhart's batman Edward Fox - Lt. Gen. Brian Horrocks - GOC, XXX Corps, British Second Army
Christopher Good - Maj. Carlyle - (based on Maj. Allison Digby Tatham-Warter) CO, A Company, 2nd Parachute Battalion, 1st Parachute Brigade, Arnhem, British Army Elliott Gould - Col. Robert Stout - (based on Robert Sink) - CO, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division
Frank Grimes - Maj. Fuller - (based on Brian Urquhart) - G-2 (Intelligence Officer) for the 1st Airborne Corps, British Army stationed at the HQ located in Moor Park Golf Club, Hertfordshire, England Gene Hackman - Maj. Gen. Stanislaw Sosabowski - CO, Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade, Polish Armed Forces
Garrick Hagon - Lieutenant Rafferty - Lieutenant, 101st Military Police Platoon, 101st Airborne Division, Division Field Hospital, U.S. Army Arthur Hill - U.S. Army surgeon (colonel) - Chief Division Surgeon Lt Col. David Gold, 101st Airborne Division Clearing Station
Anthony Hopkins - Lt. Col. John Frost - CO, 2nd Parachute Battalion, 1st Parachute Brigade, 1st British Airborne Division at Arnhem road bridge George Innes - Sergeant MacDonald - British 1st Airborne Division radio operator at the Hartenstein Hotel
Richard Kane - Col. Weaver - (based on Graeme Warrack) - Senior Medical Officer, Headquarters RAMC, 1st British Airborne Division, at the Main Dressing Station in the Schoonoord Hotel of the Oosterbeek Perimeter Jeremy Kemp - RAF briefing officer - RAF, but the briefing probably took place at the 1st Airborne Corps HQ located in Moor Park Golf Club, Hertfordshire, England
Walter Kohut - Generalfeldmarschall Walter Model - CO of Army Group B Hardy Krüger - Generalmajor der Waffen-SS Karl Ludwig - Based on Heinz Harmel, as he did not want his name to be mentioned in the film
Paul Maxwell - Maj. Gen. Maxwell Taylor - CG, 101st Airborne Division, U.S. Army at the Son bridge and later St-Oedenrode Stephen Moore - Maj. Robert Steele - (based on Major Anthony "Tony" John Deane–Drummond) - Second–in–Command, 1st Airborne Divisional Signals British Army, Arnhem
Laurence Olivier - Dr. Jan Spaander Ryan O'Neal - Brig. Gen. James Gavin - CO, US 82nd Airborne Division, U.S. Army at the bridge across the Maas river in Grave, later at the Maas-Waal canal and the bridge across the Waal river in Nijmegen
Wolfgang Preiss - Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt - OB West (commander of the German forces on the Western Front) Donald Pickering - Lt. Col. C.B. Mackenzie - Principal General Staff Officer (Chief of Staff), Headquarters, 1st Airborne Division, British Army, Divisional HQ at the Hartenstein Hotel
Josephine Peeper - Cafe waitress Philip Raymond - Grenadier Guards Colonel - (based on Lt. Colonel Edward H. Goulburn) - C.O. 2nd Armoured Grenadier Guards Battalion
Robert Redford - Maj. Julian Cook - CO, 3rd Battalion, 504th PIR, 82nd Airborne, U.S. Army seizing key bridges over the Maas-Waal Canal and the river assault crossing of the Waal river. Maximilian Schell - General der Waffen-SS Wilhelm Bittrich - CO of II SS Panzer Corps
Gerald Sim - Col. Sims - (based on (acting Colonel) Lt. Col. Arthur Austin Eagger) - Senior Medical Officer, 1st Airborne Corps, R.A.M.C., British Army Mark Sheridan - Sergeant Tomblin - 2nd Battalion, 1st Parachute Brigade, 1st British Airborne Division
Mary Smithuysen - Old Dutch lady John Stride - Grenadier Guards major - (based on Captain Lord Carrington) - British Grenadier Guards Commander who argues with Major Cook after 82nd capture Nijmegen Bridge
Liv Ullmann - Kate ter Horst Lex van Delden - Oberscharführer Matthias - Bittrich's aide
Albert van der Harst - Medic Erik van't Wout - Underground leader's son
Hans von Borsody - General der Infanterie Günther Blumentritt Siem Vroom - Underground leader
Fred Williams - Hauptsturmführer Viktor Eberhard Gräbner - Commander of the reconnaissance battle group of 9th SS Panzer Division Hohenstaufen

Depictions of historical persons and events

The historical events in this film portray are based in facts.


Directed by - Richard Attenborough

Produced by - Joseph E. Levine - Richard P. Levine

Written by - Screenplay by William Goldmanbr />
Based on: A Bridge Too Far by Cornelius Ryan

Music by - John Addison

Cinematography - Geoffrey Unsworth, BSC

Edited by - Antony Gibbs

Distributed by - United Artists

Production company - Joseph E. Levine Productions

Release dates - June 15, 1977

Running time - 176 minutes

Country: United Kingdom - United States

Language: English

Budget - $25 million

Box office - $50,750,000

Under Section 107 of The Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.

above notes from
poster image: same
movie: DAV FL 70 Webmaster private collection

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