The Bridge at Remagen (1969)

R | 116 mins | Drama | 16 July 1969

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HISTORY

An upcoming screen adaptation of Kenneth William Hechler’s 1957 novel, The Bridge at Remagen, was announced in the 4 Mar 1965 NYT, which stated that David L. Wolper would produce as part of his recently signed deal with United Artists (UA) calling for six dramatic feature films. Irvin Kershner was named as the likely director, and the budget was estimated to be around $3 million. One year later, an item in the 25 May 1966 DV stated that Marshall Flaum, who had worked at Wolper Pictures, Ltd., was starting a new venture with Sherman Grinberg. Marshall Flaum-Sherman Grinberg Productions reportedly had the screen rights to The Bridge at Remagen at that time. However, an advertisement in the 16 Nov 1966 Var listed the project as one of Wolper’s upcoming pictures at UA, along with a film about Mata Hari.
       The 28 Mar 1968 LAT noted that Rod Serling would write the “final screenplay,” and that John Guillermin had been set to direct, with production scheduled to begin in summer 1968. Serling was not credited in this role on the final film, nor was associate producer Theodore Strauss, who was named as a co-writer in the 3 Jul 1968 Var.
       Alex Cord was offered a role, according to a 2 Apr 1968 DV brief, and Robert Blake was cast, as noted in the 8 Apr 1968 DV. Blake did not remain with the project, however, since he wanted to prioritize time at home with his wife and children, an item in the 30 Apr 1968 DV stated.
       Filmmakers spent ... More Less

An upcoming screen adaptation of Kenneth William Hechler’s 1957 novel, The Bridge at Remagen, was announced in the 4 Mar 1965 NYT, which stated that David L. Wolper would produce as part of his recently signed deal with United Artists (UA) calling for six dramatic feature films. Irvin Kershner was named as the likely director, and the budget was estimated to be around $3 million. One year later, an item in the 25 May 1966 DV stated that Marshall Flaum, who had worked at Wolper Pictures, Ltd., was starting a new venture with Sherman Grinberg. Marshall Flaum-Sherman Grinberg Productions reportedly had the screen rights to The Bridge at Remagen at that time. However, an advertisement in the 16 Nov 1966 Var listed the project as one of Wolper’s upcoming pictures at UA, along with a film about Mata Hari.
       The 28 Mar 1968 LAT noted that Rod Serling would write the “final screenplay,” and that John Guillermin had been set to direct, with production scheduled to begin in summer 1968. Serling was not credited in this role on the final film, nor was associate producer Theodore Strauss, who was named as a co-writer in the 3 Jul 1968 Var.
       Alex Cord was offered a role, according to a 2 Apr 1968 DV brief, and Robert Blake was cast, as noted in the 8 Apr 1968 DV. Blake did not remain with the project, however, since he wanted to prioritize time at home with his wife and children, an item in the 30 Apr 1968 DV stated.
       Filmmakers spent six months location scouting scouted in the U.S. and Europe in search of a bridge that could double as the Remagen Bridge in Germany, which had collapsed during World War II (WWII), the 3 Jul 1968 Var reported. Finally, a bridge spanning the Vltava River near the town of Davle, Czechoslovakia, was chosen. An item in the 15 Jan 1969 Var claimed that The Bridge at Remagen was the first American feature film to be shot in Czechoslovakia, then part of the communist Soviet Bloc. As noted in the 10 Apr 1968 LAT, a deal was made with the Czech Ministry of Transportation, which agreed to shut down the bridge for most of the summer, angering many residents of Prague, Czechoslovakia, who used it to access their vacation homes near Davle. Additions to the structure, including mock towers at either end of the bridge, were built, and one end was reportedly raised seven feet. A mock entrance to a railroad tunnel was also built into a cliff on one side.
       The Czech government provided some of the Nazi uniforms and Germany weaponry seen in the film. Large military vehicles, including “eight M-24 tanks, half tracks, armored cars, 2 ½ -ton trucks, [and] six Jeeps” were loaned to filmmakers by the Austrian government, which also provided an estimated 200,000 rounds of ammunition and 22,000 pounds of weapons.
       Czech background actors standing in for American soldiers received two weeks of training in “movement and expression” from Cecil E. Roberts, a retired U.S. Army colonel who served as a technical advisor on the picture. The background actors included Czechoslovak Army men, who were taught how to drive American tanks and other military vehicles, and how to use American weapons, according to the 19 Aug 1968 LAT.
       Principal photography began in Prague on 3 Jun 1968, as stated in the 7 Jun 1968 DV and 1 Sep 1968 LAT. By mid-Jun 1968, production moved from Prague to the town of Most, Czechoslovakia, where three city squares were set to be demolished during filming. According to the 19 Jun 1968 Var, the area to be destroyed had “already been condemned by the city to reach new coal deposits.” Interiors were filmed at Barrandov Studios. The 1 Sep 1968 LAT stated that a fee of $750,000 was paid to the Czech government, which was also promised Czech distribution rights, in exchange for the use of Czech facilities and labor.
       According to the 1 Sep 1968 LAT, problems began on the shoot when the original production manager took ill and had to be replaced, and the first assistant director quit “in a huff.” Two months into filming, the 12 Aug 1968 DV noted that Wolper had made a formal complaint to the Czechoslovak Filmindustry, regarding slanderous reports from Neues Deutschland, an East German newspaper that had claimed The Bridge at Remagen was “merely a cover-up for CIA and American intervention in Czech political affairs.” The producer cited East German reports that had been published in May 1968, alleging tanks being used on the film were actually brought there to support liberal Czech leader, Alexander Dubček, while U.S. troops were being smuggled into Prague disguised as film actors and technicians. Although the Czechs denied the accusations against the film company, the ordeal led to an investigation, conducted by Czech police, of the weapons being used on set. It also prompted Czech army officials to restrain the filmmakers’ access to special effects explosives, including TNT.
       On 21 Aug 1968, Czechoslovakia was invaded by Warsaw Pact forces, beginning a military occupation of the country that effectively ended the “Prague Spring.” The U.S. Embassy instructed cast and crew to cease filming and stay inside their rooms at the International Hotel in Prague, as noted in the 22 Aug 1968 LAT. At the time, Wolper happened to be in Rome, Italy, where he was serving as executive producer on If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium (1969, see entry). Since he could not return to Czechoslovakia, Wolper went to Vienna, Austria, where he negotiated with the American embassies in Vienna and Prague for the release of the film company, according to the 23 Aug 1968 DV. An estimated sixty-five-to-eighty cast and crew members were shuttled out of Czechoslovakia via a fleet of some forty automobiles and taxicabs, as noted in the 28 Aug 1968 Var. In a 27 Aug 1968 DV item, actor Bradford Dillman gave credit to executive production manager Milton Feldman for facilitating the group’s exodus. Two Czechs reportedly defected with the Americans, including a governess who planned to work for Ben Gazzara back in the U.S. Left behind as the film company’s only non-Czech contact in Prague was Pepsie Watson, a British production assistant who was fluent in Czech.
       In the face of escalating charges made by the East Germans and Soviets, Wolper was forced to officially deny involvement in any “subversive activities,” as stated in the 31 Aug 1968 LAT. Meanwhile, he was concerned with the retrieval of $1 million in film equipment that had been left behind in Prague, in addition to the weapons and vehicles loaned by the Austrian government, and other arms rented from Ellis Mercantile Co. and Stenbridge Gun Rentals in Los Angeles, CA, and Bapty and Co. of London, England. Also abandoned were forty reels (four days’ worth) of unprocessed color film, worth $250,000, the 24 Sep 1968 DV noted. The 1 Sep 1968 LAT pointed out that no war insurance had been purchased for the shoot, and the potential losses were “impossible to estimate.”
       Plans were implemented to resume filming interiors in Hamburg, West Germany, and exteriors in Castel Gandolfo, Italy. The relocation cost filmmakers an additional $1.5 million, according to the 1 Oct 1968 DV. Following the departure from Prague, six-to-eight weeks of shooting remained, as indicated in the 27 Aug 1968 DV. On 1 Oct 1968, DV reported that shooting had resumed in Hamburg on 26 Sep 1968, and a second unit, led by William Kronick, had returned to Czechoslovakia for more exterior shooting. Some equipment was retrieved for use by Kronick’s unit, while other equipment and props were returned to Hamburg in studio vans loaded and driven by the Czechs, the 2 Oct 1968 Var noted. Wolper remained doubtful that the Russians would permit the return of the tanks, twenty-eight armored vehicles, and four anti-aircraft guns lent by the Austrian government. However, the 23 Oct 1968 DV announced that the equipment had recently been returned to Austria.
       In mid-Oct 1968, actors took a ten day hiatus between filming in Hamburg and Castel Gandolfo, as mentioned in the 16 Oct 1968 DV. Meanwhile, the 23 Oct 1968 DV reported that Kronick had returned to Hamburg after shooting a week’s worth of “special-action film,” including “critical footage of a simulated battle and crossing of the bridge by U.S. troops,” in Czechoslovakia. Principal photography was completed the following month, on 20 Nov 1968, according to a 27 Nov 1968 DV article. Wolper expressed confidence that the footage filmed in Italy and Germany would blend seamlessly with the scenes shot in Czechoslovakia. He also predicted that, although many major Hollywood studios had been planning to shoot in Prague, it was unlikely American productions would return to Czechoslovakia for some time.
       The Bridge at Remagen had its world premiere on 25 Jun 1969 at the Keith-Albee Theatre in Huntington, WV. As stated in the 14 May 1969 Var, the site was chosen because Kenneth William Hechler, author of the novel and technical advisor on the film, was Huntington’s Congressman. The premiere was attended by Brigadier General (Ret.) William M. Hoge, who had made the real-life decision to capture the Remagen Bridge during WWII, the 25 Jun 1969 DV noted.
       Critical reception was mixed, although George Segal’s performance and technical aspects, namely Stanley Cortez’s cinematography, received consistent praise. A box-office chart in the 7 Jan 1970 Var listed the picture’s cumulative domestic film rentals as only $1.6 million, to date.
       Ballantine Books was slated to publish a “special film edition” of Hechler’s novel around the time of the film’s release, as noted in the 9 Jul 1969 Var.
       Don Nunley was listed as property master in the 1 Sep 1968 LAT, and Bob Silverstein was named as the unit publicist in the 15 Jan 1969 Var. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
25 May 1966
p. 7.
Daily Variety
2 Apr 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
8 Apr 1968
p. 1.
Daily Variety
18 Apr 1968
p. 3.
Daily Variety
30 Apr 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
7 Jun 1968
p. 12.
Daily Variety
12 Aug 1968
p. 1, 4.
Daily Variety
21 Aug 1968
p. 1, 11.
Daily Variety
23 Aug 1968
p. 1, 3.
Daily Variety
27 Aug 1968
p. 1, 11.
Daily Variety
27 Aug 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
24 Sep 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
1 Oct 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
2 Oct 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
2 Oct 1968
p. 33.
Daily Variety
9 Oct 1968
p. 12.
Daily Variety
16 Oct 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
23 Oct 1968
p. 4.
Daily Variety
1 Nov 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
27 Nov 1968
p. 16.
Daily Variety
3 Dec 1968
p. 6.
Daily Variety
23 Jun 1969
p. 3, 11.
Daily Variety
25 Jun 1969
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
28 Mar 1968
Section E, p. 25.
Los Angeles Times
10 Apr 1968
Section D, p. 20.
Los Angeles Times
19 Aug 1968
Section F, p. 28.
Los Angeles Times
22 Aug 1968
p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
31 Aug 1968
p. 16.
Los Angeles Times
1 Sep 1968
Section C, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
11 Jun 1969
Section D, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
18 Jul 1969
Section D, p. 14.
New York Times
4 Mar 1965
p. 36.
New York Times
10 May 1968
p. 3.
New York Times
28 Aug 1969
p. 46.
Variety
16 Nov 1966
p. 72.
Variety
19 Jun 1968
p. 35.
Variety
3 Jul 1968
p. 31.
Variety
28 Aug 1968
p. 3.
Variety
2 Oct 1968
p. 33.
Variety
6 Nov 1968
p. 2, 27.
Variety
15 Jan 1969
p. 5.
Variety
14 May 1969
p. 35.
Variety
9 Jul 1969
p. 61.
Variety
23 Jul 1969
p. 22.
Variety
7 Jan 1970
p. 15.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2nd unit dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Scr
Screen story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
COSTUMES
MUSIC
SOUND
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Executive prod mgr
Stunt supv
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Bridge at Remagen by Kenneth William Hechler (New York, 1957).
DETAILS
Release Date:
16 July 1969
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Huntington, West Virginia: 25 June 1969
Los Angeles opening: 16 July 1969
New York opening: 27 August 1969
Production Date:
3 June--20 November 1968
Copyright Claimant:
Wolper Pictures, Ltd.
Copyright Date:
25 June 1969
Copyright Number:
LP37146
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
De Luxe
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision
Duration(in mins):
116
MPAA Rating:
R
Countries:
Czechoslovakia, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
22060
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

By early 1945, the last remaining span across the Rhine River into Germany is the Ludendorff bridge at Remagen. When General von Brock, the German commander in the area, receives orders to destroy the bridge, he delays rather than abandon 50,000 of his men to the onrushing American soldiers. Placing the aristocratic Major Paul Kreuger in charge, von Brock instructs him to hold the bridge as long as possible. At the same time, U. S. Brigadier General Shinner hopes to trap the retreating Germans by ordering an armored infantry division to spearhead a drive for the Rhine. Leading the offensive is Major Barnes, an ambitious career officer who is disliked by most of his men, particularly Lieutenant Phil Hartman, his platoon leader. Hartman is also at odds with Sergeant Angelo, a scavenger who searches for valuables on the bodies of the dead German soldiers. Upon reaching a town near Remagen, the Americans prepare to billet for the night, but they are ordered to push on toward the Rhine. Kreuger, meanwhile, is trying to rally his defense forces while waiting for explosives to arrive. Although the Americans meet stiff opposition as they enter Remagen, their tanks crash the barricades and head for the bridge. Kreuger delays dynamiting the bridge to allow a German train to attempt a crossing and then sets off his explosives, only to discover that they are defective. Seizing upon the German failure, General Shinner orders that the bridge be taken intact. By night, the Americans have crossed the bridge after heavy fighting which unites Hartman and Angelo in a common cause. Kreuger, refusing to admit defeat, asks for reinforcements, but he is shot by an SS ... +


By early 1945, the last remaining span across the Rhine River into Germany is the Ludendorff bridge at Remagen. When General von Brock, the German commander in the area, receives orders to destroy the bridge, he delays rather than abandon 50,000 of his men to the onrushing American soldiers. Placing the aristocratic Major Paul Kreuger in charge, von Brock instructs him to hold the bridge as long as possible. At the same time, U. S. Brigadier General Shinner hopes to trap the retreating Germans by ordering an armored infantry division to spearhead a drive for the Rhine. Leading the offensive is Major Barnes, an ambitious career officer who is disliked by most of his men, particularly Lieutenant Phil Hartman, his platoon leader. Hartman is also at odds with Sergeant Angelo, a scavenger who searches for valuables on the bodies of the dead German soldiers. Upon reaching a town near Remagen, the Americans prepare to billet for the night, but they are ordered to push on toward the Rhine. Kreuger, meanwhile, is trying to rally his defense forces while waiting for explosives to arrive. Although the Americans meet stiff opposition as they enter Remagen, their tanks crash the barricades and head for the bridge. Kreuger delays dynamiting the bridge to allow a German train to attempt a crossing and then sets off his explosives, only to discover that they are defective. Seizing upon the German failure, General Shinner orders that the bridge be taken intact. By night, the Americans have crossed the bridge after heavy fighting which unites Hartman and Angelo in a common cause. Kreuger, refusing to admit defeat, asks for reinforcements, but he is shot by an SS firing squad for failing to destroy the bridge. The American victory becomes meaningless, however, when in March 1945, the bridge collapses. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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