|The Bridge at Remagen|
|Directed by||John Guillermin|
|Written by||Roger O. Hirson|
|Screenplay by|| William Roberts |
|Based on||The Bridge at Remagen (1957 book)|
by Kenneth William Hechler
|Produced by||David L. Wolper|
|Starring|| George Segal |
E. G. Marshall
|Edited by||William Cartwright|
|Music by||Elmer Bernstein|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Box office||$1.6 million (US/ Canada rentals)|
The Bridge at Remagen is a 1969 DeLuxe Color war film in Panavision starring George Segal, Ben Gazzara and Robert Vaughn. The film, which was directed by John Guillermin,was shot in Czechoslovakia. It is based on the nonfiction book The Bridge at Remagen: The Amazing Story of March 7, 1945 by writer and U.S. Representative Ken Hechler. The screenplay was adapted by Richard Yates and William Roberts.
The film is a highly fictionalized version of actual events during the last months of World War II when the U.S. 9th Armored Division approached Remagen and captured the intact Ludendorff Bridge. While the real battle ran for a week and involved several artillery duels between the U.S. troops and German defenders, the film focuses more specifically on the heroism and human cost in gaining the bridgehead across the Rhine before the Allies' final advance into Germany. The Remagen bridge was never rebuilt; the towers on each bank were converted into a museum and arts studios.
The film opens with the United States Army failing to capture the still-intact Oberkassel railway bridge. Lieutenant Hartman (George Segal) is an experienced combat team leader who is becoming weary of the war in Europe. After he is promoted to company commander following the reckless death of the previous officer, Hartman is ordered to advance to the Rhine River at Remagen, where he is promised a rest for his men. At the same time, Major Paul Kreuger (Robert Vaughn) of the German Army is assigned to destroy the Remagen bridge by his friend and superior, Colonel General von Brock (Peter van Eyck), who has been given a written order to do it immediately. The general appeals to Kreuger's sense of honor, giving him a verbal command to defend the bridge for as long as possible, to allow the German 15th Army, trapped on the west bank of the river, to escape.
After capturing the undefended town of Meckenheim, 12 miles (20 km) from Remagen, Hartman is ordered by his battalion commander, Major Barnes (Bradford Dillman), to continue the advance until encountering resistance. Kreuger tours the defenses above the town of Remagen and assures the local contingent of defending German troops, many of whom are older men and boys, that the tank reserves personally guaranteed by the general are on the way. When Hartman's troops attack the town, Kreuger discovers that von Brock made an empty promise to him; he calls the general's headquarters for the promised tanks and is told they have been sent "elsewhere". On finding the bridge intact, General Shinner (E. G. Marshall) orders Major Barnes to secure its capture, saying: "It's a crap shoot, Major. We're risking 100 men, but you may save 10,000." Barnes agrees to commit Hartman's company and orders them to assault the German defenses on the bridge to gain a foothold across the Rhine. By doing so, the U.S. Army would avoid a more costly river crossing elsewhere. Sergeant Angelo (Ben Gazzara), one of Hartman's squad leaders, strikes Barnes after the major threatens Hartman.
As the U.S. soldiers rush the bridge, Kreuger, along with explosives engineer Captain Baumann (Joachim Hansen) and Captain Schmidt (Hans Christian Blech) from the Remagen Bridge Security Command, try to blow up the bridge, but the explosives they use prove to be not the high-yield military grade charges needed for the job, but weaker, industrial explosives, which fail to destroy the structure. Hartman's troops dig in to consolidate their position on the bridge.
Kreuger shoots two soldiers as they try to desert. Realizing the futility of the situation, Kreuger returns to headquarters to make a personal appeal to the general for more reinforcements, but on arrival finds the HQ building seized by the SS. Von Brock has been arrested by the S.S. for "defeatism." Kreuger is questioned by them about the delay in destroying the bridge and is also arrested.
At Remagen, Hartman leads a raid against a machine-gun nest installed by Kreuger on board a barge moored to the bridge, but while killing its crew, Angelo is hit and falls into the river. Hartman marches on foot towards the bridge defenders' post at the same time as a squadron of M24 Chaffee light tanks crosses the bridge. The remaining German soldiers surrender to the U.S. troops. In the aftermath of the battle, Hartman discovers Angelo alive. The next day, Kreuger is led out for execution by an SS firing squad. With the sound of airplanes overhead, Kreuger asks: "Ours or theirs?". The attending SS officer replies, "Enemy planes, sir!" "But who is the enemy?" muses Kreuger before he is shot.
A screen message (or chyron) informs the viewer that the actual bridge collapsed into the Rhine 10 days after its capture.
The film was based on a book by Ken Hechler, a war historian who was serving in the U.S. Army in 1945. "I was lucky to be about 10 miles from Remagen when the electrifying news came down that the bridge had been captured," said Hechler later. "We had just liberated this wine cellar. The first units came back and were sent into reserve, and had nothing to do but drink wine and talk about what they had done."
The resulting interviews, plus postwar interviews with German soldiers who were at the bridge, formed the bulk of the research for Hechler's book, which was published in 1957.The book ended up selling over 500,000 copies.
Hechler used money from the book to finance his successful campaign to represent West Virginia's 4th congressional district in the United States House of Representatives in the 1958 elections.
In May 1958, film rights were purchased by Schulberg Productions, owned by Budd Schulberg, who had witnessed the crossing and intended to film it as The Day We Crossed the Rhine.It was meant to follow Schulberg's film Wind Across the Everglades . Schulberg said Stanley Kubrick was interested in directing and the film would be made in West Germany. Columbia agreed to finance.
In November 1960, Schulberg said the film would start shooting in May 1961 with financing from The Mirisch Company and United Artists,but the film was not made by Schulberg.
In 1965, the rights were bought by David Wolper.It was to be the first in a six-picture deal he signed with United Artists. Irvin Kershner was to direct.
Roger O. Hirson was signed to write the script.A few months later, Richard Yates was reportedly working on the script. Later on William Roberts, Rod Serling, and Theodore Strauss worked on it. These delays meant Wolper ended up making another war film first, The Devil's Brigade .
Hechler says he was only offered $5,000 for the use of the book. "They told me if I held out for more money, they'd change the name from The Bridge at Remagen to The Remagen Bridge and base it on newspaper accounts, which were public domain and covered the event widely at the time."
By April 1968, George Segal had signed to star and John Guillermin was to direct.Ben Gazzara then agreed to sign – his first feature in three years. Robert Vaughn joined soon after. "I decided to get young actors," said Wolper. "You can't get Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster – who are older than General Eisenhower." Robert Blake was cast in a role but departed in order to spend more time with his family, while Alex Cord declined to be in the film.
West German officials would not allow the film to be made in Germany because of shipping traffic on the Rhine. The trend was increasing at the time to shoot Hollywood films in Eastern Europe to save money – The Fixer was filmed in Hungary and Castle Keep in Yugoslavia. Correspondingly, after six months of location scouting The Bridge at Remagen became the first American film to be shot in Communist Czechoslovakia. According to a British press report, £833,000 of the £2,100,000 budget were saved by shooting in Czechoslovakia.
Wolper paid $750,000 and Czech distribution rights to Barrandov Studios in exchange for their facilities and local labor.The U.S. World War II equipment was borrowed from the government of Austria, which had originally obtained it from the Americans. The Czechoslovak government provided German uniforms and weapons that had been captured during the war. Czechoslovak People's Army soldiers served as extras in the film, and were even trained to use U.S. military equipment.
Filming started on June 6, 1968 and was meant to be completed by October, but shooting was difficult from the start. The production manager fell ill, and the first assistant director quit. Also, clashes in work methods occurred within the crew, of whom roughly 60 were from the West and 200 were Czech. However, after an awkward start, the Westerners and Czechs eventually forged a decent working relationship.
It was a period of political instability in Czechoslovakia due to the Prague Spring. The film crew was accused by the Soviet and East German presses of smuggling weapons into the country and serving as a cover for the CIA.The Czechs, however, did not take this charge too seriously, and Czech members of the crew jokingly referring to Wolper as "Mr. CIA." After the East German newspaper Neues Deutschland alleged that the production was a front for preparations of a U.S. Armed Forces occupation of the country, some Czechoslovak police and military officials did inspect the arsenal of arms at Barrandov studios and found everything in order.
Many of the Remagen town scenes were shot in the town of Most.The old town was being demolished and rebuilt at a new location at the time so that the lignite deposits under its soil would become accessible for mining.
The Remagen Bridge scenes were shot at Davle on the Vltava River using the old bridge, which the Czechoslovak Ministry of Transportation closed for the summer. This was controversial because many residents of Prague used the bridge to access vacation homes in Davle. Fake towers and a fake railway tunnel were constructed for the film. The film's opening scenes, where the U.S. Army fails to capture the Oberkassel, Bonn bridge, were shot just south of the village of Vrané nad Vltavou using the railway bridge, which carries the Prague-Dobříš line over the River Vltava.
During filming, Guillermin told producer Wolper that he did not want the distraction of Wolper being on set, and tried to ban the producer from it. Wolper responded by telling Guillermin that if he could not direct with Wolper on set, then he would be fired. Guillermin promptly apologised.Wolper later called Guillermin "a real pain in the ass".
On 20 August 1968, when the film was two-thirds complete, the Soviet Army invaded Czechoslovakia to reinstall a hardline Communist government.Filming had to be halted and the bulk of the cast and crew were stuck in the International Hotel in Prague under advice from the U.S. Embassy. Wolper had flown out from Prague to Rome the night of the invasion to supervise filming of his other film If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium and then quickly flew to Vienna to negotiate with the new government for permission for the film's crew to be released.
The cast and crew voted on whether to stay or leave. Only three voted to stay — Guillermin and two stuntmen. Some cast and crew, including future U.S. Ambassador to Czechoslovakia Shirley Temple Black, left in a 400-car convoy that took them to Pilsen and then to Nuremberg. A few hours later, 79 cast and crew escaped in a 20-car caravan driven by Czechs. They travelled to Gmud in Austria, one hour before the border was closed, after which they travelled to Vienna.
Items left behind included many personal possessions, the last five days' worth of filming, and $1 million worth of equipment, including eight tanks and four cameras of unprocessed film. "It was just like an adventure movie," said Bradford Dillman, "except the tragedy was real."Some had to flee to Vienna in a 60-car convoy.
Wolper said "circumstances have conspired to turn an innocent and expensive enterprise into a political football."The issues caused the budget to increase from $3.5 million to $5 million.
Filming resumed in Hamburg, West Germany, where ideal studio facilities were available, in October 1968.Unfinished scenes involving the bridge were shot at Castel Gandolfo in Italy. Wolper also negotiated filming of the blowing up of the bridge in Prague.
Wolper later wrote, "the actors get on the bridge in Czechoslovakia, remove explosive under the bridge in Germany and get off the bridge in Italy.""If we bring some unity to this picture it will be a miracle," said Vaughan.
Wolper says the film had insurance to cover an invasion, but that the insurance company argued that it was not an invasion, rather the government invited the Russians in. The matter settled and Wolper got some compensation, but not the full amount. Contrary to Wolper's expectations, the Soviet occupation force allowed the U.S. military equipment lent by the Austrian government to be returned.The film finished after 93 days.
According to Hechler, "although Hollywood has its own ideas of the truth, probably 95% of it is accurate. It was doubly exciting to see the good actors they got to portray it."Hechler says the opening scene of the tanks going fast was not true. "They said it was more exciting that way. Also, there were several scenes with women, which I never saw in 1945. There's a little bit of a love interest there." Hechler also says the names of the participants were changed, "I imagine to avoid lawsuits", and he was "very happy with" the film, "because it brought attention to one of the great examples of the initiative and training of the American soldiers. They took advantage of an opportunity that had not been planned at all. It's also a tribute to the leadership of [Lt.] Karl Timmermann, who was the first officer who crossed."
The Bridge at Remagen was released in theatres on June 25, 1969. The ABC network broadcast the film on television in the U.S. on July 24, 1977.The film was released on DVD by MGM Home Entertainment on January 24, 2006 and January 31, 2006.
Wolper says, "perhaps it was not the best idea to distribute a film about war and heroism at the height of the war in Vietnam. The film received mixed reviews. It was accused of being too realistic and not realistic enough ... Given the circumstances, I think it is a fine picture and it plays quite often on television."
Filmink said "it's tough and fast and looks great."
In 2007, Vaughn played himself in a BBC Radio 4 dramatisation of the events surrounding the invasion.
The Prague Spring was a period of political liberalization and mass protest in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. It began on 5 January 1968, when reformist Alexander Dubček was elected First Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ), and continued until 21 August 1968, when the Soviet Union and other Warsaw Pact members invaded the country to suppress the reforms.
Remagen is a town in Germany in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, in the district of Ahrweiler. It is about a one-hour drive from Cologne, just south of Bonn, the former West German capital. It is situated on the left (western) bank of the river Rhine. There is a ferry across the Rhine from Remagen every 10–15 minutes in the summer. Remagen has many notable and well-maintained buildings, churches, castles and monuments. It also has a sizeable pedestrian zone with plenty of shops.
With the collapse of the Habsburg monarchy at the end of World War I, the independent country of Czechoslovakia was formed as a result of the critical intervention of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, among others.
Most is a city in the Ústí nad Labem Region of the Czech Republic. It has about 63,000 inhabitants. It lies between the Central Bohemian Uplands and the Ore Mountains, approximately 77 km (48 mi) northwest of Prague along the Bílina River and southwest of Ústí nad Labem.
Biagio Anthony Gazzara was an American actor and director of film, stage, and television. He received numerous accolades, including a Primetime Emmy Award and a Drama Desk Award, in addition to nominations for three Golden Globe Awards and three Tony Awards.
Kenneth William Hechler was an American politician. A member of the Democratic Party, he represented West Virginia's 4th congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1959 to 1977 and was West Virginia Secretary of State from 1985 to 2001.
Královské Vinohrady is a cadastral district in Prague. It is so named because the area was once covered in vineyards dating from the 14th century. Vinohrady lies in the municipal and administrative districts of Prague 2, Prague 3 and Prague 10, little parts also of Prague 1 and Prague 4.
The Ludendorff Bridge was in early March 1945 a critical remaining bridge across the river Rhine in Germany when it was captured during the Battle of Remagen by United States Army forces during the closing weeks of the European part of World War II. Built in World War I to help deliver reinforcements and supplies to the German troops on the Western Front, it connected Remagen on the west bank and the village of Erpel on the eastern side between two hills flanking the river.
Ivan Passer was a Czech film director and screenwriter, best known for his involvement in the Czechoslovak New Wave and for directing American films such as Born to Win (1971), Cutter's Way (1981) and Stalin (1992).
Operation Lumberjack was a military operation with the goal of capturing the west bank of the Rhine River and seizing key German cities, near the end of World War II. The First United States Army launched the operation in March 1945 to capture strategic cities in Nazi Germany and to give the Allies a foothold along the Rhine.
The Devil's Brigade is a 1968 American DeLuxe Color war film filmed in Panavision, based on the 1966 book of the same name co-written by American novelist and historian Robert H. Adleman and Col. George Walton, a member of the brigade.
Olga Fikotová is a Czechoslovak and later American discus thrower. She is best known for winning gold at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics and for her romance across Cold War barriers with American hammer gold medalist Hal Connolly.
The Hotel International Prague is a four-star hotel located in the Dejvice quarter of Prague, in the Czech Republic. It was completed in 1956 in the socialist realism style, and is a Czech cultural monument. The hotel has retained much of its original interior artwork, contains 278 guest rooms, and was originally designed as a military hotel before public use as a luxury hotel. It has previously operated under the names Hotel Družba, Hotel Čedok, Hotel Holiday Inn and Hotel Crowne Plaza.
The Battle of Remagen was a battle of the Allied invasion of Germany in World War II. The 18-day battle from 7 to 25 March 1945 is significant because the Allies unexpectedly captured the Ludendorff Bridge over the Rhine intact. They were able to hold it against German opposition and build further temporary crossings in relative safety. The presence of a bridgehead across the Rhine advanced by three weeks the Western Allies' planned crossing of the Rhine into the German interior.
Sgt. Alexander Albert Drabik was the first American soldier to cross the Ludendorff Bridge over the Rhine river at Remagen, Germany in World War II during the Battle of Remagen. He led two other enlisted men across the bridge, running 398 metres (1,306 ft) while under fire, knowing that the demolition charges attached to the bridge could be detonated at any moment. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his action.
The Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia refers to the events of 20–21 August 1968, when the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic was jointly invaded by four Warsaw Pact countries: the Soviet Union, the Polish People's Republic, the People's Republic of Bulgaria and the Hungarian People's Republic. The invasion stopped Alexander Dubček's Prague Spring liberalisation reforms and strengthened the authoritarian wing of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ).
John Guillermin was a French-British film director, writer and producer who was most active in big budget, action adventure films throughout his lengthy career.
David Lloyd Wolper was an American television and film producer, responsible for shows such as Roots, The Thorn Birds, and North and South, and the theatrically-released films L.A. Confidential and Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971). He was awarded the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the 57th Academy Awards in 1985 for his work producing the opening and closing ceremonies of the XXIIIrd Olympiad, Los Angeles 1984 as well as helping to bring the games to L.A. His 1971 film about the study of insects, The Hellstrom Chronicle, won an Academy Award.
Karl Heinrich Timmermann was the first U.S. Army officer to cross the Rhine River in Germany during World War II after directing the assault across the bridge, helping remove explosive charges, and surviving the German Army's attempt to demolish the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen on March 7, 1945.
First Lieutenant John Grimball of Charleston, South Carolina, a young lawyer from Columbia, South Carolina, was commanding officer of Company A, 14th Tank Battalion during the battle to capture the Ludendorff Bridge over the Rhine on 7 March 1945. In the battle for the bridge over the Rhine, he led an understrength platoon of four of the newest heavy-duty T26E3 M26 Pershing tanks. Under his leadership, his unit played an instrumental role in capturing the last intact bridge across the Rhine, the only one of 22 road and 25 railroad bridges across the Rhine that the Germans had not yet blown up.