The Bridge at Remagen
|The Bridge at Remagen|
|Directed by||John Guillermin|
|Produced by||David L. Wolper|
|Written by||Roger O. Hirson (story)
E. G. Marshall
|Music by||Elmer Bernstein|
|Edited by||William Cartwright|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Box office||$1.6 million (US/ Canada rentals)|
The Bridge at Remagen is a 1969 war film starring George Segal, Ben Gazzara and Robert Vaughn. The film, which was directed by John Guillermin, was shot on location in Czechoslovakia. It is based on the 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 9th Armored Division approached Remagen and captured the intact Ludendorff Bridge. Instead of the real week-long battle and several artillery duels fought between the Americans and German defenders, the film focuses on the heroism and human cost in gaining a bridgehead across the Rhine before the Allies' final advance into Germany.
The film opens with the U.S. Army failing to capture the still-intact Oberkassel, Bonn railway bridge which is blown up as the Americans approach immediately after a train load of wounded German troops crosses the bridge.
Lieutenant Hartman (George Segal) is an experienced combat team leader who is becoming weary of the war in Europe. On the drive towards the Rhine River Captain John Colt, Hartman's company commander is killed when his jeep is hit by a panzerfaust anti-tank rocket immediately after taking over the point position from Hartman, who Colt had criticized for moving forward too cautiously. Hartman then leads an assault on the farmhouse from where the panzerfaust was fired and the company kills all the German defenders there in a brief firefight. After that Hartman is promoted to company commander by his battalion commander, Major Barnes (Bradford Dillman), replacing Colt, and is given orders to continue the advance to Meckenheim. Hartman is concerned that Meckenheim might be crawling with Germans, "what if they unload on us?" he asks Barnes. "Then we will know won't we" Barnes callously replies.
At the same time, Major Paul Krüger (Robert Vaughn), an honorable Wehrmacht officer, is given the job of destroying the bridge there by his friend and superior, Colonel General von Brock (Peter van Eyck), who has been given a written order to do it immediately. But the staff officer appeals to Krüger's sense of honour, giving him a verbal command to defend the bridge for as long as possible to allow the 15th Army trapped on the west bank of the river to escape.
After capturing the undefended town of Meckenheim, four miles from Remagen, Hartman is ordered by Barnes to continue the advance to the Rhine River at Remagen where it is expected they will encounter heavy resistance. He is promised that once Remagen is taken then he will get a rest for his men.
Krüger, meanwhile, has been touring the defences above the town of Remagen. He assures the handful of troops, which are just old veterans and boys, that he has a personal guarantee from the general that two panzer battalions kept in reserve are on the way. But when Hartman's troops attack the town, Krüger is shown the reality when he calls for the promised panzers and is told they have been "sent elsewhere".
Hartman is disgusted because Barnes is using the men's lives to further his own military career. Hartman initially finds Sergeant Angelo (Ben Gazzara), one of his squad leaders, to be a vile soldier because he loots the bodies of dead Germans. However, as the story progresses, Hartman realizes that Angelo is just as much affected by the war as he is.
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 one hundred men, but you may save ten thousand". With only momentary hesitation, Barnes agrees to send in Hartman's company, and orders Hartman to lead the troops across to gain a foothold on the east bank of the Rhine River, thus avoiding a costly assault-crossing elsewhere. Sergeant Angelo, highlights the mood of the war-weary men by striking Barnes when Barnes points his weapon at Hartmen to force him to lead the attack on the bridge, after Hartman's initial refusal of the order and suggestion that Barnes leads the men across.
On the other side, as the American soldiers rush the bridge, Krüger, along with explosives engineer Captain Baumann (Joachim Hansen) and Captain Schmidt (Hans Christian Blech) from Remagen Bridge Security Command, tries 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 superstructure. Hartman's troops dig in to consolidate their hold on the intact bridge.
Krüger, who still believes in victory, shoots two soldiers as they try to desert. He then realises that the futility of the situation has turned him on his own troops and the defensive position has becomes untenable. In desperation, Krüger returns to HQ to make a personal appeal to the general for more reinforcements, but on arrival he finds that the building has been taken over by the SS and Von Brock has been arrested for being "defeatist". Krüger is then questioned about the delay before blowing up the bridge. Unable to present a written order, he is not able to justify his actions and is arrested.
Back at Remagen, Hartman leads a raid against a machine gun nest installed by Krüger on board a barge moored to the bridge, but while taking its crew out, Angelo is hit and falls into the river. Despondent, Hartman marches on foot towards the bridge defenders' post at the same time as a squad of M24 Chaffee light tanks cross the bridge. The remaining German soldiers surrender to the Americans, and in the aftermath Hartman discovers that Angelo has survived after all. The next day, Krüger is led out for execution by SS firing squad. With the sounds of many planes overhead, Krüger asks: "Ours or theirs?". The SS officer attending him replies, "Enemy planes, sir." "But who is the enemy?" muses Krüger before he is shot. (In reality, Hitler ordered five men responsible for the failed defense shot: one was convicted in absentia, four others killed).
The film concludes with a wide-angle view of activity on the bridge and a caption informing the viewer that it collapsed into the Rhine ten days after its capture.
- George Segal – Lieutenant Phil Hartman (based on Lt. Karl Timmermann)
- Robert Vaughn – Major Paul Krüger (based on Major Hans Scheller)
- Ben Gazzara – Sergeant Angelo (a composite of Sergeants Alexander Drabik and Joseph DeLisio)
- Bradford Dillman – Major Barnes (based loosely on Major Murray L. Deevers)
- E. G. Marshall – General Shinner (based on Brigadier General William Hoge)
- Peter van Eyck – Generaloberst von Brock (based loosely on Generalleutnant Walter Botsch)
- Hans Christian Blech – Hauptmann Karl Schmidt (based on Hauptmann Willi Bratge)
- Heinz Reincke – Councillor Holzgang, the Mayor in charge of civil defence
- Joachim Hansen – Hauptmann Otto Baumann, engineering officer (based on Hauptmann Carl Friesenhahn)
- Sonja Ziemann – Greta Holzgang
- Anna Gael – French Girl
- Bo Hopkins – Corporal Grebs
- Robert Logan – Private Bissell
- Matt Clark – Cpl. Jellicoe
- Steve Sandor – Pvt. Slavek
- Frank Webb – Pvt. Glover
- Tom Heaton – Lt. Pattison (based on Lt. Emmett James "Jim" Burrows)
- Paul Prokop – Capt. John Colt
- Richard Münch – General von Sturmer
- Günter Meisner – SS-Oberstgruppenführer Gerlach
West German officials would not allow the production to make the film in Germany because of shipping traffic on the River Rhine. Instead, the film company made the film in what was then Czechoslovakia.
Much 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 in order to make lignite lying under it accessible for mining.
The Remagen Bridge scenes were shot at Davle on the Vltava River using the old bridge. Fake towers and a fake railway tunnel were constructed for the film. The film's opening scenes – where the US 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 the filming in 1968, the Soviet Army invaded Czechoslovakia to reinstall a hard-line Communist government, forcing the film cast and crew to flee to the West in taxis. In 2007, Vaughn played himself in a BBC Radio 4 dramatisation of the events surrounding the invasion.
The Bridge at Remagen was released to DVD by MGM Home Video on February 29, 2000 as a Region 1 widescreen DVD.
- "Big Rental Films of 1969", Variety, January 7, 1970 p 15
- Czech Crisis: A Piece of Action for Film Troupe: Czech Crisis Hits Film Troupe Loynd, Ray. Los Angeles Times (1923–Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] September 1, 1968: c1
- "American film-makers use Austrian tanks in Most". Retrieved August 24, 2012.
- "Demolition and construction of the city" (in Czech). Retrieved August 28, 2012.
- "BBC Radio 4 Programmes". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2010-06-17.
- Hyams, Lee. War Movies
- Hechler, Ken. The Bridge at Remagen (Updated version by Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, Missoula, Montana, including chapter on the film.)