A Bridge Too Far, anti British movie?

Discussion in 'Books, Films, TV, Radio' started by Hesmond, Jan 25, 2014.

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  1. Hesmond

    Hesmond Well-Known Member

    Last night nothing to do so poped on thd dvd ABTF , i am of an age that when the film was in production i can recall a few of the rows this caused and rember seeing it on release feeling that Attenbrough had droped thd ball with this ,but last night the anti British comments just seemed to keep on coming ,is it just me or does any one else feel the same?
     
  2. merdiolu

    merdiolu Junior Member

    It was more an Anti Montgomery theme. "Like American tough boy paratroopers did what they were assigned , it is just Monty's tankers who stopped for tea that let down brave British Red Devils in Arnhem and caused whole mess" The book has same anti Montgomery stance coming from writer Cornelius Ryan also. It is just fashionable to blame unfriendly Field Marshal who had died and can not defend himself anymore for every Allied setback.
     
  3. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    I don't think the Ryan book is bad at all. He was a journalist, yes, but a very experienced one who was familiar with military subjects. The film unfortunately, could not go into such great detail as the book did about the complexities of the operation, why it failed, and who was responsible. In the end, you get the impression from the movie that Montgomery and Browning were most at fault. A careful reading of the book (and any book on Arnhem, I think) shows that failures were multiple and many persons bore some responsibility for them. Urquhart is portrayed as a hero in the film (as I think he mostly was), but the film glosses over the fact that he lacked airborne experience and failed to insist on a drop zone closer to Arnhem Bridge. Horrocks is mostly portrayed in a good light in the film, but he bore ultimate responsibilty for XXX Corps slow progress and bad traffic management.

    And as far as it goes, Montgomery did indeed bear ultimate responsibility for MARKET-GARDEN as a whole, so it is entirely right to assign him some of the blame for the failure. That's how it goes if you are in supreme command: if you are big enough to claim credit for victory, then you must also be big enough to accept blame for defeat. MARKET-GARDEN was Montgomery's baby, he pressed hard for the operation and argued with Ike until he got it, but it was not his finest hour. Montgomery was known for careful, thorough planning, attention to detail, and avoidance of undue risk, but MARKET-GARDEN exhibited few of these virtues. Montgomery was trying to press the enemy hard and exploit what appeared to be a moment of weakness, and his praiseworthy eagerness to do so led him into uncharacteristic haste and over-optimism. In some ways, it was his least typical battle. It was certainly his least successful.
     
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  4. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    I wouldn't worry much, though. It's not a very good film anyway.
     
  5. idler

    idler GeneralList

    Many conveniently forget that MARKET-GARDEN was on Eisenhower's watch - he'd taken the reins back from Montgomery as land forces commander at the beginning of September.

    As for the film, it's probably not so much anti-British as pro-American, seeing as that was the major market (no pun intended) it was aimed at. The best thing about it is the James Caan segment - it's long enough to make one of those vital cups of tea without missing anything interesting.
     
  6. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    Of course, Eisenhower gets some blame for approving the operation in the first place. Montgomery pressed for it, and the execution was his--or rather, Miles Dempsey's. I haven't gotten deep enough into the Arnhem literature to know what role Dempsey played in the failure. He never seems to get the attention he deserves.

    I don't think the film is particularly anti-British. As to the market question, the US is of course the biggest English-speaking film market in the world, but I doubt that Attenborough was hovering over the screenwriters saying, 'let's throw a bone to keep the Yanks happy here.' He's British himself and he remembers the war. I think it was the inevitable over-simplification and smoothing out of rough edges and inconvenient details that happens in so many historical films. I see it done in films about US history too.

    I found some of the American bits in the movie tedious, but the 82nd and 101st did mostly succeed in accomplishing their missions. That's no reflection on the 1st Airborne, though; the British airborne were just as good as the Americans and they did all that guts and skill could do, the bad plan was certainly no fault of theirs. Urquhart and Hackett were very bitter about XXX Corps' slowness, so you have some British officers finding fault with other British officers.

    One point that I think bears remembering: MARKET-GARDEN was a failure in that it did not accomplish the main objective, but it was not a complete failure. Half of Holland was liberated. Even more importantly, the Germans suffered heavier casualties than the Allies, many of them in a persistent and futile counteroffenisve against XXX Corps' bridgehead on The Island between Arnhem and Nijmegen. Almost nobody points that out.
     
  7. ethan

    ethan Member

    I think it's actually a pretty good film (although Max Hastings rightly points out that the 'Bridge too far' comment probably never happened and indeed, without the Arnhem Bridge the other bridges were nowhere near as valuable; a plan to grab the others and not that one would never have been made).

    I think it's a rather anti-military/anti-war film in it's own way too, not that surprising considering when it was made.

    For me the fine points are the good performances almost across the board, the fight scenes at Arnhem and the final scene with Kate Van Der Horst's family leaving their house/improvised hospital.

    Since others have brought the subject of blame up, I can only repeat that again-as often happens- Hastings' judgements sound sane and sensible to me.

    There's also the simple fact that the US troops in this operation achieved their objectives with greater success than the British did, so it's inevitable that something of this comes across in the film.
     
  8. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    No wish to become involved in this saga of who was to blame for what but - both "Bridge too far " and " The longest Day " books were written by a Southern Irishman who like many of his land are STILL

    fighting the Battle of the Boyne of 300 years ago - they just can't let go of that defeat and consequently their hatred of Britain is paramount and keeps on returning - the latest being the IRA troubles which still

    bubble away in the background and no doubt will continue well into the future..I know only too well the many who fought alongside me in WW2 specially in the NIH - but they didn't quite hate Britain...

    Cheers
     
  9. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    But, of course, the US Airborne Divisions did not achieve all their objectives - Son bridge was blown, and the Nijmegen bridges were only captured after Guards Armoured Division arrived and joined in the fighting there. Whether these failures were down to poor initial planning, a failure to prioritise the seizing of bridges over the holding of drop zones or due to underestimation of the likely resistance seems to be the root of the matter.

    As for the Ryan book (and subsequent film), they now remind me a bit of my Ladybird books on history - nice pictures but very superficial.

    Cheers

    Tom
     
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  10. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    IT was cra0p,film with only faint traces of the truth. I was there and went over Nigmegen bridge at the time.
    Sapper
     
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  11. Gibbo

    Gibbo Senior Member

    It's worth watching the credits of A Bridge Too Far and comparing the list of technical advisers to the cast. Gavin, Horrocks, Frost, Urquhart and Vandeleur, who are all portrayed positively, were technical advisers. Browning and Montgomery, who were dead, are portrayed negatively.

    What the film makers ignored, or did not know, was that Browning's widow was still alive and famous enough for her complaints about his treatment to get widespread Press coverage: she was the author Daphne Du Maurier.

    The same phenomenon about the technical advisers also applies to The Longest Day. The Germans who insist that this is the real invasion were technical advisers whilst the ones who refuse to wake Hitler because it is just a diversion were not. The commander of the small French contingent was also a technical adviser to the film
     
  12. idler

    idler GeneralList

    That's an interseting perspective. I would rate the film of ABTF higher than The Longest Day where poor old Monty is reduced to a walk-on part. In fact, just had a look at the book and he's only referenced four times in the index! On the plus side, he doesn't get blamed for anything...

    To be fair to Ryan, he was telling the story of the day so the planning of the operation is only background information, unlike ABTF where the planning politics is a more significant part of the story.
     
  13. DPas

    DPas Member

    Perhaps it was as much to do with him spending a lot of his time with the Americans during and after the war, as it was to do with his nationality.
     
  14. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    It's only a film.
    It's not real history.
    Too much has been written about it on this forum over the years , in my opinion.
     
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  15. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    'Right now Sir, or I'll blow your fucking brains out' Classic - Love the film and it's one of my all time fav's. I read a book to find out what really happened :)
     
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  16. Mark Hone

    Mark Hone Senior Member

    As mentioned above, this matter has been discussed extensively on previous threads. Having seen ABTF many times, including at the cinema when it was released, there is obvious blame heaped on Montgomery and Browning (who acts in the film as a sort of stand-in Monty) for the flawed planning and execution of Market Garden and the suffering visited on the Dutch civil population. I think that it was rather cowardly of the producers to hold Montgomery up to criticism and even ridicule in the film but shy away from having him physically portrayed, as, for example they do in 'Patton' (Michael Bates). However there is also the insidious idea put about throughout 'Bridge' that the British are a bunch of brave but blundering duffers who are far too casual, complacent and bound by routine compared to the dynamic, 'can-do' Yanks. I have found this increasingly odd and rather grating on repeated viewings, particularly when you consider that this film was made in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. On an earlier thread I even made the suggestion that Sir Richard Attenborough, far from being a beloved National Treasure, has been involved in a number of anti-British films as both actor and director and is more of a candidate for a spell in the Tower! I would draw peoples' attention in particular to the very similar underlying Anglophobe tone of 'The Great Escape' in which the said Dickie stars.
     
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  17. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    "It was agreed, that my endeavours should be directed to persons and characters supernatural, or at least romantic, yet so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith."
    ~Coleridge

    I've mostly stopped criticising filmic accuracy, in an effort to enjoy more films.
    Unless I know it'll really annoy whoever I'm watching with.
    Or it's 'The Battle of The Bulge'... but then, I wouldn't be watching that anyway.
     
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  18. merdiolu

    merdiolu Junior Member

    Well I do noıt know if this is a consolation or not but at least ABTF is NOT Roland Emmerich's "The Patriot" (2000) In that "historical"(!) movie every British and Crown loyalist were depicted either devil incarnate or hypocratical buffoons who were standing target for Mel Gibson's Tomahawk wielding character. If you wish to see something anti Brit...watch "The Patriot"
     
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  19. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    The church burning scene was more in keeping with 'Come and See'.
    There were no recorded cases of British or Loyalist troops burning a church full of American civilians as far as I know.
     
  20. m kenny

    m kenny Senior Member

    I was born in Ireland (there is no such place as 'Southern Ireland') and you can see my anti-British bias on many a forum........................
     
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