A Bridge Too Far (1977)



Director:  Richard Attenborough.

Cast:  Dirk Bogarde, James Caan, Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Edward Fox, Elliott Gould, Gene Hackman, Laurence Olivier, Denholm Elliott, Anthony Hopkins, Robert Redford, Collin Ferrel.

Based on the book by Cornelius Ryan.

The story of Operation Market Garden, September 17-26, 1944 in which the Allies attempted to capture six bridges connecting Holland to Germany.  The end was an Allied defeat.



Very good movie.  There was a great rivalry between the American General Patton and the British General Montgomery.  Patton said that he admitted that he himself was a prima donna, but Monty the prima donna was not honest enough to admit it.  To one up Patton, Monty came up with a grand scheme to end the war by Christmas of 1944.  The operation had the backing of Churchill and, for political reasons primarily, Eisenhower endorsed the plan, known as Market Garden. 

Three different sets of airborne troops would be used to capture key bridges in three different towns in the Netherlands that would open the door to Germany: 

1)  the US 101st airborne under Gen. Maxwell Taylor would parachute into an area north of Eindhoven and work there way down south to Eindhoven where they would link up with 30 corps coming north from Allied territory;

2)  the US 82nd airborne under Gen. James Gavin (Ryan O'Neal) would parachute into an area south of Nijmegen and work they way north to that town;  they would later hook up with 30 corps coming up from the south (after having past through Eindhoven);

3)  the British under Major General Urguhart (Sean Connery), later to be joined by Polish troops under Sosabowski (Gene Hackman),  would land eight miles northwest of Arnhem and fight their way to that town. (Later the 30 corps would come to the final rescue after having first passed through Eindhoven and Nijmegen.)

The key weakness of the plan was the goal set for 30 corps: to drive 63 miles north in two days on a terribly narrow road to come to the rescue of the troops at Arnhem.  It would seem that even a youngster could point out that if the Germans even put up a little resistance along the narrow road that the Allied troops would be hopelessly delayed.  And a delay would prove costly to airborne troops who do not have heavy weapons: artillery, tanks, and anti-tank weapons. 

And this is what came to pass.  There were also a lot of other, smaller problems that occurred such as the Germans transferring Gen. Bittrich's panzer troops to Arnhem for a little rest and relaxation just before the British attacked Arnhem.  

But what an interesting story in the telling, even if you know it's all doomed from the start.  Airborne troops are among the very best of troops in an army, the men being bold, daring, gung-ho and in very good physical shape.  One cannot admire the Market Garden plan, but one can admire the courage of the airborne troops.  One statistic mentioned in the film is that the British went into Arnhem with 10,000 troops and came out with only 2,000. 

For movie star fans, there are lots of known faces in this movie, increasing the interest in the film. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.



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