For Whom the Bell Tolls ★★½

"A man fights for what he believes in."

Ernest Hemingway was very involved in getting the adaptation of his 1940 novel “For Whom the Bell Tolls” off the ground. It was Gary Cooper who initially brought it to Cecil B. DeMille’s attention, and DeMille who bought the rights then introduced Cooper to Hemingway.


After that fateful meeting, Hemingway saw no one except Cooper as his choice to play the lead. And opposite him, he wanted Ingrid Bergman. It took some time to get her – including two weeks of production with a different actress – but get her they did, and the rest is history. Join us – Pete Wright and Andy Nelson – as we continue our Ingrid Bergman series with Sam Wood’s 1943 film For Whom the Bell Tolls.

We talk about how we came to this film and why there are elements that work, but how it largely feels dated. We look at elements that do work, however, and how the film still gets some of Hemingway’s themes across. We look at Cooper and Bergman and why their relationship feels not quite right. We discuss Katina Paxinou and Akim Tamiroff as the two actors who deliver our favorite performances of the film. We look at the nature of the three-strip technicolor process and struggle with the way this film looks sadly. And we talk about the journey this film went on as far as its length is concerned, from Roadshow to theatrical cut to restored cut – yet how sad it is that it’s never received the royal treatment it deserves.

We aren’t in love with this adaptation of Hemingway’s book, but we did still find some interesting things in the film. And now, we’re both more interested in reading the book, so that’s saying something, right? So check out the movie and tune in! The Next Reel – when the movie ends, our conversation begins.

Andy’s star rating: 2.5 stars
Pete’s star rating: 2.5 stars
Average star rating: 2.5 stars

To listen to The Next Reel’s episode on “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” please visit our website.

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Read our individual reviews:
Andy's Review
Pete's Review

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