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For Whom the Bell Tolls with Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant was produced during the last years of the war, --the garish, painted scenery is still painfully in evidence, even though the film has been adapted for the wide screen.
Hemingway is not marvelously adaptable to the screen because his writing leaves a great deal to the imagination, and when poorly acted seems quite shallow. But his moving novel about Loyalist cloak-and-dagger activity in the Spanish Civil War is turned into a second rate horse-opera in this version. Nothing is missing, from the hero's inevitable "Well, I never had much time for women" to snipers tumbling from pinnacles by the dozen.
Involving a critical mission into enemy territory to knock out a bridge, the bulk of the film is concerned with the exploits of our brave Americano amidst a most unconvincing group of gypsies. Particularly grating is the phoney accent meant to simulate Spanish, ably seconded by the blatant and ill-written dialogue. No effort is made to indicate fully rounded characters; both Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman turn in poor performances as Grant and Bergman, nothing else.
Miss Bergman proves particularly inept as our fair heroine. The romantic side of the story completely fails to be convincing. Scarcely looking like a simple peasant girl in either attire or manner, most of her role consists of staring into the hero's eyes after love-at-first-sight and screaming after him, "Roberto, Roberto" as he departs courageously into the darkness.
The personalities and incidents concerning all but the two main characters are submerged in the usual modernized cowboy-and-Indian routine, punctuated with moral statements such as "A man has gotta fight for what he believes in" and the like.
More than anything else, For Whom the Bell Tolls shows the amazingly imperceptive sort of propaganda that can pass for art in wartime. It would have been better for all concerned if the film had been left to die with the demise of fascism, or at the most resuscitated for the Late, Late Show.
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