The Bridges at Toko-Ri


1h 43m 1955

Brief Synopsis

Two jet pilots forge a lasting friendship while fighting the Korean War.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
War
Adaptation
Release Date
Feb 1955
Premiere Information
Los Angeles and New York opening: 20 Jan 1955; Denver opening: 21 Jan 1955
Production Company
Paramount Pictures Corp.; Perlberg-Seaton Productions
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Tokyo,Japan; Yokosuka Naval Base,Japan; Korea
Screenplay Information
Based on the novelette The Bridges at Toko-Ri by James A. Michener (New York, 1953).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 43m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Synopsis

In November 1952, off the coast of Korea, U.S. Navy helicopter pilots Mike Forney and Nestor Gamidge rescue bomber pilot Lt. Harry Brubaker from the icy Pacific after Harry is forced to ditch his damaged plane. Mike, who wears an emerald green top hat and scarf during his rescues, delivers Harry safely to the deck of his aircraft carrier, which is under the supervision of Rear Adm. George Tarrant. Impressed with Harry's professionalism, George later advises him to pursue a career in the Navy, but Harry disdains the notion. Harry, a lawyer in civilian life, complains about being recalled to duty after serving in World War II and questions why America is fighting in Korea. After responding that America must fight in order to keep Communism in check, George states that a successful attack on the bridges at Toko-Ri would greatly help the war effort. George then reveals that Harry's wife Nancy and young children, Kathey and Susie, are in Tokyo, where the crew is due for a five-day leave. Later, as the ship is approaching Tokyo, Cmdr. Wayne Lee, who heads Harry's air group, argues with George about the berthing procedure, which he feels is overly stressful for his pilots. When George criticizes him for going over the ship captain's head and jeopardizing his chances of promotion, Wayne backs down, and George laments privately that Wayne is a weak officer. Upon docking in Tokyo, Harry joyfully reunites with Nancy, while Mike reunites with his Japanese girl friend, Kimiko. Harry and Nancy then join their daughters at a hotel in Fujisan, where George also is staying. That evening, Nestor finds Harry at the hotel bar and beseeches him to help Mike, who, he explains, was arrested by MPs in Tokyo after brawling with a sailor over Kimiko. Harry agrees to intercede, and while he drives to Tokyo with Nestor, in Fujisan, George gently lectures Nancy about facing up to the grim realities of war. George, who lost two sons during World War II, tells Nancy about his daughter-in-law and wife, both of whom were destroyed psychologically by the war. Nancy takes George's words to heart and, after Harry returns, having bailed the heartbroken but feisty Mike out of jail, insists that he stop protecting her and talk about his upcoming mission in Toko-Ri. Harry describes the strategically vital, heavily fortified bridges, which span a narrow gap between two mountains, and the difficulty he will have in bombing them. Though disheartened, Nancy states that in order to survive emotionally, she, too, must face the bridges at Toko-Ri. After Harry and his family make the most of their time together, enjoying a dip in a public bath, Harry bids Nancy goodbye at the dock. Later, in preparation for the Toko-Ri bombing, Harry, Wayne and other pilots escort a plane equipped with a motion picture camera to photograph the Korean defenses there. Although the mission is successful, Wayne overshoots his on-deck landing and breaks the net barrier, forcing Harry to land without a barrier. Under pressure, Harry executes a perfect landing, but after viewing the Toko-Ri footage, which shows the camera plane flying through a barrage of anti-aircraft fire, is filled with dread. Wayne notices Harry's unease and advises him to bow out if he is unsure of himself. Harry declines and takes off with the other pilots. Despite heavy enemy flak, the bombers blow up all the bridges, and Wayne decides to continue the mission and shell secondary targets. Harry's plane is hit and he is forced to crash-land in the hills. After a rough landing, Harry jumps from his wrecked plane and hides in a nearby irrigation ditch, but is soon spotted by enemy soldiers. Armed with only a pistol, Harry is relieved when Mike and Nestor's helicopter arrives, but the Koreans immediately disable the craft and kill Nestor. Although the American bombers return to strafe the Koreans, Harry and Mike are eventually cornered in the ditch and killed. Later, when questioned by George, Wayne firmly defends his decision to continue the mission after the bridges were bombed, and though greatly saddened by Harry's death, George admits that Wayne, like Harry, is a "good man" after all.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
War
Adaptation
Release Date
Feb 1955
Premiere Information
Los Angeles and New York opening: 20 Jan 1955; Denver opening: 21 Jan 1955
Production Company
Paramount Pictures Corp.; Perlberg-Seaton Productions
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Tokyo,Japan; Yokosuka Naval Base,Japan; Korea
Screenplay Information
Based on the novelette The Bridges at Toko-Ri by James A. Michener (New York, 1953).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 43m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Award Wins

Best Special Effects

1956

Award Nominations

Best Editing

1955
Alma Macrorie

Articles

The Bridges at Toko-Ri


By the time Mark Robson directed The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1955), heroic war epics were a dime a dozen. They were easy enough to pull off - if you didn't know how to make American fighting men look like the good guys while a flag waved in the background, you didn't deserve to make movies. But The Bridges at Toko-Ri features some magnificent aerial photography by cameraman Loyal Griggs and a hard-bitten ending that was insisted upon by its star, William Holden. It makes for one of the more worthy entries in an overstocked genre.

Set during the Korean War, The Bridges at Toko-Ri follows the story of Lt. Harry Brubaker (Holden), a World War II hero whose stateside life is rudely interrupted when he's once again called to aircraft carrier duty. His beautiful wife (Grace Kelly) waits for him to return while she holes up in Tokyo. There's also a marvelous turn by Fredric March as a soft-hearted commander, but the real stars here are the intense combat sequences.

The reviews were, for the most part, positive. Cue magazine called the picture "a taut, thrilling, top-flight documentary drama of men, war, ships and planes. For all the film's explosively exciting naval and aerial action ­ brilliantly photographed in color ­ the film is a study of men's minds as well as their military actions." The New York Times also took special note of the "spectacular footage of jet planes." The film won an Oscar® in 1955 for Best Special Effects, and was nominated for Best Editing.

Of all the terrific actors involved in The Bridges at Toko-Ri, March easily received the strongest notices from the critics. Always a pro, he was wise enough to detect a meaty supporting role when he read the script, and gladly accepted it: "The size of the role does not interest me much- I'm the admiral commanding a task force of carrier-based jets. The admiral knows no war is a good war to be in and that it nearly always must be fought in the worst possible place at the worst possible time. He has seen two of his sons killed in action. This affects the admiral's relationship with the young pilots he must send off to battle."

Holden and Kelly, who give solid if unremarkable performances, committed an equal amount of time off screen to extracurricular activities together...which is to say, they enjoyed a steamy love affair. Both performers had been down this road before, but they still managed to cause a bit of a stir in the Hollywood press when they hooked up. Holden was still married to actress Brenda Marshall at the time, although that didn't keep him from also bedding Audrey Hepburn when he worked with her earlier in the year on Sabrina. Kelly even tried to introduce Holden to her family in Philadelphia, but when her father ended up shaking his fist at Holden and (correctly) accusing him of having an affair with his golden-haired daughter, Holden stormed out of the house. The dalliance was exposed in several gossip magazines, but it didn't continue after the film's completion.

Mickey Rooney, who memorably plays one of Holden's flyboy shipmates, was cast, according to his autobiography (Life Is Too Short), because of his friendship with novelist James Michener who wrote The Bridges at Toko-Ri: "I jumped at the chance of playing Mike Forney, a cocky little Irishman who always wore a derby hat and specialized in jumping out of choppers to save downed navy fliers. And I rather enjoyed the thought that Bill Holden and I would die heroes' deaths in the icy waters off Korea." Rooney also found something to occupy his free time while filming, although it wasn't quite as juicy as a passionate romance with Grace Kelly. "One day I needed him for a scene," producer George Seaton said, "and I couldn't find him anywhere. We thought perhaps he had fallen overboard. I spent the day shooting around him. Then, late in the afternoon, just as we were about wrap for the day, one of the carrier's planes landed on the deck, and out jumped Mickey from the co-pilot's seat. It seems that Mickey had bribed the pilot into flying him to Tokyo, so he could go to the horse races at the track there."

Director: Mark Robson
Producer: William Perlberg, George Seaton
Screenplay: Valentine Davies (adapted from the novel by James Michener
Photography: Loyal Griggs
Aerial Photography: Charles G. Clarke
Editing: Alma Macrorie
Art Direction: Hal Pereira, Henry Bumstead
Music: Lyn Murray
Costumes: Edith Head
Makeup: Wally Westmore
Sound: Hugo Grenzbach, Gene Garvin
Cast: William Holden (Lt. Harry Brubaker), Fredric March (Rear Adm. George Tarrant), Grace Kelly (Nancy Brubaker), Mickey Rooney (Mike Forney), Robert Strauss (Beer Barrel), Charles McGraw (Cdr. Wayne Lee), Keiko Awaji (Kimiko), Earl Holliman (Nestor Gamidge), Richard Shannon (Lt. Olds), Willis B. Bouchey (Capt. Evans), Nadine Ashdown (Kathy Brubaker), Cheryl Lynn Callaway (Susie).
C-102m.

by Paul Tatara
The Bridges At Toko-Ri

The Bridges at Toko-Ri

By the time Mark Robson directed The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1955), heroic war epics were a dime a dozen. They were easy enough to pull off - if you didn't know how to make American fighting men look like the good guys while a flag waved in the background, you didn't deserve to make movies. But The Bridges at Toko-Ri features some magnificent aerial photography by cameraman Loyal Griggs and a hard-bitten ending that was insisted upon by its star, William Holden. It makes for one of the more worthy entries in an overstocked genre. Set during the Korean War, The Bridges at Toko-Ri follows the story of Lt. Harry Brubaker (Holden), a World War II hero whose stateside life is rudely interrupted when he's once again called to aircraft carrier duty. His beautiful wife (Grace Kelly) waits for him to return while she holes up in Tokyo. There's also a marvelous turn by Fredric March as a soft-hearted commander, but the real stars here are the intense combat sequences. The reviews were, for the most part, positive. Cue magazine called the picture "a taut, thrilling, top-flight documentary drama of men, war, ships and planes. For all the film's explosively exciting naval and aerial action ­ brilliantly photographed in color ­ the film is a study of men's minds as well as their military actions." The New York Times also took special note of the "spectacular footage of jet planes." The film won an Oscar® in 1955 for Best Special Effects, and was nominated for Best Editing. Of all the terrific actors involved in The Bridges at Toko-Ri, March easily received the strongest notices from the critics. Always a pro, he was wise enough to detect a meaty supporting role when he read the script, and gladly accepted it: "The size of the role does not interest me much- I'm the admiral commanding a task force of carrier-based jets. The admiral knows no war is a good war to be in and that it nearly always must be fought in the worst possible place at the worst possible time. He has seen two of his sons killed in action. This affects the admiral's relationship with the young pilots he must send off to battle." Holden and Kelly, who give solid if unremarkable performances, committed an equal amount of time off screen to extracurricular activities together...which is to say, they enjoyed a steamy love affair. Both performers had been down this road before, but they still managed to cause a bit of a stir in the Hollywood press when they hooked up. Holden was still married to actress Brenda Marshall at the time, although that didn't keep him from also bedding Audrey Hepburn when he worked with her earlier in the year on Sabrina. Kelly even tried to introduce Holden to her family in Philadelphia, but when her father ended up shaking his fist at Holden and (correctly) accusing him of having an affair with his golden-haired daughter, Holden stormed out of the house. The dalliance was exposed in several gossip magazines, but it didn't continue after the film's completion. Mickey Rooney, who memorably plays one of Holden's flyboy shipmates, was cast, according to his autobiography (Life Is Too Short), because of his friendship with novelist James Michener who wrote The Bridges at Toko-Ri: "I jumped at the chance of playing Mike Forney, a cocky little Irishman who always wore a derby hat and specialized in jumping out of choppers to save downed navy fliers. And I rather enjoyed the thought that Bill Holden and I would die heroes' deaths in the icy waters off Korea." Rooney also found something to occupy his free time while filming, although it wasn't quite as juicy as a passionate romance with Grace Kelly. "One day I needed him for a scene," producer George Seaton said, "and I couldn't find him anywhere. We thought perhaps he had fallen overboard. I spent the day shooting around him. Then, late in the afternoon, just as we were about wrap for the day, one of the carrier's planes landed on the deck, and out jumped Mickey from the co-pilot's seat. It seems that Mickey had bribed the pilot into flying him to Tokyo, so he could go to the horse races at the track there." Director: Mark Robson Producer: William Perlberg, George Seaton Screenplay: Valentine Davies (adapted from the novel by James Michener Photography: Loyal Griggs Aerial Photography: Charles G. Clarke Editing: Alma Macrorie Art Direction: Hal Pereira, Henry Bumstead Music: Lyn Murray Costumes: Edith Head Makeup: Wally Westmore Sound: Hugo Grenzbach, Gene Garvin Cast: William Holden (Lt. Harry Brubaker), Fredric March (Rear Adm. George Tarrant), Grace Kelly (Nancy Brubaker), Mickey Rooney (Mike Forney), Robert Strauss (Beer Barrel), Charles McGraw (Cdr. Wayne Lee), Keiko Awaji (Kimiko), Earl Holliman (Nestor Gamidge), Richard Shannon (Lt. Olds), Willis B. Bouchey (Capt. Evans), Nadine Ashdown (Kathy Brubaker), Cheryl Lynn Callaway (Susie). C-102m. by Paul Tatara

Quotes

Trivia

The U.S. Navy's cooperation in the movie's making included the use of 19 ships.

Notes

Onscreen credits include the following written acknowledgment: "We proudly present this motion picture as a tribute to the United States Navy and especially to the men of the Naval Air and Surface Forces of the Pacific Fleet whose cooperation made this picture possible." James Michener's novelette was first published in the July 6, 1953 issue of Life magazine. Paramount's $100,000 purchase of the book in July 1953 caused some controversy, as M-G-M had recently acquired an article by Michener titled "Forgotten Heroes of Korea," which was similar in theme to The Bridges at Toko-Ri. According to an August 1953 Variety item, M-G-M production head Edward J. Mannix and Paramount production head Don Hartman worked out an agreement whereby the plots of the two proposed pictures would not "look alike on the screen." M-G-M released Men of the Fighting Lady in 1954 . According to a September 1953 Army Archerd Daily Variety column, Paramount also agreed not to release The Bridges at Toko-Ri until a year after the M-G-M film's release.
       According to modern sources, William Holden accepted his part in the film on condition that the tragic ending of Michener's book not be changed for the screen. As noted in a November 1953 Daily Variety news item, Spencer Tracy, Humphrey Bogart, Walter Abel, Walter Pidgeon and director William A. Wellman were considered for the role of "Rear Adm. George Tarrant," before Fredric March was cast. Paramount borrowed Grace Kelly from M-G-M for the production. When cast in early 1954, Kelly was still a relative unknown, but by the time the film was released in 1955, she had won a Best Actress Academy Award for her performance in Paramount's The Country Girl, which also co-starred Holden , and was awarded billing above March and Mickey Rooney. Hollywood Reporter news items add Duke Fishman, George Champ, Mimi Gibson and Fred Revalala to the cast, and note that Jerry Sheldon, Dana Andrews' stand-in, had been given a role, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed.
       Location and background filming took place in Korea and Japan, including Tokyo and Yokosuka Naval Base, according to news items. Despite pre-production predictions that the U.S. Navy and Dept. of Defense would not cooperate on the picture because of prior commitments to the M-G-M project, Paramount received permission to film at sea on an unnamed U.S. aircraft carrier. Rear Adm. John B. Pearson helped arrange the carrier-based filming, according to a January 1955 Hollywood Reporter news item. Modern sources note that onboard shooting took place in the Yellow Sea, 300 miles from Tokyo. The Bridges at Toko-Ri won an Academy Award for Best Special Effects.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States on Video March 1988

Released in United States Winter January 1955

Released in United States Winter January 1955

Released in United States on Video March 1988