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The Bridges at Toko-Ri

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  • Posted September 29, 2013

      The Korean War (police action) went into cease-fire about eigh

      The Korean War (police action) went into cease-fire about eighteen months previous to the release of The 
    Bridges at Toko-Ri.  The novel on which it was based, by James Michener  (Lt. USN ret.)  had been published
    the previous year.  Most  Americans had the same feelings toward the police action-they were ambivalent.  
    Certainly everyone had wanted to win it  -quickly-  but at the same time no one wanted to risk WW III to do so.
    General Douglas MacArthur was willing to, which is why Truman promptly fired him, even after a decisive (con-
    vebtional) victory at Inchon.  Most audiences, therefore, were open-minded to Micheners ( (Pulitzer (1947 ))  prize
    -winning work and balanced viewpoint on the Korean  conflict, written in 1951.
       The film The Bridges at Toko-Ri continues this balanced work.  We look at two sides of the war, officer and
    enlisted, and how they interact in combat. The director, Mark Robson, had the cream of Hollywood at the time-
    William Holden, who had won the best acting Oscar the previous year for Stalag 17, Grace Kelly who would
     receive one the following year for The Country Girl, Frederic March who had received two in  his long career was at  57
     perfectly  cast as the elderly, paternal Admiral Tarrant, and the ever-popular Mickey Rooney as a rescue
     helicopter Chief Petty Officer.
       The film is primarily about the experiences of Lt. Brubaker (Holden), a WW II Navy pilot called back to active
     duty for the Korean conflict.  Brubaker is'nt excited about returning to combat duty-he has a wife, two children
     and a law practice as a civilian.  The drama is primarily about his coming to grips with his thankless job of
     flying dangerous shore missions, and particularly one against the heavily fortified bridges at Toko-Ri.  Right to
    the end, Brubaker wonders if the war effort is worth it.
       In contrast to this is the Task Force admiral Tarrant, who, even though he has lost a son  to the conflict, still
    holds out for victory as the film ends.  How Brubaker's wife, Nancy (Kelly), feels is left up in the air,, but as a 
    dutiful Navy wife, she's probably prepared for anything.
        I have read reviews of The Bridges at Toko-Ri  that consider this an anti-war movie, and reviews that consider       
    it  a war movie.  I feel that The Bridges at Toko-Ri  can go either way, depending on who you empathize with.
    So the audiences of 1954 probably left the theater satisfied, even  though the ambiguity of the conflidt cannot be 
    resolved.  Whether this ambiguity still stands today is up to you, the viewer.
      (Academy Award for Best Special Effects, 1954.







       

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