A Bridge Too Far (film)

1977 film by Richard Attenborough

A Bridge Too Far is a 1977 epic war film that provides an historic telling of the failed attempt to capture several bridges to Germany in World War II in a campaign called Operation Market-Garden. The film has achieved classic status as it covered the entire operation, from all sides, British, American, German, Polish and Dutch.

Operation Market Garden
Whats the best way to take a bridge?
Both ends at once...
Directed by Richard Attenborough. Written by William Goldman, based on the novel by Cornelius Ryan.
Out of the sky comes the screen's most incredible spectacle of men and war!
[Note: any German dialogue are translations of the spoken text]

Dialogue edit

Capt. Arie D. "Harry" Bestebreurtje: Why the emergency meeting?
Brig. Gen. James Gavin: Just keeping me abreast of the little changes.
Bestebreurtje: How big are the little changes?
Gavin: I'll answer with typical British understatement: gigantic. For example, they can't get us all in at once. Too many men, too much equipment, not enough planes. It's gonna take three days to get the men into Arnhem, Poles and the British.
Bestebreurtje: Well, what about us?
Gavin: We'll be all right. Aside from the fact that we're parachuting in daylight, we have nothing to worry about.
Bestebreurtje: Daylight? Has it ever been tried before?
Gavin: Not in a major drop.
Bestebreurtje: You think there might be a reason for that?
Gavin: Let's hope not.
Bestebreurtje: What do you think?
Gavin: It'll be all right. It's a no-moon period anyway. We have to go in daylight. It doesn't matter. Just so they get us over the target area. Half a mile away, three quarters of a mile, I'll settle for that–
Bestebreurtje: I don't want to hear anything else. Is there anything else?
Gavin: Well, you're my Dutch adviser, Harry.
Bestebreurtje: I forgot to tell you something?
Gavin: Only that the Germans first tried to take Nijmegen bridge themselves back in 1940 and got slaughtered.

Lt. Gen. Brian Horrocks: [briefing his XXX Corps officers on Operation Market Garden] Gentlemen, this is a story that you shall tell your grandchildren, and mightily bored they'll be. [the officers laugh] The plan is called "Operation Market Garden". "Market" is the airborne element, and "Garden", the ground forces. That's us. [points to a map behind him of Holland, showing the positions of the Allied forces, and the path the Corps will take] Now, this is our position on the Belgian border, here. Tomorrow, three airborne divisions will begin landing in Holland. 35,000 men taking off from 24 airfields in troop-carrying planes or towed in gliders. The American 101st, here, around Eindhoven, the American 82nd, here, south of Nijmegen, and our own 1st Airborne boys, and a Polish brigade, here, at Arnhem, 64 miles behind enemy lines. Now, their job is to take and hold all the bridges in these three areas. Our job is to punch a hole through the German front line, here, and then drive like hell up this road, linking up with each airborne division on the way. Speed is the vital factor. The plan is to reach Eindhoven in two to three hours, and Arnhem in two to three days. That, gentlemen, is the prize - the bridge over the Rhine, the last bridge between us and Germany. Kickoff will be at 1435 hours tomorrow afternoon. The Irish Guards under the command of Colonel Vandeleur, will take the lead.
Lt. Col. J.O.E. Vandeleur: [whispering to his cousin/aide] Christ, not us again.
Horrocks: What do you say to that, Joe?
Vandeleur: [getting up from his chair] Uh, delighted, sir. Truly delighted.
[the officers erupts in laughter again as Horrocks smiles. Vandeleur sits back down]
Horrocks: Now, I've selected you to lead us not only because of your extraordinary fighting ability, but also because - in the unlikely event that the Germans ever get you, they will assume from your attire that they've captured a wretched peasant, and immediately send you on your way.
[the corps laughs at Horrocks' comments; Vandeleur smiles]
Horrocks: Now, maintaining the speed of our advance will no doubt be tough going, as it's a single highway. But no matter what, we must reach those 1st Airborne boys in 48 hours. Now, gentlemen, I'm not saying that this will be the easiest party that we've ever attended, but I still wouldn't miss it for the world. [pauses] I'd like to think of this as one of those American western films. The paratroops, lacking substantial equipment, always short of food - these are the besieged homesteaders, the Germans, well naturally, they're the bad guys, and XXX Corps, we my friends, are the cavalry, on the way to the rescue.
[the room bursts into applause]
Gentlemen, this is a story that you shall tell your grandchildren...

Only the weather can stop us now...
Lt. Gen. Frederick Browning: Only the weather can stop us now.
Maj. Gen. Stanislaw Sosabowski: Weather! Christus! [MG Roy Urquhart looks at Sosabowski] General Browning, what of the Germans? Don't you think that if we know Arnhem is so critical to their safety that they might know it too? [Urquhart leaves]
Browning: Now, look here. The few troops in the area are second-class. They're not frontline caliber, not at all, do you understand? I think you ought to have a little more faith in Montgomery's intelligence reports, you know. He's done pretty well for us in last three or four years.
Sosabowski: I will tell you the extent of my faith. I am thinking of asking for a letter from you stating that I was forced to act under your orders in case my men are massacred.
Browning: I see... I do see. Do you wish such a letter?
Sosabowski: No... No, of course not. In the case of massacre, what difference will it make?

[Over lunch, Generalfeldmarschall Walther Model is informed of the British landings at Arnhem]
Generalfeldmarschall Walther Model: Why should they do that? There is nothing valuable here. ... Me! I am valuable here. They have all come just to capture me. [stands from his lunch and moves to the door] Get my driver and car.
Aide: Yes, Herr Marshal!
Model: Evacuate my headquarters!
Aide: Yes, sir!
Model: [pops back in and shouts] And don't forget my cigars!

Cpl. Hancock: Sir. [Offers mug of tea]
Maj. Gen. Roy Urquhart: Hancock. I've got lunatics laughing at me from the woods. My original plan has been scuppered now that the jeeps haven't arrived. My communications are completely broken down. Do you really believe any of that can be helped by a cup of tea?
Cpl. Hancock: Couldn't hurt, sir. [Urquhart accepts the tea]

Capt. Glass: My problem is, I'm not totally crazy about the prospect of dying.
Obergruppenführer Wilhelm Bittrich:
Flatten Arnhem.
SSgt. Eddie Dohun: So don't die. Drinking that garbage isn't gonna keep you alive, is it?
Glass: What is?
Dohun: What is? Well, not gettin' shot.
Glass: What can guarantee that?
Dohun: Nothing, for sure.
Glass: You will.
Dohun: I will what?
Glass: You tell me, Eddie. You tell me I won't die.
Dohun: Alright, you won't die.
Glass: No, no. Guarantee me. I want you to guarantee me I won't die.
Dohun: [seriously] I guarantee you.

SSgt. Eddie Dohun: Colonel, if you don't look at him right now, he's going to die.
U.S. medical colonel: He's dead now.
Dohun: It would mean a lot to me, sir, if you'd check him out.
U.S. medical colonel: Come on, Sergeant! For Chrissakes get him out of here!
Dohun:[briefly goes out, returns] Would you look at him please, sir. [brandishes .45 Pistol] Right now. Or I'll blow your fuckin' head off. [cocks the .45] Right now.
U.S. medical colonel: I can give him a quick examination if you like.
Dohun: Thank you very much, sir.

U.S. medical colonel: [To military policeman Lt. Rafferty] Sergeant Dohun pulled a gun on me and threatened to kill me unless I did precisely what he ordered...I want you to put him under arrest.
Lt. Rafferty: Yes sir.
U.S. medical colonel: I want you to keep him there; I want you to keep him there, for at least ten seconds.
Rafferty: [brief pause] I'm not all that sure I understand, Colonel.
U.S. medical colonel: Count to ten, Lieutenant, fast.
Rafferty: One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. Like that, sir?
U.S. medical colonel: [dismisses him] Thank you, Lieutenant. [Rafferty salutes and leaves, confused]

[BG Gavin and Major Cook talk about how to assault Nijmegen bridge and prevent its demolition]
Brig. Gen. James Gavin: What's the best way to take a bridge?
Maj. Julian Cook: Both ends at once.
Gavin: I'm sending two companies across the river by boat. I need a man with very special qualities to lead.
Cook: Go on, sir.
Gavin: He's got to be tough enough to do it and he's got to be experienced enough to do it. Plus one more thing. He's got to be dumb enough to do it... Start getting ready.
U.S. captain: What was all that about, Major?
Cook: Well, someone's come up with a real nightmare. Real nightmare.

Maj. Julian Cook: I have just been informed that our Nine O'clock arrival has been postponed until ten, so you can all have an extra hour of fun and relaxation.
U.S. lieutenant: Major, we got any more information on those boats?
Cook: I have been reliably informed that they float. Outside of that we don't know squat. Not how many, not how heavy, not how big. We are sure that the river is wide and the current is strong and if there is any more cheery information that comes along I'll just be too happy to pass it along. In the meantime just think of this as on the job training.

[an SS officer is approaching under a white flag]
Maj. Harry Carlyle: Rather interesting development, sir. [to the German] That's far enough! We can hear you from there!
SS Panzer Officer: My general says there is no point in continuing this fighting! He is willing to discuss a surrender!
[Short pause; the German waits for an answer, Frost thinks]
Lt. Col. John Frost: Tell him to go to hell.
Carlyle: We haven't the proper facilities to take you all prisoner! Sorry!
SS Panzer Officer: [confused] What?
Maj. Harry Carlyle: We'd like to, but we can't accept your surrender! Was there anything else?
[German officer walks off silently]
Frost: Right.
[the officer returns across the bridge to Obergruppenführer Bittrich]
SS Panzer Officer: Mein Herr General.... [dejectedly enters shotgun seat of General Bittrich's staff car] And now?
Obergruppenführer Wilhelm Bittrich: [slowly] Flatten Arnhem.

Lt. Col. John Frost: Hello, Harry.
Maj. Harry Carlyle: Hello. Johnny.
Frost: You know, Harry; I always wanted to ask you, but didn't because I knew you so very much wanted me to and I didn't want to give you the satisfaction; but why the hell do you always carry that bloody umbrella?
Carlyle: Memory.
Frost: What?
Carlyle: Bad...memory. Never could remember the password. Knew no Jerry would carry one. Had to prove...I was an Englishman. [passes away]

[Dr Jan Spaander and a British officer approach General Ludwig about a ceasefire at Arnhem and to accept Allied wounded into German medical care]
Gen. Karl Ludwig: Not possible.
Dr. Jan Spaander: If you would just say yes, it would be very possible.
Gen. Ludwig: Forgive me, but there is a battle. And we are in the process of winning it.
Dr. Spaander: Winning or losing is not a concern. Living or dying is. Cease fire. One hour... two... just to evacuate our wounded. Afterwards you can kill us as much as you want.
[SS-Obergruppenführer Bittrich enters the room]
Obergruppenführer Wilhelm Bittrich: General Ludwig. [motions with fingers to come to him. They whisper and Ludwig leaves with his staff; in German to Spaander] Your request will be met. The ceasefire will begin at three o'clock.
Dr. Spaander: [to British officer] Ceasefire at three. [to Bittrich in German] I would like to thank you.
British officer: Would you like to thank him, please?
Dr. Spaander: I just did.
Bittrich: [in German] Please, you can go. [walks out]

[The Allied officers climb a church tower to survey the situation in Arnhem and to consider blasting through to rescue the 1st Airborne Division, but are concerned about the Germans cutting the paras off from the river]
Brig. Gen. James Gavin: Well that's it then. We're pulling them out. [long pause] It was Nijmegen.
Lt. Col. J.O.E. Vandeleur: It was the single road getting to Nijmegen.
Lt. Gen. Brian Horrocks: No, it was after Nijmegen. [leaves]
Lt. Gen. Frederick "Boy" Browning: [to General Sosabowski] And the fog, in England. [leaves]
Maj. Gen. Stanislaw Sosabowski: Doesn't matter what it was. One man says to another, "I know what let's do today, let's play the war game."... everybody dies.

[MG Roy Urquhart has safely extracted from Arnhem and is now at General Browning's HQ]
Lt. Gen. Frederick "Boy" Browning: Hello, Roy. How are you?
Maj. Gen. Roy Urquhart: I'm not sure that I'll know for a while. But I'm sorry about the way it turned out.
Browning: You did all you could.
John Frost Bridge
I always felt we tried to go a bridge too far.
Urquhart: Yes, but did everyone else?
Browning: They've got a bed for you upstairs if you want it.
Urquhart: I took ten thousand men into Arnhem. I've come out with less than two. I don't feel much like sleeping.
Browning: Quite. I've just been on to Monty. He's very proud and pleased.
Urquhart: Pleased?
Browning: Of course. He thinks Market Garden was 90% successful.
Urquhart: But what do you think?
Browning: Well, as you know, I always felt we tried to go a bridge too far. [Urquhart stares silently at him]

Cast edit

External links edit

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