ISSUE DATE: Aug. 2, 1943
ALSO APPEARED: Jan. 8, 1945
For Whom the Bell Tolls was not, by the kindest stretching of critical standards, a good picture. Nor was it reliable entertainment. Nor was the likelihood that it would pay its way more than a string of subjunctives. It was, on a grand scale, a defeat of Hollywood by Hollywood. Censorship defeated it, and timidity; heavy investment defeated it, and pretentiousness; the very expectation of the public defeated it; and the desperate, driven, split, muddled desire to make a great picture and a great hit. It was a spectacular public demonstration of a fact often neglected in Hollywood—the fact that great entertainment depends upon some degree of good artistry, and that the effective functioning of artistry can be crippled by too anxious attention to entertainment.
For the person who was most likely to salvage the picture was also the best artist in the company, and the most simply attentive to an artist’s job. Whoever else may have fumbled at the rope or muffled the clapper, the 27-year-old Swedish actress, Ingrid Bergman, hit the Bell such a valiant and far-sounding clang that there had been nothing like it since her great compatriot Greta Garbo enchanted half the world.
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