The Bridge On The River Kwai’s Bridge Went Through An Incredible Construction Process

While Pierre Boulle’s novel (as well as the actual history) saw the efforts by Allied forces to destroy the bridge fail, the film version of “The Bridge on the River Kwai” was a massive Hollywood production, not a satirical French novel. The bridge would burn.

After all that effort in constructing the bridge, and all the alleged money it cost, David Lean and Sam Spiegel would need explosives. The movie sees the explosion from multiple different angles, all of which had to be rolling concurrently to capture the bridge (in CinemaScope) blowing up, as well as the collapse of the approaching train. To commemorate the filming, Spiegel (according to Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni’s biography) invited numerous local celebrities like Ceylon’s Prime Minister, Solomon Bandaranaike, out to watch it. They came for nothing, as the train simply rolled on along the bridge. Lean had canceled the explosion.

Per Fraser-Cavassoni, Lean had arranged for five different cameramen to record the explosion, and he set up an electronic panel with lights denoting which cameras were on. As the train began to roll, the lights turned on. Except for one. Forced to make a tough call, unaware of the safety of this cameraman, Lean called off the whole thing and it was rescheduled for the next day. Freddy Ford, the camera operator, had simply forgotten to start rolling.

While they didn’t exactly get along and suffered together through a difficult production, Spiegel and Lean would do the same just three years later for 1960s “Lawrence of Arabia.” For all their difficulties there, at least there were no bridges.

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