The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
O.K. now everybody whistle. A long film about “keeping a stiff upper lip” following orders and leadership earned David Lean his first Best Director Oscar (though Howard Hawks was originally asked to direct it). Can you image Cary Grant (as was originally planned) in lieu of William Holden? Alec Guinness received his only Best Actor Oscar; Sessue Hayakawa his only nomination. This Academy Award winning Best Picture also won for Writing Music Editing and Cinematography. Added to the National Film Registry in 1997. #13 on AFI’s 100 Greatest Movies list; #58 on AFI’s 100 Most Heart-Pounding Movies list. #14 on AFI’s 100 Most Inspiring Movies list.
Guinness is the British Officer in charge of the P.O.W.s (including James Donald among others) being held in a Japanese camp during World War II; Holden is an American among the prisoners who’s lied about being an officer for the benefits therein but escapes shortly after the captured British ‘battalion’ arrives. The ranking Japanese officer (Hayakawa) tries to force all the prisoners to build a train bridge in the jungle but loses a “battle of wills” to Guinness who insists that officers don’t have to labor per the Geneva Convention. However to keep his men’s spirits up Guinness agrees to build the bridge as long as he and his officers are put in charge. Faced with death if he doesn’t meet the deadline for completion Hayakawa acquiesces and subsequently “loses face”. Safely in Ceylon Holden is “found out” by a British Commando unit led by Jack Hawkins’s character and is more or less forced to join the team that plans to blow up the bridge before it can be used to assist the enemy.