THE BRIDGES AT TOKO-RI is a solid Korean War drama, effectively adapted from James A. Michener’s slim novel. William Holden draws another natural portrait from his Everyman gallery, as Lt. Harry Brubaker, a Navy jet pilot who wonders why it is that fate called him back into the service, away from his job in Denver and his loving wife (Grace Kelly).
Wisely, the movie neither kneecaps you with futility or bats you over the head with Old Glory, but instead tells a straightforward story of ordinary men caught up in the extraordinary.
Uniformly fine acting; backing Holden and Kelly are Fredric March, Mickey Rooney, Earl Holliman, Robert Strauss and Charles McGraw. Excellent photography (Loyal Griggs) of the carrier jet operations, with spectacular special effects when the planes run the gauntlet at the title bridges (it slammed an Oscar for these sequences).
The finale, with Holden and Rooney trapped in an irrigation ditch, surrounded by the Communists, packs excitement, courage, terror and tragedy into a few haunting, unforgettable moments.
Directed in 1954 by Mark Robson, it runs 103 minutes, was also nominated for Film Editing, and features Willis Bouchley, Teru Shimada, Dennis Weaver and Corey Allen. It pulled $11,000,000, placing it in the #15 spot of the year. Adjusting box-office numbers for inflation, this ranks as Holden’s sixth most popular film with audiences. The star’s younger brother was a fighter pilot, killed in WW2.