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Recommend The Furniture: Mattes,Moons and Mountains in For Whom the Bell Tolls (Email)

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Daniel Walber's series on Production Design.Click on the images to see them in magnified detail.

Sam Wood directing Ingrid Bergman and Gary Cooper in 1943's top picture

It can seem kind of crazy thatFor Whom the Bell Tollswas the top box office hit of 1943.The star power of Ingrid Bergman and Gary Cooper played into it,of course.So did the fact that it was an adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's popular and recent novel.And there's the obvious appeal of Cooper fighting a bunch of Fascists,a year and a half after America's entry into World War Two.

The thing is,he doesn't actually do all that much fighting.No one in the film does.It's mostly a contemplative interlude on the fringes of the Spanish Civil War,a brutal vacation with a band of hardened guerrillas,a doomed love story built from trauma and consummated on the high rocks.It's 165 minutes of memory,frustration and stasis.

It also wound up with nine Oscar nominations,including both cinematography and art direction.And the collaboration between cinematographer Ray Rennahan and the design team of Hans Dreier,Haldane Douglas and Bertram C.Granger is really the highlight of the film,even against the life-giving energy of Katina Paxinou's Oscar-winning performance...


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