Flicks in Five: 'The Bridge at Remagen' and 'The Great Escape'

by Lynne Warfel
May 27, 2014

Listen Flicks in Five: 'Remagen' and 'Great Escape'
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Poster advertising the 1963 film, 'The Great Escape'. (The Mirisch Company)

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So close to Memorial Day, we're considering music from two Hollywood war films unified by their great music written by distinctive composer Elmer Bernstein.

A wonderful aspect of Bernstein's oeuvre as a composer is that one cannot identify music as characteristically "Elmer Bernstein" — his music from one film to the next didn't sound like anything else. He never got in a rut; his work was distinct and varied.

Bernstein wrote for two military movies. One of them, The Bridge at Remagen, starred George Segal, Ben Gazzara and Robert Vaughn. Released in 1969, The Bridge at Remagen was not a hit at the box office, but it does have the distinction of being filmed on located in what was then called Czechoslovakia; concurrently with production, the Soviet army invaded to put a Communist government in place, and the cast and crew of The Bridge at Remagen had to flee the country in taxis.

Another film for which Elmer Bernstein composed is the very popular 1963 film, The Great Escape. Based on a true story and produced with a handful of former POWs serving as technical advisers, The Great Escape boasts a huge international cast and of course, an iconic and extremely popular soundtrack.