30 July 2015

Fairbanks AK, USA

The short but intense life of Christopher McCandles is the subject of the film INTO THE WILD. The true story is based on the book by the same name of Jon Krakauer who describes how, after two years of travelling across North America, Christopher McCandles died in Alaska at the age of 24. Disappointed in society he had decided to drastically change his life after graduating.

Into the Wild, 1:43:10
Without notifying his family and friends he left his conventional life and set out for a long journey that would end in Alaska. In the Denali Borough, far away from the civilized world, he found an old city bus used by hunters to spend the night. He stayed here for several months but would not survive. He died most probably of starvation, perhaps in combination with eating a toxic plant.

Filming all over the United States was done between 24 April and 4 November 2006. Alaska was visited several times. The movie opens with Christopher McCandles (Emile Hirsch) arriving in Fairbanks, the third largest city of Alaska. His image is not seen, only lines from a postcard he sent to Wayne Westerberg (Vince Vaughn), his employer for a short time. While Eddie Vedder’s “Guaranteed” is playing, one of the 11 songs composed specially for the film, various images of the Fairbanks area are shown.

The Chena River runs through the city. From the Barnette St Bridge the power plant is visible on the left and on the right is the Elks Lodge #1551, a community building with settlements all over the United States. An elk is a deer which explains the deer on top of the building. The address is 1003 Pioneer Rd. The official name of the power plant is Aurora Energy Coal Power Plant and District Heat System and is shown a second time. The building is located at 1206 1st Ave.

Into the Wild, 0:01:43
View from Barnette St Bridge, Fairbanks, 18 July 2015
Into the Wild, 0:01:47
Aurora Energy Coal Power Plant, Fairbanks, 18 July 2015

Near the Barnette St Bridge is The Big-I, the oldest bar in Fairbanks and one of the city’s best known places. This Irish pub can be found at 122 N Turner St. During filming the full name, The Big International, was on the facade.

Into the Wild, 0:01:45
The Big-I, Fairbanks, 18 July 2015

2nd Ave is within walking distance of Barnette St on the other side of the river. On the left is supermarket Co-op at number 535 and Soapy Smith’s Pioneer Restaurant is at number 543. The buildings have hardly changed, the banner of the restaurant is still the same but has visible traces of bad weather.

Into the Wild, 0:01:50
2nd Ave, Fairbanks, 18 July 2015

Just down the road, near the river, is the Masonic Temple at 809 1st Ave. As is seen above the name, this historic building dates from 1906. It has had several owners, during our visit it was empty. Although listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it is falling into disrepair.

Into the Wild, 0:01:50
Masonic Temple, Fairbanks, 18 July 2015

Outside the city is Gold Hill, a liquor store on the Parks Highway, connecting Fairbanks with Denali National Park. The number is 3040 but from the road the yellow building, now renewed, is easy to spot.

Into the Wild, 0:02:27
Gold Hill, Fairbanks, 16 July 2015

On the other side of the city Alaskan Prospectors is located, a store specialized in “Alaska Gold prospecting equipment and information” as is stated on their website. It is has been in business for more than 40 years. The address is 504 College Road.

Into the Wild, 0:02:30
Alaskan Prospectors, Fairbanks, 18 July 2015
Into the Wild, 0:02:31
Alaskan Prospectors, Fairbanks, 18 July 2015

The Down Under Guns shop was closed in 2007. The address we found online, 318 Driveaway St, is an abandoned lot. The building has completely dissolved.

Into the Wild, 0:02:35
Fairbanks, 18 July 2015

Screenshots © Paramount Vantage/River Road Entertainment

27 July 2015

Nijmegen, Netherlands

For A BRIDGE TOO FAR, the film by director Richard Attenborough based on the book with the same name by Cornelius Ryan about Operation Market Garden, cost nor effort were spared. With a budget of 26 million dollar it was the most expensive movie made up to then. Between April and October of 1976 on location shoots with an all-star cast were made on several places in the Netherlands. The local stores of Deventer, where the major part was filmed, did good business.

A Bridge too Far, 1:55:35
Recently I found out that also Nijmegen, the city I have been living since 1987, is seen in the movie as well.
Unlike the Arnhem bridge, the Waal Bridge was successfully secured by the allied forces but at the cost of many lives. On 20 September 1944 the bridge was recaptured from the Germans by attacking it from two sides.

An extended report on the battle of the Waal Bridge can be found on the website Strijdbewijs (Dutch only). The differences between what really happened and the movie are also explained which I used, with gratitude, for this blog.
The Waal Bridge was formally opened on 16 June 1936 by Queen Wilhelmina, as is shown in the cinema journal Polygoon. The bridge connects Nijmegen with Lent and the northern parts of the Netherlands. During World War II it was one of the most important bridges in the Netherlands to be recaptured from the Germans, along with the nearby railroad bridge.

The days of shooting in Nijmegen were the last of the movie. Because of the sunny and warm summer of 1976 filming had proceeded as scheduled but at the end of September the weather was more cloudy. The city of Nijmegen had agreed in closing the bridge for all traffic, including boats, on three Sunday mornings but no longer than one hour for each day. Three hours were sufficient and on 3 October 1976 the final scenes were filmed.

A Bridge too Far, 1:55:50
Waal Bridge, Nijmegen, 10 May 2015

The Waal Bridge is first seen when General-major Karl Ludwig (Hardy Krüger), in Nijmegen, watches his army march over the bridge. In reality his name was Harmel and he was watching from Lent on the other side of the river. Behind the general is the St. Stevens Church. The tower however had collapsed during the bombing of Nijmegen on 22 February 1944. The third time the tower is shown the image is mirrored. The church was rebuilt after the war and restored in 2015, which explains the scaffolds seen by the small tower.

A Bridge too Far, 1:55:38
St. Stevens Church, Nijmegen, 15 May 2015
A Bridge too Far, 1:55:46
Waal Bridge, Nijmegen, 10 May 2015
A Bridge too Far, 2:12:40
St. Stevens Church, Nijmegen, 15 May 2015
A Bridge too Far, 2:16:02
St. Stevens Church, Nijmegen, 15 May 2015

In the film the explosives that are attached under the bridge are clearly visible, in reality these were hidden. The Germans wanted to destroy the bridge if the allied forces would recapture it. In the meantime German soldiers, played by Dutch extras, are climbing on top of the bridge and tying themselves so they cannot fall off.

A Bridge too Far, 2:16:03
Waal Bridge, Nijmegen, 15 May 2015
A Bridge too Far, 2:16:07
Waal Bridge, Nijmegen, 15 May 2015
A Bridge too Far, 2:16:10
Waal Bridge, Nijmegen, 15 May 2015

Blowing up the bridge was not going to happen: a part did not go off, another part was deactivated by the Americans and already on 18 September Jan van Hoof, member of the resistance, had cut several fuses.
He was killed the following day during fights at the Waalkade, near the bridge. After the war a memorial stone was placed on one of the pillars of the bridge, made by Jac. Maris and revealed on 18 September 1945.
Jan van Hoof is depicted while defusing the bombs. The text under the sculpture reads "Aan Jan v. Hoof, zijn medestrijders, 18-IX-1945 O.Str.Nymegen" (To Jan van Hoof, his fellow combatants, 18-IX-1945 O.Str.Nijmegen).

The place where he died, the corner of the Lange Hezelstraat and the Nieuwe Markt, was marked in 1945 by a commerative plate in the pavement. It reads, in Dutch, "Jan van Hoof fell here, Saviour of the Waal Bridge, 19_9_1944". The stone plate is now part of Joris Ivens Square, which is within walking distance from the Waalkade. Jan van Hoof's name is also on the Resistance Monument at the Trajanus Square.

Commanded by Major Julian Cook (Robert Redford), the 82nd Airborne Division is crossing the Waal in canvas assault boats. They are immediately attacked with heavy fire by the Germans. The river was crossed on the west side of the railroad bridge. Because of the urban surroundings that were built after the war, these scenes were filmed on the east of the Waal Bridge, now rowing from north to south. In the background the chimney of De Vlietberg, a stone factory in the Ooy Polder, can be seen. Protests of owners of nearby houseboats were rejected by the council of Ubbergen because there was no law prohibiting “three days of explosions”.

A Bridge too Far, 2:12:43
Waal River, 15 May 2015

After reaching the other side of the river fights between the Americans and the Germans continue. Major Cook and his men manage to reach the bridge quickly and again they are met with heavy fire, amongst others at the viaduct which now bears the name of Sergeant Peter Robinson. It was named after Sergeant Robinson of the British Grenadier Guards who was the first to cross the Waal Bridge with his tank on 20 September 1944.

A Bridge too Far, 2:16:16
Waal Bridge seen from Lent, 15 May 2015
A Bridge too Far, 2:16:23
Sergeant Robinsonviaduct, Lent, 15 May 2015 
Sergeant Robinsonviaduct, Lent, 15 May 2015 

After the Waal River broke its banks in 1993 and 1995 threatening Nijmegen with floods, it was decided to, amongst others, construct an ancillary channel and an extension of the bridge in Lent. Work started in 2012, at the time the photos were made it was still in progress. The project will be finalized in 2016.

A Bridge too Far, 2:16:19
Waal Bridge, Lent, 15 May 2015
A Bridge too Far, 2:18:10
Waal Bridge, Lent, 15 May 2015

The Waal Bridge itself has also changed. Besides being repainted the bridge has been broaded in the 90’s on the west side for a bus lane. The stone pillar that Major Cook hides behind was removed and replaced with an iron fence. On the other side of the bridge the pillars remain, to compare the situations then and now a photo of the east side is included as well, even though the scene was filmed on the west side.

A Bridge too Far, 2:17:40
Waal Bridge, Nijmegen, 15 May 2015
A Bridge too Far, 2:17:42
Waal Bridge, Nijmegen, 10 May 2015
A Bridge too Far, 2:17:49
Waal Bridge, Nijmegen, 15 May 2015
A Bridge too Far, 2:17:53
Waal Bridge, Nijmegen, 15 May 2015

Memorial for the Grenadier Guards
placed on the Waal Bridge in 1994
During filming it became clear that the part that the Grenadier Guards commanded by the above mentioned Sergeant Robinson had in capturing the bridge was left out which made it seem as if the Americans did it all on their own, which is historically incorrect. The taking of the railroad bridge was also left out of the screenplay. After several protests this distorted image of the actual situation was partly changed by filming an additional scene. Tanks of the Grenadier Guards are seen driving from the Waalkade towards the Waal Bridge.

Most houses at the Oude Haven have been demolished in the 80’s to make room for new buildings. Still recognizable is the house at number 102 (built in 1906, until recently a galerie) and the large patrician’s house dating from around 1780 with numbers 104 until 108a. The building is called De Zeemeermin (The Mermaid), because of the decoration surrounding the window above the entrance. In 1983 the house was completely restored to its original state.

A Bridge too Far, 2:17:14
Oude Haven, Nijmegen, 10 May 2015
A Bridge too Far, 2:17:17
Oude Haven, Nijmegen, 10 May 2015
De Zeemeermin, Oude Haven, Nijmegen, 10 May 2015
A Bridge too Far, 2:17:35
Waal Bridge, Nijmegen, 15 May 2015
A Bridge too Far, 2:18:26
Waal Bridge, Nijmegen, 15 May 2015

Since Robert Redford was one of the film’s main stars he is seen in the final scene, while tanks cross the Waal Bridge. Princess Margriet of the Netherlands and her husband LLM Pieter van Vollenhoven paid a visit to the set in Nijmegen.

A Bridge too Far, 2:19:45
Waal Bridge, Nijmegen, 15 May 2015
A Bridge too Far, 2:19:48
Waal Bridge, Nijmegen, 15 May 2015
LLM Pieter van Vollenhoven, Robert Redford,
and Princess Margriet
Amigoe di Curaçao, 7 October 1976

During the crossing 48 soldiers were killed. I’m glad Nijmegen has not forgotten them. When a third bridge was completed in 2013 it was called The Crossing, commemorating this heroic event. It has 48 pairs of lanterns that are lit every evening one by one while a veteran crosses the bridge. The names of all 48 men are also on a memorial at the Oosterhoutse Dijk.

Waal Crossing Memorial, Oosterhoutse Dijk,
Nijmegen, 22 March 2021

For an overview of every location in this movie, see my blog Hollands Decor (in Dutch).

Screenshots © Joseph E. Levine Productions
News paper photo © Amigoe di Curaçao