13 May 2024

Deventer, Netherlands

For the film A BRIDGE TOO FAR producer Joseph E. Levine aimed to film as much as possible on location in the Netherlands, where events had taken place during Operation Market Garden in World War II. However, not a single scene would be filmed in Arnhem, the Gelderland capital where the bridge from the title stands.

A Bridge Too Far, 2:41:28
The film is based on the book of the same name by Cornelius Ryan from 1974, about the Allied military offensive against Nazi Germany in September 1944, both from the air (Market) and on the ground (Garden). British, Polish and American troops managed to capture key bridges in the south of the Netherlands, including the Waal Bridge (see also Nijmegen, Netherlands).

The advance stalled at the Rhine Bridge in Arnhem. Operation Market Garden failed, although the south of the Netherlands was liberated.

Deventer seen from the Wilhelmina Bridge, 30 April 2024 
Filming started on 26 April 1976. In the more than 30 years that had passed since the Battle of Arnhem, the area around the Rhine Bridge had changed much due to postwar architecture that a the World War II movie could not be filmed here. Yugoslavia was briefly considered, until Deventer came into the picture: also an arch bridge and an area where little had changed since the war.

To mark the film's 45th anniversary, local broadcaster RTV Oost published a report on 26 April 2021, Hollywood in Deventer: 45 years ago, the city was the setting for a world-famous war film, on filming in Deventer. The presence of the film crew reportedly earned the city 5 million guilders (2.3 million euros/2.4 million US dollars).

Deventer is first seen when German soldiers walk through Arnhem. They are watched by the son (Erik van 't Wout) of a resistance leader (Siem Vroom) from his room. The soldiers walk from Kerksteeg to Rijkmanstraat; the resistance leader's house is number 48. This was the first scene filmed.

A Bridge Too Far, 0:10:12
Corner Kerksteeg and Rijkmanstraat, Deventer, 30 April 2024 
A Bridge Too Far, 0:10:19
Rijkmanstraat 48, Deventer, 30 April 2024

Operation Market Garden has begun. In Leopoldsburg, Flanders, Lieutenant General Brian Horrocks (Edward Fox) arrives at the headquarters of the XXX Corps. Brink, the central square in Deventer city centre, was chosen to represent the Belgian city. The building in the background is De Waag, built from 1528 to 1531 and now Museum De Waag.

A Bridge Too Far, 0:28:13
De Waag, Brink, Deventer, 30 April 2024

At cinema Splendid, Horrocks gives a briefing on the operation. Splendid had been demolished in 1973, this is cinema Luxor Plaza at Brink 20. In 1977, A Bridge Too Far was shown at Luxor Plaza, which must have been a strange sensation for the visitors: on the screen, you see the room you are in. The cinema closed in 1983 but the building remained, now home to event venue Chicago Club.

A Bridge Too Far, 0:28:52
Chicago Club, Brink 20, Deventer, 30 April 2024

The 2nd Parachute Battalion, led by Lieutenant Colonel John Frost (Anthony Hopkins), has reached Arnhem after landing on the Ginkelse Heide. The soldiers walk from Duimpoort to Polstraat in the old centre of Deventer. The Wilhelmina Bridge can be seen for the first time, as well as the tower of the Lebuinus Church. The bridge, named after the then queen of the Netherlands, was blown up by the Germans in 1945 and rebuilt in 1948 according to the original design.

A Bridge Too Far, 1:13:02
Duimpoort, Deventer, 30 April 2024
A Bridge Too Far, 1:13:16
Polstraat, Deventer, 30 April 2024

Next to the Wilhelmina Bridge was a car park in 1976. A set consisting of several houses was built here. Today it is a car park.

A Bridge Too Far, 1:13:36
Emmastraat, Deventer, 30 April 2024

Frost and Major Harry Carlyle (Christopher Good) go up on the roof of one of these houses to view the bridge. The Bergkerk or St Nicholas Church can be seen in the background. The Rhine Bridge in Arnhem would be named after John Frost (1912-1993) in 1978.

A Bridge Too Far, 1:15:30
Bergkerk, Deventer, 30 April 2024

Carlyle walks onto the bridge with an umbrella. Holding up the umbrella would be the signal to advance. In reality, this was done by this Major Digby Tatham-Warter. To the left of the bridge, across the river IJssel, the sails of the Bolwerks Mill can be seen.

A Bridge Too Far, 1:15:43
Wilhelmina Bridge, Deventer, 30 April 2024
A Bridge Too Far, 1:15:56
Wilhelmina Bridge, Deventer, 30 April 2024

Wilhelmina Fountain,
Deventer, 30 April 2024
After Eindhoven is liberated, residents celebrate exuberantly in the streets. The tank of Lieutenant Colonel John O.E. Vandeleur (Michael Caine) drives across Brink, now filmed from the other side. In the centre of the square is the Wilhelmina Fountain, just like the bridge named after the queen. The statue standing on the column represents the Deventer city maiden. The fountain dates from 1898, the year of Wilhelmina's inauguration. Between 1960 and 1985, and thus also during filming, the fountain had been removed because of car traffic. Since 1993, the square has been car-free.

A Bridge Too Far, 1:31:00
Brink, Deventer, 30 April 2024

After German sergeant Matthias (Lex van Delden) has crossed the bridge with the white flag, he returns to General Wilhelm Bittrich (Maximilian Schell) to give a report. The bridge can now be seen from Bolwerksweg.

A Bridge Too Far, 2:00:55
Bolwerksweg, Deventer, 30 April 2024

In Arnhem, the resistance leader sees in horror that there are many deaths to mourn. Kerksteeg 12, opposite the previously mentioned Bergkerk.

A Bridge Too Far, 2:01:54
Kerksteeg 12, Deventer, 30 April 2024

Jan Spaander (Laurence Olivier), a Dutch doctor, is taken by the Germans and is driven through a destroyed Arnhem. Muggeplein in the Noordenberg Quarter, which was a neighbourhood in decline mid-70s but has since been completely renewed. The only similarity between 1976 and 2024 is the spire of the Lebuinus Church, circled in red.

A Bridge Too Far, 2:37:32
Muggeplein, Deventer, 30 April 2024

Deventer is last seen as Major General Stanisław Sosabowski (Gene Hackman), Lieutenant General Frederick Browning (Dirk Bogarde), Brigadier General James Gavin (Ryan O'Neal), Horrocks and Vandeleur meet atop a church tower. Again the Lebuinis Church, at 38 Grote Kerkhof. The actors were not actually standing on the church tower, this was a set built on the other side of the Wilhelmina Bridge. However, it is possible to climb the 220 steps of the 46-metre (150 feet) church tower, for more information see the Lebnuiskerk website.

A Bridge Too Far, 2:40:29
Lebuinis Church, Deventer, 30 April 2024
A Bridge Too Far, 2:40:39
Lebuinis Church, Deventer, 30 April 2024

Many thanks to the website Strijdbewijs (Dutch only) for background information.

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

Screenshots © Joseph E. Levine Productions