Kwai Me a River

After The Bridge on the River Kwai was released, the magazines that printed a joke section all seemed to have some variation of this one:

I came across a fellow peeling onions on a bridge and when I asked him why, he said he wanted to see the bridge on the river cry.

Even at eight or nine years old I thought that one was lame.

I went to see the movie when it arrived at the Neptune Theatre, but that wouldn’t have been until well into 1958 as the movie was released in December 1957. Clocking in at two hours and forty two minutes, it would have only had one showing per evening, and it had probably been booked for either Wednesday or Thursday through Saturday nights. 

As I think I saw it on a weeknight, it was probably there during the summer when school was out. And for the life of me, given its length and its subject matter, I don’t know how nine-year-old Jimmy sat through the whole thing, because it’s not the most engrossing story for a youngster.

In fact, I didn’t fully understand it.


If you haven’t seen the movie and don’t want the ending spoiled, don’t read any further.

I couldn’t understand why Alec Guiness’s character, who had spent the better part of the movie getting his men to build a good solid bridge, would, in the final moments of the movie, blow the whole thing to smithereens as his dying act. It just didn’t make any sense.

And I said so to Lynn Klopp (our classmate Randy’s father) the next day when I went to the Snack Bar. It wasn’t very busy so Lynn had a few minutes to chat with me. He explained the whole movie and why Guiness’s pride in British know-how had initially blinded him into building the best bridge possible, and then once he realized that he had been aiding and abetting the enemy, why he had to blow it up.

Oh, that made sense.


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