Based on the novel by Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls is a romantic drama set against the turbulent tapestry of the Spanish Civil War. Gary Cooper plays Robert Jordan, an idealistic American fighting with a Spanish guerilla band. He is assigned to blow up a crucial bridge in order to halt the enemy's progress. He falls in love with Maria (Ingrid Bergman), a young peasant girl who's joined the fight after being ill-used by enemy troops. Pablo (Akim Tamiroff), the eternally drunken leader of the guerillas, resents Jordan's attentions toward Maria, and he refuses to help Jordan in his sabotage work. Pablo's wife Pilar (Oscar-winner Katina Paxinou) takes over command of the guerillas and helps Jordan by arranging horses for the band's departure after their job is done. The man supplying the horses (Joseph Calleia) is killed, and Jordan is left to finish his task minus a means to escape. For Whom the Bell Tolls was a long, faithful adaptation of the Hemingway novel, with excellent performances, torrid love scenes, and first-rate Technicolor photography. Available for many years only in the 130-minute reissue version, it was restored to nearly its full original length of 168 minutes.
by Hal Erickson synopsis