An American leads a group of peasants to blow up a bridge during the Spanish Civil War in this adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's novel.
In 1937 Spain a moving train is blown up. A wounded man asks Robert Jordan (Gary Cooper) to shoot him as promised, and he does. Gen. Golz orders Jordan to blow up a bridge at the start of an attack. Anselmo (Vladimir Sokoloff) is his guide and does not want to kill after this cause. Pablo (Akim Tamiroff) is the local boss. Maria (Ingrid Bergman) serves food in the mountains and says she has no man. Pilar (Katina Paxinou) gives orders to the gypsy Rafael (Mikhail Rasumny) and talks frankly with Jordan. Pablo refuses to help blow up the bridge with his men; but Pilar gets the men to support Jordan and the republic, and she calls Pablo a coward. Maria warns Jordan about Pablo. Rafael tells Jordan that Pablo is taking the horses and should be killed. Fascist planes fly over. Jordan sends Anselmo to watch troop movements. Fernando (Fortunio Bonanova) returns from town and says the republic is planning an offensive. Jordan tells El Sordo (Joseph Calleia) they need more men and horses. Pilar says she is ugly and leaves Jordan and Maria alone. Maria says her parents were killed. She and Jordan kiss. Jordan tells the others why he came to fight the Fascists. Pablo says he is drunk and refuses to be provoked. Pilar and the others vote to kill Pablo. Pilar tells how he killed four men, and then a crowd killed others.
Pablo leaves but comes back to attack the bridge. In the snow Jordan shoots a trooper and sends Pablo off on his horse. Jordan tells Maria to go back. Pablo and El Sordo return with men on horses and battle soldiers. Jordan refuses to fight for them because of the bridge. El Sordo fires five shots as a trick. The officer believes they are dead and is killed. They shoot at three planes and are bombed. Pablo comes back and hides some dynamite. Anselmo tells Jordan that trucks are crossing the bridge. Jordan sends a message to Gen. Golz about the attack. Maria tells Jordan how they shaved her head and raped her. Jordan says he loves her, and they talk of what might happen and their dreams. Maria says that she is his woman. Pilar tells Jordan that Pablo ruined the charges, and he plans to use grenades. Pablo comes back with three more men. Jordan kisses Maria goodbye. Jordan tells Anselmo to kill the sentry. Gen. Golz gets the message too late as the planes fly off. Fighting at the bridge begins. Anselmo shoots the sentry, and Jordan put dynamite in the bridge. Tanks arrive, and Rafael blows one up before he is killed. Jordan connects the wire. As tanks arrives, Jordan blows apart the bridge. Maria embraces Jordan. Pablo returns without his men and says there are enough horses. They each cross the road alone amid shooting, but Jordan gets a broken leg. He tells Maria to go for both of them, and she goes with Pilar. Jordan fires the machine gun at soldiers, and the bell tolls.
This heroic story of an American volunteering to fight
Fascists in Europe fit in well at this time when warfare was being
used by so many to decide such disputes.