Historical Events  Movies
The river Kwai's bridge

MMDE: The bridge over the river Kwai

Current: The bridge on the river Kwai

What was the exact title of the film?

The famous 1951 movie featuring Alec Guinness, William Holden and Jack Hawkins as POWs in a Japanese camp building a bridge to cross the river Kwai was called "The Bridge over the river Kwai" only if you are experiencing an MMDE. That's because it's actual title today is seen as "The bridge on the river Kwai".

This catches many people out. There is an interesting explanation, but since most of the people it affects would be totally unaware of this, it can probably be discounted. The film is based on the book called Le Pont de la Rivière Kwai, which translates to "The Kwai River Bridge", but that doesn't help clear things up either way. 


Many people also think the book and film are based on an exact set of events, whereas in fact it is fictional apart from the scenario of POW's working on the Burma Railway. The novel was written in 1952 by Pierre Boulle who was forced to work as a slave by the Japanese in Singapore and Indochina during the second world war. He changed the scenario to a railway from the plantations etc he worked on, and the French POW's to British ones, In particular, the stiff upper lip shown by the ficticious Lt. Colonel Nicholson would not have been possible in reality - conditions there were much worse than depicted.

An amusing irony after the release of the movie was the number of tourist who wanted to visit the bridge, or the site where it would have if it really had been destroyed as in the movie.

There's some evidence of the name being thought of the "old" way in a parody by The Goons, who released a record called The Bridge on the River Wye.

A final note on the comedy theme - in the movie, the tune to the march was whistled, rather than sung, because the lyrics to it were "Hitler has only got one ball" and this was considered too risque for the audiences of the day.