This is the British Empire Blogathon, hosted by The Stalking Moon and Phantom Empires, from November 14 through November 19, 2014. Enjoy the other bloggers’ posts, as well, eh what?
RKO’s 1939 adventure Gunga Din is an adventure of men who know when to have boyish fun, while also knowing when get they must realize when to also be dead serious! Of course, that doesn’t mean they can’t be pranksters, bless them!
Fun Fact: Producer Pandro S. Berman had been Lucille Ball’s sweetie at the time Gunga Din was in theaters!
Story by Joel Sayre and Fred Guiol
Story by Ben Hecht & Charles MacArthur, based on Rudyard Kipling’s poem.
Music: Alfred Newman
Produced and directed by George Stevens (Giant; A Place in the Sun)
|Cutter (Cary Grant) shows Din (Sam Jaffe)|
how to be all military
Who can get to the bottom of this evil mystery? Meet our wild and crazy Lancers and best buddies:
|Grant's perfect Stan Laurelesque expression|
never fails to get a laugh from us!
*Cutter (Cary Grant from Notorious; North By Northwest.) He’s always wishing, hoping, and praying for riches; get in line, Cutter! But he’d better be careful what he wishes wish for…
*MacChesney, the most seasoned and brashest of the men, played by Victor McLaglen from The Quiet Man, who also won the Best Actor Oscar in 1935 for John Ford’s drama The Informant. Our rowdy heroes are a lively bunch, boozing and brawling; men will be boys, bless them! It’s great rollicking fun, while still being surprisingly moving.
|This isn't a Bollywood number -- these Thugee|
|What should I know about it? Why axe me?|
Grant, McLaglen, and Fairbanks are truly a dream team, especially the nimble Grant, who was an acrobat in real life. The gags about Annie the elephant especially crack us up! But it all turns dead serious when our boys’ yen for gold turns into a matter of life or death when the riches they find turns out to be the Thuggees in the their rumpus room -- YIKES!
Can Din and Cutter and the rest save the day? Sam Jaffe, always a brilliant character actor (The Asphalt Jungle), touches my heart the best; he’s a little fella, but he turns out to have a heart of a lion. I defy you to watch the end without tears in your eyes, even if you think your're the biggest rough-neck in town!
Fun fact: - Reginald Sheffield: Rudyard Kipling in Gunga Din!
|Watch that first step, Annie - it's a Loo-Loo!!|
I get such a kick out of friendships among Grant, McLaglen, and Fairbanks. I also enjoyed Robert Coote (Merry Andrew; TV’s The Rogues) as Higgenbotham, a cadet who majors in bumbling.
Want to know for about the Thuggee cult? Watch The Deceivers (1988), starring Pierce Brosnan (1988), one of my dear late Mom's favorite films! (It didn't hurt that Brosnan was and still is a hottie -- but that's a blog post for another time!)
Vinnie plays a few notes -- It's somewhat ironic that Sam Jaffe gets fourth billing in the film, even though he plays the title character. Not to mention that he was forty-seven when he played the role, thought Din was usually described as a "boy." Nonetheless, he unsurprisingly crushes the role.
The film is another example of an "of the time" movie - the Indians were treated as almost sub-human, and no issue was found with that. Heck, I'm amazed the original poem hasn't been the target of a call for erasure from history for its treatment of the people. It's probably saved by the fact that so few people have actually read it.
Likely the main reason Din gets such short shrift is the film takes the tale of the epic poem and demotes it to the "B" plot. The main story is clearly that of the three Lancers, who are following a Rom-Com plot best seen in The Front Page, summarized as "Friends don't want to see one of their crew get married, and proceed to sabotage the nuptials." It's so standard a plot it's been getting done for decades -- the most recent example of it I can recall off the top of my head was Saving Silverman, but I'll bet y'all can think of others.
|Possibly the first example of the famous title credit|
"Suggested by a true story"
Like Nazis and Republicans, they make a great, easily hateable villain for a story. Even the master criminal Fu Manchu employed Thuggee as assassins.
There's been some controversy as to how much of the news of the Kali worshipers (where the modern word "thug" comes from, dontchaknow) that made it to Europe was real, and how much was a mix of xenophobic hyperbole. The Thuggee certainly existed, and killed many, though there's an argument that the motive was more Earthly that the religious aspect - Thuggee were certainly predominantly thieves, and the robbery was often more a goal than the ritual killing.