Producer Thomas Ince's East-West thematic preoccupation reappeared in various forms, as I outline in my Ince biography. The interest was evident as he planned a spectacular production set in India, contemplating a recent Talbot Mundy story, before deciding to again film a Louis Joseph Vance novel, The Bronze Bell, published in 1909.
Ince had previously used the Indian rebellion of 1857 as the background of his Kay-Bee movie The Beggar of Cawnpore (1916), relating an Englishman finding his redemption from drug debauchery. India had also been the setting for The Beckoning Flame (1916) and The Toast of Death (1915), in which a ballet dancer who loves an Englishman and an Indian prince continues her relationship with both men after marrying the prince, until he learns the truth and inflicts retribution on the deceivers.
The Bronze Bell opens in Kuttapur where, as the Maharajah lays dying, Prime Minister Salig Singh tries to force his son, Prince Har Dyal Rutton, into endorsing a call for war. Instead, Rutton flees to the United States, where he meets David Amber, an authority on India, who bears a strong resemblance to him (both are played by Courtenay Foote). Rutton dies from fever, knowing his country is in danger because he has been "summoned" to undergo the "Ordeal of the Bell" and declare a revolt against the English. Amber goes back to India, taking his friend's identity, and exposes the fakir who is the real voice of the bell. Through their separate actions, the best of both lands, Rutton and Amber, have brought peace in a manner that would become the filmic convention for supporting colonialism.
James W. Horne directed The Bronze Bell from September 8 to October 23, 1920. Publicity emphasized the spectacle: costumes, décor, and opulent set filling studio stages. Equally, authenticity was also promised in presenting the Indian atmosphere. The six reel movie cost $128,025, but grossed a mere $162,404, dampening Ince's intentions to present similar subject matter.
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