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Gunga Din (1939) Poster

(1939)

Trivia

The characters of Sergeants Cutter, Ballantine, and MacChesney were based on Privates Otheris, Mulvaney, and Learoyd from Kipling's "Soldiers Three" short stories.
Sabu was first choice to play Gunga Din; when it became clear he was unavailable, Sam Jaffe was hired in his place. In an interview years later, Jaffe (a Jewish Russian-American) was asked how he so convincingly played an Indian Muslim. Jaffe replied he kept telling himself to "Think Sabu."
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Mention is made of Chandragupta Maurya as a significant Indian soldier. He founded the Maurya empire, unifying much of India and becoming its first emperor.
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Opening credits: Those portions of this picture dealing with the worship of The Goddess Kali are based on historic fact.
The "bridge over the deep chasm" scene, in which Annie the elephant shakes a rope bridge while Cutter and Gunga Din are trying to cross it, was actually filmed on a bridge just eight feet off the ground. The background was a realistic painting of a chasm.
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Upon release a campaign was launched by the Indian magazine "Filmindia" against the misrepresentation of Indian caricatures in the film, and the displaying of insensitivity towards Hindu customs. Following riots in India and Malaya the film was withdrawn by the censors.
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Cary Grant's character's name is Archibald Cutter. Archibald was Grant's real name-Archibald Leach. He only referred to it once while reading a letter. It was an inside joke.
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Budgeted at $1.915 million, this was the most expensive film RKO had produced to that date. It was nearly a half million over budget.
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Bits and pieces of the film's use of Lone Pine's boulder-strewn area remain, including the anchors for the rope bridge across the "chasm". Some judicious referencing of the film, and stills from it, make for an interesting tour of the area to locate where a number of the scenes were shot.
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Director George Stevens' flair for comedy in this film is no accident. As a cameraman for Hal Roach, he filmed shorts with Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, was doubtless a friend of Charley Chase and had directed some of the "Boy Friends" shorts before his association with this film.
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Filming near Mount Whitney, McLaglen and Fairbanks came close to serious injury when a car they were in collided with a terrified elephant who had become very upset during a thunderstorm.
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At the time he was playing water-boy Gunga Din, Sam Jaffe was 47 years old.
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Eight make-up artists were sent to the Lone Pine set, where they worked for the six weeks of location shooting. Over 600 extras were employed in the Mount Whitney scenes.
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In March 1939, the Kipling family objected to a reporter being called Rudyard Kipling, prompting RKO to eliminate that scene from the film when it was re-released. However, it is in the prints available today. The scheduled release date of December 1938 was postponed for retakes. John Sturges, an uncredited editor on this film, directed the remake, Sergeants 3 (1962).
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Director George Stevens had Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Cary Grant flip a coin for the role of Cutter. Grant won. But there's also a report that Grant was dissatisfied with his original role of Ballantine and convinced producer Pandro S. Berman to allow him to switch roles with Fairbanks.
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Kelly Reilly had long wanted to make "Gunga Din," and in 1936 brought in Howard Hawks to develop the project. Hawks felt Robert Donat or Ronald Colman were the best choices for the lead with Spencer Tracy as second lead, and early in 1937 he considered Ray Milland and Franchot Tone. However when Hawks took too much time on Bringing Up Baby (1938) he was taken off the project. It's also been said that Hawks was dropped from the film because "Baby" ended up as a box-office bomb, even though it has survived as a comedy classic.
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Was second only to Gone with the Wind (1939) as the biggest money-maker of 1939.
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The battle between the Thuggees and the British Indian army was added when RKO considered the ending too bland.
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In some prints, the actor playing Rudyard Kipling, has been replaced on one side of the screen by a rather shaky matte when the last lines of poem "Gunga Din" are read. The change was made because of objections from the Kipling family.
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Joan Fontaine fell in love with director George Stevens during filming.
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The film was made before support for Indian independence became a cause celebre in the United States during World War II.
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Menahem Golan's Cannon Films planned a remake in the 80's, and their dream cast was Sean Connery, Michael Caine, Roger Moore and in the title role, Ben Kingsley.
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Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
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Inspired a comedy recording, "The Last Blast of the Blasted Bugler", by Sonny Giannotta, released on ABC Records in 1962.
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Favorite film of actor Tony Curtis.
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