The adventurous Lady Edwina Esketh travels to the princely state of Ranchipur in India with her husband, Lord Albert Esketh, who is there to purchase some of the Maharajah's horses. She's ... See full summary »
The adventurous Lady Edwina Esketh travels to the princely state of Ranchipur in India with her husband, Lord Albert Esketh, who is there to purchase some of the Maharajah's horses. She's surprised to meet an old friend, Tom Ransome who came to Ranchipur seven years before to paint the Maharajah's portrait and just stayed on. Ransome has developed something of a reputation - for womanizing and drinking too much - but that's OK with Edwina who is bored and looking for fun. She soon meets the local doctor, the hard working and serious Major Rama Safti. He doesn't immediately respond to her advances but when the seasonal rains come, disaster strikes when a dam fails, flooding much of the countryside. Disease soon sets in and everyone, including Ransome and Edwina, work at a non-stop pace to save as many as possible. Safti deeply admires Edwina's sacrifice but fate intervenes. Written by
Modern sources list Harry Revel as co-writer of the title song; however, he is not listed on the published sheet music or in the ASCAP database for the song. See more »
Even though Rama and Lady Edwima are caught in the same thundershower on the same street, when they arrive at Mr. Das' music school, his clothes are wet while hers are amazingly dry. Also's the wet spots on Rama's clothes migrate to different areas from scene to scene as they move from room to room in the school. See more »
[Major Safti has just been handed an important note]
What is it, Major?
Major Rama Safti:
It has come sooner than I expected: several cases of the plague in the Sweepers Quarters. On top of that, half the water in Ranchipur must be polluted.
Do what you can to keep the plague from spreading. Burn down the whole Quarter if you must.
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Each set of credits (except for the 20th Century-Fox logo) disintegrates after it appears, as if it were washed away by the rain falling in the background. See more »
Love, disaster, melodrama, colonial India in the rains!
The Rains Came (1939)
At first I thought this was a post-war movie, which would make it a post-Independence movie for India from the British. And since the story starts in 1938, the events would seem to lead to that huge turnover, told Hollywood style. That was fine with me.
But no, and even better. Instead we have a pure drama that happens to be set in troubled India. World War II isn't even a fact for the film or the filmmakers, so the colonial feeling is quite sincere, and easy to poke a little fun at. In fact, the movie begins by making clear the snobbery of the British ruling elite, the women who want only the finest friends and the men who want only their frivolous jobs. The natives, the Indians themselves, have only a small presence, and the two Indian leaders are played by non-Indians, as was unfortunately usual for Hollywood at the time.
The drama starts slowly, and even when Myrna Loy finally appears (and she is terrific enough to make an instant difference) the actual story still winds its slow way along. George Brent as the leading man always colors a film because he's easy going and likable to the point of calmness, which can easily become dullness. Still, he's rock steady and I like him. And Tyrone Power, who as the devastating good looks to upend things, is kept in a reserved and steady role, too, playing an Indian doctor with clearly British training. There is a fourth main character, more of a cliché of sorts but important to the story, an overly young blonde and naive girl just over eighteen who wants Brent in every way. And seems by the middle flood scenes to get him where he is best got.
Yes, this is a love melodrama set in steamy, rainy, exotic India. As a drama it's good, though lacking some kind of drive to make it chilling or weepy or whatever might send it over the top. But there are aspects here that are really exceptional. One of them is the stunning job on the earthquake and flood scenes. Special effects being completely physical back then, it's astonishing how realistic it all is. There is some back projection, but no retouching or double exposure that I could see, and no computer graphics of course, just elaborate models and slow motion to fool you about the scale of everything. But beyond the feat of pulling it off is just the aesthetic handling of movement and space as the world crumbles, literally.
The scenes that follow the devastation are in flood stage with continuing rain, and it's pretty good stuff. And of course there's something of a metaphor to it all, the outsiders (mostly British, but some Americans, who of course don't have quite the same classist attitudes) feel just how outside they are. There is always, for them, the possibility to just leave, and a few no doubt do, but mostly people knuckle down and help with the disaster relief. Loy has been bored and spoiled until now, and she helps at the hospital, partly to be with the searing doctor. And Brent ends up helping, too (which we expect--he's a good guy) and his young hanger-on sticks to his side, maturing quickly.
"The English are an odd people," the Indian maharani says, and nothing is more true. There they are, these colonialists, sticking it out through really awful times, helping and and suffering equally. Yes, they have pampered lives compared to the common person there, but it's no picnic, the heat and disease and hardship. Toward the end Brent persuades Power to rise up from his sadness. You were "...born in the darkness and filth that was India. You are India. A new India!" This is a movie about rising up in general, being better, forgetting differences and also forgetting selfishness.
The director Clarence Brown has a handful of really terrific films in his career, and this one shows why--it's subtle and beautiful and also a bit epic in its own way. It's also gorgeously filmed, from the devastation to the smallest intimacies, all under the eye of Arthur Miller, a legend in cinematography already, and with some classics to come as well. Although meant to be filmed without flashy distraction, it's handled with enormous grace and depth. It's classy and classic stuff. And the music is typically dramatic and scored to follow the action by another great, Alfred Newman.
The chilling and beautiful opening titles that melt off each page in a dripping wash give a clue of what is to follow, with an ominousness latent throughout. Then, toward the end, after surviving catastrophe, a simple mistake, and a realization that time is short, and the drama becomes a weepy tragedy. It doesn't get any better than that!
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