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 ...
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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
According to Arthur Miller - the cinematographer who replaced Glennon - the real reason that Glennon left the production was not illness but because Clarence Brown was not happy with his work, believing it was "not brilliant enough". According to Miller, Brown "wanted the whole thing to shine. And Glennon made it shadowy and soft" (Miller quoted in Higham. Hollywood Cameramen. 143). Glennon walked off the production and Miller stepped in. Miller also repeats this version of events in his own autobiography, One Reel a Week. See more »
Even though Rama and Lady Edwina are caught in the same thundershower on the same street, when they arrive at Mr. Das's music school, his clothes are wet while hers are incongruously 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 »
Old-Fashioned Exotic Melodrama with a Smoldering Loy and Special Effects That Still Impress
In the same high-watermark year that saw the burning of Atlanta in "Gone With the Wind" and Dorothy's house spinning perilously in a tornado in "The Wizard of Oz", this little-seen 1939 romantic melodrama won the first Oscar ever awarded to a film for Best Special Effects. Seventy years later, the earthquake-to-flood sequence still holds up impressively, even in the age of CGI programming with a surprisingly seamless combination of models, mattes and huge dump tanks. The artistry of Fox effects whiz Fred Sersen's work is worth slogging through the first fifty minutes of archaic set-up. Directed by MGM veteran Clarence Brown ("The Yearling"), the story would appear to have the makings of a romantic triangle given the three leads, but it actually consists of two contrasting love stories.
Set in colonial India at its most exotic (although filmed entirely on the studio back lot), one thread centers on Tom Ransome, an aging, alcoholic British playboy pursued by Fern Simon, the love-struck daughter of local missionaries. The other is the forbidden romance that develops between Lady Edwina Esketh, the adulterous British wife of a pompous horse breeder and Major Rama Safti, a Hindu doctor devoted to his homeland. The calamitous disaster obviously veers all four off course as they find themselves re-evaluating their feelings for one another until fate steps in and decides for them. The second love story is obviously a metaphor for the diminishing hold Britain had on India in the years prior to Mahatma Gandhi's rise as the leader of the burgeoning republic. However, the May-December romance between Ransome and Fern initially follows a "Lolita"-esque course that offsets the balance of the film. Course correction comes with the unusually well-cast principals.
Usually playing warm-hearted wives both scrappy ("The Thin Man") and noble ("The Best Years of Our Lives"), Myrna Loy surprises with a sexy, assured performance as Lady Edwina. She cuts a diaphanous figure as a voracious temptress and transitions convincingly to a woman desperate for moral redemption. It's a shame Loy had so few opportunities to show this uncensored side of her talent. Ridiculously handsome, Tyrone Power doesn't look remotely Indian even with a turban and constant tan. During the matinée idol phase of his career, he lacked depth and nuance, for example, take note of his embarrassing bad breakdown scene late in the film. However, he is obviously here for eye candy, and Loy's lustful glances are well justified in this regard.
Perhaps because he is not playing opposite the vivid fieriness of constant co-star Bette Davis ("Dark Victory"), the usually bland George Brent is terrifically engaging as Ransome. I have to admit his witty banter with Loy held my interest far more than the concealed passion between her and Power. For better or worse, Brenda Joyce brings a strangely off-kilter dimension to Fran. Several great recognizable character actors fill the supporting parts, a few playing purely Hollywood versions of exotics - Jane Darwell, Henry Travers, H.B. Warner, Marjorie Rambeau, Joseph Schildkraut though none makes a more vivid impression than Maria Ouspenskaya ("Dodsworth", "Love Affair") as the worldly wise Maharani with her dangling cigarette holder. The print transfer on the 2005 Fox Studios Classic DVD is impressively pristine. There is a chatty commentary track from film aficionados Anthony Slide and Robert S. Birchard, a gallery of stills, and the original theatrical trailer.
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