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Monday, January 19, 2009

THE FOUR FEATHERS (1939)


The Korda brothers (producer Alex, director Zoltan & designer Vincent) got just about everything right in this tremendous version of the oft-filmed British Empire tale. John Clements is the seemingly weak scion of a long line of British officers who redeems his valour (Anglophiles, note the spelling) after he resigns his commission and receives four white feathers of cowardice. There’s a late silent version from 1929 that sounds pretty marvelous, but certainly none of the many sound versions comes within shouting distance of this Technicolor gem. Love, honour, derring-do, native disguises, Fuzzy-Wuzzies, a grand score from Miklos Rozsa & stunning studio lensing from Georges Perinal & Jack Cardiff, plus legendary location footage from Osmond Barradaile that was pilfered for years after. Ralph Richardson is a standout as the officer who loses his heart and his sight, and character actor supreme, C. Aubrey Smith is at his most iconic. The story is cleverly designed so that it comes down on all sides of the usual debates on British colonialism & the military, but no one takes sides against this classic telling, yet another 1939 winner.

1 comment:

The Rush Blog said...

Watching this movie reminded me of a line that Clive Owen had said in a television movie about the U.S. Civil War - "My da's so patriotic that he practically pisses red, white and blue."

I could say the same about this movie . . . especially in regard to the British Empire. It's entertaining, but . . . jeez!