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Monday, January 4, 2010

THE LIVES OF A BENGAL LANCER (1935)

Irresistible adventure yarn for anyone with a taste for the glory days of the British Empire, Kipling and all that; THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING sans irony. Politically correct, it ain’t; although in today’s unsettled political climate, perhaps a bit of ideological slack is in order. Under Henry Hathaway’s vigorous helming, Gary Cooper moved smoothly into the straight action genre as a seasoned officer plying the Paki/Indian border. His routine is upset when two junior officers are assigned to him; a scamp from a rival unit (Franchot Tone) and a young pup who’s the commander’s estranged son (Richard Cromwell). The male bonding is as spectacular as the desert vistas & the hordes of battling extras. Honor, loyalty, torture, cowardice & sacrifice are all taken in stride; the Raj’s standard shall ever fly. Well, until that Gandhi fellow comes along. Till then, Akim Tamiroff gets to play an Emir and Douglas Dumbrille a Khan while C. Aubrey Smith does his usual bit to help Hollywood show those true British colors. But then, the whole cast seems to be having a whale of a time, particularly Tone who more than holds his own against Coop. He had a lot of practice in ‘35, co-starring in films with Bette Davis, Robert Montgomery, Joan Crawford, Jean Harlow, Clark Gable, Charles Laughton & Una Merkel! She’s the only one who bests him.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Now in his mid-60s, Tom Selleck seems to be morphing into C. Aubrey Smith. Sounds goofy, but check out C. Aubrey in profile. Yikes!

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