Gunga Din (film): Wikis

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Gunga Din

Gunga Din poster
Directed by George Stevens
Produced by George Stevens
Written by Rudyard Kipling (poem)
Ben Hecht (story)
Charles MacArthur (story)
Joel Sayre
Fred Guiol
Starring Cary Grant
Victor McLaglen
Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.
Eduardo Ciannelli
Sam Jaffe
Joan Fontaine
Music by Alfred Newman
Cinematography Joseph H. August
Editing by Henry Berman
Distributed by RKO
Release date(s) February 17, 1939 (USA wide release)
Running time 117 min.
Language English
Budget $2 million

Gunga Din is a 1939 RKO adventure film directed by George Stevens, (very) loosely based on the poem of the same name by Rudyard Kipling, combined with elements of his novel Soldiers Three. The film is about three British sergeants and their native water bearer who fight the Thuggee, a cult of murderous Indians in colonial British India.

The film stars Cary Grant, Victor McLaglen, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Joan Fontaine, Eduardo Ciannelli, and, in the title role, Sam Jaffe. The epic film was written by Joel Sayre and Fred Guiol from a storyline by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, with uncredited contributions by Lester Cohen, John Colton, William Faulkner, Vincent Lawrence, Dudley Nichols and Anthony Veiller.

Contents

Plot

On the Northwest Frontier of colonial India, circa 1880, contact has been lost with a British outpost at Tantrapur in the midst of a telegraph message. Colonel Weed (Montagu Love) dispatches a small detachment of British Indian Army troops to investigate, led by three sergeants of the Royal Engineers, MacChesney (Victor McLaglen), Cutter (Cary Grant), and Ballantine (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.), long-time friends and veteran campaigners. Although they are a disciplinary headache for their colonel, they are the right men to send on a dangerous mission. Accompanying the detail is a regimental bhisti (water-bearer), Gunga Din (Sam Jaffe), who longs to throw off his lowly status and become a soldier of the Queen.

They find Tantrapur apparently deserted and set about repairing the telegraph. However, they are soon surrounded by hostile natives. The troops fight their way out. Colonel Weed and Major Mitchell (Lumsden Hare) identify an enemy weapon brought back as belonging to the Thuggee, a murderous cult that had been suppressed for many years.

Ballantine is due to leave the army in a few days to wed Emmy Stebbins (Joan Fontaine) and go into the tea business, a combined calamity that MacChesney and Cutter consider worse than death. Meanwhile, Gunga Din tells Cutter of a temple he has found, one made of gold. Cutter is determined to make his fortune, but MacChesney will have none of it and has Cutter put in the stockade to prevent his desertion. That night, Cutter escapes with Din's help and goes to the temple, which is all that Din had claimed. Unfortunately, they discover that it belongs to the Thugs when the owners return. Cutter creates a distraction and allows himself to be captured so that Din can slip away and sound the warning.

When Din gives MacChesney the news, he decides to go to the rescue. Ballantine wants to go too, but MacChesney points out that he cannot, as he is now a civilian. Ballantine reluctantly agrees to reenlist, on the understanding that the enlistment paper will be torn up after the rescue. Emmy tries to dissuade him from going, but he refuses to desert his friends.

Due to miscommunication between Din and MacChesney, the trio foolishly enter the temple by themselves and are easily captured. They manage to free themselves and take the fanatical guru of the cultists (Eduardo Ciannelli) hostage on the roof of the temple. A standoff ensues.

When the regiment comes to the rescue, the guru boasts that they are marching into the trap he has set, with the three sergeants as bait. He orders his men to take their positions, but when he sees that they are unwilling to leave him in enemy hands, he leaps to his death in a pit full of cobras to remove that obstacle. Thugs then climb the temple and overwhelm the soldiers, shoot and bayonet Cutter. Gunga Din is also bayoneted, but manages with the last of his strength to climb to the top of the gold dome of the temple and sounds the alarm with the bugle. He is then shot dead, but the British force is alerted and defeats the Thuggee forces. At Din's funeral pyre, the colonel formally inducts Gunga Din as a British soldier and reads the last lines of the Kipling poem over the body:

So I'll meet 'im later on
At the place where 'e is gone --
Where it's always double drill and no canteen;
'E'll be squattin' on the coals
Givin' drink to poor damned souls,
An' I'll get a swig in hell from Gunga Din!
Yes, Din! Din! Din!
You Lazarushian-leather Gunga Din!
Though I've belted you and flayed you,
By the livin' Gawd that made you,
You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!

Production

Originally, Grant and Fairbanks were assigned each other's role; Grant was to be the one leaving the army to marry Joan Fontaine's character, and Fairbanks the happy-go-lucky treasure hunter, since the character was identical to the legendary screen persona of Fairbanks' father. According to Robert Osborne of Turner Classic Movies, when Grant wanted to switch parts, director George Stevens suggested they toss a coin; Grant won and Fairbanks, Jr. lost his most important role. On the other hand, according to a biography of director George Stevens by Marilyn Ann Moss entitled Giant: George Stevens, a Life on Film, the Cutter role was originally slated for comedy actor Jack Oakie until Grant requested the part because it would enable him to inject more humor into his performance, at which point Fairbanks, Jr. was brought on board to replace Grant as Ballantine.

Filming began on June 24, 1938 and was completed on October 19, 1938. The film premiered in Los Angeles on January 24, 1939.

This narrow valley in the Alabama Hills doubled as the Khyber Pass.

California's Sierra Nevada range, Alabama Hills and surrounding areas doubled as the Khyber Pass for the film. Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. reported in a featurette interview on the DVD release that in his travels, he has met several Indians who were convinced the external scenes were filmed on location in Northwest India at the actual Khyber Pass.

The original script was composed largely of interiors and detailed life in the barracks. The decision was made to make the story a much larger adventure tale, but the re-write process dragged on into principal shooting. Some of the incidental scenes that flesh out the story were filmed while hundreds of extras were in the background being marshalled for larger takes.

The movie includes a sequence at the end in which a fictionalised Rudyard Kipling, played by Reginald Sheffield, witnesses the events and is inspired to write his poem (the scene in which the poem is first read out carefully quotes only those parts of the poem that tally with the events of the movie). Following objections from Kipling's family, the character was excised from some prints of the movie, but has since been restored.

Awards

The cinematographer Joseph H. August was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography, Black-and-White.

In 1999 the film was deemed "culturally significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Influence

Critics have noted that the film has many plot similarities with The Front Page which was also written by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. Fairbanks' character wants to leave to get married but is prevented from doing so by Cary Grant's scheming character. (Grant played the same role in a remake of The Front Page called His Girl Friday the following year.)

The film version of Gunga Din was re-told (perhaps "parodied" would be a better word) in a 1962 tongue-in-cheek version reset in the American West and starring all of the members of the Rat Pack, entitled Sergeants 3, with Frank Sinatra in the McLaglen role, Dean Martin taking Grant's part, Peter Lawford replacing Fairbanks, and Sammy Davis, Jr. in Jaffe's role.

Gunga Din remains the favorite film of novelist and screenwriter William Goldman; his first novel, The Temple of Gold, is named after the location of the film's climax.

The film is referenced in two Peter Sellers films. In The Party, Sellers plays an Indian actor in the role of Gunga Din, and a parody of the film's climax has Sellers blowing his bugle to warn the British Army to such annoying effect, that his own troops start shooting at him; in The Pink Panther Strikes Again, the mad genius Dreyfus quotes the insane guru's speech about mad military geniuses.

Many of the events and scenes from the second Indiana Jones film, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, are taken from Gunga Din,[1] including casting a lookalike as the Thuggee leader, although all the original film's plot similarities to The Front Page are omitted in the dark Spielberg movie.

Grant's character's first name, "Archie," is the same as Grant's real first name; Grant's birth name was Archibald Leach and his screen first name was taken from a character he'd played on stage called "Cary Lockwood," in a play called Nikki opposite Fay Wray. Richard Barthelmess had played Lockwood in a movie version with a different title shortly before Grant and Wray appeared in a Broadway version.

Bob Dylan mentions this movie in the song "You Ain't Goin Nowhere."

Cary Grant and Gunga Din are also cited in Sleepless in Seattle.

Cast

See also

References

  1. ^ J.W. Rinzler; Laurent Bouzereau (2008). "Temple of Death: (June 1981—April 1983)". The Complete Making of Indiana Jones. Random House. pp. 129–141. ISBN 9780091926618.  

External links

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