“What’s a son to him, compared to his blasted regiment?”
When the young son (Richard Cromwell) of a crusty British colonel (Guy Standing) joins his regiment in India, both his mentor (Gary Cooper) and another new recruit (Franchot Tone) are skeptical of his competence and motives — especially when he falls under the sway of a beautiful, mysterious woman (Kathleen Burke) introduced to him by a local rebel leader (Douglass Dumbrille).
- Akim Tamiroff Films
- Father and Child
- Franchot Tone Films
- Gary Cooper Films
- Henry Hathaway Films
- Historical Drama
Having just reviewed The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), I thought I would revisit its better known predecessor — this historical adventure (directed by Henry Hathaway, and based in name only on an autobiography by a British cavalry officer) which is likely responsible for bringing the military term “lancer” to modern viewers’ awareness.
The story revolves around ongoing tensions between a career-obsessed colonel (Standing):
who can’t fathom leaving his work behind when he dies, and his quietly ambivalent son (Cromwell).
As with Gunga Din (1939) — also taking place in colonial India — it’s hard to watch a film which so blatantly elevates imperialism; but this is ultimately a relic of its time. As pointed out in TCM’s article:
“It seems unlikely… that we’ll ever see the return of British Imperialist action adventures. During the 1930s, tons of movies were made in which handsome British officers lightheartedly slaughtered whatever group of extras was thrown at them, with the enemy sporting decidedly darker skin tones than the nominal heroes.”
With that said, the entire affair is atmospherically filmed; Cooper and Tone are charismatic compatriots-in-arms (check out the freaky snake-“charming” scene):
… and the finale is excitingly staged.
Note: This film is also distinctive as “one of only two pictures in which Cooper wears a mustache” (!).
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Gary Cooper and Franchot Tone as Lts. McGregor and Forsythe
- Atmospheric cinematography
No, but it’s worth a one-time look for its historical relevance.