The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935)

105 or 110 mins | Adventure | 18 January 1935

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HISTORY

A pre-production title for this film was More Lives of a Bengal Lancer . Paramount purchased the rights to Francis Yeats-Brown's novel before it was published. The Var review states that only the locale and title of the novel were retained in the film. The opening credits on the viewed print make "grateful acknowledgment" to Lieut. Col. W. E. Wynn, O.B.E: p.s.c., formerly of the Seventh Bengal Lancers, and Capt. Rochfort John, formerly of the Royal Engineers, for technical advice and supervision. According to a Jan 1932 NYT article, filmmaker Ernest B. Schoedsack returned from India after three months' shooting on this film. He, his wife, brother, a cameraman and several assistants spent six weeks on the northwest frontier, where, with the aid of British military authorities, he was able to send "thousands of feet of film back with a fine assortment of interesting stills." Although Schoedsack most likely directed the shooting of footage in India, the Var review for the film credits him with photography. During Schoedsack's sojourn in India, there was a lull in the tribal wars among the Moslem Pathans, a group of tribes that includes the Afridis, who are characterized in the film. In the article, Schoedsack describes the Afridis as the "most warlike of the tribes...big, powerfully built men." According to Schoedsack, the Bengal Lancers with whom author Yeats-Brown served had merged with the Indian cavalry by 1932 and no longer used the name. Schoedsack shot scenes of villages and the rifle factory of the Afridis.
       A Production chart in the 2 Apr 1932 Hollywood Filmograph lists the film ... More Less

A pre-production title for this film was More Lives of a Bengal Lancer . Paramount purchased the rights to Francis Yeats-Brown's novel before it was published. The Var review states that only the locale and title of the novel were retained in the film. The opening credits on the viewed print make "grateful acknowledgment" to Lieut. Col. W. E. Wynn, O.B.E: p.s.c., formerly of the Seventh Bengal Lancers, and Capt. Rochfort John, formerly of the Royal Engineers, for technical advice and supervision. According to a Jan 1932 NYT article, filmmaker Ernest B. Schoedsack returned from India after three months' shooting on this film. He, his wife, brother, a cameraman and several assistants spent six weeks on the northwest frontier, where, with the aid of British military authorities, he was able to send "thousands of feet of film back with a fine assortment of interesting stills." Although Schoedsack most likely directed the shooting of footage in India, the Var review for the film credits him with photography. During Schoedsack's sojourn in India, there was a lull in the tribal wars among the Moslem Pathans, a group of tribes that includes the Afridis, who are characterized in the film. In the article, Schoedsack describes the Afridis as the "most warlike of the tribes...big, powerfully built men." According to Schoedsack, the Bengal Lancers with whom author Yeats-Brown served had merged with the Indian cavalry by 1932 and no longer used the name. Schoedsack shot scenes of villages and the rifle factory of the Afridis.
       A Production chart in the 2 Apr 1932 Hollywood Filmograph lists the film as in preparation with Clive Brook and Phillips Holmes in the leading roles, John Cromwell and Ernest B. Schoedsack as directors, Rex Wimpy as assistant director, and with a script by Albert S. Le Vino [AKA Albert Levino] and Sidney Buchman.
       A news item in HR on 31 Jul 1933 stated that Lawrence Stallings had been offered a job refurbishing the screenplay for this film. A HR news item on 4 Aug 1933 states that Waldemar Young and Achmed Abdullah (who are credited on the screen) were working on the script. It is unclear what contribution Stallings made to the final screenplay. According to a modern source, Yeats-Brown and Maxwell Anderson contributed to the script. On 14 Oct 1933, FD reported that Stephen Roberts would direct the film, although Henry Hathaway replaced him. According to an Oct 1934 NYT article, Paramount sent 300 cast and crew members on location to the Sierra Mountain town of Independence, CA, where it recruited one hundred Piute Indians from nearby reservations, Hindu fruit pickers from the Napa Valley, and country ranchers from Inyo. According to a DV news item on 12 Jul 1934, five hundred Hindu olive pickers were recruited in the Imperial Valley and around Oxnard, CA, to play Afridi tribesmen and lancers for battle sequences. A NYT article on 28 Jun 1936 reported that the Hindu were unable to eat the lunches provided by Paramount because they reportedly ate only curry made by a person of the right caste. Cantonement scenes involving 450 men were shot on the Paramount ranch, fifty miles from the studio, according to the same article. In Sep 1934, location shooting took place at Lone Pine, CA; and in mid-Oct in Chatsworth, CA. Retakes were taken in Malibu, CA in early Dec 1934.
       A HR news item on 31 Jul 1933 states that Claudette Colbert and Richard Arlen (as "Lieutenant Stone") were to be in the cast; however, they did not appear in the final film. According to a HR news item on 5 Oct 1933, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. had to turn down a role in this film due to his prior commitment to Catherine the Great (see above). DV news items in Jul and Aug 1934 give the following information on casting: Cary Grant, Ronald Coleman and Ray Milland were considered for roles in the film, but were not cast, and Henry Wilcoxon was initially cast as "Lieutenant Forsythe," but after reportedly being dissatisfied with the role, was replaced by Franchot Tone. The official reason, according to DV , for Wilcoxon's departure was that he had a scheduling conflict with Cecil B. DeMille's production of The Crusades (see above). Four days of retakes with Tone were necessary. (According to a modern source, the sets from this film were retained and used with minor alterations for The Crusades .) According to a script dated 22 Sep 1934 in the Paramount Script Collection at the AMPAS Library, at that point in the production, Fredric March had been cast as "Lieutenant Post" and Clive Brook as "Major Hamilton." (In the script, March was billed second, after Gary Cooper, suggesting that the character of "Lieutenant Post" became "Lieutenant Forsythe.") Neither March nor Brook were in the final cast.
       According to a DV news item on 4 Mar 1935, the film was screened for the king and queen of England on 2 Mar 1935, and reportedly was one of the few films seen by the couple in many years. According to news items in HR , the film was a major success in England and Vienna. On 8 Mar 1935, DV reported that the picture had been classified by German censors for screening on national holidays, making an exception to a law that banned regular runs of pictures on holidays. A news item in DV on 24 Apr 1935 states that the film had been banned by Chinese censors because it "depicts the British downtrodding of Oriental races." According to a HR news item, despite Chinese censors' fear that the film would have a negative effect on Mohammedans, it was passed for exhibition in late Jan 1936.
       Clem Beauchamp and Paul Wing received a 1935 Academy Award for Best Assistant Direction. The film was also nominated for Best Picture, Directing, Screenplay, Interior Decoration, Film Editing, and Franklin Hansen was nominated for Sound Recording. The film was voted one of the ten best of 1935 by FD 's nationwide poll of critics. In 1936, the Hollywood Foreign Press Society voted to give this film one of its awards. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
12 Jul 34
p. 2.
Daily Variety
19 Jul 34
p. 4.
Daily Variety
24 Jul 34
p. 11.
Daily Variety
9 Aug 34
p. 5.
Daily Variety
20 Aug 34
p. 1.
Daily Variety
30 Aug 34
p. 1.
Daily Variety
1 Sep 34
p. 1.
Daily Variety
25 Sep 34
p. 7.
Daily Variety
17 Oct 34
p. 2.
Daily Variety
6 Nov 34
p. 1.
Daily Variety
13 Nov 34
p. 2.
Daily Variety
22 Nov 34
p. 1.
Daily Variety
28 Nov 34
p. 1.
Daily Variety
3 Dec 34
p. 7.
Daily Variety
4 Mar 35
p. 1.
Daily Variety
8 Mar 35
p. 8.
Daily Variety
24 Apr 35
p. 5.
Film Daily
14 Oct 33
p. 6.
Film Daily
26 Dec 34
p. 3.
Film Daily
12 Jan 35
p. 3.
Film Daily
8 Feb 35
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Jul 33
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Aug 33
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Oct 33
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Dec 34
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Jan 35
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jan 36
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Feb 36
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Mar 36
p. 1.
Motion Picture Herald
6 Oct 34
p. 50.
Motion Picture Herald
5 Jan 35
p. 35.
Motion Picture Herald
19 Jan 36
pp. 59-61.
New York Times
17-Jan-32
---
New York Times
14-Oct-34
---
New York Times
6-Jan-35
---
New York Times
12 Jan 35
p. 12.
Variety
15 Jan 35
p. 13.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
Dir of background loc shooting in India
PRODUCERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog of background loc shooting in India
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
COSTUMES
PRODUCTION MISC
Press agent
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Lives of a Bengal Lancer by Francis Yeats-Brown (New York, 1936).
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
More Lives of a Bengal Lancer
Release Date:
18 January 1935
Premiere Information:
New York opening: week of 4 January 1935
Production Date:
20 August--27 November 1934
retakes began early December 1934
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
24 January 1935
Copyright Number:
LP5269
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Noiseless Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
105 or 110
Length(in feet):
9,801
Length(in reels):
11
Country:
United States
PCA No:
474
SYNOPSIS

In colonial India, Colonel Stone and the 41st Bengal Lancers fight Indian rebels in the hills. Included in the 41st regiment is Lieutenant Alan McGregor, a Scotch-Canadian upstart who has come to India for some excitement. Major Hamilton, an old friend of Stone, sends for Stone's naïve son Donald, who is just out of Sandhurst military school, so he can learn from his father before the colonel retires. Years before, Donald's parents separated when his American mother realized Stone would always be married to the army, and Donald quickly learns that his father wants only a professional relationship with him. With Donald is Lieutenant Forsythe, whom McGregor nicknames "Fort." While McGregor and Fort lead a group to the border, McGregor receives a message from Lieutenant Barrett, who is dressed in Indian garb, that rebel Mohammed Kahn is preparing an attack against the colonel. Kahn has stirred up border tribes by offering them ammunition. Back at the colonel's office, Chief of Intelligence for Army Headquarters Major General Sir Thomas Woodley advises Stone to leave at dawn for Gopal for a day of pig sticking. They believe that Othman Ali Bahadoor, the Emir of Gopal, a supposed British ally, has ordered ammunition from the British but is giving it to Khan. In Gopal, Stone receives the emir's gracious welcome and is introduced to Khan. Meanwhile, Donald dances with Tania Volkanskaya, Khan's "woman." When Khan swears on the Koran that his land is at Stone's disposal, Stone asks him to postpone his departure because he knows Khan's men are waiting in the hills to steal the ammunition that is en route for Gopal. ... +


In colonial India, Colonel Stone and the 41st Bengal Lancers fight Indian rebels in the hills. Included in the 41st regiment is Lieutenant Alan McGregor, a Scotch-Canadian upstart who has come to India for some excitement. Major Hamilton, an old friend of Stone, sends for Stone's naïve son Donald, who is just out of Sandhurst military school, so he can learn from his father before the colonel retires. Years before, Donald's parents separated when his American mother realized Stone would always be married to the army, and Donald quickly learns that his father wants only a professional relationship with him. With Donald is Lieutenant Forsythe, whom McGregor nicknames "Fort." While McGregor and Fort lead a group to the border, McGregor receives a message from Lieutenant Barrett, who is dressed in Indian garb, that rebel Mohammed Kahn is preparing an attack against the colonel. Kahn has stirred up border tribes by offering them ammunition. Back at the colonel's office, Chief of Intelligence for Army Headquarters Major General Sir Thomas Woodley advises Stone to leave at dawn for Gopal for a day of pig sticking. They believe that Othman Ali Bahadoor, the Emir of Gopal, a supposed British ally, has ordered ammunition from the British but is giving it to Khan. In Gopal, Stone receives the emir's gracious welcome and is introduced to Khan. Meanwhile, Donald dances with Tania Volkanskaya, Khan's "woman." When Khan swears on the Koran that his land is at Stone's disposal, Stone asks him to postpone his departure because he knows Khan's men are waiting in the hills to steal the ammunition that is en route for Gopal. The next day the regiment hunts wild pigs with sticks on horseback. Although Stone warns the men against going after a wounded pig, Donald does so, and the colonel proves his love for his son by trying to rescue him. Khan then finds Donald with Tania and abducts him. While McGregor and Fort look for Donald, they see Barrett's tortured corpse dropped from a horse, and McGregor shoots the Afridi rider. McGregor then threatens the rider into telling him Donald's whereabouts. When Stone refuses to change his strategy to save his son, McGregor insists on going alone and is arrested for insubordination with Fort as his guard. Although Hamilton defends Stone, saying men like the colonel have made British India what it is, McGregor and Fort leave for Khan's stronghold at Mogala disguised as merchants. Tania recognizes them right away, and Khan imprisons and tortures them to make them tell him the route of the ammunition. Although McGregor and Fort withstand the pain of bamboo slivers lit beneath their finger nails, Donald acquiesces and, out of vengeance for his father, reveals the route. Khan then successfully intercepts the ammunition and prepares for combat against Stone, whose own materiel is a mere percentage of Khan's. McGregor finally defends the colonel against Donald's traitorous act, and Fort reads a poem about his love of England. As Stone's army approaches Mogala, Fort steals bullets from the guards and blows open the prison wall, then he and McGregor set fire to Khan's ammunition. McGregor, fatally wounded, asks Fort not to tell the colonel his son betrayed him. In a moment of extreme courage, Donald stabs Khan single-handedly and the British win. Fort and Donald receive honors, and McGregor is awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously, while the British national anthem plays. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.