Elephant Boy (1937)

76,81 or 91 mins | Adventure | 6 April 1937

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HISTORY

The onscreen credits include an acknowledgment of the assistance of His Highness, the Maharajah of Mysore. According to the film's pressbook, the production required fifteen months of location filming in India, as well as two months of supplemental filming of interior sequences at the Denham Studios of London Films. According to NYT, while attempting to cast the role of Toomai, Robert Flaherty met Captain Ralph Fremlin, a coffee plantation owner and well-known Indian big-game hunter, whom he cast in the role of Petersen. This was the first film for actor Sabu, who was discovered after eight weeks of casting at the teak plantations of India by Osmond Borradaile, chief cameraman of the expedition. Borradaile discovered Sabu in the Mysore palace elephant stables, as the twelve-year-old orphan's father had been one of the Maharajah's mahouts. The young boy's life so closely paralleled the film's story that some of Sabu's actual life experiences were incorporated into the film. The pressbook also notes the following about the filming of the climactic "keddah" sequence, which was the capture of eighty wild elephants into a giant enclosure: it took eight days to drive the elephant herd into the stockade, requiring to assistance of 1,100 natives, thirty-six mahouts on elephants, 200 "beaters" and ten government officials; the stockade itself took fifteen days to build, and was made up of over 10,000 pieces of lumber; and the capture itself was the largest in the history of the Mysore district.
       The following information was derived from modern sources: Because of the success of Flaherty's earlier films, Nanook of the North (1922) and Man of Aran (1934), ...

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The onscreen credits include an acknowledgment of the assistance of His Highness, the Maharajah of Mysore. According to the film's pressbook, the production required fifteen months of location filming in India, as well as two months of supplemental filming of interior sequences at the Denham Studios of London Films. According to NYT, while attempting to cast the role of Toomai, Robert Flaherty met Captain Ralph Fremlin, a coffee plantation owner and well-known Indian big-game hunter, whom he cast in the role of Petersen. This was the first film for actor Sabu, who was discovered after eight weeks of casting at the teak plantations of India by Osmond Borradaile, chief cameraman of the expedition. Borradaile discovered Sabu in the Mysore palace elephant stables, as the twelve-year-old orphan's father had been one of the Maharajah's mahouts. The young boy's life so closely paralleled the film's story that some of Sabu's actual life experiences were incorporated into the film. The pressbook also notes the following about the filming of the climactic "keddah" sequence, which was the capture of eighty wild elephants into a giant enclosure: it took eight days to drive the elephant herd into the stockade, requiring to assistance of 1,100 natives, thirty-six mahouts on elephants, 200 "beaters" and ten government officials; the stockade itself took fifteen days to build, and was made up of over 10,000 pieces of lumber; and the capture itself was the largest in the history of the Mysore district.
       The following information was derived from modern sources: Because of the success of Flaherty's earlier films, Nanook of the North (1922) and Man of Aran (1934), producer Alexander Korda agreed to finance a similar film set in India, though Korda insisted on some story outline before production began. When Flaherty suggested the story of a young boy and his elephant, Korda advised him to use Kipling's short story "Toomai of the Elephants" as his outline. Flaherty arrived in India in May 1935. After eight months of filming, which included many delays due to the monsoons, Korda became concerned over the runaway cost of the production, as it was already triple the film's original 30,000 pound budget. Monta Bell was sent to India in order to incorporate the "ghost elephant" element of the novel Siamese White into the film, though this element was soon removed. Later, Bell was joined in India by Zoltan Korda, who directed a second camera unit. In January 1936, the "Keddah" sequence was finally filmed. In June 1936, filming in India was completed, with approximately 300,000 feet of footage shot. With no clear story-line, Korda decided to incorporate a story devised by John Collier into the India footage, which was filmed at Denham Studios under the direction of Zoltan Korda. Sabu was brought to England from India for this filming, but Captain Fremlin was replaced in the role of Petersen by Walter Hudd. Modern sources include Scr ed Lajos Biro, Prod asst Andre de Toth , Prod mgr Fred Elles and Teddy Baird, 2nd Unit Cam Bernard Browne, and Prod liaison David B. Cunynghame in the production. The National Board of Review rated Elephant Boy one of the best foreign films of 1937, and Zoltan Korda and Robert Flaherty were chosen best directors at the 1937 Venice Film Festival.

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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
PERSONAL & COMPANY INDEX CREDITS
HISTORY CREDITS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Film Daily
6 Apr 1937
p. 8
Hollywood Reporter
6 Mar 1937
p. 8
Motion Picture Herald
13 Mar 1937
p. 46
New York Times
10 Nov 1935
---
New York Times
6 Apr 1937
p. 20
Variety
24 Feb 1937
p. 17
Variety
7 Apr 1937
p. 14
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
An Alexander Korda Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
WRITERS
Scr collaborator
Scr collaborator
PHOTOGRAPHY
FILM EDITORS
Supv film ed
MUSIC
Mus dir
Mus score
SOUND
Rec dir
Sd rec
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the short story "Toomai of the Elephants," in The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling (London, 1893).
LITERARY SOURCE AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
6 April 1937
Production Date:

Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
London Film Productions, Ltd
22 April 1937
LP7067
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Noiseless Recording Wide Range Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
76,81 or 91
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

The small Indian boy Toomai wakes up under a pile of leaves, guarded by his wise elephant, Kala Nag. After a breakfast of fruit and a bath in the river, Kala Nag lifts Toomai atop his head with his trunk, and they head for the Kalapur jungle. There Petersen Sahib is gathering an expedition to capture a herd of elephants, which has remained elusive during the past season. Petersen hires Toomai's father and Kala Nag, but tells Toomai that he is too young to be in the expedition. Petersen is convinced later, however, to allow Toomai to join the group when he witnesses the boy's rsspect and command of his elephant. A corral is built while beaters spend six weeks looking for the elephants. As time passes, Petersen, as well as his native assistant, Machua Appa, begins to lose hope. The older mahouts mock little Toomai, equating his faith with the myth told to all Indian boys of seeing the elephants dance. Tragedy strikes the expedition when Toomai's father is killed on a tiger hunt, and Kala Nag's grief leads him to go on a rampage, destroying the camp. He is only stopped by the courageous Toomai. Rham Lahl, a cruel mahout injured by Kala Nag, demands the elephant's death. Toomai, unaware that Petersen has refused Rham Lahl's demand, flees with Kala Nag into the jungle. While Toomai sleeps, Kala Nag joins an enormous elephant herd which gathers to shake the earth with their feet, wave their trunks and flap their ears. Observing their behavior, Toomai believes that they are dancing. The next day, Toomai thinks that he may have dreamed ...

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The small Indian boy Toomai wakes up under a pile of leaves, guarded by his wise elephant, Kala Nag. After a breakfast of fruit and a bath in the river, Kala Nag lifts Toomai atop his head with his trunk, and they head for the Kalapur jungle. There Petersen Sahib is gathering an expedition to capture a herd of elephants, which has remained elusive during the past season. Petersen hires Toomai's father and Kala Nag, but tells Toomai that he is too young to be in the expedition. Petersen is convinced later, however, to allow Toomai to join the group when he witnesses the boy's rsspect and command of his elephant. A corral is built while beaters spend six weeks looking for the elephants. As time passes, Petersen, as well as his native assistant, Machua Appa, begins to lose hope. The older mahouts mock little Toomai, equating his faith with the myth told to all Indian boys of seeing the elephants dance. Tragedy strikes the expedition when Toomai's father is killed on a tiger hunt, and Kala Nag's grief leads him to go on a rampage, destroying the camp. He is only stopped by the courageous Toomai. Rham Lahl, a cruel mahout injured by Kala Nag, demands the elephant's death. Toomai, unaware that Petersen has refused Rham Lahl's demand, flees with Kala Nag into the jungle. While Toomai sleeps, Kala Nag joins an enormous elephant herd which gathers to shake the earth with their feet, wave their trunks and flap their ears. Observing their behavior, Toomai believes that they are dancing. The next day, Toomai thinks that he may have dreamed this almost mystical experience, yet he finds the river is filled with the hitherto elusive elephants. After Petersen and his search party catch up with Toomai, the herd of elephants is captured and driven into the corral. For having been favored by the gods of the jungle, Tooomai is welcomed by the mahouts and given over to Machua Appa to train into a great hunter. No longer little Toomai, the boy is now, like his grandfather before him, Toomai of the Elephants.

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GENRE
Genre:
Sub-genre:
Youth, Animal


Subject

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

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