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HISTORY

According to a news item in Var in Jun 1938, Alec Waugh went to Sudan to do research prior to the film's location work there. Waugh, who worked as a set decorator on other Alexander Korda productions, may also have worked in that capacity for this film. According to modern sources, the picture was shot partially on location on the East bank of the Nile where the historical incidents depicted in the film actually occured in 1898. According to two unidentified but contemporary news items from 1937 contained in the AFI Library, Alexander Korda announced that Robert Donat was to play the film's lead, after which Paramount Pictures, which owned the rights to the A. E. W. Mason novel, announced that it was refusing to sell their rights to the property. Paramount had filmed a version of the novel in 1929, under Merian C. Cooper's direction, starring Richard Arlen, Fay Wray and William Powell (See Entry). The date of the settlement of this dispute has not been determined. Other adaptations of Mason's novel include Storm Over the Nile , a 1956 British film produced by Zoltan Korda, directed by Terence Young and starring Anthony Steel and Lawrence Harvey, and a 1977 television movie directed by Don Sharp, and starring Beau Bridges, Robert Powell and Jane ... More Less

According to a news item in Var in Jun 1938, Alec Waugh went to Sudan to do research prior to the film's location work there. Waugh, who worked as a set decorator on other Alexander Korda productions, may also have worked in that capacity for this film. According to modern sources, the picture was shot partially on location on the East bank of the Nile where the historical incidents depicted in the film actually occured in 1898. According to two unidentified but contemporary news items from 1937 contained in the AFI Library, Alexander Korda announced that Robert Donat was to play the film's lead, after which Paramount Pictures, which owned the rights to the A. E. W. Mason novel, announced that it was refusing to sell their rights to the property. Paramount had filmed a version of the novel in 1929, under Merian C. Cooper's direction, starring Richard Arlen, Fay Wray and William Powell (See Entry). The date of the settlement of this dispute has not been determined. Other adaptations of Mason's novel include Storm Over the Nile , a 1956 British film produced by Zoltan Korda, directed by Terence Young and starring Anthony Steel and Lawrence Harvey, and a 1977 television movie directed by Don Sharp, and starring Beau Bridges, Robert Powell and Jane Seymour. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
LOCATION
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
20 Jul 39
p. 3.
Film Daily
24 Jul 39
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jul 39
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald
6 May 39
p. 36.
New York Times
4 Aug 39
p. 11.
Variety
26 Apr 39
p. 12.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Addl dial
Addl dial
PHOTOGRAPHY
and in the Sudan by
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Supv film ed
SET DECORATOR
Settings des in colour by
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus dir
Mus score
SOUND
Sound dir
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod asst in the Sudan
Tech and military adviser
Tech and military adviser
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolour dir
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Four Feathers by A. E. W. Mason (New York, 1902).
DETAILS
Release Date:
4 August 1939
Premiere Information:
London opening: 18 April 1939
Copyright Claimant:
London Film Productions, Ltd.
Copyright Date:
15 June 1939
Copyright Number:
LP9008
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
130
Length(in reels):
14
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1895, ten years after the fall of Khartoum and the slaughter of General Charles George Gordon and his men by the Dervishes, the British army returns to reconquer the Sudan. Among the officers assigned to join Sir Horatio Herbert Kitchener, the commander of the Anglo-Egyptian forces, is Harry Faversham, a sensitive lad who rebels at the bloodshed and army life being forced upon him by his family legacy. He resigns and is branded a coward by his fiancée, Ethne Burroughs, and by his fellow officers, John Durrance, Thomas Willoughby and Peter Burroughs. As the regiment debarks, Harry receives a package with three white feathers, a traditional symbol for cowardice, attached to the calling cards of his fellow officers. He plucks one himself from Ethne's fan, knowing that she feels the same way. Realizing that he has ruined his own life and brought disgrace upon those close to him, Harry makes up his mind to atone. Disguised as a Sengali, Harry makes his way up the Nile to Durrance's encampment. There, he finds the troops slaughtered and Durrance, the sole survivor, blinded by sun exposure. Harry wordlessly rafts down the Nile with the helpless Durrance and deposits him, along with a white feather, at another encampment. Permanently blinded, Durrance returns to England and to Ethne, who discovers the feather. In disguise, Harry continues his journey to Omdurman, where Willoughby and Burroughs are held prisoner by the ruling Mahdi. While attempting to free his friends, Harry is captured as a spy, but after he is thrown in jail he rallies the prisoners to overthrow their chains and captors. Meanwhile, the ... +


In 1895, ten years after the fall of Khartoum and the slaughter of General Charles George Gordon and his men by the Dervishes, the British army returns to reconquer the Sudan. Among the officers assigned to join Sir Horatio Herbert Kitchener, the commander of the Anglo-Egyptian forces, is Harry Faversham, a sensitive lad who rebels at the bloodshed and army life being forced upon him by his family legacy. He resigns and is branded a coward by his fiancée, Ethne Burroughs, and by his fellow officers, John Durrance, Thomas Willoughby and Peter Burroughs. As the regiment debarks, Harry receives a package with three white feathers, a traditional symbol for cowardice, attached to the calling cards of his fellow officers. He plucks one himself from Ethne's fan, knowing that she feels the same way. Realizing that he has ruined his own life and brought disgrace upon those close to him, Harry makes up his mind to atone. Disguised as a Sengali, Harry makes his way up the Nile to Durrance's encampment. There, he finds the troops slaughtered and Durrance, the sole survivor, blinded by sun exposure. Harry wordlessly rafts down the Nile with the helpless Durrance and deposits him, along with a white feather, at another encampment. Permanently blinded, Durrance returns to England and to Ethne, who discovers the feather. In disguise, Harry continues his journey to Omdurman, where Willoughby and Burroughs are held prisoner by the ruling Mahdi. While attempting to free his friends, Harry is captured as a spy, but after he is thrown in jail he rallies the prisoners to overthrow their chains and captors. Meanwhile, the Mahdi flings his entire force against the British in the desert plains, and as the Dervishes flee the British in defeat, Harry and the prisoners seize command of the arsenal and turn fire on the Mahdi's men. Hailed as a hero, Harry returns to England and Ethne, and returns the three last feathers in triumph. +

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

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