The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936)

115 mins | Drama | 20 October 1936

Director:

Michael Curtiz

Cinematographer:

Sol Polito

Editor:

George Amy

Production Designer:

John Hughes

Production Company:

Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

The film's opening credits include a statement acknowledging the technical advice of Captain E. Rochfort-John, formerly of the royal engineers. The film played with historical fact, linking the charge to the fall of Sebastopol, which occurred in 1855, rather than at the climax of the Crimean War. Warner Bros.' production of Charge of the Light Brigade was inspired by the success of Paramount's 1935 film Lives of a Bengal Lancer (below) and became an important entry in the 1930s box office cycle of adventure films featuring stories about Imperial Britain. According to studio records, the part of Randall was written with David Niven in mind, and although Anita Louise did a screen test for the part of Elsa Campbell, writer Rowland Leigh argued strongly that Olivia de Havilland be cast in the role. When the studio realized how successful their 1935 picture Captain Blood (above) proved, they decided to re-team de Havilland and Errol Flynn.
       Daily production reports included in the Warner Bros. collection at the USC Cinema-Television Library indicate that Bela Lugosi and Mischa Auer were tested for the parts of the Kahn and Prema's father, respectively. According to Warner Bros. production files at USC, scenes were shot at the following California locations: Lone Pine, Sherwood Lake, Lasky Mesa, Chatsworth and Sonora. The Sierra Mountains were used for the Khyber Pass scenes. Because of the abuse of the "running W," a type of trip wire used to make horses fall during the charge scenes, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals banned its use following this film. During production, one of the stunt riders ...

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The film's opening credits include a statement acknowledging the technical advice of Captain E. Rochfort-John, formerly of the royal engineers. The film played with historical fact, linking the charge to the fall of Sebastopol, which occurred in 1855, rather than at the climax of the Crimean War. Warner Bros.' production of Charge of the Light Brigade was inspired by the success of Paramount's 1935 film Lives of a Bengal Lancer (below) and became an important entry in the 1930s box office cycle of adventure films featuring stories about Imperial Britain. According to studio records, the part of Randall was written with David Niven in mind, and although Anita Louise did a screen test for the part of Elsa Campbell, writer Rowland Leigh argued strongly that Olivia de Havilland be cast in the role. When the studio realized how successful their 1935 picture Captain Blood (above) proved, they decided to re-team de Havilland and Errol Flynn.
       Daily production reports included in the Warner Bros. collection at the USC Cinema-Television Library indicate that Bela Lugosi and Mischa Auer were tested for the parts of the Kahn and Prema's father, respectively. According to Warner Bros. production files at USC, scenes were shot at the following California locations: Lone Pine, Sherwood Lake, Lasky Mesa, Chatsworth and Sonora. The Sierra Mountains were used for the Khyber Pass scenes. Because of the abuse of the "running W," a type of trip wire used to make horses fall during the charge scenes, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals banned its use following this film. During production, one of the stunt riders was killed when he accidentally fell on a sword and a number of horses were injured or killed in the battle scenes. The total cost of the film was $1,200,000. Warner Bros.' records also note that second unit director B. Reeves Eason turned down screen credit. Studio publicity claims that technical advisor Sam Harris commanded a cavalry regiment in the second Zulu War and the Boer War. Assistant director Jack Sullivan won an Academy Award, and Nathan Levinson was nominated for Best Sound Recording, as was Max Steiner for his musical score.
       Modern sources add the following information about the production: The production design was so accurate that actual postage stamps of the period were used even though they were not visible on screen, and the uniforms seen in the film were the same as those originally worn by the 27th Dragoons. Modern sources credit Eason with direction of the charge scenes as well as other 2d unit work. Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem was the basis for a 1903 Biograph film and a 1912 Edison film directed by J. Searle Dawley and starring Ben Wilson and Richard Neill. In 1968, director Tony Richardson made Charge of the Light Brigade, a British version of the story, starring Trevor Howard and Vanessa Redgrave (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70; F6.0745).

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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
17 Oct 1936
p. 3
Film Daily
20 Oct 1936
p. 8
Hollywood Reporter
30 Mar 1936
p. 7
Hollywood Reporter
17 Oct 1936
p. 4
Motion Picture Daily
17 Oct 1936
p. 2
Motion Picture Herald
24 Oct 1936
p. 54
MPSI
1 Jan 1937
p. 7
New York Times
2 Nov 1936
p. 24
Variety
4 Nov 1936
p. 18
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
R. Singh
Ben F. Hendricks
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir
Dial dir
Dial dir
Asst dir
Second asst dir
Second asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Exec prod
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Orig story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
2d cam
2d cam
Asst cam
Asst cam
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
MUSIC
SOUND
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit mgr
Scr clerk
Tech adv of military drills and tactics
Still photog
SOURCES
LITERARY
Inspired by the poem The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred, Lord Tennyson in The Examiner (9 Dec 1854).
LITERARY SOURCE AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
20 October 1936
Production Date:
30 Mar--1 Jul 1936
Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc. & The Vitaphone Corp.
4 November 1936
LP6687
Physical Properties:
Sound
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
115
Country:
United States
PCA No:
2156
SYNOPSIS

Major Geoffrey Vickers of the 27th Bengal Lancers, and Sir Humphrey Harcourt, an English diplomat, visit the Amir Surat Khan of Suristan to tell him that funds previously guaranteed from the British government have been discontinued. Geoffrey recognizes the Khan's displeasure, but wins his personal loyalty when he saves the Khan's life during a leopard hunt. Geoffrey reports to Calcutta, where his fiancée, Elsa Campbell, is staying with her father, the colonel. While Geoffrey has been away, Elsa has fallen in love with his younger brother, Perry. Geoffrey refuses to believe Perry's revelation, and the brothers quarrel bitterly. Before they can settle their differences, Geoffrey is sent to Tartar, where he bravely outwits border tribesmen, and then to Chukoti where Colonel Campbell and Elsa are stationed. Perry, meanwhile, has been sent a few miles away to Lohara. There, Benjamin Warrenton is in command and is unaware that Surat Khan has been gathering forces at the border. When he orders Campbell's troops to march to Lohara on maneuvers, he leaves Chukoti vulnerable. The Khan raids the fort, slaughtering the inhabitants, including Colonel Campbell. Elsa and Geoffrey escape, and she finally convinces him that she truly loves Perry. Geoffrey gallantly accepts his personal defeat and protects Perry by sending him away from the ensuing battle. Meanwhile, the Kahn has joined with the Russians, and Sir Charles Macefield, commander of the British forces in the Crimea, sends orders with Geoffrey to Warrenton not to attack the Kahn. Geoffrey, spurred by his anger over the Chukoti massacre, rewrites the orders and leads a death charge against the Khan's stronghold near Balaklava. In the battle, the Kahn ...

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Major Geoffrey Vickers of the 27th Bengal Lancers, and Sir Humphrey Harcourt, an English diplomat, visit the Amir Surat Khan of Suristan to tell him that funds previously guaranteed from the British government have been discontinued. Geoffrey recognizes the Khan's displeasure, but wins his personal loyalty when he saves the Khan's life during a leopard hunt. Geoffrey reports to Calcutta, where his fiancée, Elsa Campbell, is staying with her father, the colonel. While Geoffrey has been away, Elsa has fallen in love with his younger brother, Perry. Geoffrey refuses to believe Perry's revelation, and the brothers quarrel bitterly. Before they can settle their differences, Geoffrey is sent to Tartar, where he bravely outwits border tribesmen, and then to Chukoti where Colonel Campbell and Elsa are stationed. Perry, meanwhile, has been sent a few miles away to Lohara. There, Benjamin Warrenton is in command and is unaware that Surat Khan has been gathering forces at the border. When he orders Campbell's troops to march to Lohara on maneuvers, he leaves Chukoti vulnerable. The Khan raids the fort, slaughtering the inhabitants, including Colonel Campbell. Elsa and Geoffrey escape, and she finally convinces him that she truly loves Perry. Geoffrey gallantly accepts his personal defeat and protects Perry by sending him away from the ensuing battle. Meanwhile, the Kahn has joined with the Russians, and Sir Charles Macefield, commander of the British forces in the Crimea, sends orders with Geoffrey to Warrenton not to attack the Kahn. Geoffrey, spurred by his anger over the Chukoti massacre, rewrites the orders and leads a death charge against the Khan's stronghold near Balaklava. In the battle, the Kahn shoots and mortally wounds Geoffrey, but even as he is dying, he impales the evil prince. The sacrifice of Geoffrey and the six hundered Lancers, however, is not in vain. Macefield sends troops to support the fighting and Sebastopol is taken. Macefield then burns Geoffery's letter in which he admits his guilt, and takes full responsibilty for the charge.

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

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