The Light That Failed (1940)

97 mins | Drama | 2 February 1940

Director:

William A. Wellman

Writer:

Robert Carson

Producer:

William A. Wellman

Cinematographer:

Theodor Sparkuhl

Editor:

Thomas Scott

Production Designers:

Hans Dreier, Robert Odell

Production Company:

Paramount Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

The opening credits of the film read "Rudyard Kipling's The Light That Failed." According to a 1935 news item in HR, Gary Cooper was considered for the lead in this picture. 1939 news items in the HR add that the film was shot on location around Black Mesa and Santa Fe, NM. Technical advisor Alf Nicholson was a veteran of the Boer War. Modern sources add that the Hindu music in the film was actually "Yankee Doodle Dandy" played backwards. Other films based on the same source were Pathe's 1916 version of the same name starring Robert Edeson and Jose Collins and directed by Edward Jose (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20; F1.2390); and a 1923 Paramount film of the same title directed by George Melferd and starring Percy Marmont (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30; F2.3071). ...

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The opening credits of the film read "Rudyard Kipling's The Light That Failed." According to a 1935 news item in HR, Gary Cooper was considered for the lead in this picture. 1939 news items in the HR add that the film was shot on location around Black Mesa and Santa Fe, NM. Technical advisor Alf Nicholson was a veteran of the Boer War. Modern sources add that the Hindu music in the film was actually "Yankee Doodle Dandy" played backwards. Other films based on the same source were Pathe's 1916 version of the same name starring Robert Edeson and Jose Collins and directed by Edward Jose (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20; F1.2390); and a 1923 Paramount film of the same title directed by George Melferd and starring Percy Marmont (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30; F2.3071).

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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
PERSONAL & COMPANY INDEX CREDITS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
20 Dec 1939
p. 3
Film Daily
26 Dec 1939
p. 6
Hollywood Reporter
7 Nov 1935
p. 9
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jun 1939
p. 11
Hollywood Reporter
17 Jun 1939
pp. 6-7
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jun 1939
p. 1
Hollywood Reporter
13 Jul 1939
p. 5
Hollywood Reporter
8 Aug 1939
p. 3
Hollywood Reporter
20 Dec 1939
p. 3
Motion Picture Daily
26 Dec 1939
p. 8
Motion Picture Herald
23 Sep 1939
p. 58
Motion Picture Herald
23 Dec 1939
p. 37
New York Times
25 Dec 1939
p. 19
Variety
27 Dec 1939
p. 12
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A William Wellman Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Joseph Youngerman
2d unit dir
Fritz Collings
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Theodore Sparkuhl
Dir of photog
Second unit cam
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATOR
Int dec
MUSIC
Mus score
SOUND
Sd rec
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech adv
Unit mgr
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Light That Failed by Rudyard Kipling (New York, 1890).
LITERARY SOURCE AUTHOR
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Rudyard Kipling's The Light That Failed
Release Date:
2 February 1940
Premiere Information:
New York opening: week of 25 Dec 1939
Production Date:
mid Jun--8 Aug 1939
Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
9 February 1940
LP9412
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
97
Length(in feet):
8,886
Length(in reels):
10
Country:
United States
PCA No:
5485
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

While covering the war in the Sudan, newspaper illustrator Dick Heldar is struck over the eye with a spear when he attempts to shield his friend and fellow correspondent Torpenhow from a native attack. After a short stay in Port Said, Dick is summoned back to London by Torp, and returns home to discover that he is now an acclaimed artist. In London, Dick achieves great success for his paintings of the war, but succumbs to the lure of easy money and allows his work to become commercial and superficial. His success in painting is not paralled by success in love, for when he meets his childhood sweetheart Maisie, she refuses to relinquish her career as a painter for marriage. After Maisie leaves for France, Torp introduces Dick to Bessie Broke, a cockney bar maid, and Dick, inspired by her air of melancholy, decides to paint her. As Bessie models for Dick, she falls in love with Torp, but Dick intervenes and destroys her chance of romance. Meanwhile, plagued by headaches and blurred vision, Dick visits the doctor, from whom he learns that he is going blind as a result of the blow he suffered in the Sudan. Spurred by the desire to paint one last masterpiece before he loses his sight, Dick summons all his talents to repaint Bessie's portrait, the last work he will ever paint. He finishes the masterpiece just as he loses his sight, but Bessie, bent on revenge because he ruined her romance with Torp, destroys the painting. When Torp is called back to the Sudan, he summons Maisie to care for Dick, but Dick turns ...

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While covering the war in the Sudan, newspaper illustrator Dick Heldar is struck over the eye with a spear when he attempts to shield his friend and fellow correspondent Torpenhow from a native attack. After a short stay in Port Said, Dick is summoned back to London by Torp, and returns home to discover that he is now an acclaimed artist. In London, Dick achieves great success for his paintings of the war, but succumbs to the lure of easy money and allows his work to become commercial and superficial. His success in painting is not paralled by success in love, for when he meets his childhood sweetheart Maisie, she refuses to relinquish her career as a painter for marriage. After Maisie leaves for France, Torp introduces Dick to Bessie Broke, a cockney bar maid, and Dick, inspired by her air of melancholy, decides to paint her. As Bessie models for Dick, she falls in love with Torp, but Dick intervenes and destroys her chance of romance. Meanwhile, plagued by headaches and blurred vision, Dick visits the doctor, from whom he learns that he is going blind as a result of the blow he suffered in the Sudan. Spurred by the desire to paint one last masterpiece before he loses his sight, Dick summons all his talents to repaint Bessie's portrait, the last work he will ever paint. He finishes the masterpiece just as he loses his sight, but Bessie, bent on revenge because he ruined her romance with Torp, destroys the painting. When Torp is called back to the Sudan, he summons Maisie to care for Dick, but Dick turns her away and later sends Torp off to the Sudan. Dick, now totally alone, meets Bessie, who unwittingly informs him of the destruction of her portrait. Learning that his masterpiece no longer exists, Dick loses all desire to continue living. As his final act, he returns to the Sudan to gallantly ride to his death in a cavalry 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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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.