For Reel

Gunga Din (1939)
December 25, 2014, 4:43 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: George Stevens
4 Stars
Gunga DinRudyard Kipling’s famous poem was adapted into this story by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, the duo most famous for the hit Broadway play The Front Page. Perhaps the most pleasant surprise of Gunga Din is that they drew inspiration from their own classic screwball comedy hit by again navigating the divide between loyalty to one’s love and one’s duty. Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Cary Grant, and Victor McLaglen are perfectly cast as the trio of British sergeants who, along with the water bearer who shares his name with the film’s title (played by Sam Jaffe), confront a vicious Thuggee cult. Grant’s performance is the most striking in that it’s the most unexpected–he’s far from a typical hero, coming off as brash and crude, a huge departure from his usual comparatively dignified roles (he was originally considered for Fairbanks’ part but was attracted to the challenge of a cockney blowhard). McLaglen steals the picture, though, utilizing his physical gifts as an imposing, brazen hero and subverting them by ultimately playing a comical sentimentalist.

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