April 18th, 2012: Gunga Din (1939)

Cast and Crew:  George Stevens (Director); Alfred Newman (Original Music); John Sturges (Editor); Eduardo Ciannelli, Joan Fontaine, Montagu Love

What It’s About: Water bearer Gunga Din (Sam Jaffe) leads three sergeants to the secret lair of the Thuggee cult which threatens British domination of India.  Can the quartet warn the rest of the army before it’s too late?

Why Watch it Today?: Screenwriting great Ben Hecht, who co-wrote Gunga Din‘s story (sure, Kipling’s poem makes an appearance,  but this is pure Hollywood adventure film at heart) died today in 1964.  Hect won two Oscars and was nominated for four others in his long career.  Gunga Din is a classic, influential adventure film, with a huge cast of extras and fun performances from its three sergeants:  Victor McLaglen (the gruff one), Douglas Fairbanks (the dashing one), and Cary Grant (the funny, scheming one).  It’s also very much a product of 1939, and many films that draw from it (Return of the Jedi for example) use a fantasy or sci-fi setting to remove the offensive portrayals of Indians and concentrate on the action, adventure and comedy.

Where to Get It: Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, XFINITY or Vudu, Netflix (Rental) or your local library.

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