THE LIVES OF A BENGAL LANCER is grand heroic storytelling from the Do-Or-Die-And-Die-Well school. Carbines are crackling in the Northwest Frontier of India, with the glib Brits of the good old 41st taking on nasty tribesmen and their oily Russkie pals.
This superbly directed 1935 flick kicked off a series of large-scale adventures set in Imperial India, with the likes of Flynn, Grant and Power stepping into uniform through the years, taking their cue from the panache exhibited here by Gary Cooper, Franchot Tone and Guy Standing (now that’s a name !). Also on hand are vivid supporting players, including the Master of Benign Pomposity, Sir C. Aubrey Smith.
Regimental honor, cowards atonement, fiendish torture and the proper way to traverse a machine gun get full play here, with Sierra Nevada locations filling in for the real thing quite suitably. Good sound, terrific sets, roaring action, a snake-charming sequence that’s a justifiable classic and the Victoria Cross pinned to the saddle of a dead hero’s horse: what more do you want?
Henry Hathaway directed the 109 minutes, which brought an Oscar to his Assistant Directors (Paul Winz & Clem Beauchamp) and nominations for Best Picture, Hathaway’s direction, Screenplay, Art Direction, Film Editing and Sound. With Monte Blue, Douglas Dumbrille, Kathleen Burke, Akim Tamiroff, J. Carrol Naish, Mischa Auer and Leonid Kinsky. A hit, it took in over $1,500,000—roughly $50,000,000 in today’s rates. Fetch popcorn and pith helmet.