A major countermands orders and attacks to avenge a previous massacre of men, women, and children.A major countermands orders and attacks to avenge a previous massacre of men, women, and children.A major countermands orders and attacks to avenge a previous massacre of men, women, and children.
- Subadar-Major Puran Singhas Subadar-Major Puran Singh
- (as J. Carroll Naish)
Of course this is all fictional. There's no such person as the evil Moslem ruler played by C. Henry Gordon who massacred a British garrison at a place called Chukoti in 1854. The reason for the famous cavalry charge did not happen so that the regiment could get to nail this dude for his crimes. Yet one thing I found contained more than an element of truth about British rule in India and some of our problems today.
At the very beginning Errol Flynn is accompanying E.E. Clive on a goodwill mission to Gordon. It seems as though there was a treaty with a promised subsidy from Her Majesty that expired with the death of his father. Even though they're not paying him any more to be the British friend, Clive still hopes for Gordon's friendship.
This in fact was how the British acquired 'friends' all over India, they ruled very little of it outright. They won a bidding war that was as acrimonious as the military conflict with other European powers which concluded with the French out of there altogether after the Seven Years War and the Portugese left with a couple of enclaves on the coast.
Clive in fact is one very large fathead, Flynn knows it only too well. In fact though this is how we're still acquiring 'friends' in that region which is now Pakistan.
Thrown into the politics is the rivalry between Errol Flynn and his brother Patric Knowles for Olivia DeHavilland. Originally Anita Louise was supposed to be slated for the part. But after the rave notices started coming in from Captain Blood before some of the romantic stuff was to be shot, Louise was substituted for Olivia DeHavilland and poor Olivia was typecast as the crinolined heroine until she left Warner Brothers.
Jack Warner spent a lot of money on this film. The whole garrison at Chukoti where the massacre took place was built from the ground, up; no miniatures were used. Thousands of horses were bought and about 200 were destroyed in the making of the final charge. So many animals were hurt the ASPCA stepped in and Charge of the Light Brigade got a lot of bad publicity among animal lovers. It did receive an Oscar for Best Assistant Director for the second unit work in depicting the charge when that was a category at the Academy Awards.
Errol Flynn said it was the roughest film he ever made in terms of pure physicality. It was pretty rough on Olivia DeHavilland as well who Flynn accidentally cold-cocked during a scene. These crinolined heroines do have it rough.
One of my favorite character actors, Henry Stephenson, plays the fictional Charles Masefield in this film. Stephenson in every film he did always embodied the stiff upper lip, attention to your duty ethic that the United Kingdom prides itself in. He's always a man of class and refinement. And he firmly believes in the John Ford mantra, when the legend becomes fact, print the legend.
Which is what Alfred Lord Tennyson gave us when he wrote that poem extolling the young men of that generation who died at Balaclava. We're watching the legend here.
- Jul 1, 2007