The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936 film)

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The Charge of the Light Brigade
Thechargeofthelightbrigade1936.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMichael Curtiz
Produced by
uncredited
Screenplay by
Based onoriginal story
by Michel Jacoby
Starring
Music byMax Steiner
CinematographySol Polito A.S.C.
Edited byGeorge Amy
Production
company
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • October 20, 1936 (1936-10-20) (USA)
Running time
115 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$1,330,000[1] or $1,076,000[2]
Box office$3,382,000[2]

The Charge of the Light Brigade is a 1936 American historical adventure film from Warner Bros., starring Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland.[3][4] It was directed by Michael Curtiz and produced by Samuel Bischoff, with Hal B. Wallis as executive producer, from a screenplay by Michael Jacoby and Rowland Leigh, from a story by Michael Jacoby based on the 1854 poem "The Charge of the Light Brigade" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. The music score was composed by Max Steiner, his first for Warner Bros., and the cinematography was by Sol Polito. Scenes were shot at the following California locations: Lone Pine, Sherwood Lake, Lasky Mesa, Chatsworth and Sonora. The Sierra Nevada mountains were used for the Khyber Pass scenes.[5]

The film's script is very loosely based on the famous Charge of the Light Brigade that occurred during the Crimean War (1853–56). Additionally, the storyline includes an event similar to the Siege of Cawnpore during the Indian Rebellion of 1857.

This was the second of eight films in which Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland costar. A later film was made in 1968 under the same name, The Charge of the Light Brigade and stars Trevor Howard and Vanessa Redgrave.

Plot[edit]

In 1854, Major Geoffrey Vickers (Errol Flynn) and his brother, Captain Perry Vickers (Patric Knowles), are stationed in India, with the 27th Lancers of the British Army. It is during the period of East India Company dominance over the Indian subcontinent. Perry has secretly betrayed Geoffrey by stealing the love of his fiancée Elsa (Olivia de Havilland).

During an official visit to local tributary rajah, Surat Khan (C. Henry Gordon), Geoffrey saves the rajah's life while hunting, for which the rajah promises eternal gratitude. Later, Maj. Vickers is stationed at the British garrison of (fictional) Chukoti, along with British military families, within the part the North-Western Frontier controlled by Surat Khan. A British miscalculation leads to premature withdrawal of troops to (fictional) Lohora, unnecessarily exposing Chukoti. Faced with an overwhelming siege, the British commander, Col. Campbell (Donald Crisp), surrenders Chukoti to Surat Khan, who then massacres the inhabitants, including British families. Surat Khan allies his forces with Imperial Russia, whom the British are fighting in the Crimean War, but spares Maj. Vickers and Elsa as they flee the slaughter. This repays his debt to Geoffrey.

The love triangle and the quest for vengeance resolve at the Battle of Balaclava. Aware that Surat Khan is inspecting Russian positions opposite the 27th Lancers, Maj. Vickers secretly replaces written orders by Sir Charles Macefield (Henry Stephenson) to the commander of the Light Brigade, Sir Benjamin Warrenton (Nigel Bruce), to withdraw from the Balaclava Heights. Vickers instead orders the famous suicidal attack so the lancers can avenge the Chukoti massacre. Before the charge, Maj. Vickers reminds troops of the Chukoti Massacre and directs their anger: "Our objective is Surit Khan"! Although the 27th Lancers lose nearly all their 600 strength, they successfully breach Russian artillery positions. There, Vickers finds and kills Surat Khan with a lance, at the cost of his own life.

Later, it emerges that Maj. Vickers wrote a letter to Sir Charles Macefield explaining his actions, which he forced Perry to deliver under threat of court martial, sparing his brother almost certain death during the 27th's charge. After receiving Maj. Vickers' explanation of why he defied orders and the charge happened, Macefield takes responsibility and burns the letter to protect Vickers and to honor him for his conspicuous gallantry in avenging the Chukoti Massacre.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

The charge had been previously portrayed in a British film, The Jaws of Death (1930).

Warner Bros. was inspired to make the film after Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935) had been released to great popularity, ushering in a series of British Empire adventure tales. Michel Jacoby had developed a story based on the famous charge but, although Warners bought Jacoby's script, the final script was closer to Lives of a Bengal Lancer.[6]

An original working title for the film was The Charge of the 600.[7]

Warner Bros. wanted an all-British cast. Errol Flynn (Tasmanian, but often considered Irish) had made such a strong impression in Captain Blood, he was removed from supporting Fredric March in Anthony Adverse to play the lead in Charge of the Light Brigade.[8] Ian Hunter was connected to the film early on.[9] Anita Louise was announced as the female lead.[10]

Patric Knowles had just joined Warner Bros. at the recommendation of Irving Asher in London, the same man who recommended Errol Flynn. He was given the crucial supporting role of Flynn's brother.[11] The film provides an early, important supporting role for David Niven.[12]

Edward G. Robinson tested for the role as the lead villain Surat Khan. Basil Rathbone was also considered before C. Henry Gordon was finally cast.[13]

Shooting[edit]

Principal photography began in April 1936.[14]

During filming on location at Lone Pine California, the studio's camera unit helped put out a fire that started at a restaurant across the road from where the actors were staying.[15]

Some of the location shooting was done in Mexico where there were fewer restrictions on harming animals during production.[16]

The Charge sequence[edit]

The film comes to a climax at the Battle of Balaclava, subject of Lord Tennyson's poem. The lancers charge into the valley, braving the heavy Russian cannon fire, and many are killed. Text from Tennyson's poem is superimposed on screen, coupled with Max Steiner's musical score. Director Michael Curtiz, who did not have an excellent command of English, shouted "Bring on the empty horses," meaning the "riderless horses"; David Niven used this as the title of his autobiographical book about the Golden Age of Hollywood.

The battlefield set was lined with tripwires to trip the charging cavalry horses. For the filming of this climax, 125 horses were tripped; of those, 25 were killed or had to be put down afterward. Errol Flynn, an accomplished horseman, was outraged by the animal cruelty and by director Michael Curtiz's seeming indifference. He attacked Curtiz, but they were pulled apart before any serious damage was done. The film's charge sequence later forced the U.S. Congress to ensure the safety of animals in future motion pictures; the ASPCA followed suit and banned tripwires from all films. Unlike Flynn's other blockbusters, because of the number of horses killed during the charge sequence, the film was never re-released by Warner Bros. It would not be seen again until 1956, when the company sold the rights to it and other pre-1950 films to Associated Artists Productions, after which it subsequently premiered on television.

Stylized as a cenotaph in opening credits[edit]

Disclaimer at the end of opening credits[edit]

"This production has its basis in history.
The historical basis, however, has been
fictionalized for the purposes of this picture
and the names of many characters, many
characters themselves, the story, incidents
and institutions, are fictitious. With the
exception of known historical characters,
whose actual names are herein used, no
identification with actual persons, living
or dead, is intended or should be inferred".

Reception[edit]

Box Office[edit]

The film was a massive hit in Japan.[17]

According to Warner Bros.' accounts, the film was the studio's most expensive and most popular film of 1936, earning $1,454,000 domestically and $1,928,000 in foreign markets.[2]

Critical[edit]

Filmink magazine wrote that "If you think that story sounds silly, you’d be right and it doesn’t come across any less so on screen" but thought the film was redeemed by Flynn and its action sequences.[18]

Awards[edit]

Jack Sullivan won the Academy Award for Best Assistant Director for his work on the film, and it was also nominated for the Academy Award for Sound (Nathan Levinson) and the Academy Award for Original Music Score.[19]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ John Sedgwick, Mike Pokorny, "Hollywood's foreign earnings during the 1930s", 83 TRAC 1 (1) pp. 83–97 Intellect Limited 2010 p92
  2. ^ a b c Warner Bros financial information in The William Shaefer Ledger. See Appendix 1, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, (1995) 15:sup1, 1-31 p 16 DOI: 10.1080/01439689508604551
  3. ^ Variety film review; November 4, 1936, page 18.
  4. ^ Harrison's Reports film review; November 7, 1936, page 178.
  5. ^ http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/2098/The-Charge-of-the-Light-Brigade/notes.html
  6. ^ Tony Thomas, Rudy Behlmer * Clifford McCarty, The Films of Errol Flynn, Citadel Press, 1969 p 45-50
  7. ^ Schallert, Edwin (June 13, 1935). "Tennyson 's Celebrated "Charge of the Light Brigade " Inspiration for New Film: Miss Colbert Will Be Star of 'Frenchy' Moroni Olsen Given Musketeer Role; Jones to Sing". Los Angeles Times. p. 13.
  8. ^ Chaplin's Big Business: Goldwyn's Leading Lady: A New Romantic Hero Bain, Greville. The Times of India (1861-current) [New Delhi, India] 07 Mar 1936: 9.
  9. ^ Schallert, Edwin (Sep 18, 1935). "Irvin S Cobb, Famous Humorist, Signs to Star at Twentieth Century-Fox: Zanuck Picks Story for Writer-Player Francine Larrimore Arriving October 20 to Do Picture Work for M.-G.-M.; Featured Roles Awarded Melvyn Douglas". Los Angeles Times. p. 9.
  10. ^ "SCREEN NOTES". New York Times. Mar 20, 1936. p. 28.
  11. ^ Schallert, Edwin (Mar 9, 1936). "Irvin Cobb, Film Future Secure, to Star in "Gentleman From Mississippi": Writer's Thespianic Adventure Proceeds Claude Rains and Charles Boyer Both Will Have Fling at Napoleon Interpretation; Choir Singer in "Stagestruck"". Los Angeles Times. p. 15.
  12. ^ Schallert, Edwin (Mar 7, 1936). "Bette Davis, Academy Winner, Will Break Up Film Duties With Vacation: Star Going to Palm Springs, Honolulu Randolph Scott Will Portray Scout Hawkeye in "Last of Mohicans;" Sol Lesser Plans Films for Twentieth-Century Release". Los Angeles Times. p. 5.
  13. ^ Schallert, Edwin (Mar 20, 1936). "Franchot Tone Selected to Appear Opposite Jean Harlow in "Suzy" Film: George Fitzmaurice Will Direct Feature Harriet Hilliard's Next Picture Will Be "Make a Wish;" Capra Seeking Tibetans; Beverly Roberts Wins Leading Part". Los Angeles Times. p. 15.
  14. ^ Shaffer, George (Apr 15, 1936). "Jungle Scene Gives Actors Extra Thrill". Chicago Daily Tribune. p. 22.
  15. ^ "Movie Crew Aids Firemen". New York Times. Apr 2, 1936. p. 29.
  16. ^ "NEWS OF THE SCREEN: Forward the Light Brigade, to Mexico -- More Costumes for Hepburn -- Trivial Matters". New York Times. June 15, 1936. p. 24.
  17. ^ https://archive.org/stream/variety129-1938-01#page/n27/mode/1up/search/gross
  18. ^ Vagg, Stephen (November 10, 2019). "The Films of Errol Flynn: Part 2 The Golden Years". Filmink.
  19. ^ "The 9th Academy Awards (1937) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-08-08.

External links[edit]