The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935) – Henry Hathaway

The 101 Action Movies brought me this Gary Cooper classic that is not only lots f fun, but has a lot of heart.

It’s a tale of honor, duty, bravery and loyalty that has not dimmed at all with age. Gary Cooper plays Scotch-Canadian Lt. McGregor. I quite like the fact that he’s a Canadian and rather proud of it, talking about Montreal, McGill and Calgary. He signed up with the 41st Bengal Lancers, and serves in a British unit in India along it’s northwest frontier.

He serves under Colonel Stone (Sir Guy Standing), a proper English man who prizes the service and duty above all else.

This is made readily apparent when McGregor is assigned to pick up the two latest recruits from the train station, the sarcasticaly playful Lt. Forsythe (Franchot Tone) and the Colonel’s own son, Lt. Stone (Richard Cromwell). When the two new officers are presented to the colonel he plays everything completely by the book and barely pays his son any attention.

McGregor, set to meddle as he is, arranges for young Stone to have a moment alone with his father, but the Colonel remains aloof, until it’s too late and his son has left the room.

lancersThe three of them, Stone, Forsythe and McGregor form a fun and loyal brotherhood and occasionally take the mickey out of each other. Forsythe for instance loves to play a snake charmer’s flute to annoy Mac, but only until the flute does exactly what it’s supposed to in a very funny scene.

Young Stone trains, and tries to prove himself not only to his fellows but to his father, but he doesn’t realize how dangerous and how serious everything is, and tends to get himself into a bit of trouble every now and again.

No more so than when he is kidnapped by the villain of the piece, Mohammed Khan (Douglas Dumbrille). The colonel refuses to send out a rescue party, as it may escalate tensions, and the needs of the many outweigh the needs and the few and such. That doesn’t stop Mac and Forsythe however who race off to rescue their friend, only to become prisoners themselves.

They’re tortured for information, and young Stone breaks, giving away details, and putting the entire regiment at risk.

fightThe three of them must find a way to escape and help their fellow Lancers before it’s too late, but at what cost?

One of the things this movie is remembered for is the oft-misquoted line, “We have ways of making men talk.”

I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed this one. There’s some¬†fantastic stuff, and Cooper seems to be having a great time, as the only Canadian in a predominantly British outpost.

Now, while it wasn’t shot on location, there is fantastic use made of locations around California, and it looks brilliant!

As a shocking thing to admit, this is my first Gary Cooper movie ever, and this was a movie I hadn’t even heard of until the 101 Action Movies came along! But I’m glad it was this one, because this is a great standard to hold him to when I watch any of his other films.

I loved the lines frawn between family and fraterneity, the oath to the service, and the love of your family (those you are born with and the ones you choose).

Did you see it?

What are your favorite Gary Cooper movies?



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