DIRECTED AND PRODUCED BY GEORGE STEVENS
RKO RADIO PICTURES
Information from IMDb
Based loosely on the poem by Rudyard Kipling, this takes place in British India during the Thuggee uprising.
Three fun loving sergeants are doing fine until one of them wants to get married and leave the service.
The other two trick him into a final mission where they end up confronting
the entire cult by themselves as the British Army is entering a trap.
This is of the "War is fun" school of movie making.
It has the flavour of watching Notre Dame play an inferior high school team.
Written by John Vogel
Cary Grant ... Cutter
Victor McLaglen ... MacChesney
Douglas Fairbanks Jr. ... Ballantine
Sam Jaffe ... Gunga Din
Eduardo Ciannelli ... Guru
Joan Fontaine ... Emmy
Montagu Love ... Colonel Weed
Robert Coote ... Higginbotham
Abner Biberman ... Chota
Lumsden Hare ... Major Mitchell
John Alban ... (uncredited)
Charles Bennett ... Telegraph Operator (uncredited)
Joe De La Cruz ... (uncredited)
George Du Count ... Pandu Lal (uncredited)
Ann Evers ... Girl at Party (uncredited)
Richard Farnsworth ... Bit Part (uncredited)
Olin Francis ... Fulad (uncredited)
Bryant Fryer ... Scottish Sergeant (uncredited)
Sam Harris ... (uncredited)
Jamiel Hasson ... Thug Chieftain (uncredited)
Cecil Kellaway ... Mr. Stebbins (uncredited)
Frank Leyva ... Merchant (uncredited)
Audrey Manners ... Girl at Party (uncredited)
Joe McGuinn ... (uncredited)
Fay McKenzie ... Girl at Party (uncredited)
Lal Chand Mehra ... Jadoo (uncredited)
Thom Metzetti ... (uncredited)
Art Mix ... (uncredited)
Clive Morgan ... Lancer Captain (uncredited)
Satini Pualoa ... (uncredited)
George Regas ... Thug Chieftain (uncredited)
Allen Schute ... (uncredited)
Reginald Sheffield ... Rudyard Kipling - Journalist (uncredited)
Paul Singh ... (uncredited)
Leslie Sketchley ... Corporal (uncredited)
Tom Tamarez ... (uncredited)
Carlie Taylor ... (uncredited)
Roland Varno ... Lt. Markham (uncredited)
Bruce Wyndham ... (uncredited)
Joel Sayre (screenplay) &
Fred Guiol (screenplay)
Ben Hecht (story) &
Charles MacArthur (story)
Rudyard Kipling (from poem "Gunga Din")
Lester Cohen contributing writer (uncredited)
John Colton contributing writer (uncredited)
William Faulkner contributing writer (uncredited)
Vincent Lawrence contributing writer (uncredited)
Dudley Nichols contributing writer (uncredited)
Anthony Veiller contributing writer (uncredited)
Joseph H. August
The "bridge over the deep chasm" scene, in which Annie the elephant shakes a rope bridge while Cutter and Gunga Din are trying to cross it, was actually filmed on a bridge just eight feet off the ground. The background was a realistic painting of a chasm.
The battle between the Thuggees and the British Indian army was added when RKO considered the ending too bland.
Eight make-up artists were sent to the Lone Pine set, where they worked for the six weeks of location shooting. Over 600 extras were employed in the Mount Whitney scenes.
In some prints, the actor playing Rudyard Kipling, has been replaced on one side of the screen by a rather shaky matte when the last lines of poem "Gunga Din" are read.
In March 1939, the Kipling family objected to a reporter being called Rudyard Kipling, prompting RKO to eliminate that scene from the film when it was re-released. However, it is in the prints available today. The scheduled release date of December 1938 was postponed for retakes. John Sturges, an uncredited editor on this film, directed the remake, Sergeants 3.
Budgeted at $1.915 million, this was the most expensive film RKO had produced to date.
At the time he was playing water-boy Gunga Din, Sam Jaffe was 47 years old.
Sabu was first choice to play Gunga Din; when it became clear he was unavailable, Sam Jaffe was hired in his place. In an interview years later, Jaffe (a Jewish Russian-American) was asked how he so convincingly played an Indian Hindu. Jaffe replied he kept telling himself to "Think Sabu."
Was second only to Gone with the Wind as the biggest money-maker of 1939.
Upon release a campaign was launched by the Indian magazine "Filmindia" against the misrepresentation of Indian caricatures in the film, and the displaying of insensitivity towards Hindu customs. Following riots in India and Malaya the film was withdrawn by the censors.
Bits and pieces of the film's use of Lone Pine's boulder-strewn area remain, including the anchors for the rope bridge across the "chasm". Some judicious referencing of the film, and stills from it, make for an interesting tour of the area to locate where a number of the scenes were shot.
Mention is made of Chandragupta Maurya as a significant Indian soldier. He founded the Maurya empire, unifying much of India and becoming its first emperor.
Inspired a comedy recording, "The Last Blast of the Blasted Bugler", by Sonny Giannotta, released on ABC Records in 1962.
Joan Fontaine fell in love with director George Stevens during filming.
Director George Stevens' flair for comedy in this film is no accident. As a cameraman for Hal Roach, he filmed shorts with Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, was doubtless a friend of Charley Chase and had directed some of the "Boy Friends" shorts before his association with this film.
Director George Stevens had Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Cary Grant flip a coin for the role of Cutter. Grant won. But there's also a report that Grant was dissatisfied with his original role of Ballantine and convinced producer Pandro S. Berman to allow him to switch roles with Fairbanks.
Kelly Reilly had long wanted to make "Gunga Din," and in 1936 brought in Howard Hawks to develop the project. Hawks felt Robert Donat or Ronald Colman were the best choices for the lead with Spencer Tracy as second lead, and early in 1937 he considered Ray Milland and Franchot Tone. However when Hawks took too much time on Bringing Up Baby he was taken off the project. It's also been said that Hawks was dropped from the film because "Baby" ended up as a box-office bomb, even though it has survived as a comedy classic.
Opening credits: Those portions of this picture dealing with the worship of The Goddess Kali are based on historic fact.
Instead of using authentic 19th Century British revolvers (Webleys?) they carry 20th Century U.S. Colt revolvers.
The breech-loading artillery brought up by the British infantry in the climatic battle are French 75s from World War I.
The rifle that Ballantine carries to the top of the temple is a M1896 Krag-Jorgensen.
The level of the gin bottle that Cutter carries from the veranda.
Ballantine's bandolier is empty every time it is shown until its last scene, when it's full.
McChesney's bandolier is empty on the ride to the Gold Temple.
Ballantine and MacChesney are bound and gagged when the last Thuggee is about to behead them after Gunga Din sounds the alarm. Cutter shoots the Thuggee and Ballantine and MacChesney are unbound as they rush to Cutter's side.
The position of the curtain material in Ballantine's belt changes.
When Din and Cutter first see the temple, it is in full sun. The next shot shows only the top of the temple in sun with dark shadows hiding the lower levels.
Crew or equipment visible
In every scene with the snake pit, the strings making them move are visible.
All of the weapons used in the production were US Army issue, from the 1873 trapdoor Springfield seen in dozens of westerns in the hands of cavalry troopers to the more modern M1903 Springfield issued in 1903 and a staple of the US Army till 1942.
The knife used to threaten the Guru is a US issue bayonet (1903) not the normal spike bayonet issued to the British troops.
When the British return to Tantrapur the second time, they posted guards. But when the guards reported, they never called out their post number. They all called out, one at a time, "Post number, all's well".
When in the village, the command is given to "Form a Square". This type of military formation was used as a defence against large massed assaults, usually of cavalry and would not have been of much use against riflemen/ snipers in buildings. It would have made the troops a larger target.
During the rooftop combat at Tantrapur, as the troops run to hide behind a short structure, McChesney's revolver falls from his holster, and McLaglen evidently hears it fall, and goes back for it. There's a cut, and we next see McLaglen behind the structure with revolver in hand. In some prints, this mistake is minimized and does not show McLaglen going back to retrieve the gun.
During the fighting of the natives (none of whom speak English) a voice can be clearly heard shouting, "Watch out!"
In the end, when they're taking Gunga Din's body away, Colonel Weed does the salute the American way (palm down). The British salute with the palm up (Sam Jeffe demonstrates it perfectly a few seconds later).
Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, California, USA
(Himalaya mountains - English fort)
Death Valley National Park, California, USA
Horseshoe Meadow Road, Lone Pine, California, USA
(Temple of Kali)
Imperial County, California, USA
Indian Springs Road, Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, California, USA
Lone Pine, California, USA
Mt. Whitney, California, USA
Sherwood Forest, California, USA
Sierra Nevada Mountains, California, USA
Temple Pocket, Lone Pine, California, USA
(Temple of Kali)
Venice Canals, Venice, Los Angeles, California, USA
Whitney Portal Road, Lone Pine Creek Canyon, Lone Pine, California, USA
Whitney Portal, Lone Pine, California, USA
Yuma, Arizona, USA
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