Gunga Din ★★★★★
This marked another early success for future Shane and Giant director George Stevens after Swing Time with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in 1936. A grand historical adventure set on India’s Northwest Frontier, it combines the suave charm of Cary Grant, the athletic prowess of Douglas Fairbanks Jr and the character ballast of future John Wayne mainstay Victor McLaglen, who play three Royal Engineers in the British Indian Army. They’re given a dangerous mission along with Kipling’s water bearer Gunga Din (played, as was unhappily orthodox in 1939, by a blacked-up Sam Jaffe) and encounter a Thuggee insurgency. Joan Fontaine brings the love as Fairbanks Jr’s intended. It’s still terrific, but with the one caveat.
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