Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Four Feathers

I believe that I have never mentioned the movie The Four Feathers before. It's airing tonight at midnight on TCM as part of a night of movies with Ralph Richardson in the cast.

The star and main character is John Clements, playing Harry Faversham. Harry's father, like all the male members of the Faversham family, served in the military, and now that Dad is retired, it seems as though hsi tim is spent reminiscing about his past, specifically in the form of General Burroughs (C. Aubrey Smith, looking like his usual distinguished self). Burroughs fought in the Crimean War and loves telling anybody who will listen the same tired old story about the batle he fought in Crimea. All the men in the Faversham family have gone into military service, and it's assumed that Harry is going to do the same, although he really doesn't like the idea.

Because it's the expected thing, however, Harry does go to the military academy, where he also falls in love with Burroughs' granddaghter Ethne (Jane Duprez). Harry would rather write poetry than do the military thing, though, and when General Gordon is defeated in Sudan, Britian sends an expeditionary force to Africa to quell the native uprising. This means that Harry and his friends (one of them played by the aforementioned Ralph Richardson) will be sent to Africa. Harry decides that the most honorable thing to do is to resign his commission. Unfortunately, nobody else sees it the same way, and his three buddies in the army as well as Ethne each give him a white feather, this being the symbol of cowardice.

Harry decides there's only one thing to do, which is to become a hero so that he can redeem himself. To do so, he sails for Egypt and has his skin darkened so that he can pass himself of as a member of an Egyptian sect, as opposed to one of the Europeans who would certainly be killed by the Sudanese. Harry saves Richardson, who by this time has been blinded by sunstroke, and then winds up at the Battle of Omdurman.

The Four Feathers is the sort of Victorian adventure story which, I have to admit, is not my favorite genre of movie. That having been said, if you do enjoy adventure movies, you're going to love this one. Not only is it adventurous, but it's got goregous Technicolor photography as well as location shooting (at least for the establishing shots). Military life is thankfully not like this any more, but The Four Feathers is still a story well worth seeing.

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