Sunday, September 29, 2013

Rainy days and Mondays

Myrna Loy, early in her career before playing Nora Charles in The Thin Man, played quite a few exotic characters who were often femmes fatales. She's not quite so exotic, but is certainly the temptress, in The Rains Came, which is airing tomorrow at noon on TCM.

We don't get to see Myrna Loy at the beginning of the movie. That honor goes to George Brent, who plays Tom Ransome, an American roué now living in Ranchipur, a prinicpality in British India. His reputation preceds him, as the polite society of Ranchipur want him to change his ways. On the other hand, Fern, the daughter of the head of the missionary school (Brenda Joyce) likes Tom, and in fact would like to run away with him, just to get away from the stultifying missionary life.

Enter Myrna. She was an old lover of Tom's, but they went their separate ways, at least until now. She's now the Lady Edwina Esketh, the wife of Lord Albert (Nigel Bruce), who is in Ranchipur to buy a bunch of horses. Edwina hasn't exactly been faithful to her husband, and he knows it, keeping a list of all hre conquests. So, when Edwina meets Tom again at a party given by the Maharajah and Maharani (HB Warner and Maris Ouspenskaya, respectively), you'd think that the two of them are going to get back together and live happily ever after, at least after the quickie divorce in Reno.

But if you were watching the opening credits, you'll have noticed that Tyrone Power's name is ahead of George Brent's in the credits, and we haven't gotten to him yet. He's Major Rama Safti, a doctor in the medical corps of Ranchipur. Edwina is immediately smitten with him, because he's just so damn handsome and exotic. Tom is friends with the doctor, and thinks this isn't a good idea, but you know that when love is in the air, there's no way anybody's going to break it up until the two lovers learn the futility of it themselves.

Edwina and Rama start seeing more of each other, until... the earthquake. The earthquake is just the first of a series of disasters. It's bad enough just to have an earthquake, but this one also damages the foundations of the dam, which eventually bursts and sends a flood of water towards all of the main characters! They survive the flood, more or less, so you'd think that, as in a movie like San Francisco, this is the point where all the survivors get to live ever after, if not necessarily happily. Oh, but The Rains Came has a long ways to go.

If you though an earthquake and flood were bad enough, wait a minute -- you ain't heard nothing yet. The stagnant flood waters bring... the plague! Rama, being a doctor, takes charge of the situation as best he can, setting up emergency hospital wards to care for the sick and dying, and asking for help anywhere he can get it. And wouldn't you know, Edwina wants to help. She's got no experience in nursing, but dammit, she's so in love with the doctor. And she needs to expiate her sins too, since her husband was one of the folks who didn't survive all the other disasters. Still, Edwina's got a lot of expiating to do.

The Rains Came is unrelentingly melodramatic, which at times isn't to the movie's benefit. Just when you think there's going to be a resolution to people's problems -- boom! comes another disaster. The cast all do a fairly good job with characters who range from the not-quite appealing to severe ethnic mismatches. Yes, Tyrone Power and Maria Ouspenskaya are playing high-cast Indians. Ouspenskaya, in particular, looks incredibly silly doing it. But she rises above it, as do the rest of the cast.

The Rains Came is the sort of movie that shouldn't quite be to my liking, what with the melodrama and general Lifetime Channel-worthy material. And yet, it's not a bad movie at all. I think I'd recommend other movies first to people who aren't necessarily fans of old movies, but for anybody who does enjoy old cinema, this is a worthy addition to your movie viewing.

The Rains Came has received multiple DVD releases.

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