Saturday, August 26, 2017

Clive of India

I recorded Clive of India last month when TCM ran it as part of their salute to Star of the Month Ronald Colman. I see that the movie is available on DVD courtesy of Fox's MOD scheme, so I feel comfortable doing a full-length review of it.

Robert Clive (Colman) was a clerk in the British East India Company, which ran the little bit of India it had the power over with an iron first. Clive, however, finds being a clerk tedious and unfulfilling, so he first tries suicide. Then when when the French besiege a British fort he takes up arms, joining the military and finding it something he's good at. Clive's strategies are able to defeat the French, and then ultimately he's able to defeat some of the native rulers as well, bringing more wealth to Britain and also more to himself.

Meanwhile, Margaret (Loretta Young) has decided to travel to India from Britain to see Robert with whom she's been corresponding. She falls in love and the two get married and return to London where they live happily ever after. Suuuure, that's what happened. Since all of this happens in the first half hour of the movie, we know that's not what happens. India slides back into a parlous state since the East India Company is corrupt and brutal, and the Brits need somebody less corrupt and less brutal to manage the place. Clive is the man for the job, and Margaret follows him, somewhat unhappily.

Clive then shows that he was only less corrupt than the other folks in the East India Company, as he's more than willing to forge a signature on a treaty to move things forward. Once again he's successful, but his unorthodox methods are going to get him in trouble. He retires to England again, only for the East India Company to screw things up, forcing him back to India -- although this time, Margaret refuses to follow. Smart woman. And this time, there are East India Company stooges in Parliament. With Clive away in India, they can engage in all sorts of machinations against him.

Robert Clive was apparently an interesting historical figure, but you wouldn't know it from this movie. There are far too many intertitles for a 1935 movie, slowing what little action there is down to a crawl. The scenes that should be exciting wind up being brief battle sequences. Ronald Colman tries his best but has a hard time rising above the poor material. Loretta Young looks radiant. C. Aubrey Smith shows up for a scene at the end. That was Cesar Romero as an Indian ruler?

Ultimately, I'm sorry to say that there's not all that much worth watching in Clive of India. And the MOD schemes always wind up being more expensive than other DVD releases. This one probably deserves to be part of a box set with other Fox period pieces such as Lloyd's of London and not just a standalone DVD.

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