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The Four Feathers

Brilliant British war movie “The Four Feathers” (1939) starring John Clements, June Duprez, Ralph Richardson among others.

The story is set in the closing stages of the 19th century when British forces are engaged in a war with Sudan’s ruling elite. Harry Faversham (John Clements) has grown up hating war and is not at all interested in armed combat. Yet he is forced to don army boots in order to pacify his father who thinks he is a coward.

An engagement is announced between Harry and Ethne Burroughs (June Duprez) but Harry resigns his commission before his regiment is due to depart to Egypt. His three friends John Durrance (Ralph Richardson), Thomas Willoughby (Jack Allen) and Peter Burroughs (Donald Grey) tease him by giving him a card with white feathers a sign of cowardice. Upon receiving this, he demands the fourth feather from his fiancee who is upset at him not going to war.

Then the story is all about our hero Harry going over to Egypt, masquerading as a local Svengali, infiltrating their ranks and helping the British troops win the war against the Sudanese and redeeming himself against his friends and his fiancee. Very beautifully made movie with clean direction, excellent cinematography, some very good war scenes, good script and some decent acting. IMDB 8/10

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1929 Adventure and aviation film directed by Frank Capra, starring Jack Holt, Lila Lee, Ralph Graves amongst others.

Lefty Phelps (Ralph Graves) is a college football (American football i.e. ) player and when the coach puts him in the dying stages of a match, he impresses with his first try but on crucial point, he stumbles and then runs towards his opponent’s goal rather than his team goal side. Lefty is derided by one and all in the newspapers and everywhere including a marine Sergeant Panama Williams (Jack Holt).

Lefty decides to join the marines and enlists for training under Panama. On his first ever solo flight attempt, he again chokes and fails to take off damaging the plane and injuring himself in the process. Meanwhile nurse Eleanor (Lila Lee) falls in love with him. But Panama is also in love with Eleanor.

Lefty’s marine career is almost over but they are called in to fight Nicaraguan rebels for which Panama enlists Lefty as his mechanic. On a reconnaissance to fight the rebels, Lefty alongwith Steve Roberts (Harold Goodwin) crash out after Roberts gets hit by a bullet from the ground. Roberts is the one who was taunting Lefty all along for choking in the football game and now Roberts is dying. Karma bites back.

After Eleanor rejects Panama, he decides to feign sickness and not go for a search party to find Lefty and Roberts. But when Eleanor confronts him with Lefty’s sincerity, he decides to take a solo flight to find Lefty and Roberts. In the meanwhile Roberts dies and Lefty buries him with the plane. Panama sees the fire and comes down but is hit by a bullet from the rebel forces.

Lefty then wipes out the rebel forces and flies back safely back to the unit. I see Govind Nihalani’s Vijeta in it, shades of it, in fact huge influence. The story of an indecisive, less confident youth berated by all in the society and seen as good for nothing, but fighting back with honour and valour. Frank Capra has done a fantastic job with the dialogues, though the story is by Ralph Graves. For a 1929 production, it is quite admirable.

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