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The Lives of a Bengal Lancer is a 1935 adventure film loosely adapted from the 1930 book of the same name by Francis Yeats-Brown. The plot of the movie, which bears little resemblance to Yeats-Brown's memoir, concerns Britishmarker soldiers defending the borders of Indiamarker against rebellious natives. It stars Gary Cooper, Franchot Tone, Richard Cromwell, and Douglass Dumbrille. The film was directed by Henry Hathaway and written by Grover Jones, William Slavens McNutt, Waldemar Young, John L. Balderston and Achmed Abdullah.

The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Picture.


On the northwest frontier of Indiamarker during the British Raj, Scottish-Canadian Lieutenant Alan McGregor (Gary Cooper) welcomes two replacements to the 41st Bengal Lancers, Lieutenant Forsythe (Franchot Tone) and Lieutenant Donald Stone (Richard Cromwell), the son of the unit's commander, Colonel Tom Stone (Guy Standing). In an attempt to show impartiality, the colonel treats his son coldly, which is misinterpreted and causes resentment in the young man.

Lieutenant Barrett (Colin Tapley) has been spying on Mohammed Khan (Douglass Dumbrille) and reports that he has been preparing an uprising against the British. Khan kidnaps Lieutenant Stone in order to try to extract vital information about an ammunition caravan from him. When the colonel refuses to attempt his rescue, McGregor and Forsythe go without orders. Unfortunately, they are caught as well. Mohammed Khan says, "We have ways of making men talk" (a line which is frequently misquoted) and has his prisoners tortured. Stone cracks under the pain and reveals what he knows. As a result, the ammunition is captured.

The captives escape as the outmatched Bengal Lancers deploy to assault Khan's fortress. They manage to destroy the ammunition and Stone redeems himself by killing Khan, ensuring victory.


Production notes

Paramount had planned on producing the film in 1931 and sent Ernest B. Schoedsack and Rex Wimpy to India to film location shots such as a tiger hunt.

Paiute Native Americans and Hindu fruit-pickers from Napa Valleymarker were used as extras.


The film was parodied by Laurel & Hardy in their film Bonnie Scotland.

Cromwell was mentioned in Gore Vidal's satirical novel Myra Breckinridge (1968) as "the late Richard Cromwell, so satisfyingly tortured in Lives of a Bengal Lancer."

According to a BBC documentary, this was Adolf Hitler's favourite film. Other sources suggest that he preferred King Kong.

See also


  • Robinson, Derek, Invasion 1940, London (2005) p291.

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