This months movie review has a title that is quite fitting for the weather we have had here lately. I don't think it has rained this much throughout a summer in years. I chose this movie to review, not because of its title's symbolism to our current weather pattern, but because it stars Myrna Loy, whom I chose to spotlight this month for her birthday.
The movie was made in 1939, that glorious movie year which also gave us Gone With The Wind and The Wizard of Oz. It is an exotic romance based on the novel by Louis Bromfield.
The story takes place in Ranchipur, India where Myrna's character, Lady Edwina Esketh has traveled from England with her husband, Lord Albert Esketh, played by Nigel Bruce, on the possibility of purchasing a horse from the Maharajah. Edwina is not a happily married woman, as Albert is more interested in horses and money than her, so to escape her unhappiness, she apparently engages in many love affairs.
While at a dinner party at the maharajah's, Edwina runs into an old lover, womanizing, alcoholic Tom Ransome, played by George Brent. Tom has come to India to paint a portrait of the maharajah several years earlier and has never left, nor has he finished the painting. The two have a little fun together at the party and you get the sense that they are very similar characters, both carefree and thinking only of themselves. Tom would like to continue their relationship but Edwina spots a handsome young Indian doctor, Major Rama Safti, played by Tyrone Power, and sets her sights on him.
The next day when her husband falls ill, Edwina sends for the young doctor under the pretense of caring about her husbands health, when in reality she is hoping to seduce him. Rama agrees to show Edwina around but is able to resist her attempts to sway him from his work. He is very dedicated to helping the poor of the city and soon Edwina starts accompanying him while he works so as to be close to him, hoping to finally seduce him.
At the same time, Tom is being pursued by an English Missionary's young daughter, Fern Simon, played by Brenda Joyce. She is bored with living in India and intrigued by his bad reputation, hoping that hanging around him will cause her parents to send her away. But, her mother is a social climber and encourages the relationship because she longs to "rub shoulders" with the upper class. The more time Fern spends with Tom, the closer the two become.
Soon, the rains of the monsoon season come and along with that Ranchipur suffers an earthquake which causes the dam to burst. The city is flooded, many die including the Maharajah and Edwina's husband Albert. And after the water starts to recede, the plague sets in. Rama is spending all of his time at the hospital caring for the sick and during his absence Edwina realizes that she is hopelessly in love with him, so in order to be with him she volunteers to help at the hospital. It is while working here, helping care for the sick of Ranchipur, that Edwina's character begins to change and Rama, seeing her selflessness, begins to fall in love with her.
After the Maharajah's death, the Maharani, played by Maria Ouspenskaya, asks Tom to work to help Ranchipur. He surprisingly does so, putting away his alcohol, and enlists Fern as his assistant, whom he has fallen in love with. One day, while working, the Maharani asks Tom about Edwina. She confides in Tom that since she and the Maharajah had no children, they had planned to make Rama their heir and essentially Ranchipur's new Maharajah. She is worried that Edwina will distract Rama from his love of his country and Tom confirms her suspicion of Edwina. Thus, she has Tom tell Edwina that she is to leave the country the next morning.
I'll not give away any of the ending, just that I found this movie to be quite entertaining. It was a nice change to see Myrna in a more dramatic role, playing a less than desirable wife with few morals. Tyrone Power, I thought, gave a believable performance as a Hindu doctor. I loved Maria Ouspenskaya playing the worldly wise Maharani with her cigarette dangling from its holder. Nigel Bruce, who is best known for his portrayal as Dr. Watson of Sherlock Holmes fame, to me is the real surprise of the film as Myrna's husband, performing totally against type as a character who is arrogant, selfish and down right vicious, who in the end gets his just desserts.
Considering that this was the 1930s and there were no computer generated graphics, the earthquake and flood scenes were quite realistic and horrific. The movie won the first ever Academy Award for Special Effects, which was no small feat considering this was also the year that you saw Atlanta burn in GWTW. The picture was also nominated for five other Academy Awards: Art Direction, Black-and-White Cinematography, Film Editing, Sound, and Musical Score.
If this version isn't your cup of tea, it was remade in 1955 as "The Rains of Ranchipur", with Lana Turner, Richard Burton, Fred Mac Murray and Michael Rennie. I haven't seen the other version, have any of you?