In 2011, I announced I was trying to see every film released in 1939. This new series chronicles films released in 1939 as I watch them. As we start out this blog feature, this section may become more concrete as I search for a common thread that runs throughout each film of the year. Right now, that’s difficult.
1939 film: The Four Feathers
Release date: April 18, 1939
Cast: John Clements, Ralph Richardson, C. Aubrey Smith, June Duprez, Allan Jeayes, Jack Allen, Donald Gray, Donald Gray, Frederick Culley, Clive Baxter
Studio: London Film Productions
Director: Zoltan Korda
Plot: Set in 1902, Harry (Clements) resigns from the military right before he is supposed to go to Africa to serve, shirking tradition. He never wanted to serve in the military decides he won’t now that his father has died and he no longer has to follow his wishes. Before his friends travel to Egypt, they send him white feathers signifying that he’s a coward.
• All three Korda brothers worked on this film: Zoltan Korda directed, Alexander Korda produced, and Vincent Korda was the production designer.
• The only film Zoltan Korda directed in 1939
• Actor John Clements’ only film released in 1939.
• C. Aubrey Smith was in eight films released in 1939.
• Ralph Richardson was in five films released in 1939
• Released in the United Kingdom in April 1939 and in the United States in August 1939
• Based on the novel of the same name written by A. E. W. Mason, published in 1902
• There are several different versions of this film:
The Four Feathers (1915) starring Edgar L. Davenport, Fuller Mellish, Ogden Childe
The Four Feathers (1921) starring Harry Ham, Mary Massart, Cyril Percival
The Four Feathers (1929) starring Richard Arlen, Fay Wray, Clive Brook, William Powell
Storm Over the Nile (1955) starring Anthony Steel, Laurence Harvey, James Robertson Justice
The Four Feathers (2002) starring Heath Ledger, Wes Bentley, Kate Hudson
My review: Searching for the “1939 feature”:
I’m a little behind with my “Watching 1939” review, because I’m frankly not sure how to word my thoughts on “Four Feathers” (1939). I’m not even sure if I have any thoughts about it at all.
“Four Feathers” (1939) is a lavish Technicolor adaptation of A.E.W. Mason’s 1902 book. After deciding to resign from the military because he never wanted to, Harry is gifted with four white feathers from his friends to signify that they think he’s a coward. Jerks.
So Harry, played by John Clements, heads to Egypt where his friends are fighting and disguise himself as a muse Sangali native so he can anonymously help them out. His friends eventually figure out it’s him and he is vindicated when he returns back to England.
This isn’t a bad film, I’m just left ambivalent. I didn’t dislike it, but also didn’t love it either. I don’t really feel anything about it.
There are a few things I would say worth noting:
• The three Korda brothers all worked on this film.
• The Technicolor and cinematography are gorgeous
• C. Aubrey Smith is truly the best character
Despite my ambivalence, this is an exciting film, but it’s also rather sad. Two hours and 9 minutes also feels rather long for this story.
I have read that The Four Feathers is an “essential” film. Now that I have watched it twice, I’m not sure what I’m missing and why I don’t feel the same enthusiasm. Would a third time viewing be the charm?