Clive of India

 

Clive of India

Based on the Biography by R.J. Minney (1931)

Screenplay based on their play by R.J. Minney & W.P. Lipscomb

Photography by J. Peverell Marley

Art Direction by Richard Day

Costumes by Omar Kiam

Edited by Barbara McLean

Music by Alfred Newman

Produced by Darryl F. Zanuck

Directed by Robert Boleslawski

1935

 

Cast:

Ronald Colman

Loretta Young

Francis Lister

Colin Clive

Montagu Love

C. Aubrey Smith

Cesar Romero

Ferdinand Munier

 

Production Studio:

Theatrical: 20th Century Pictures

Video: Fox Cinema Archive

 

Video

Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Resolution: 480

Codec: MPEG-2

Disc Type: Movie on Demand

Bit Rate: Moderate (ca. 5~6 Mbps)

Runtime: 96 minutes

Region: 1

 

Audio: English Dolby Digital 1.0

 

SubtitlesNone

 

Bonus FeaturesNone

 

Presentation:

DVD Clamshell Case: DVD on Demand

Street Date: March 1, 2013


 

The Movie: 7

With the advent of sound motion pictures, Hollywood turned out gobs of musicals (two of which, Broadway Melody and Cavalcade, won Oscars for Best Picture in the second and sixth years of that award), followed by reconstructions of classic novels (Treasure Island, The Prince and the Pauper, Mutiny of the Bounty, among many others) and biographies of famous men and women (Louis Pasteur, Emil Zola, Florenz Ziegfield, Madame Curie, Alexander Graham Bell). Clive of India is as much the telling of the romance between Robert Clive (1725-1774) and his wife, Margaret Maskelyne, as it is the story of Clive’s interest and campaigns in India, and especially the East India Company, for whom he labored and which represented the colonial interests of Great Britain in India from his time until 1857.


             

 

While based on the biography of the same title by R.J. Minney (which told the India story in some depth, if from a British perspective) and the play, based on the book, by Minney & W.P. Lipscomb, who wrote screenplay as well, the Hollywood version of events, like many bio-pics of the day, concentrated on the conflict between ambition and promise, as reflected in Clive’s relationship with Margaret.  Ronald Colman (uncharacteristically, without the thin mustache, and the less distinguished for its loss) is Robert Clive, whom we first see as a lowly clerk, toiling away pointlessly for the East India Company, which was trying without success, it would seem, to take hold of the region, militarily and politically.  (Think of our first encounter with T.E. Lawrence in Cairo in David Lean’s film, only with considerably less imagination and intelligence.)


             

 

Colman plays Clive with even more ambition and carelessness for his personal safety and that of others (if such can be imagined) than O’Toole’s Lawrence, though Lean made no room for a romance, despite a film more an twice the length of this 1935 movie. Clive of India was produced by Darryl F. Zanuck and directed by Robert Boleslawski, who directed Garbo in Somerset Maugham’s The Painted Veil the year before, and would direct Theodora Goes Wild with Irene Dunne, The Garden of Allah with Marlene Dietrich and the original Three Godfathers with Chester Morris the year after Clive of India. Boleslawski died at 47 in 1937.


             

 

Clive of India could have been a good movie, if not a great one, if Zanuck had been able to expand the adventures in India. Alas, the 44 year-old Colman, who can hardly be bettered as the conflicted soul he portrays, is utterly unconvincing in the swash and dash department.  While reminding us today of O’Toole’s daring, he lacks the necessary ferocity and military understanding necessary to bring India in line. His Clive is simply reckless and lucky.  To be fair, Colman is not helped by a screenplay which, in those scenes, gives him nothing to go on.


             

 

Such is not the case with his many scenes with the radiant Loretta Young. At 22, Young was never more innocent, nor filmed with such angelic simplicity and directness. There is a glow around her that is not simply the result of lensing and lighting.  (Clive was two films prior to The Call of the Wild, which saw her notorious passion with Clark Gable – the stars we see in her eyes in this film must have been what Gable responded to.)  It is the story of Clive and Margaret that makes this film worth watching. Everything else in the movie seems silly and contrived by comparison. It is only here that the drama is properly fleshed out and given soul with insightful writing and committed performances. When Clive throws himself into yet another Indian campaign, it is with thoughts of Margaret, largely his abandoning her for glory of one kind or another, that we see reflected as he prepares for battle with Indian rulers and British officers and politicians.


             

 

Image: 4

Fox Cinema Archives, like Warner Archive, are not DVDs in the usual sense but burned just as we would do at home.  They have no menus to speak of, only chapter advance every ten minutes. Unless “Remastered” (a term that tells us nothing anyway), these video discs are simply transferred “from the best materials available” and are thus entirely dependent on the condition of those sources. Clive of India is one of five I have before me for review, and is not one of Fox’s better looking releases.  There are no scratches, tears or missing frames, but there are the occasional specks of debris – not enough to be distracting, however.  No, the most problematic aspect of this transfer is how soft, blotchy and grainy it is. At least there was no additional DNR, which would have made this film almost unwatchable. Neither are there any transfer artifacts or enhancements of concern, so let’s give some credit to Fox for that.  There is something to be said for a simple transfer.  Yet the result doesn’t have enough acuity to make it to the big screen.  On the other hand, there may never be a better reproduction, so take this critique for what it is worth.


             

 

Audio & Music: 3/6

Fox’s minimalist approach to the transfer has left us with one of the oddest soundtracks I have ever encountered on video.  While dialogue and music are crisply rendered, there is a background whoosh that is always present. It sounds sometimes like a rainstorm, at other times like a distance army tramping across the countryside. I can’t imagine being able to “correct” this noise without a corresponding loss of clarity in the dialogue and music, even so . . .

 

Extras: None


             

 

Recommendation: 6

It’s interesting and telling to watch a film so unabashedly promotional of colonial interests as is Clive of India. The movie was made some twelve years before India gained its independence from England and its allegiance to the British Ray is simply taken for granted. Its lack of political correctness and disregard for the interests of native peoples is, in its way, refreshing.  On the other hand Clive of India isn’t really about India, though a good deal of the action is placed there (but not filmed there, of course), it is about a man so reckless and ambitious he risks losing the one real love of his life – besides fame and riches.  Video and audio quality are less than satisfactory, yet the film is worth watching even in this state, and gives us a chance to see why hearts beat fast and jaws dropped when Loretta Young comes on screen.


             

 


Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

March 10, 2013


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