Jul 20, 2015

GUNGA DIN - 1939 - Classic Movie Reviews by Chuck Kuenneth MPHS 66

GUNGA DIN - 1939

Classic Movie Reviews by Chuck Kuenneth MPHS 66

I went to many movies in theaters in the 1950s. These were, of course, contemporary films. After getting our first TV set in 1957, I started catching up with older films. So when I was 10 or 11, I saw "Gunga Din" for the first time on the TV. It demolished me! It was an incredible combination of action, mystery, drama, suspense, sadness and comedy. I couldn't stop thinking about it and made sure I saw it every time it was on the tube. The three heroes caught my imagination. Douglas Fairbanks Jr. was handsome and swashbuckling, Victor McLaglen was pompous and powerful, and Cary Grant was funny and excitable. It took place in the, then, magical country of India, or at least it seemed that way to this 10 year old kid.

The soundtrack music was memorable, especially the title music with the giant gong being struck. Every time I think about "Gunga Din" the opening credits music runs through my head. Don't forget plenty of action. Gunga Din had all the action, and more, that a 10 year old boy would want. 1939 was a great year for movies! Some consider it Hollywood's greatest year. Besides "Gunga Din" you had "The Wizard of Oz", "Gone With the Wind", "Stagecoach", "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington", "Wuthering Heights", "Ninotchka", "Goodbye Mr. Chips", "Dark Victory", "The Women", "Hunchback of Notre Dame", "Only Angels Have Wings", and "Beau Geste". Certainly an awesome list, but for me, of these films only "Gunga Din" resides in my top 20 Favorite Film List.

In the mid 1970s I started what today I regard as a fine art, collecting movies. Back then instead of video tapes or DVDs, I bought 16mm movies. I had earlier acquired a used 16mm projector and set up a screening room in my basement. Then I started buying 16mm movies. I bought "Gunga Din" and reveled in viewing it. Imagine my surprise, ten years later, when I ventured to the near north side to see "Gunga Din" on Playboy Theater screen. The movie was 20 minutes longer containing scenes I had never viewed before. The film I had been seeing on TV and had bought was a 1942 re-release of the film, shortened for showing with a second feature. The film at the Playboy was in fact the original 1939 release. This is the film I subsequently bought in Video Tape format and DVD. It was like you lived in a house all your life, then one day discovered a room you had never been in before. Needless to say I use my DVD to go into that room when I feel like being a 10 year old again.

So I guess in many ways I am still that 10 year old kid who first experienced the thrill of "Gunga Din".


Cary Grant Cutter
Victor McLaglen MacChesney
Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Ballantine
Sam Jaffe Gunga Din
Eduardo Ciannelli Guru
Joan Fontaine Emmy
Montague Love Colonel Weed
Robert Coote Higginbotham
Abner Biberman Chota
Cecil Kellaway Mr. Stebbins

(This is an original movie still [1938] from my collection showing Cary Grant interacting with Robert Coote. It is an original photo from RKO Pictures with the photographer [Alex Kahle] credited on the reverse file)

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