GB / US / PAK
Dir: George Cukor
Starring: Stewart Granger and Ava Gardner
Drama set in India during the last days of the British Raj
This historical drama was a success at the time of its release but it has not worn well. It was based on the novel of the same name by John Masters, but differed in some respects. This was, however, not entirely the fault of the production crew. Most of the filming took place in Pakistan for although MGM wanted to shoot the film on location in India, the government in India insisted on script approval and imposed high taxes. As a result, filming was moved to neighbouring Pakistan where MGM found the authorities much more welcoming. Most of the action takes place in Lahore, and some British-built Beyer-Peacock steam locomotives of Pakistan’s North Western State Railway (NWR) feature prominently (the title card offers its thanks to the NWR, which ceased to exist upon Pakistan’s independence in 1947. The film was shot in 1956). However, there are some British railway scenes thrown in. The crash scene was filmed on the Longmoor Military Railway and the very effective aftermath used members of the British Army who had just come back from active duty in Egypt and who were suitably tanned as a result! Although the coaching stock is distinctly British, a full-scale mock-up of a Pakistan Railways Beyer-Peacock locomotive adds a good deal of authenticity to the scene. There are some other scenes filmed on the Longmoor system with a disguised War Department 2-10-0 on a freight train and some Hunslet ‘Austerities’ sneeking into the background of one scene in the shed yard. What is perhaps more inexcusable is the scene where Ava Gardner is travelling on the footplate of her father’s locomotive (her father, played by Edward Chapman in the film, is an engine driver). The shots from the footplate are of a steam locomotive on the Southern Region and at one point a ‘Lord Nelson’ passes on a rake of ‘blood and custard’ coaching stock!! The tunnel scenes at the end largely used the closed Kingsway tram subway in Holborn, with plenty of additional studio effects. Finally, there are a couple of silhouetted shots of British trains crossing an embankment in the dark.