At a moment when India means "best-selling novelist," it is hard to remember that not so long ago it meant "Sam Jaffe in blackface." I refer of course to Gunga Din, the 1939 movie that created the dominant image of that nation for decades. Cary Grant, Victor McLaglen, and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. played British sergeants in 19th-century India, itself played by Lone Pine, Calif. Seldom has colonialism looked more appealing or Grant/McLaglen/Fairbanks more gay. Here's the plot: The three fun-loving sergeants are doing fine until Fairbanks decides to marry Joan Fontaine. Grant and McLaglen, with barely disguised sexual jealousy, trick him into a final mission and end up taking on the savage cult of Thuggee. In this movie, the Thuggee are less interested in nationalism than in killing a lot of guys in savage and culty ways. On the other hand, McLaglen has a comically ailing pet elephant, so history will be the judge. Gunga Din is racist and reactionary and—I say with some shame—enormously entertaining (seen on tape in a Manhattan apartment; probably less amusing in Calcutta). The three sergeants are the sort of buddies I'd like: They have adventures! And that Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur sure can write. And although made in 1939, the movie contains not a trace of Judy Garland. And did I mention that they trick Robert Coote, Fairbanks' stuffed-shirt replacement, into drinking elephant medicine. He gets so sick! Here's the tagline: Out of the stirring glory of Kipling's seething world of battle they roar, red-blood and gunpowder heroes all! And not one of them with a copy of The God of Small Things! At the Boys Film Festival, Gunga Din is in continuous rotation with The Great Escape, Cool Hand Luke, The Man Who Would Be King, and imaginary movie versions of all 107 Patrick O'Brian books.
Sticky Wicket Answer
Police and tax inspectors searched the homes of Indian cricket stars for evidence of, and ill-gotten gains from, gambling and match-fixing.
In addition to the athletes themselves, bookmakers, a TV magnate, and officials including Jagmohan Dalmiya, former president of the International Cricket Council, have also come under scrutiny.
Senior tax investigator Swarup Parija told the BBC that his inspectors were polite and did not harass the stars. "We were nice to them because they have brought credit and honor to the country," he said. "As our American colleagues know, it never hurts to suck-up to celebrities," he did not add. "As for non-celebrities, those we can thrash with those long bamboo stick things we carried in Ghandi," he did not append to his previous unuttered remark.
The scandal broke in April, when Delhi police disclosed that they had recorded conversations between Hansie Cronje, the captain of the South African team, and a bookmaker. Cronje was sacked when he admitted accepting money from bookmakers. Incidentally, the police sweep's name is derived from the sport's putatively well-mannered traditions.
ABC You Later Extra
Which of the following are irritating and intrusive ways ABC promotes its programs, and which are irritating and intrusive ways it has not yet thought of?
- Have funnyman Norm MacDonald leave promo messages on millions of people's answering machines.
- Affix ABC stickers to bananas.
- Have Drew Carey shave ABC logo into fur of every cat in Ohio.
- Print ABC logo on pizza boxes.
- Produce high quality programs people are eager to see without being hectored by boozy 3 a.m. phone calls from Diane Sawyer.
- Print ABC logo on restaurant mints.
- Play recorded wisecracks of funnyman Norm MacDonald in hundreds of men's rooms whenever someone steps up to a urinal.