Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Rains Came (1939)

“No one stays in Ranchipur during the monsoon”
“No? Only about five million people.”

            The Rains Came is an adaptation of a book by the same title by Louis Bromfield. Bromfield stated that in the book he dealt "with characters and the interplay of characters against a background or environment which in itself plays a definite part in their motivation and the molding of their thoughts and actions. For me characters must not be imposed upon a plot but rather the story must grow out of the characters, their environment and background." Indeed the story does grow out of the characters, their environment and background. This course in storytelling gives the film a different feel from what we are used to seeing. There are two love stories happening throughout the film but they are not the main focus the main focus is the natural disaster that strikes and makes these people better.
            At the beginning the focus of the story is rich people of the British Empire coming to spend their time in India in a town called Ranchipur. Tom Ransome has been living in India for a number of years. He does not really have a job he just does what he feels he needs to do and he has a reputation for drinking. Lady Edwina Esketh and her husband Lord Esketh have come to India to look into horses… or rather her husband has come to look at horses particularly the maharajah’s. Lord Esketh is much older than Edwina she finds him quite boring. Because of this she apparently has taken several lovers with Tom having been one of them years ago.
            Major Rama Safti has returned home to India after studying medicine in America. He is held in high esteem by the maharajah and his wife. He is young and handsome.
            The maharajah holds a gathering at his palace with Tom, Rama, and the Eskeths having been invited. As soon as Tom and Edwina lay eyes on each there is a sense of the familiar, they knew each other very well some time ago. Tom takes Edwina on a tour of the castle to be alone with her. They walk into a room when it begins the rain. The lights go out all that can be seen are their silhouettes.
            Upon their return to the party after the lights come back on, Rama has arrived. Edwina takes one look at him and she is completely taken. The next day Rama takes Edwina horseback riding. It begins to rain once they come back to town and they seek refuge in a music school. They listen to an old ceremonial hymn which Rama translates with a line “In my heart your love had found a home and it can never die.” Edwina has fallen in love with Rama but he seems not to either see it or feel the same until later.

            Lord Esketh has been ill for a few days so Tom takes Edwina to a party held at a friend’s house. It begins to rain and thunder and lightning and then there is a powerful earthquake which splits the house in two. The earthquake is so powerful it breaks the wall of a damn bringing great destruction with a powerful flood. Tom and Edwina are stranded at the house until a young girl (who has a great love for Tom) named Fern comes with a boat. Tom brings Edwina to the palace where she will be safe and returns for Fern. Everything in the town is destroyed including the hotel where Edwina and Lord Esketh were staying. The maharajah died leaving the town without a leader. To make the situation much worse the water has been contaminated bringing about an epidemic of the plague.

            After the flood is where all the characters redeem themselves in certain ways and become more than they thought they could be. Edwina feeling she must do something helps at the hospital by doing the dirtiest work but she does not care she feels she is being helpful. Tom falls in love with Fern and takes care of her. He also helps to hand out supplies and food. Rama has stepped up to help many people and to eventually eradicate the plague from the town. In the end is chosen to be the new ruler of Ranchipur.
            The entire cast gives a great performance. When Edwina first comes in it felt like we are not really supposed to like her. She’s bored with her husband and just seems very spoiled and ungrateful. But of course we are left liking her and feeling bad for her in the end. Myrna Loy was great as the cool but in some ways harsh Lady Edwina Esketh. Loy had a way of showing that she at one time had feelings for Tom and was truly in love with Rama without it being all over the place and in our face. With Tom she was cool and a bit standoffish and with Rama she was willing to do whatever he wanted and hung on to his every word. Loy was loaned out to Paramount and given top billing showing just how popular she was and the audience pull she had. George Brent was very good. I enjoyed seeing him act with Myrna Loy again and this time he was not a goofy American head over heels in love with a German spy. He did very well with Tom being sort of a playboy and a drunk then turning into a noble caring man in the end. Many reviews I have read praise Tyrone Power for this film. I found him to be alright his role and acting were nothing special to me. He did have that great exotic look when he was all dressed in traditional Indian clothing and a turban.

            My favorite part of the film was when Tom takes Edwina on a little tour of the palace and they come to one room. From the way Tom is pointing things out he is not so much interested at giving a tour as he is with getting Edwina alone somewhere private. They enter a room and talk. She sits seductively on the couch seeming to wait for him to come over. The lights go out as the heavy rains of the monsoon season begin and all we can see are their silhouettes. When they come back to the party the maharajah’s wife comes over to Tom and fixes his ties.

            The Rains Came is one of the hundreds of great films to come out during 1939. It is not a film where the country and society defines who these characters are it is their courage and their changes stemming from disaster in a country that defines who they become. Every character steps up and changes for the better. Everything about The Rains Came is excellent. The film would win an Academy Award for Special Effects which it rightly deserved because for there being no CGI the flood scenes were done amazingly. The only issue I have with the film is how Edwina had to pay for her sins aka for going around with men that were not her husband but apparently she pays in the book as well. I am saying this not just because I adore Myrna Loy but because it is a shame how she was trying to change and really loved Rama.
            The Rains Came is a wonderful film. The story is very moving and very well written, directed, and acted.

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