Bhowani Junction (1956)
Director: George Cukor.
Starring: Ava Gardner (Victoria Jones), Stewart Granger (Col. Rodney Savage), Bill Travers (Patrick Taylor), Abraham Sofaer (Surabhai), Francis Matthews (Ranjit Kasel), Marne Maitland (Govindaswami), Peter Illing (Ghanshyam), Edward Chapman (Thomas Jones), Freda Jackson (The Sandani), Lionel Jeffries (Lt. Graham McDaniel), Alan Tilvern (Ted Dunphy).
a female half-breed officer is not fully accepted by either the British or the Indians and suffers greatly from this; can she find happiness with a British soldier?
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
India 1947. The train is leaving. Col. Rodney Savage and his girlfriend Victoria Jones are getting on a train to start the journey out of India. His old unit of Indian soldiers are there to say goodbye to him. He and Victoria get on the train and he tells her the send-off was a complete surprise to him. In the same berth with them is Gen. Ackerby. Victoria is staying and Rodney is leaving. He waves goodbye to her from the train window. Victoria is half English and half Indian.
The general says he was sent here recently to speed up the British withdrawal. He admits he knows very little about India and the Indians. The general starts asking Rodney about his experiences in India.
Flashback. Rodney says he came to Bhowani Junction shortly after the Indian navy had mutinied. The whole country was whipped up into a patriotic frenzy for the navy personnel. Rodney came with a unit to be held in reserve to help the Indian civil authorities if rioting got out of hand. The Indian Congress party decided to speed up the British departure using peaceful means at their disposal. The day Rodney arrived in Bhowani Junction a local train had been derailed. The party wanted to bring the railway station to a standstill by overcrowding the station with lots of people.
Then there were others, like the communists, who wanted to use the passive resistance movement as an excuse for a bloodbath. The scoundrel Darvi himself was already in the town.
Victoria Jones is arriving at the railway station after four years on active duty. She had some giant chips on her shoulder. She jumps off the train and finds her friend Patrick Taylor arguing with a member of the Indian Congress party. They kiss. Patrick tries to get Victoria out of there, but he gets called back to talk with the just arrived Col. Rodney Savage. Savage is upset that there is no system set up to deal with his unit of men. He decides to speak with Taylor in his office. He tells Victoria to come along.
On the steps up to the office a white fellow named McDaniels, using the cover of a crowd, gropes Victoria. This makes her really mad.
In the office Savage explains that his battalion has come to primarily protect the railway system. Therefore, he is going to need a corner of a room to set up his office. The Indian in charge of overseeing the railroad comes in to talk with Savage. He warns him about this man named Darvi. Savage asks if Darvi is the fellow who went over to the Japs in 1942? Yes. Then he went to Soviet central Asia to show up suddenly in Calcutta. And now Darvi is here in Bhowani. He thinks Darvi is here to help start a railway strike. And Darvi was probably the fellow who had the local train derailed.
Taylor wants to blame a local Indian known as Surabhai, but the headman vouches for Surabhai as a patriot. He hates Darvi and the communists. It's Darvi who wants to make it impossible for the Indian Congress party to rule India after the British have gone.
Savage asks Victoria Jones to stay in the army for awhile so she can help with controlling the railway system. Victoria says she has other plans, but Savage cuts her off saying that isn't it about time that Victoria accepted that India is her country too?
Taylor and Jones leave. He gets on a motorcycle and Jones gets on behind him and holds on to Taylor.
Taylor drops Jones off so she can say hello to her white father. She then goes to say hello to her Indian mother. The colonel's Indian troops start arriving. Dad asks Victoria if that's the colonel that she doesn't particularly like? Yes. Well do tell him to come to dine with them. Dad is upset that good Englishmen like the colonel will leave India. Taylor says the British can't leave. What would ever become of the Anglo-Indians? He says if the British leave, they will lose their privileged positions that the British held open for them.
Victoria goes into a long rant saying that the half-castes don't know who they are. They can't be Indian because they are British and they can't be British because they are Indian. Patrick says that if the British go, he is going with them. At this Victoria gets so exasperated that she leaves the room. Patrick now grabs his hat and leaves the house. Once outside Patrick starts having second thoughts. There is a separate entrance to Victoria's bedroom from the outside and Patrick goes in to see Victoria. Patrick tells her that he wants to marry her.
A messenger comes to the house with a telegram. Victoria reads it and is mad. Her leave has been cancelled due to an emergency. Angrily, she says: "He did it! Colonel Savage!"
Victoria reports for duty. At her reporting are is none other than the groping McDaniels. The fellow watches Victoria's legs as she walks back and forth outside. Ranjit notices this and is none too happy. Indian troops come marching past and the school kids being taught outside in the open rush over to watch them march by. Ranjit looks forward to the day that the British are gone and a new life for India can begin.
As narrator Savage says that unrest was breaking out all over India. In Bhowani there was a railroad strike. An ammunitions train stopped outside of Bhowani where Darvi and his men could get at the explosives. There were also celebrations in the street. Savage runs into Victoria again. She does not look very angry at Savage, but Patrick gives Savage an earful about dragging Victoria right back into active duty.
Strikers start laying across the tracks. Victoria tells Savage that it's her father who will be bringing in the next train. Someone throws a rock at the Indian director of the rails and the rock hits him. And here comes the train into the station . Mr. Surabhai takes his position closest to the oncoming locomotive. Victoria's father stops the train just inches from Surabhai's prone body.
Now the people are grabbing bricks to throw at the British and their "lackeys". Savage puts Victoria on the train to avoid being hit by one of the bricks. Victoria sees an Indian woman knocked down and she goes into the crowd to see if she is alright. Armed Indian soldiers now arrive and the train director says that they have five minutes to clear out before the soldiers start shooting them. The people start leaving the area, but it's slow going because people are everywhere.
After the crowds have left, Savage tells Victoria's father to get his engine ready to move. Victoria pleads with Savage and then the train director not to run over Mr. Surabhai and the others. Savage growls out for Victoria to mind her own business. Savage is now going to have a group of untouchables starts throwing sewage on the demonstrators. The demonstrators won't budge so Savage gives the okay to start throwing big pails of sewage on the people. That finally gets the people up and out. Victoria can't watch it and turns her back to it.
The train starts moving out. The train director tells Savage that tonight it won't be save for the whites so they should not go out. There are going to be some inevitable repercussions from what happened. Savage greets Victoria and she tells him: "You're a cruel bully." Patrick arrives to take Victoria home on his motorcycle. Victoria tells Patrick what happened and Patrick just go crazy with laughter. He even says he will never think badly of Savage again. This makes Victoria furious with Patrick. She says: "Can't you understand anything? Can't you understand how they feel or me? I came back from Delhi ready to love you and I found you all the things I don't want to be." She calls him a fool and a snob. She tells Patrick to go away and never see her again except on duty.
Now Victoria has to get off the streets because Indians are coming to push her around. She goes inside a building.
By the time the train reaches the ammunition train, all the explosives and weapons have been removed by Darvi and his men. Savage calls into Bhowani and tells Baker (Victoria) that Darvi has the weapons from the ammunition train. The wires are down and he can't reach Govindaswami. Savage says: "Ask him to meet me at the Hindu temple."
Riots start in Bhowami and Darvi's men are there to make everything worse. They ruined quite a few merchants in the area.
Ranjit wants to walk Victoria home so she gets there safely, but Victoria says her house is just a little ways from the station. She runs into Capt. McDaniel. He walks her home, but starts to rape her before she gets there. She is able to grab something hard and she hits him repeatedly. Ranjit comes and walks her through the riot area to his home. Ranjit's mother asks who who did the girl kill? Capt. McDaniel, but he deserved it. Victoria says he tried to rape her. Ranjit asks a friend to arrange it so that the British never find out who killed McDaniel.
Ranjit's mother says that Victoria by killing the British officer is a hero to the new India. She and Ranjit toast to her health. Mom says the Anglo-Indians are going to be treated as inferiors to the full Indians, because the Anglo-Indians cooperated with the British for such a long time. Then mom asks why doesn't Victoria realize that she's and Indian and start acting like one? Mom gives Victoria some Indian clothes to wear. She sees how great Victoria looks in the clothes and says it's no wonder her son is in love with her. Victoria says she never thought of Ranjit as husband material. But, obviously, Ranjit has thought of Victoria as wife material.
Ranjit and Victoria start appearing together in public. Savage sees the
couple at a movie theater. Then they all see Patrick, who has a fit over
Victoria being with an Indian. Victoria and Patrick argue bitterly.
Victoria starts to leave.
Savage sees her and calls her Miss Starkey, as in the little ditty:
There was a young lady named Starkey,
who got herself hitched to a darkey,
the result of her sins
was an eight sum of twins,
two black, two white and four khaki.
A British officer comes to speak with Victoria. He shows her a photo of a man and asks Victoria if she knows him? She says no. Then he switches the topic to McDaniel. He says there was talk that McDaniel was very sweet on Victoria and McDaniel told some other men that Victoria felt the same about him. She gets mad and says: "I did not like him, Mr. Lansen. He made advances ton me. I didn't encourage him then or any other time." At this point Savage intervenes complaining that Lansen had no right to question an officer in his regiment without his consent. This gets Victoria away from Lansen.
Savage as narrator says that Victoria desperately was hoping that she could fall in love with Ranjit, especially so, since she was now closely involved in his life. Ranjit tells her that he loves her. He is changing his religion back to being Sikhs. And he would like Victoria to change her religion to his religion. And, yes, Victoria would have to live with Ranjit's mother. Victoria tells him that he is too close with his mother as it is. He gives her his holy book.
Savage as narrator says they got the railroads running on time again. The only question was when would Darvi and his men strike the railway next?
Darvi blows up a railway line and it derails the train. There are many dead and injured. There are soldiers all over the train trying to put out fires and trying to free bodies trapped in the wreckage. Savage called for Victoria and now she shows up. Savage tells to get working, but Victoria becomes very upset seeing all the death and wounds. She tries to run away, but Savage forces her back to work.
Patrick is very busy saving lives. Victoria tries to tend to one of his wounds, but he tells her that he doesn't want her hands on him. Ranjit comes by and Victoria asks him is it possible that his friend who hid McDaniel's body could be Darvi? Ranjit says he doesn't really know. But if he is, then the truth of what happened to McDaniel may come out.
Savage drives Victoria back to the station. On another day Victoria is at work and Larsen comes in to talk to her. He says they found McDaniel's dead body in a dung heap. With Mc Daniel was the body of the sentry on duty that day. Larsen thinks that Victoria is not telling him the entire truth. He says he hopes she is not covering up for this Darvi fellow. And in the near future he will call Victoria in for some extensive questioning.
Ranjit and Victoria go into a Sikh ceremony where Victoria comes with him into the true faith. Victoria has a lot of second thoughts as she goes through the ceremony. She gets up and leaves the ceremonial place.
Savage says that Victoria learned that she couldn't run away from her conscience. Her father was the only one she felt she could turn to. She goes to him as he is about to get into his locomotive. He asks who is she now? Victoria says she is Victoria Jones. Victoria now says she wants to go with her father on the ride. Dad is worried about losing his job. When he see Col. Savage come by he asks him if he could order Victoria to get on the train because she will be needed? Savage says alright.
Victoria realizes that she can't be rid of her doubts and her situation.
When the train arrives at its destination, Victoria has to get on another train. The problem is that she can't find a seat. As she walks by the cars, totally exhausted, Savage grabs her and pulls her onto the train. On the train Victoria gets to take a shower. When she finishes the shower and gets dressed she goes into Savage's little office on the train and he gives her a couple of drinks of alcohol. She tells him: "I didn't know what to do. I was sick of being a half-breed. I wanted to belong somewhere. I tried to become an Indian. I found I couldn't change myself. Everything was wrong."
Savage now wants to know what Victoria knows about Darvi. She only met Darvi because he was going to get rid of McDaniel's body for her. She didn't know he was going to kill the sentry too.
The next morning Victoria says she thought Savage was going to believe her confession. Savage says he did believe it and still believes it. He tells her that if she tells the whole truth, he will stand behind her all the way. Victoria says for the first time she sees the actual human being inside Savage.
Victoria goes through a court of inquiry into her behavior. Savage throws a cordon around the town to keep Darvi from escaping.
Ranjit's mother is brought in for questioning. Her son urges her to tell the truth about Darvi.
Savage comes out of the court of inquiry telling Victoria that she is a free woman again. It was an open and shut case of self-defense. Congratulations! Victoria feels so relieved. She gives Savage a kiss on the left cheek. He takes her out for a meal and alcohol. They sees Savage's soldiers dancing and the couple joins in with them. The soldiers cheer for the idea of Victoria Jones marrying the colonel.
The couple go for a walk in a cemetery. Savage says they are sending him back to England. He asks Victoria if she would like to see England? As a girl she imagined going to England on a ship. The British would line up along the Cliffs of Dover to welcome her home to England. And even the King and Queen would be there to greet her. Then she says she doesn't want to run away again. She wants to stay in India and find her place. They kiss and embrace.
At night Darvi comes to see Victoria. He tells her to get dressed and come with him. He tells her that since she was the one who informed on him, she will be the one to help him to escape. The two of them walk down to the railway station. He tells Victoria to wave the conductor down to stop the train. She does so and gets balled out by the engineer for stopping him. She apologizes and the train starts up again. As Victoria watches the train continue on its journey, Darvi, already on one of the train box cars grabs her and pulls her into the box car.
Patrick is woken up by the train stopping and he calls over to ask why the heck did the train just stop all of a sudden. The fellow at the controls tells him that a woman in a red dress flagged the conductor down and then she jumped into one of the box cars.
Patrick starts work early. But first he goes to check on Victoria. He sees that she is gone. Now he's real worried about her. At a station stop Indian soldiers start searching all the box cars.
Patrick runs his motorcycle over to see Savage. He asks the colonel if Victoria is with him? No. With a bit more conversation they both realize that Darvi has taken Victoria as a hostage. They plan to meet the train at one of its stopping points. The troops don't spot Darvi and Victoria. The trains starts moving again.
Darvi now gags and binds his hostage. Savage and Patrick have now caught up with the train. Darvi with dynamite jumps off the train. Patrick signals the engineer to stop the train. The guys find Victoria. She tells them that Darvi jumped off the train with dynamite in his hands. Now the guys jump back into the jeep and try to find Darvi. They figure he is in the tunnel and go in after him. There are soldiers at the other end of the tunnel. Patrick runs ahead of Savage and Darvi hears him coming. He waits and when Patrick finds the dynamite and tries to pull the fuses out, Darvi wounds him. Savage now fires his weapon and hits Darvi. Patrick shines hi light on Darvi and Savage fires and hits him again. Darvi starts to climb up a ladder out of the tunnel but Savage gets right by him and fires three shots into him. Darvi slowly slides downs the ladder until he hits the bottom. Darvi is dead. Patrick soon dies of his wounds.
The passenger train goes by Savage and he spots Gandhi on the train. So that's why Darvi risked everything to explode the passenger train.
Savage receives his orders. He shows them to Victoria. He tries to get her to go with him to England. Victoria says she doesn't belong in England. She is staying in India. He virtually begs her to marry him. She says no. Wait. He still has another plan. He will go to England; retire from the service;, go back to India to stay; and marry Victoria. Victoria says in that case she would marry him when he came back.
Back to the present. Gen. Ackerby asks if Savage is still going to carry out his plans -- the ones he told Victoria about? Savage says yes. Ackerby is so touched by the whole story that he now says he will get Savage moved up on the list of those to be retired soon. Savage is very happy to hear that.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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