Clive of India (1935)

 

 

 

Director:    Richard Boleslawski.

Starring:     Ronald Colman (Robert Clive),  Loretta Young (Margaret Maskelyne Clive),  Colin Clive (Capt. Johnstone),  Francis Lister (Edmund Maskelyne),  C. Aubrey Smith (Prime Minister),  Cesar Romero (Mir Jaffar),  Montagu Love (Governor Pigot),  Lumsden Hare (Sergeant Clark),  Ferdinand Munier (Admiral Watson),  Gilbert Emery (Mr. Sullivan),  Leo G. Carroll (Mr. Manning),  Don Ameche (Prisoner in the Black Hole, uncredited).

Loosely based on the life of Robert Clive who secured British rule in India.

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film.

India -- 1748 -- a vast nation, rich in jewels, spices and precious metals beyond the wildest dreams.

Fort St. David, headquarters of the East India Company, a privately owned trading concern which enjoyed the protection of the British Government.

French, Dutch, Portuguese and British are at each other's throats in an effort to establish trading posts in this "Paradise of Treasure".

Robert Clive is having a duel with another man over Robert's claim that the other man cheated. Robert fires and misses and is now at the mercy of the other man. The guy walks right up to Robert and asks him: "Do you still say I cheated?" Robert replies: "I still say you cheated. Get it over. Shoot!" The other man gives a big sigh and says: "The man's mad." He leaves.   (Later we learn that Robert was trying to commit suicide by duel.)

Robert tells his friend Edmund that he can't stand this constantly being tied to to a clerk's desk doing clerical work. He feels that he is destined to do something great. He takes a look at the portrait Edmund has around his neck of his sister. He is obviously impressed by her beauty.

One of the big merchants, Mr. Pemberton, is very upset with Bob Clive. The man has violated a rule of decorum. The rule is that only senior merchants are allowed to employ umbrella bearers, but Clive did so anyway. Pemberton says he broke the umbrella in three pieces and threw them into the gutter. "That will teach him to obey regulations."

And here comes Clyde walking down the street employing six umbrella bearers, each one with his own huge umbrella. Pemberton is disgusted by the sight and says he is going to see the Governor over this matter. Clive start imitating the Governor and the way he walks and talks. While he is doing this the Governor comes up behind Clive. One of the men facing Clive says that the Governor's is right behind him. Clive sees Mr. Pemberton and the Governor. The Governor chastises Clive, saying: "I've had complaints about you before. You were sent out here in disgrace. You'll be sent home in disgrace. Now, sir, are you prepared to apologize to Councilman Pemberton?" So Clive apologizes to Pemberton. After the Governor leaves, Pemberton asks Clive to come over and dine with him tonight. Clive replies: "The Governor ordered me to apologize to you, not to dine with you." Pemberton is so angry that he just huffs and puffs at the man's effrontery.

Clive tells Edmund that there must be something he can do to get out of the rut he's in. He looks at Edmund's sister's portrait again and asks if he thinks his sister would ever come out to India? Edmund says probably, but why does Clive ask? Because, Clive says, he wants to marry her.

A messenger arrives that the French are coming to attack the British. The bugler sounds the call to arms. Robert sees the troops come out and line up in formation. Then he gets an idea. Why canít he and Edmund grab this opportunity for fame and fortune. The army is rotten to the corps. The army needs them to straight the organization out.

Robert asks the Governor to be transferred to the army along with his friend Edmund. The Governor accepts the idea because Britain is going to need everyman they can get their hands on.  Clive say that by the time Margaret gets to India, they both may become lieutenants in the army. An officer hears this and laughs at the very idea of a civilian becoming an officer.

Margaret receives the letter from Bob asking her to come out to India and marry him. Her friends and relatives think that Bob is being way too brazen in his proposal. But Margaret is intrigued by the idea.

"The siege of Trichinopoly Ė the entire British force had stumbled into a trap and faced almost certain annihilation."

On the battlefield Bob gets scolded for having left his position to supply shot to one of the cannons. Bob says to Edmund that he canít just stay at this one position and watch a disaster unfold before his very eyes. He jumps two stories down into a marsh and heads to the Governorís headquarters about three dayís march away.

Bob arrives completely soaked and dirty. He looks like a drowned rat. He comes into the Governorís meeting with his advisers. He sits down and starts taking off his thoroughly soaked clothes. He asks the men if they have any solutions for this impending massacre? No, they donít. The Governor asks Bob if he can suggest anything? Bob says give him everyman theyíve got and he will relieve Trichinopoly. He shall accomplish it by attacking Arcot, the capital of Southern India. In order to defeat a larger army, the smaller army has to divide the enemyís forces and defeat each part separately.

So who will support Bob? The only person that is willing is the Governor himself and thatís all the approval Bob needs. He will take charge of the 120 men and go to the attack. He goes to check out his troops. They are a rag-tag group of men, but Clive says he couldnít ask for any better troops.

In the pouring rain the men start marching for Arcot. They march to the sound of the drums.

"Nothing in history surpasses the amazing task Clive accomplished. He captured Arcot, relieved Trichinopoly, and in less than a year he became the conqueror of Southern India."

A big ball is being staged in honor of Robert Clive. The only problem is that Robert is coming from 40 miles away and he is, as of yet, no where to be found. Edmund excuses himself from the ball and goes up to see Margaret who just recently arrived in India.

Edmund tells her that he wanted Robert to meet Margaret first before going to the ball. Margaret is too nervous to meet this man. When she came out here it was to meet a humble clerk, but now she is meeting a national hero. She just wants to meet him casually one day.

Bob arrives and Edmund tells his sister that knowing Bob he may just pop up to see Margaret. Margaret starts getting more nervous. Edmund goes down to the ball. Bob comes bounding up the stairs and is stopped in his tracks when he sees the beautiful Margaret. He says she looks just like her portrait.

He tells her that the Governor and the others can just wait for him. He wants to be with her first. Bob asks her, she did come out to marry him, correct?   Yes, He says he is going to be rich and successful and she will be his lady. He wants her to go to the ball with him. She kisses him. They go down to the ball and Robert announces that Margaret will be his bride soon. The people are exited over the good news.

"Rewards for the conqueror were many Ė rich, honored, a hero, Clive returned to his homeland."

Robert Clive is back in England. They have moved into a mansion and his wife is pregnant.

After the passage of some time, Bob wants to be re-elected to Parliament.

Robert is campaigning when his old sergeant rides up to him and says that his wife has just had a boy. Robert is extremely pleased at the news.

Robert loses his seat in Parliament. Margaret tells some women friends that, of course, she is sorry about Robert losing his seat, but: ". . . perhaps heíll have more time for us now."

Robert is very upset when he returns from Parliament, but there is even worse news. Robert plops himself into a chair and tells Margaret that they are financially ruined. Furthermore, the East India Company has sent for him to go back to India. He has to set sail tomorrow.

Robert now tells her that he wants her to go with him to India. And she will go with him. And itís now that she tells him that their boy has only months to live. He says the boy will have best treatment available. In fact, the Kingís own physician shall tend to their child. Margaret now has to tell him that the boy is not likely to survive even with such help. Robert says in that case, of course, Margaret should stay here with the child while he goes to India by himself. He now goes up to see his boy.

Thinking more about the situation Margaret tells her maid to pack her things for India too. She cries about leaving the boy behind.

"A madman sat on the throne of Northern India ó King Suraj Ud Dowlah." The King holds 146 English people prisoners. Edmund acts as emissary for Robert Clive to the King and says that Clive wants the immediate release of all the prisoners. The King laughs at the demand.

On the floor below the king there is a dispute of some kind between his wives. He rushes downstairs to deal with the matter with a whip in his hands. He starts whipping the woman at the center of the trouble. The King then looks up at Edmund and shouts: "Tell your Governor Clive I will give him an answer Ė an answer he will not forget." Edmund is shocked at the hostility in the answer.

"Suraj Ud Dowlahís answer Ė the Black Hole of Calcutta." The men are forced into a dungeon with very little room to maneuver. Many of the men suffocate while others are killed.

Needless to say, Clive is furious with the King. He tells his wife: "I shall drag that monster from his throne and put his Uncle Mir Jaffar in his place. The new King will take his orders from me."

In fact, Clive has already made up an agreement to be signed by Mir Jaffar. Clive will put him on the throne and Britain will be given the right to stay in India and trade in peace.

Mir Jaffar comes to speak with Robert. He says that the King has 60,000 soldiers and 20,000 horses. About half of the soldiers will desert and come over to Mir Jaffar. The general signs the paper but says bluntly that Robertís superiorís signature Admiral Watson must be on this paper too if it is to be valid. Robert says he will get the signature. Mir Jaffar signs and leaves.

Bob has the fever and his hands shake when he holds the signed agreement. He tells Edmund to issue a secret order to mobilize the army at once. "Now thereís nothing but this blundering elephant of an admiral. Heaven help me keep my temper with the old fool."

Just then the admiral comes in. Clive brings up the subject of the treaty with Jaffar. The admiral says he has told Bob before that he wonít sign any secret treaty. He adds that the Council should sign it because they are responsible for these things. In short: "I wonít sign it."

Bob says that's a pity because in the treaty Mir Jaffar offers the admiral 40,000 English pounds. And yet still the admiral will not agree to sign. Bob loses his temper and calls the old, heavy admiral a fool. The admiral leaves in a huff.

Clive decides just to sign the document for the admiral. He tells Edmund that if his venture is successful, the admiral will be the first to acknowledge his signature on the treaty.

Bob talks to Margaret. Itís the second anniversary of the death of their son back in England. Margaret asks him to go to the church with her for a remembrance of their son, but Bob says he doesnít even have enough time to do that. Outside the drums of the military formations are beating.

She asks her husband if it will be a long campaign? Bob answers that it will be one or two months. The King has his troops stationed at Plassey. [Anglicised version of Palashi, on the banks of the Bhagirathi River (another name of Hoghly River upstream of Calcutta), about 150 km north of Calcutta and south of Murshidabad, then capital of Bengal.]

When Bob arrives at Plassey, Mir Jaffar has promised he will bring his forces forward. Bob does, however, warn his wife that if he fails in his mission the Indian King will have no mercy for any British man, woman or child. She gives her blessing to her husbandís endeavor by saying she knows that a man like Bob will do what he must do. They kiss.

"Cliveís army came by quick marches to Plassey Ė but there was no Mir Jaffar. For ten days Clive waited, but there was still no sign, no message."

The Governor arrives in the field to speak with Col. Clive. He gives a letter from Mrs. Clive to Bob. The Governor says itís his understanding that Bob will only cross the river if he gets confirmation from Mir Jaffar that his forces are coming in support of the British. Yes.

The sergeant canít seem to drive off an old woman selling pomegranates. Clive is disturbed by the fuss so he asks the sergeant whatís wrong. The sergeant explains the situation and Clive tells the sergeant to let her come in. The woman has a shoe in her basket of fruit and in the heel of that shoe there is a hidden message: "Cross the river. I will join you with 30,000 troops if I can. Dare not move yet. Cross the river. Attack. When I can, I will join you."

The Governor says he suspects that the plan is a trap. And the monsoon will be coming soon and then Clive and his forces would be trapped by the flooded river. That way Cliveís retreat will be cut off. Therefore, the Governor orders him not to cross the river.

Clive asks Edmund for some advise. Edmund wonít offer any. So Clive says: "But now Iím really alone. Itís wrong, wrong. Iíve lost my courage. Iím listening to reason and caution, holding back when every instinct I have tells me to go on. I could have had India in my hands if I dared. Call the men back from the river. And so it ends."

Now he reads the letter from his wife. She tells again that he must do what he has to do. She will abide by his decision and pray for his success. And now the monsoon rains start. The bugler calls retreat. Bob says: "Retreat! And I could have had India in my hands, if I dared."

So Bob decides to dare it. He gives the orders to cross the river. The men start getting into the boats and cross the river.

"Without waiting for Jaffar, Clive launched a sudden attack and before Suraj Ud Dowlah had time to counter, Clive had scattered the native army and had begun it piecemeal destruction."

The British drive the native forces back.

"Realizing that Clive was without the support of Cavalry, Suraj launched a furious counter attack with Indiaís most feared weapon Ė Battle Elephants."

The elephants push the British back.

"And then when all seemed lost, Mir Jaffar kept his promise."

Now the Kingís forces are pushed back.

"What happened at Plassey will forever live in history as a monument to one manís courage. The army of Suraj Ud Dowlah was obliterated and the Black Hole of Calcutta was avenged."

Bob is a national hero again. In the parade he takes off his hat to say hello to his wife on a balcony overlooking the parade.

"For the first time India was at peace. Jaffar was crowned King. Trade prospered. Cliveís work was done."

Mir Jaffar is going to present a gift to Clive. Clive now dreams of sailing on the first ship to England where Margaret will have all his wishes fulfilled.

"At last Margaretís dreams were realized Ė Clive retired from public life and settled down on his country estate at Walcott."

The Clives now have a boy and a girl: David and Caroline. Bob and his sergeant from India enjoy looking over the pigs. And Bob talks to Margaret about building some new stables on the property. But all of a sudden, the Governor and Captain George from Bobís time in India pay him a visit. Margaret is very worried that the men may ask her husband to do something about India. In fact, Captain George just arrived in London from India yesterday.

Bob asks Margaret to go get some refreshments for their guests. She leaves. Now the men can talk freely. The Governor says that the situation in India in just as bad as it was before the Battle of Plassey. Jaffar has been overthrown and a boy more evil than Suraj is now king. The situation is one of chaos. So now the company council once again turns to Bob. And this time he will have full control.

Bob wants to go, but he says he feels ashamed to ask his wife to let him go back to India. Margaret is on her way back with the refreshments, so the Governor and Captain Bob decide to leave before Margaret gets too suspicious about their mission.

Bob has to tell Margaret. Her reaction is to feel betrayed. She says he keeps his faith with India, but not with her. So now he can go, but he will go alone without a prayer from anyone. She seems very sad, indeed.

Bob is on the ship on his way to India.

In India there is no letter from Margaret for Bob. Edmund says he has some far worse news. All those that Bob has replaced in India are now back in England and are running a scandal campaign against him. They say that the gift Bob got from Mir Jaffar was actually just a bribe. This makes Bob angry and he says: "I have given the company three new provinces and revenues they never dreamed of."

Bob tells Edmund that they will leave on the first boat for England.

Back in England some men throw an empty liquor bottle through the window of Bobís carriage. Bob goes to a hotel in London to stay. Meanwhile, Edmund goes to Margaret to tell her that she canít leave Bob alone tonight of all nights. Tomorrow he has to face all his enemies in the House of Commons. Margaret decides not to go.

The crucifixion of Robert Clive begins. A little late, but Margaret does show up at the House of Commons. The sergeant tells her that she canít get inside, but thereís a place underneath a window where she can hear whatís being said in the procedure. Margaret goes to the place below the second story windows.

Robert is accused of bribery, of being a monopolist and for signature forgery. He doesn't present much of a defense for himself. He says the career of any public servant can be twisted into lies about them and used against them. He says he has one request: "That when the members come to decide upon the question of his honor, they will not forget their own."

Bob leaves telling Edmund to tell him of the outcome. He goes to his old house in Queenís Square. He sits down in one of the large chairs in the living room and tells the butler that he expects a man from the House of Commons to come with a message for him.

Margaret comes to the house. She walks into the living room and over to the chair where Bob is seating. She puts her hand on his shoulder. He takes her hand and kisses it. Bob is happy she came. He tells her that their mansion is gone.

The Prime Minister arrives to see Robert Clive. The House of Commons condemned the conduct of Lord Clive, but taking into account the great things he did for his country, his fortune is intact as well as his honor.

 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 


Historical Background:

 

1725 --  Robert Clive born near Market Drayton, England.

1743 --  he becomes a clerical employee in the East India Company.

1744  -- he begins his duties in Madras (now Chennai), India.  War breaks out between France and Great Britain.  The French capture Madras. Clive escapes.

1747  -- he accepts a commission in the British army.

1751  --  Captain Clive, with a small force of about 500 British and Indian soldiers, captures Arcot, a French stronghold 65 miles west of Madras.  The French lay siege to Arcot. Clive wins the day, contributing to the collapse of French power in India.

1753 --  England welcomes back Clive as a hero.

1756 --  Clive now serves as governor of Fort Saint David.  Siraj-ud-Dawlah, the nawab, or viceroy of Bengal, seized the British Fort William at Calcutta (now Kolkata), where subsequently some British prisoners died in a dungeon known as the Black Hole of Calcutta.

1757, January  --  Robert Clive, British governor of Fort Saint David (now Cuddalore), recaptured the fort.  Clive allied himself with Hindu leaders in Bengal who were dissatisfied with the Muslim Siraj-ud-Dawlah. Arranges for the defection of Mir Jafar, one of the nawab's generals. Clive captures Chandernagore, the principal French settlement in India, ending the French threat.

1757, June 23  --  Battle of Plassey.  Clive defeats Siraj-ud-Dawlah and his army of 50,000 at Plassey, a village near Krishnanager (Krishnagar), Bangal. The victory led to British control of Bengal and marked the first stage in the British conquest of India. 

1760  -- Clive returns to England and buys a seat in Parliament.

1764  -- Clive is knighted.

1764  --  British victory of Buxar cements British rule over the region.

1765  -- Clive returns to India as governor and commander in chief of Bengal. He restores discipline and order in the area; gets the Mughal emperor of India to give the English East India Company control over Bengal and other regions, thereby beginning the British Indian empire.

1767  -- because of ill health he resigns and returns to England.

1774  -- despondent over having been charged by his enemies in India of having used his offices in India for personal gain (even though he was acquitted), he commits suicide.

 

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