The Rains Came (1939)
Director: Clarence Brown.
Starring: Myrna Loy (Lady Edwina Esketh), Tyrone Power (Dr. Major Rama Safti), George Brent (Thomas 'Tom' Ransome), Brenda Joyce (Fern Simon), Nigel Bruce (Lord Albert Esketh), Maria Ouspenskaya (Maharani), Joseph Schildkraut (Mr. Bannerjee), Mary Nash (Miss MacDaid), Jane Darwell (Aunt Phoebe, Mrs. Smiley), Marjorie Rambeau (Mrs. Simon), Henry Travers (Reverend Homer Smiley), H.B. Warner (Maharaja Man Singh Bahadur), Laura Hope Crews (Lily Hoggett-Egburry), William Royle (Rashid Ali Khan), C. Montague Shaw (General Keith).
British colonial love stories set against floods in Boroda, India, 1938
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire movie.
The fictitious Ranchipur, India 1938. From the porch, Tom Ransome shoots an object from a sling shot at the monkeys making a racket in the trees. Dr. Major Rama Safti and nurse MacDaid drive up to the house in a carriage. They exchange a few words and then the carriage proceeds on its journey.
Tom goes to a garden tea party in honor of Lily Hoggett-Egbury given by Mrs. Simon of the American Mission. Mrs. Simon wants to hook up her daughter Fern with Tom Ransome. Mrs. Simon extremely dislikes the American woman Aunt Phoebe (Mrs. Smiley). So imagine her amazement when Tom refers to her as Aunt Phoebe. Also at the get-together is Lord and Lady Esketh. Mrs. Simon introduces Fern to Tom. Fern tells him that she has wanted to meet him for a long time. She is not happy about life in Ranchipur. She says she has got to get away from the phony life around her. She asks: "Help men, won't you?" A messenger brings a message to Tom. It is from her Highness and the Maharaja Man Singh Bahadur inviting him for dinner at 8:30 p.m. at the Sish Mahal Palace in honor of Lord and Lady Esketh.
Lady Edwina Esketh meets with Tom. They knew each other at an earlier time. Lord Albert Esketh meets Tom. Later he criticizes Tom to his wife, which does not please her. Tom takes Edwina on a tour of the place. Edwina mentions that he has changed. She even seems to be interested in Tom again. It starts to rain. A wet Fern talks with Tom again. She wants to stay with him over night, but Tom tells her it would cause a scandal and she then would have to be sent away. She changes from her wet clothes into some dry clothes. She then kisses Tom. They embrace and kiss each other. Fern tells Tom: "I love you."
Edwina meets Dr. Major Safti and is very taken with him. Now she begins to forget about Tom. She asks the doctor to take a look at her husband. The doctor tells her that Albert just has a bad case of congestion. She then asks him to stay for tea. She then asks about his being her escort for horse riding. The doctor agrees but says it must be after working hours.
Edwina and Dr. Safti go for a horseback ride. As they finish riding, it starts raining. They take a look at the Maharani's music school. Mr. Das is the director of the school.
A devastating earthquake hits Ranchipur. Buildings start to collapse. Dr. Safti and nurse MacDaid head for the hospital. Then the dam breaks and floods the entire area. The flood kills Lord Esketh as the house collapses around him. Edwina and Tom are stranded at a house by the rising water. Fern Simon paddles her small boat over to the house. Tom lays her down to sleep for awhile after her battle with the raging waters. He puts Edwina in the boat and then tells Fern that he will come back for her. She mentions: "You won't have to marry me unless you decide to change your mind." Tom drops Edwina off and goes back for Fern, but near the house the boat is swamped and Tom has to swim the rest of the way. Fern is very happy to see him: "You've come back." He tells her that he lost her boat. They lay down together.
Dr. Safti tends to the Maharajah who is on his death bed. Before dying, the Maharajah asks Dr. Safti to help the Queen to rebuild Ranchipur. He then dies. The Queen gathers her top men around her. She says that Ranchipur has been dealt a cruel blow and that she has declared a state of emergency. The plague is sweeping the living quarters of many of the less fortunate. She asks Dr. Safti to stop the plague even at the cost of having to dynamite some of the housing sections. She dismisses everyone, but asks Tom to stay. She wants him to be her aide.
Some of the wealthy women have gathered together. Edwina talks with Fern about Tom. It is easy for her to see that Fern is very in love with Tom and, uncharacteristically for her, she tells Fern that she will do anything she can to help her.
Elephants are used to deliver rescued homeless children to the American Mission. Fern receives a message from Tom asking her to be his assistant in his new job with the Queen. The Queen is asking for volunteers so Edwina volunteers. But she has no experience. So nurse MacDaid gives her probational duty. Dr. Safti sees her scrubbing hospital floors and can't believe it. He asks nurse MacDaid why is Edwina scrubbing floors. Hey, she volunteered. The doctor tells the nurse to spend some time training Lady Esketh, so she can perform duties more befitting her education and position. He then talks with Edwina. He shows her around the infirmary. He spends some time touching the heads of the sick even though he is of a much higher caste than they. He then asks Edwina why she volunteered in the first place and why she has continued to volunteer. He takes her surgical mask off and looks at her face. He then tells her: "You don't have to answer." He knows she loves him. Then he gives her some advice. She is in constant danger of infection and so she must continue to use the disinfectant.
The British general in the area arrives to speak with the Queen. He tells the Queen that the viceroy and he himself offer their condolences on the loss of her husband. Later her Highness talks with Tom about how her husband wanted Dr. Safti to be his successor. But one thing worries her. She knows about the relationship between the doctor and Edwina and she asks Tom if the doctor would give up Edwina. Tom says it will hurt him at first, but he will get over it. The Queen remarks that Edwina has a reputation as a bad woman. Therefore, she is going to send Edwina back with the General when he leaves.
Tom goes to tell Edwina the bad news. Edwina automatically rejects the idea. She tells Tom: "I'm in love for the first time in my life." She feels that Tom just cannot ask her to give up her chance at happiness. Tom says it's either Ranchipur or you, and Safti cannot have both.
Edwina is growing very tired and exhausted. She gives a sick woman some water from a glass. The man fanning the area faints. The coolies take him away. Then Edwina sits downs in the chair and starts fanning. She picks up a glass, pours some water in it and then drinks. Then she goes back to fanning. All of a sudden she stops fanning. She realizes that she just drank from the wrong glass; the glass that she used to give water to the sick woman. The clean glass is on the other side of the water pitcher. She knows now that she is infected.
Dr. Safti comes to speak with her. Edwina says that she is leaving, by request of the Queen. The doctor tells her: "I'll come after you." Edwina asks: "You'd leave all this?" Yes, he would. He hugs her and notices that her body is hot. She has a fever. She faints.
In her hospital bed, Edwina says she wants to see Fern Simon. Dr. Safti tells Tom that Edwina has no fight in her. "She hasn't any will to live." He adds: "I've failed. I can't save her." Tom tells his friend that he has to pull himself together. There are too many people counting on him. He stresses that: "You are India -- the new India." Listening to Tom, the doctor apologizes and says it won't happen again. Edwina calls for Tom to come in to visit her. She gives him her sapphire wedding on the condition that he use it to marry Fern. She adds: "You've picked a winner at last." Then it is time for the doctor to visit Edwina. But as he talks with her, she stops reacting to him. He realizes that she is dead.
Dr. Major Safti becomes the new King of Ranchipur.
Pretty good movie, but not all that much history in the film. In the extras section of the DVD for the movie, the commentators say that the movie was made not as a film about India, but about a group of people who were in India. This group of people were the British colonials. Their attitudes toward the Indians themselves are benign and patronizing. The British only directly controlled a small part of India. For most of India, they worked with the local leaders to get what they wanted. Ranchipur is a fictitious province, but it is based on Boroda, close to the Pakistan border in northwest India. Dr. Safti represented the new India. He was educated at John Hopkins University and crosses the caste lines willingly. He is the man seen to have the ability to bridge the gap between the British rulers and the local rulers.
The commentators say that the Edwina character was based on Edwina Mountbatten (Lady Mountbatten). Lord Mountbatten was a homosexual. Edwina Mountbatten was known to have a penchant for "men of color" as does the character in the film. Mrs. Mountbatten's favorite was a Jamaican cabaret singer with whom she had an affair. In the mini-series on Mountbatten, it was brought out that Mrs. Mountbatten had an affair with Nehru, which had the consent of the husband. (That mini-series, however, did not tell the reason for this strange arrangement:. It did not mention Mountbatten's homosexuality. With that fact, the mini-series about Lord Mountbatten now makes more sense.)
None of the main characters were actually Indian actors. Tyrone Power was the Indian doctor who represented the new India. He did alright in the part, especially considering that he was not Indian. Myrna Loy was good managing the change from a bad person to a good person.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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