|Directed by||Tay Garnett|
|Produced by||Pandro S. Berman|
|Written by||Malcolm Stuart Boylan|
|Based on||short story collection by Rudyard Kipling|
|Music by||Adolph Deutsch|
|Cinematography||William C. Mellor|
|Edited by||Robert J. Kern|
Soldiers Three is a 1951 American adventure film based upon an element of several short stories by Rudyard Kipling featuring the same trio of British soldiers, and starring Stewart Granger, Walter Pidgeon, and David Niven. It was directed by Tay Garnett.
London, 1918: In a gentlemen's club, General Brunswick regales junior officers celebrating a British advance in France with the tale of how he won his brigade command during his service in India, not with gallantry under fire but under circumstances that warranted a court martial.
As the longtime colonel of 1st Battalion, the Rutlandshire Regiment, an infantry unit, Brunswick had a trusted aide, Capt. Pindenny, and the service of three able but not always reliable privates, Ackroyd, Malloy and Sykes, who for his eighteen years as commander were "the Queen's hard bargain", sneaking off to drink, fight and gamble whenever they could. Against their wishes, one man must be elevated to sergeant to separate them and Ackroyd is the unhappy choice. Sent from their garrison at Hyderalipore to provide a show of force at a reported disturbance in Mirzabad, Brunswick and his battalion are recalled and placed under rival Colonel Groat of the 28th Hussars and his officious adjutant, Major Mercer.
A rift develops between the three friends after Ackroyd's promotion, but it is mended after he saves Sykes' life. Sykes and Malloy become part of a small force under Mercer and Pindenny to an abandoned fort at Imara as a sacrificial lure to entrap the insurgent forces of Manik Rao. Ackroyd is left behind and apparently becomes a deserter. Groat separates his command and Brunswick uses it as an opportunity to ignore Groat's order to return to his garrison post and take his battalion to Imara.
At Imara the fort is attacked by Manik Rao and overrun, with the British survivors taking refuge in its powder house. Manik Rao threatens to blow them up if they do not surrender. Ackroyd enters the fort in disguise, slays Manik Rao, and saves the lives of the trapped British troops. Brunswick expects to be court-martialed but finds he was goaded by Groat into acting as he did to avoid officially starting a war. Groat "suggests" that Brunswick led his command in pursuit of the deserter Ackroyd and Brunswick is promoted instead. Ackroyd's "punishment" for desertion, on the other hand, is to be demoted back to private as he wished.
- Stewart Granger as Archibald Ackroyd
- Walter Pidgeon as Colonel Brunswick
- David Niven as Captain Pindenny
- Robert Newton as Bill Sykes
- Cyril Cusack as Dennis Malloy
- Greta Gynt as Crenshaw
- Robert Coote as Major Mercer
- Dan O'Herlihy as Sergeant Murphy
- Michael Ansara as Manik Rao
In 1934, it was announced that Gaumont British would make a film based on Soldiers Three. A film crew was sent to India under Geoffrey Barkas to shoot second unit footage. A script had been written based on "The Courting of Dinah Shadd" and Lung Tung Pen" and involve a climax especially written by Kipling involving a battle at the Khyber Pass. The battle was shot with army cooperation.
Michael Balcon of Gaumont then set about trying to secure a cast. He visited Hollywood and said he was interested in Pat O'Brien to play the lead. Then Richard Dix, Maureen O'Sullivan and C. Aubrey Smith were all mentioned as possible stars. Gordon Harker was also announced as a lead.
Gaumont still insisted they would make the film and announced that Victor McLaglen would star and Raoul Walsh direct. Walsh said he was interested in making two versions, one for England and one for America – the latter without the British dialect. Walsh left for England to begin pre-production and Charles Bickford was announced as co-star.
However, Gaumont never made the film. In early 1938, MGM announced they were going to make the film along with another Kipling adaptation, Kim. A script was written by Vincent Lawrence and Grover Jones. However shooting was postponed out of sensitivity to Indian audiences.
The project was reactivated after the war and the script was rewritten by Marguerite Roberts. The producer was Pandro S. Berman, who had worked on Gunga Din. It was one of two Kipling-orientated films being made by the studio at the time, the other being Kim.
In May 1950, it was announced the movie would be one of the first starring Stewart Granger under his new seven-year contract with MGM following the success of King Solomon's Mines – the others were a remake of Scaramouche and Robinson Crusoe. The latter film was never made.
The initial cast was to be Granger, Gene Kelly and Walter Pidgeon. Granger was to play Irishman Terence Mulvaney, with the other lead characters called Ortheris and Learoyd. Tay Garnett signed to direct. Eventually Kelly dropped out and David Niven and Cyril Cusack signed on to star. Greta Gynt was given her first role in American films as the female lead.
The bulk of the story was taken from Kipling's "The Incarnation of Krishna Mulvaney". Pandro S. Berman told the New York Times he was aware the story was politically tricky:
We are making a rough and tumble brawling comedy with three British soldiers out of a Kipling work as major characters and that presents major problems. The people of India hated Kipling. As to the British, how they will react when we show three roistering, drunken Tommies on the screen is a question. When I produced Gunga Din at RKO in 1938 it was banned in India and efforts were made to stop it being shown in the British Isles. But if we were to film Soldiers Three to please either Britain or India we would have to make it much too dull to for our much bigger audience here at home.
Nonetheless Berman insisted on the creation of a new character, Gobind Lal, a peaceful Indian, who was not in the Kipling original, although care was taken that Lal did not resemble Mahatma Gandhi too closely. The final scene was altered so that Indian rebels laid down their arms to indicate their support of passive resistance. Berman also arranged for Mulvaney's irreverence to the Hindu god Krishna to be removed so as not to offend Indians.
Further changes were made when it was realised that Granger could not do an Irish accent – the character of Mulvaney was changed to the Cockney "Ackroyd" (Granger could do Cockney). Once this change was made, Berman decided that the other two lead characters should also have their names changed, to Malloy and Sykes, to emphasise that the work was more of an MGM original than derived from Kipling.
Tay Garnett later wrote:
[The cast and story] should have made a good picture, but the miscasting of one principal, which I failed to recognize until it was too late, threw the show completely out of balance. Trying to restore equilibrium with jokes and gags was like trying to cure bubonic plague with warm beer.
Stewart Granger later said he enjoyed working with stuntman Yakima Canutt on the film, "but the script. Oh dear! If Metro had planned to ruin my career they couldn't have chosen a better subject."
According to MGM records the movie earned $1,016,000 in the US and Canada and $1,221,000 overseas, making a profit of $23,000.
It recorded admissions of 1,148,803 in France.
- The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study, Los Angeles
- "Soldier's Three (1951)". allmovie.com. Retrieved January 21, 2018.
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- "Filming Kipling's 'Soldiers Three': BRITISH PARTY ARRIVES IN BOMBAY". The Times of India. 18 January 1935. p. 12.
- "Troops as Cinema Actors: 'SOLDIERS THREE' MILITARY CO-OPERATING ON KIPLING STORY". The Times of India. 5 February 1935. p. 10.
- Barkas, Geoffrey (6 March 1935). "FILMING KIPLINGS 'SOLDIERS THREE': MIMIC BATTLES IN THE KHYBER PASS". The Times of India. p. 14.
- Schallert, Edwin (25 March 1935). "Metropolitan Operahouse Backgrounds Story Starring Lawrence Tibbett: Singer Will Star in 'Diamond Horseshoe' Group of Old-Timers Will Illuminate Cast of Honeymoon, Ltd.; Pat O'Brien Much Sought for Famous Kipling Tale". Los Angeles Times. p. 9.
- "Screen Notes". The New York Times. 8 April 1935. p. 23.
- Bain, Greville (29 June 1935). "Our Cinema Chronicle: Filming Kipling: The Story of Aimee Macpherson". The Times of India. p. 9.
- Kingsley, Grace (17 November 1935). "England to Be Paradise for Actor, Says C. Aubrey Smith: British A head in Development of Television, Progressive in Color, Well Financed, Says Veteran, Just Returned". Los Angeles Times. p. C1.
- "Screen Notes". The New York Times. 7 December 1935. p. 22.
- ENGLAND RAIDS THE GOLD COAST By DOUGLAS W. CHURCHILL.HOLLYWOOD.. New York Times, 15 December 1935: X7.
- 24 BRITISH FILMS SCHEDULED HERE: Nearly Half on the Gaumont List of Next Season Will Be Released in U.S. New York Times, 23 May 1936: 13.
- FOOTNOTES ON PICTURES AND PEOPLE By B.R. CRISLER. New York Times, 14 June 1936: X3.
- Film Epic Has Distinguished British Cast: "Lloyds of London" to Be Historical Drama of Admiral Nelson's Time. Shaffer, Rosalind. Chicago Daily Tribune, 27 September 1936: E4.
- 52 NEW PICTURES LISTED BY M-G-M: Class B Productions Dropped in Company's Schedule for 1938-39 Season 2 LOY-POWELL COMEDIES Stars Teamed in Another 'Thin Man' Play--Norma Shearer in 'Marie Antoinette' Color Pictures Planned Many Others Scheduled. New York Times, 15 March 1938: 19.
- HOLLYWOOD'S PROMISES FOR 1940: COMING-OF-AGE OF UNITED ARTISTS. The Scotsman, 9 January 1940: 9.
- METRO IS PLANNING TWO NEW PROJECTS: Studio to Make Film Dealing With Human Rights Phase of the U.N.'s Charter By THOMAS F. BRADY Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES.. New York Times, 18 May 1950: 45.
- 'FRANCIS' STORIES ARE BOUGHT BY U.-I.: Studio Acquires All Rights to David Stern's Future Yarns About the Army Mule By THOMAS F. BRADY Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES.. New York Times, 17 May 1950: 35.
- 'Soldiers Three' Gets Strong Stellar Group. Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times, 8 August 1950: A6.
- Melodious 'Huck Finn' En Route; Tay Garnett Guides 'Soldiers Three'. Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times, 25 August 1950: 13.
- Metro Signs Greta Gynt; 'Stage Door' Replanned; Rick Jason Will Star. Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times, 30 September 1950: 9.
- HOLLYWOOD ISSUE: DANGER LURKS BEHIND THE SWINGING DOORS By THOMAS F. BRADY. New York Times, 26 November 1950: X5.
- Spiro, J. D. (24 September 1950). "NO INTERFERENCE: Korean War Fails to Affect Hollywood's Martial Affairs--Metro and Kipling First on Korea More Kipling Jurisdictional Row". The New York Times. p. X5.
- "Horizon Release Setup Changed". Los Angeles Times. 19 October 1950. p. B15.
- Brady, Thomas F. (23 November 1950). "HUGO HAAS PLANS 2D MOVIE ON OWN: Will Start Working Friday on 'The Bridge,' Which He and Arnold Phillips Wrote". The New York Times. p. 55.
- "Soldiers Three". TCM.com. Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved January 21, 2018.
- Box office information for Stewart Granger films in France at BoxOfficeStory.com
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