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Of the many film versions of Alfred Lord Tennyson's narrative poem, 1936's Charge of the Light Brigade has the least relationship to the facts concerning the famous 19th century British military blunder in the Crimea. Reflecting the popularity of 1935's Lives of A Bengal Lancer, the film uses the climactic charge as the culmination of events which begin in British India. Errol Flynn and Patric Knowles are cast as cavalry officers who are also brothers; both love Olivia De Havilland, but it is Knowles who wins out (this should tip us off that the rest of the film is pure fantasy). Indian potentate C. Henry Gordon, angered that the British government has cut off his subsidy, stages a revolt against the English settlements. Ordered on maneuvers, Flynn is unable to bring rescue troops to the besieged fort commanded by De Havilland's father. Gordon supervises the slaughter of every man, woman and child at the fort, then leaves India in the company of his Russian advisors. Flynn and his fellow Light Brigade lancers are then transferred to the Crimea--where, as luck would have it, Gordon is now ensconced with the Russians. Thirsting for revenge, Flynn falsifies an official order so that he and the Light Brigade can battle Gordon and his allies at Balaclava (thus are Britons Lord Cardigan and Lord Ragan, the actual instigators of the doomed charge, exonerated). As passages from the Tennyson poem are superimposed on the action, Flynn leads a suicidal charge against the Russians; he manages to kill the treacherous Gordon before being slain himself. Its dozens of historical inaccuracies aside, The Charge of the Light Brigade is rousing entertainment. Animal lovers be warned, however: several horses were killed during the climactic charge, a fact that compelled Hollywood (under the auspices of the ASPCA) to install safer and more stringent standards concerning the treatment of animals.~Hal Erickson
Warner Night at the Movies 1936 short subjects gallery:
Oscar-wining drama short Give Me Liberty
Comedy short Shop Talk with Bob Hope
Classic cartoon Boom Boom
Trailers of the Charge of the Light Brigade and 1936's Anthony Adverse