Lauren Bacall has died aged 89 at her home in New York marking in many ways the end of an era. She had become star in the late 40s following her teaming with Humphrey Bogart in To Have and to Have Not quickly followed by The Big Sleep and Key Largo – a man she later married and with whom she had two children but he sadly died in 1957 after just 11 years of marriage. She certainly hit the ground running with these Warner Brothers films thus ensuring her status in the great Hollywood era that by this time was almost at an end as we had known it.
However as this Blog is about Fifties films, one I will remember is an British film North West Frontier (1959) which was released as Flame over India in the USA. The film also starred Kenneth More, Wilfrid Hyde-Whyte, Herbert Lom and I.S. Johar as Gupta in a brilliant portrayal as the Indian Train driver who takes un on a thrilling rail ride through India pursued by rebels who want to capture the young prince they are helping escape. It wasn’t the strongest part for Lauren Bacall and the romantic storyline for her and Kenneth More didn’t seem plausible but nevertheless she was, as she always was , very good but under used. It is a very exciting film with a great railway chase that takes up much of the film.
This film is a thoroughly enjoyable historical adventure yarn set in colonial India, directed with great tempo and suspense by J Lee Thompson.
1905, British officer Scott (Kenneth More) comes to the aid of six-year-old Hindu Prince Kishnan (Govind Raja Ross) and his governess Catherine (Lauren Bacall) whose lives are threatened by an uprising of rebel Moslem tribesmen attacking a British fortress. Captain Scott commandeers an old steam locomotive, the Empress of India, engineered by the sincere Gupta (I.S. Johar) they embark on a perilous 300-mile journey across enemy territory to the safety of Kalapur. Also along for the perilous ride are gentlemanly English diplomat Bridie (Wilfrid Hyde-White), cynical journalist Van Layden (Herbert Lom) and arms dealer Peters (Eugene Deckers), as they journey through a massacre, repair broken rails, traverse rickety bridges and evade marauding tribesmen. A sinister moment when the young prince is encouraged to dangerously play with a spinning flywheel gives forewarning of a traitor in their midst who might prove their biggest danger.