Bhowani Junction (1956)

Bhowani Junction (1956), directed by George Cukor.

Ava Gardner is a proud Anglo-Indian soldier in the years before India Independence, not at home in either culture, despised on both sides.

The poster makes it look like a passion/romance story, but it is really more of a historical epic filmed on location in Lahore. What looks like a cast of thousands reenacts the passive resistance strikes of the Congress Party, while a violent communist faction blows up trains and incites riots.

For a long time the India of Hollywood was all about colonial adventures bordering on fantasy. The world changed in 1947 and the film presents a more realistic, politically charged story. Casting Stewart Granger as the commanding officer was an inspired way to symbolize that narrative shift. After all of those swashbucklers he now plays a graying colonel keeping order as best he can, preparing for the inevitable British withdrawal.

I think the story goes on a act too long with a kidnapping and bomb plot. They also tack on a happy ending that makes the start of the film seem deceptive.

Gardner, always a beauty, projects real pain and a troubled conscience as a woman caught up in the turmoil.

Miklós Rózsa score.

Warner Archive title, available for rent from ClassicFlix.