(director: Clarence Brown; screenwriters: Philip Dunne/Julien Josephson/from the novel by Louis Bromfield; cinematographer: Arthur Miller; editor: Barbara McLean; music: Alfred Newman; cast: Myrna Loy (Lady Edwina Esketh), Tyrone Power (Major Rama Safti), George Brent (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 (Rev. Homer Smiley), H.B. Warner (Maharajah), Joseph Schildkraut (Mr. Bannerjee), Harry Hayden (Rev. Elmer Simon), Herbert Evans (Bates, Lord Esketh’s sevant); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Darryl F. Zanuck; Twentieth Century-Fox; 1939)

“I could listen to the legendary Maria Ouspenskaya talk while dangling a cigarette on a long holder without ever tiring of her magical charm, and in this film she has a bigger role than usual.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The Rains Came earned the first Academy Award ever given for special effects (the earthquake shots in the studio back lot were first rate as created by special effects technician Fred Sersen). The romantic black and white melodrama was remade in 1955 as The Rains of Ranchipur starring Lana Turner and Richard Burton. “Rain’s” based on the novel by Louis Bromfield and written by Philip Dunne and Julien Josephson, who reduce the book’s social and political insights to the usual Hollywood tear jerking hokum. Clarence Brown (“Inspiration”/ “Conquest”/ “Emma”) slickly directs the big box office monsoon disaster pic by keeping the story as exotic as its locale and playing up the heroine’s dying scene for whatever such sentimentality is worth. The prestige picture was budgeted at a whopping $2.5 million, a big sum for the time.

The rakish British aristocratic Tom Ransome (George Brent) has been in the fictitious state of Ranchipur, India, for the last seven years painting a portrait of the maharani (Maria Ouspenskaya), where he enjoys living a dissolute life and hobnobbing with both English and Indian royalty. Visiting the summer palace is Lady Edwina Esketh (Myrna Loy) and her wealthy much older boorish aristocratic husband Lord Albert Esketh (Nigel Bruce), a sourpuss fancier of horses. They are locked into a loveless marriage and the bored Edwina has had many extra-marital affairs that he’s chosen to ignore. At the palace Edwina meets her old flame Tom, but the sparks have gone out of that romance.

Edwina turns her attention to straight-arrow Indian surgeon Major Rama Safti (Tyrone Power), the palace favorite of the maharajah (H.B. Warner) and maharani, and maneuvers to stay in Ranchipur for a few more days to flirt with him. Safti, because of his purity, dedication to medicine and generosity in helping the citizens, has been promised by the royal family to inherit the kingdom.

When Edwina and Safti find themselves enjoying each other’s company and falling in love, a giant earthquake hits Ranchipur during the monsoon season and many are killed and a plague sweeps across the rainy flooded area. Edwina’s hubby conveniently dies during the earthquake, without her even caring. But she wants Safti to love her, so the self-absorbed woman turns over a new leaf and selflessly volunteers to work tirelessly in the hospital. The two are overcome by their love for each other and Safti tells her he’s willing to give up his Ranchipur inheritance to live with her in another section of India. But their happiness is short-lived, as she comes down with the plague and dies. Meanwhile, Tom is being seduced by the sweet Fern Simon (Brenda Joyce, “The 17-year-old native of LA, whose real name was Betty Leabo, and was discovered by Fox in a fashion magazine; her last name was changed to “Joyce” after Alice Joyce, the famous silent screen star who at this time was married to Clarence Brown”), the teenaged daughter of social climbing American missionaries who are Tom’s neighbors. After Tom tries to repel her love because the 18-year-old is too young, she wins him over anyway as she treats him like a God and he eventually reciprocates to her overtures.

The look at life during the Raj in India is crowd-pleasing pap; but I could listen to the legendary Maria Ouspenskaya talk while dangling a cigarette on a long holder without ever tiring of her magical charm, and in this film she has a bigger role than usual.

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