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The Light That Failed (24-Dec-1939)

Director: William A. Wellman

Writer: Robert Carson

From novel by: Rudyard Kipling

Keywords: Drama

NameOccupationBirthDeathKnown for
Ronald Colman
9-Feb-1891 19-May-1958 A Double Life
Pedro de Cordoba
28-Sep-1881 16-Sep-1950 The Ghost Breakers
Halliwell Hobbes
16-Nov-1877 20-Feb-1962 British-American character actor
Walter Huston
6-Apr-1884 7-Apr-1950 The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Ida Lupino
4-Feb-1918 3-Aug-1995 The Man I Love


Ronald Colman   ...   Dick Heldar
Walter Huston   ...   Torpenhow
Muriel Angelus   ...   Maisie
Ida Lupino   ...   Bessie Broke
Dudley Digges   ...   The Nilghai
Ernest Cossart   ...   Beeton
Ferike Boros   ...   Madame Binat
Pedro de Cordoba   ...   Monsieur Binat
Colin Tapley   ...   Gardner
Ronald Sinclair   ...   Dick (young boy)
Sarita Wooton   ...   Maisie (young girl)
Halliwell Hobbes   ...   Doctor
Charles Irwin   ...   Soldier model
Francis McDonald   ...   George
George Regas   ...   Cassavetti
Wilfred Roberts   ...   Barton


Review by Roberto (posted on 24-Feb-2005)

Ronald Colman is all but unknown today except among the most ardent of films buffs. Even I was a little kid or a young teenager when I saw most of his now classic films. His forte was that of the noble loser. Our society doesn't like losers even when they are as gallant as Colman made them.

Obviously, I hope, the reader will not think I mean a guy who is down on his luck because he hasn't got the guts to face life head-on. No, I mean the kind of hero who magnificently opposes the odds knowing he can't win. Colman's portraits of Sidney Carton in Tale of Two Cities and Dick Heldar in The Light that Failed are two such examples of his art.

Both films in some way are a bit flawed -- but Colman's performances shine. As Sidney Carton, keeping his promise to die if need be to keep his love's life beside her, he breaks your heart even as he knows his sacrifice will be the finest thing he's ever done, taking him to a rest he has never known.

The Light that Failed is every bit as heartbreaking. When he, the artist, knows that his final portrait has been destroyed, he doesn't sink into a lachrymose fit. Instead, he seems to realize at once what must be done and leaves the safety of England to go to the Sudan, where a war rages. He goes for a purpose that one should not divulge. Let it be said only that he does what's neceesary -- returning to the site of his greatest inspiration.

It is Rudyard Kipling who made the story melodramatic; Colman and the ever magnificent Walter Huston bring the artist of the story to life and makes us believe. The voiceover ending must be heard -- it wraps up the whole story.

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