Unless it’s in a vault somewhere waiting to be uncovered, we’re likely never to see the version of Bhowani Junction that George Cukor intended. When MGM previewed it, the audience supposedly found the action confusing and distasteful, especially the sexual overtones, and, against Cukor’s wishes, the studio rushed to simplify and sentimentalize the story of a woman “cheechee”—an Anglo Indian —torn between Britain and India at the time the Raj was collapsing and Gandhi was ascending. (Scenes were cut entirely, plot machinations were rearranged, and Stewart Granger’s narration added to prevent any doubts.) What’s left are indications that this may have been the “epic” the director longed to make—roughly two years in production, it’s epochal, sprawling, noisy, authentic-looking, with a cast of thousands. Maybe, though, there’d be no real improvement if given his cut, because we still have to overcome the Star as a half-caste. Gardner doesn’t act, she reacts; she hits her marks and hopes for a good take, and doubtlessly counting on her enormous likability to be enough of an asset to withstand her lack of convincing characterization. There is, however, during a Sikh ceremony, a very close close-up—the biggest and longest of her career?—confirming Ava as one of the screen’s greatest beauties. Cukor resisted Granger, wanting Trevor Howard. Beyond our comprehension that Ava could ever fall for that sadist.
Text COPYRIGHT © 2007 RALPH BENNER All Rights Reserved.