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George Stevens's 1939 adventure classic was ostensibly based on Kipling's imperialist paean to the noble Indian water boy who sacrifices his life to save a British regiment. But the actual source of the film's tone, characters, and much of its plot is The Front Page, cheerfully plagiarized by its own authors, Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. Douglas Fairbanks Jr. plays the Hildy Johnson part, torn between the prospect of respectable married life with Joan Fontaine and loyalty to his brawling, boozing comrades, Cary Grant and Victor McLaglen. The attitudes expressed are hardly responsible, but they contribute to the film's sense of good, dirty fun. Stevens's deliberate pacing serves the comedy remarkably well, although the action scenes are blunted by too-careful compositions and artsy cutting. With Sam Jaffe. 117 min.

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