Gunga Din

From Academic Kids

Gunga Din (1892) is one of the more famous poems by Rudyard Kipling. Perhaps best known is its often-quoted last line, "You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!" The poem is a rhyming narrative from the point of view of a British soldier, about a native water-bearer who saves his life. Like several other Kipling poems, it celebrates the virtues of a non-European while portraying a colonial infantryman's view of such people as being of a "lower order".

It inspired a 1939 swashbuckler film about three British soldiers and their native water bearer who fight to survive a Thuggee attack in colonial India. It stars Cary Grant, Victor McLaglen, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Sam Jaffe, and Joan Fontaine.

The movie was written by Joel Sayre and Fred Guiol from a storyline by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, with uncredited contributions by Lester Cohen, John Colton, William Faulkner, Vincent Lawrence, Dudley Nichols and Anthony Veiller. It was directed by George Stevens.

Filming began on June 24, 1938 and was completed on October 19, 1938. The film premiered in Los Angeles on January 24, 1939.

It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography, Black-and-White. In 1999 the film was deemed "culturally significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

The movie includes a sequence at the end in which a fictionalised Rudyard Kipling, played by Reginald Sheffield, hears of the events and is inspired to write his poem (the scene in which the poem is first read out carefully quotes only those parts of the poem that tally with the events of the movie). Following objections from Kipling's family, the character was excised from some prints of the movie.

The film version was re-told (perhaps "parodied" would be a better word) in a 1962 tongue-in-cheek version reset in the American West and starring all of the members of the Rat Pack, entitled "Sergeants Three".

"Gunga Din" is also the title of an apparently unrelated 1969 song by The Byrds, written by Gene Parsons.

The Gunga Din Highway is also a novel by Frank Chin, the polemical Chinese-American playwright and fiction writer who deals with themes of Asian-American "authentic" identity.

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