The Man Who Would Be King (film)

The Man Who Would Be King (film)

Infobox Film
name = The Man Who Would Be King

caption = original film poster
director = John Huston
producer = John Foreman
writer = Rudyard Kipling (story)
John Huston
Gladys Hill
starring = Sean Connery
Michael Caine
Christopher Plummer
Saeed Jaffrey
music = Maurice Jarre
cinematography = Oswald Morris
editing =
distributor = USA: Allied Artists Pictures Corporation
non-USA: Columbia Pictures
released = 17 December 1975
runtime = 129 minutes
language = English
budget =
preceded_by =
followed_by =
imdb_id = 0073341

"The Man Who Would Be King" is a 1975 film adapted from the Rudyard Kipling story of the same title. It was adapted and directed by John Huston and starred Sean Connery as Daniel Dravot, Michael Caine as Peachey Carnehan, Saeed Jaffrey as Billy Fish, and Christopher Plummer as Kipling (giving a name to the story's anonymous narrator).

The Kipling story tells the tale of two time-served, NCO, rogue ex-soldiers of the British Raj who set off from 19th century British India in search of adventure, and end up as kings of Kafiristan. The story is believed to have been inspired by the travels of American adventurer Josiah Harlan during the period of the Great Game between Imperial Russia and the British Empire.

Shot on location in Morocco, Huston had planned to make the film since the 1950s: originally with Humphrey Bogart and Clark Gable, then Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas, and then Robert Redford and Paul Newman — Newman suggested British actors Connery and Caine. Like much of his writing, Kipling's original story is overtly imperialist; in Huston's telling, both East and West have their faults and virtues. In a retrospective review, the New York Times remarked "Gloriously old-fashioned in its approach – right down to the characters' politically incorrect attitudes toward anyone who isn't one hundred per cent British – "The Man Who Would Be King" is pure entertainment in the grand tradition of "Gunga Din"."

Michael Caine has maintained that if any film of his is remembered after his death, it would be "The Man Who Would Be King" because it is the sort of film that everyone says, even when the film came out, "No-one makes pictures like this any more."

Although the film was shot in North Africa, the ethnic clothing and dancers in the background are clearly not Middle Eastern, but of Central Asian origin. Maurice Jarre scored the film and invited classical Indian musicians to participate in the recording sessions with a traditional European symphony, blending the musical styles for the melodies, based around the hymn "The Minstrel Boy", (although the lyrics are those of Reginald Heber's "The Son of God Goes Forth to War"), which figures in the plot. Sean Connery and Michael Caine are heard singing on the LP and CD of the film music.


While working as a correspondent at the offices of the "Northern Star" newspaper, Kipling is approached by a ragged, seemingly crazed derelict, who reveals himself to be his old acquaintance Peachy Carnehan. Peachy tells Kipling the story of how he and his companion Danny Dravot traveled to remote Kafiristan in modern-day Afghanistan, became gods, and ultimately lost everything.

After meeting Kipling at his newspaper office a few years earlier and signing a contract pledging mutual loyalty and foreswearing drink and women until they acheive their aims, they set off on an epic overland journey North beyond the Khyber Pass, "travelling by night and avoiding villages", fighting off bandits, blizzards and avalanches, beyond any explored regions into the unknown land of Khafiristan (Literally, "Land of Strangers"). Here, they chance upon a Ghurka who uses the English name Billy Fish, given him by his regiment as being more pronounceable, the only survivor of a mapping expedition lost in an avalanche or rockfall several years before. Billy speaks very good English, as well as the local tongue, and it is he, acting as translator of the language and interpreter of the customs and manners, who is able to smooth the path of Peachy and Danny as they begin their rise to royalty, first offering their services as military advisors, trainers and battle leaders. Carnehan and Dravot muster an army from the natives of a Kafiristan village. In their first battle, the natives decide that Daniel is a god after he is shot with an arrow in the chest but continues fighting. In fact, the arrow has struck a bandolier beneath his clothing and become lodged in it, but the natives don't know this. When they arrive in the holy city of Sikandergul, the natives recognize the Masonic medal given to Danny by Kipling as a symbol of Alexander the Great in a cargo cult context and declare the men to be gods, turning over vast storerooms of treasure from the time of Alexander the Great that they have been stewarding to the two men.

Danny develops delusions of grandeur. Acknowledged as 'Sikander' come again by the power-wielding Holy men of the City, Danny sets himself up as high king of Khafiristan, and begins to enforce laws and judgements, while making plans to civilize the land into a modern country, aided by Billy Fish, who has fallen into the role of translator and privy counselor. As the months turn, Peachy wants to sneak out of the city with chests of gold and jewels before the winter passes are closed. Danny is against it, trying to point out how ruling the land takes precedence over treasure now he is king. He goes as far as to suggest that Peachy should bow to him like the others. Disgusted, Peachy decides to leave with as much treasure as he can carry, with his old friend's blessing. Danny, however, decides to take a wife from among the natives, to cement the royal line, much against Peachy's advice; he chooses Roxanna (played by Michael Caine's wife Shakira), and Peachy waits until after the wedding- "For old time's sake"- before leaving. Roxanna fears no woman can live if she consorts with a god, and so tries to escape from Daniel, biting him in the process. The bite draws blood, and when the natives see it they realise Daniel is human after all, and pursue him and Peachy through the streets of his erstwhile kingdom. Trapped, Billy tries to buy time by holding back the mob single handedly, but the pair are captured and revealed as mortal men. Danny is killed when forced to walk to the middle of a rope bridge over a deep gorge; the ropes supporting it are cut as he bravely sings the hymn "The Son of God Goes Forth to War." As Danny falls to his death Peachy finishes the verse. Peachy is horribly crucified between two palm trees, but is cut down and released the next day. At the end of the film, as Peachy finishes his story, he presents Kipling with Danny's decaying head, still wearing its Kafiri crown.


*The movie has Carnehan first meeting Kipling after Carnehan pickpockets Kipling's pocket watch - which he returns after he sees it has a Masonic watch fob on the chain, Carnehan tries to blame an Indian for stealing the watch - but Kipling is not fooled and informs Carnehan that he missed the watch nearly straight away.
*Billy Fish is accurately depicted as a Gurkha Rifleman of the British Indian Army, from the uniform to the Kukri knife. Billy's attempt to buy Peachy time to escape by fearlessly charging an armed mob (and killing several before being overcome by weight of numbers) is typical of his warrior strain. His battle cry, "Ayo Gurkhali!" ("The Gurkhas are here!") is in fact the ancient war-cry that is still in use. However, Saeed Jaffrey, who plays Billy, is clearly an ethnic Indian and not a Gurkha, who belong to a completely different race.
*The movie is largely faithful to the original story, except at the end which has the half-insane Carnehan leaving Dravot's head on Kipling's desk. In the original story Carnehan takes Dravot's head with him; two days later the unnamed narrator has Carnehan taken to an insane asylum where Carnehan dies of sunstroke. No belongings are found with Carnehan. There are also variations in the use of masonic detail - for more information on this see the entry for Daniel Dravot.
*Neal Morse recorded a song called "The Man Who Would Be King" as part of the 'A Whole Nother Trip' section of his eponymous solo album.
* In 1988, Sean Connery succeeded Michael Caine as the winner of the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
* The Melvins recorded a song titled "Billy Fish" for their 2008 album Nude With Boots.
* Connery also starred in a Kiplingesque movie in 1975 called "The Wind and the Lion". That film also featured John Huston in a supporting role.

ee also

The Man Who Would Be King

External links

*imdb title|id=0073341|title=The Man Who Would Be King
* [ The Man Who Would Be King - Photos]
* [ The Man Who Would Be King -]

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