Bhowani Junction (1956 with Ava Gardner and Stewart Granger)


UK / 1956

Dir: George Cukor
Writers: Sonya Levien, Ivan Moffat from John Masters novel

Cast: Ava Gardner, Stewart Granger, Francis Matthews, Bill Travers, Abraham Sofaer, Peter Illing

George Cukor’s epic film was shot less than a decade after the British handover of India and reflected the West’s continuing ambiguity about the ending of Empires in the post-War upheavals, using the microcosm of a busy railway junction and a cross-cultural love affair to reflect the larger issues. Ava Gardner plays Victoria Jones, an Anglo/Indian assigned to assist Colonel Rodney Savage (Stewart Granger) who is charged with guarding the rail links against Communist saboteurs. As riots break out and the terrorist threat rises, Victoria begins to fall for Savage but at the same time is drawn to Patrick Taylor (Bill Travers), the local rail superintendent who, like her, is Anglo/Indian.

Torn between being European and Indian, her ideals and emotions are further torn when she kills a British officer (Lionel Jeffries) trying to rape her and is saved from detection by the local Communist leader Ghanshyam (Peter Illing). The tension of the film comes both from her conflict and the external conflict raging around her and the eventual resolution is also an analogy for the political situation at the time.

Shot in glorious Cinemascope by Freddy Young, who holds the rare distinction of three consecutive Oscars for his work with David Lean, the film captures both the busy urban haste of the eponymous junction and the beauty of the surrounding countryside as well, of course, as capturing Gardner in all her beauty. Ironically, the film was actually shot in Pakistan.