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Clive of India (film)

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Clive of India
Clive India35.jpg
Directed byRichard Boleslawski
Written byW. P. Lipscomb
R. J. Minney
Based onClive of India
by R. J. Minney
Produced byWilliam Goetz
Raymond Griffith
StarringRonald Colman
Loretta Young
Colin Clive
Francis Lister
CinematographyJ. Peverell Marley
Edited byBarbara McLean
Music byAlfred Newman
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • January 25, 1935 (1935-01-25)
Running time
95 min.
CountryUnited States

Clive of India is a 1935 American historical biographical film starring Ronald Colman about the life of Robert Clive. It was based on R. J. Minney's play of the same name, and was co-written by Minney and W. P. Lipscomb and directed by Richard Boleslawski.[1] Colin Clive, who appears in the film, was a descendant of Clive.


In 1748, the British, French, Dutch and Portuguese are fighting over India.

Back in England, Robert Clive (Colman) fires and misses in a duel; his opponent walks up to him, points his pistol at Clive's head and demands he retract his accusation of cheating. When Clive refuses, the other man declares him "mad" and leaves. Later, frustrated with the boredom of being a clerk, Clive recalls firing a pistol at his own head and having it misfire twice, only to have his friend fire it without a problem. This causes him to wonder if he is "destined for something after all."

He is sent to India in disgrace, still a clerk (for the East India Company at Fort St. George). He is fascinated by a picture of a beautiful woman in the locket of his friend and fellow clerk Edmund Maskelyne. He discovers that she is Edmund's sister and declares he wants to marry her, even though they have never even met. He later brazenly writes to her, asking her to come to India, a year-long journey.

When the French attack, Clive sees his destiny, as a soldier. The army is poorly manned and led. He persuades Edmund into transferring to the army as well. When the British are besieged in Trichinopoly, Clive sneaks out through the enemy lines without orders to confront the British Governor Pigot and his council. Finding they have no idea what to do, he offers to lift the siege, even though they can raise only 120 men, by attacking Arcot, the "capital of southern India". They agree. Clive sets out immediately with his small force, captures Arcot and raises the siege. In less than a year, he conquers all of southern India.

Margaret arrives, but is intimidated by his great success. His plans are unchanged, however, and they get married. They return to England to a magnificent London mansion. He wins a seat in Parliament, then loses it. Clive loses all his money showering (unwanted) luxuries on his wife and contesting elections. Fortunately, the East India Company wants him to return to India.

Colonel Clive demands the unconditional release of 146 British prisoners, but King of "Northern India" Suraj Ud Dowlah throws them into the "Black Hole of Calcutta"; only a handful survive the ordeal. Enraged, Clive makes a secret treaty with Suraj's uncle, Mir Jaffar, despite lacking the authority to do so. Royal Navy Admiral Watson refuses to sign the treaty, but Clive forges his signature.

Advancing against the enemy, Clive hesitates to cross a river, soon to be made impassible by the annual monsoon rains, without a firm commitment from Mir Jaffar. The governor and Edmund Maskelyne advise caution, and he reluctantly orders a retreat, but a supportive letter from his wife changes his mind, and Clive boldly leads his small army across. After much initial success, his men are about to be routed by Suraj's war elephants at the Battle of Plassey when Mir Jaffar finally commits his forces, ensuring victory.

Clive sails home to England to enjoy retirement on a country estate with his wife. However, Picot arrives with dire news: India is in chaos, all those Clive placed in power have been replaced by corrupt men, and Mir Jaffar has been deposed. Pigot offers Clive absolute authority to set things right. Clive accepts, but his decision comes at the cost of a rupture with his wife, who refuses to go with him.

Clive not only restores the situation, he expands the territories controlled by the British. However, all the men he got rid of travel to England and accuse him of accepting bribes. Clive defends himself, but to no avail. At this dark time, his wife returns to him. The Prime Minister himself brings the news: the verdict is not in his favour, but he will most likely be allowed to retain his wealth and honour. The Prime Minister also passes along the private praise of King George.



Andre Sennwald, critic for The New York Times, called the movie "a dignified and impressive historical drama which misses genuine distinction by a comfortable margin. ... the film divides its attentions—fatally, in the opinion of this reporter—between Clive's public triumphs and defeats [sic] and his intermittent quarrels with his wife, who wants him to settle down to the life of an English country gentleman."[2] However, he thought that Colman "enacts the title rôle with vigor and conviction".[2]

It was the 18th most popular film at the British box office in 1935-36.[3]

See also


  1. ^ "Clive of India". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 15 March 2016.
  2. ^ a b Andre Sennwald (January 18, 1935). "Pageant of Empire at the Rivoli in 'Clive of India' -- 'Manhattan Romance' at the Radio City Music Hall". The New York Times.
  3. ^ "The Film Business in the United States and Britain during the 1930s" by John Sedgwick and Michael Pokorny, The Economic History ReviewNew Series, Vol. 58, No. 1 (Feb., 2005), pp.97
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Clive of India (film)
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