'The Lives of a Bengal Lancer,' 1935

It's an enthralling colonial adventure story and a thrilling tribute to the star-power of Gary Cooper. As a Scots-Canadian major upholding the honor of the Raj, Cooper proves that the greatest virtue for a movie man of action isn't bucko elegance or stylistic spareness. It's the ability, like an acting version of Hemingway, to communicate between the lines. In "Lancer," Franchot Tone is amusing as a foppish subaltern, but it's Cooper who holds the show together in a part constructed of cocksure actions and fumbling explanations. The actor's rugged, lanky swagger and his stubborn, accusing, sometimes wounded eyes express what Otis Ferguson rightly saw as the heart of the movie: "men living together and getting in each other's hair, tied together by the strange bond of work and discipline, by the common pride of doing the job." Thanks to Cooper, the movie's final showpiece is man's-man tearjerking at its soul-stirring peak. Pictured: Gary Cooper in a 1930 photo by Edward Steichen
AP Photo/Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale
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