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Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Dick Heldar, a London artist, is gradually losing his sight. He struggles to complete his masterpiece, the portrait of Bessie Broke, a cockney girl, before his eyesight fails him.Written by
John Oswalt <email@example.com>
The Light That Failed was the second of a two picture deal Ronald Colman made with Paramount after getting shed of his contract to Sam Goldwyn. Hard to choose between this and If I Were King the other film that was part of the deal as to which was better. I won't even try.
Colman essays the part of Richard Heldar who, but for a tragic accident might have gone on to be acclaimed one of the great artists of the 19th century. The film is based on the first published novel by Rudyard Kipling and according to the Citadel Film series book The Films Of Ronald Colman, this film stayed truer to the story that Kipling told than two previous silent screen versions.
While a pictorial correspondent covering the British war in the Sudan against the Mahdi, Colman is accidentally cut on the forehead by a blade wielding Walter Huston during a battle. A slow moving injury to the optic nerve degenerates Colman's vision, but he's determined to paint on while he can.
Two women are involved with Colman, long time childhood sweetheart Muriel Angelus and tart in every sense of the word Ida Lupino who serves as a model for Colman. Lupino had to battle for this part, director William Wellman wanted her, Colman wanted Vivien Leigh. As much as I like Vivien Leigh, I can't see her doing this part better than Lupino did.
The film really is a personal vehicle for Ronald Colman who typifies the British ideal, it's how they see themselves, it's the image they like to convey to the world. Colman does dominate this film as he usually does in his films.
And as entertainment it holds up well after more than 70 years, don't miss The Light That Failed if you are a fan of Ronald Colman.
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