Elephant Walk

1954, Movie, NR, 102 mins

Review

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Taylor is radiant as the new bride Finch brings home to the ancestral plantation in exotic Ceylon. She is surrounded by menacing jungles and soon becomes a woman living in a doll's house, her husband more concerned with drinking with cronies and honoring the memory of his dead, tyrannical father than with attending to her emotional and sexual needs. Handsome American overseer Andrews enters the picture, and Taylor soon falls in love with him, but before the two can run off, a devastating plague of cholera breaks out and Taylor ministers to the sick. Worse, the elephants who have been tooting and bellowing throughout the film, threatening to crash through the walls of Finch's palatial estate--it was built spitefully and intentionally by his father in the middle of their ancient pathway--finally come stampeding into the mansion, destroying the walls, the fine manor house, and reclaiming their old right of way. Though the production values of this film are superior and the direction is swift, the acting is less than energetic. Finch ambles about like an inebriated oaf, not the decisive master of a great plantation. Andrews is charming but shallow, and Taylor's talent is limited to knitting her pretty eyebrows for the heavy dramatic scenes. The elephant stampede is impressive and a game of polo played on bicycles is fun, but the best acting is performed by supporting players--Sofaer as a truculent major-domo and Biberman as a patient and understanding doctor. This film was originally planned for Laurence Olivier and his then wife Vivien Leigh. He bowed out and was replaced by Finch, but Leigh actually began the movie, then grew ill after a month's production and was replaced by Taylor, although Leigh can still be viewed in some long shots. Leigh traveled to the on-location site in Ceylon, but the heat brought on an attack of her recurrent tuberculosis and caused her incessant insomnia; she continued for two weeks at the Paramount lot, then collapsed with a nervous breakdown. In desperation producer Asher borrowed Taylor from MGM, paying that studio $150,000 for her services, plus $3,500 for each day of overtime. More than two dozen dresses designed by Edith Head for Leigh had to be let out for the more voluptuous Taylor. The beautiful Taylor suffered one of her first in-production tragedies in ELEPHANT WALK. A wind machine malfunctioned and a steel splinter flew into her eye; she was hospitalized and almost lost her sight in one eye. The lush Griggs cinematography and rich Waxman score enhance an otherwise lightweight movie. leave a comment

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