Nobody calls him chicken: The Four Feathers (review)

the four feathers_

THE FOUR FEATHERS (Silent, 1929)
Dirs. Merian C. Cooper, Lothar Mendes, and Ernest B. Schoedsack

Those familiar with The Most Dangerous Game (1932) and King Kong (1933) know producer-directors Merian C. Cooper and Ernest Schoedsack’s swashbuckling sensibilities, and in this silent, pre-Kong collaboration between the two (with Lothar Mendes) we get a pulpy yarn of wartime rescue, heroism and redemption. When British military gent Lt. Harry Faversham (Richard Arlen) evades his duty in favor of marrying his childhood sweetheart (Fay Wray) immediately, he drags himself and his family into disgrace. The film’s title derives from four feathers he receives from those once close to him (including a very unimpressed fiancée who’s now embarrassed to be betrothed to such a wimp), the items offered as symbols of his cowardice. However, when his cohorts are captured in Africa he concocts a plan to infiltrate the enemy stronghold and ferry them to safety, thereby restoring his honor.

The Four Feathers

The codes of heroism and masculinity on display here are of course remarkably dated by now; however, even by 1929, in the aftermath of the Great War, the chivalry of soldiering was under considerable scrutiny. Nevertheless, the film’s angst-ridden premise sets up some fine action as the Brits battle their captors, and a particularly momentous chase sequence (albeit with some discomforting animal involvement). The Four Feathers hardly stands alongside Schoedsack and Cooper’s more famous efforts, but it’s an enjoyable excursion before bigger things to come. 3 / 5

Complete film (public domain):

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