Sunday, November 1, 2020

Don't Make a Scene: The Man Who Would Be King

The Story: Sir Thomas Sean Connery—"Big Tam" to his familiars—died on Friday. He made it just past 90.

Fois dhut.

Steven Spielberg—who, with George Lucas, cast him as Indiana Jones' father in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (as the James Bond series inspired the "Indiana Jones" films)—called him the "the last movie star." There are so many stories to relate about Connery that one could legitimately call him "fabled," and there were so many lines that passed through my mind yesterday—all done with his Edinburghian burr that he never lost—that he made iconic and sealed in memory.

So much to say. But, I've already said it in reviews of some of his best—and not—films that linked below:

One more thing specific to this scene: the song that is sung is to the tune of the "The Minstrel Boy" but the words are a variation from the Lutheran Songbook, "The Son of God Goes Off to War"—a brilliant choice.

The Set-Up: Late one night, while working at his offices for The Northern Star, Rudyard Kipling (Christopher Plummer) is visited by a decrepit beggar, whom he recognizes as someone he once knew—Peachy Carnehan (Michael Caine), non-commissioned officer in the British Army, who, with his brother-in-arms and fellow Freemason, Daniel Dravot (Sean Connery) had set off on a grandiose mission to follow in the path of Alexander to Kafiristan "to become kings." As Carnehan relates, they became just that, with Dravot believed to be the reincarnation of Alexander himself. The subterfuge falls apart, however, when it is revealed that Dravot is all too human. The citizens and holy men turn on the duo...

Daniel Dravot: Out of bloody ammo.
Peachy Carnehan: Me, too.
[The villagers stop their attack when the High Priest arrives and they turn and listen to his commands]
[The villagers advance on Peachy and Danny]
Daniel Dravot: Peachy, I'm heartily ashamed for gettin' you killed instead of going home rich like you deserved to...
Daniel Dravot:
...on account of me bein' so bleedin' high and bloody mighty. Can you forgive me? 
Peachy Carnehan:
That I can and that I do, Danny, 
Peachey Carnehan: and full and without let or hindrance. 
Daniel Dravot:
Everything's all right then. 
[Daniel begins to sing...] 
Daniel Dravot:
The Son of God 
goes forth to war, 
a kingly crown to gain;
his blood red banner... 
...streams afar: 
who follows in his train?
[The mob take Peachy and Danny to the ravine and the newly constructed rope bridge and push Danny to the edge of it]
[Danny pauses and returns the crown to his head and, satisfied, walks like a king to his fate]
[The high priest orders the bridge supports cut]
Daniel Dravot: Cut, you buggers! Cut!
Daniel Dravot:
A glorious band, 
the chosen few... 
...on whom the Spirit came; 
twelve valiant saints, 
their hope they knew, 
...and mocked the cross and flame. 
[Peachy can't help but join in...]
Daniel and Peachy:
He met the tyrant's... 
...brandished steel, the lion's... 
...gory mane; 
he bowed his head
his death to feel: 
who followed in his train? 
[As Peachy's voice echoes, we return to the present]
Peachy Carnehan: And old Danny fell. 
Peachy Carnehan:
Round and round and round and round, 
Peachy Carnehan: a penny whirligig. Twenty thousand miles and it took him half an hour to fall before he struck the rocks. 
Peachy Carnehan:
But do you know what they did to Peachy? They crucified, him, sah, between two pine trees. As Peachy's hands will show. 
[Peachy displays the mutilated palms of his hands to Kipling] 
Peachy Carnehan:
Put poor Peachy who had never done them any harm. He howled there and he screamed, but he didn't die. And one day they come and they took him down and they said it was a miracle he wasn't dead and then they set him down and they let him go. 
Peachy Carnehan:
And Peachy come home, in about, a year. And the mountains they tried to fall on old Peachy, but he was quite safe because Daniel walked before him. 
Peachy Carnehan:
And Daniel never let go of Peachy's hand and Peachy never let go of Daniel's head. 
Rudyard Kipling:
[aghast] His head? 
Peachy Carnehan:
You knew Danny, sir. Oh, yes, you knew... 
Peachy Carnehan:
...most Worshipful Brother... 
[Takes something out of the sack he is carrying and places it on a table] 
Peachy Carnehan:
Daniel Dravot, Esquire. Well, he became king of Kafiristan, 
Peachy Carnehan:
with a crown on his head and that's all there is to tell. 
Peachy Carnehan:
I'll be on my way now sir, I've got urgent business in the south, I have to meet a man in Marwar Junction. 
[Peachy limps out of the room. Kipling opens the sack and removes Daniel's decaying head with the golden crown still on his head]

Pictures by Oswald Morris and John Huston

The Man Who Would Be King is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Warner Home Video.