The Rains Came: Review
One very good reason 1939 was such an amazing year in film history is Tyrone Power. No he was not a particularly good actor (though he wasn’t bad). Nor did he make any lasting impact with any of the films in which he appeared that year. However, he was Tyrone Power - the young and ridiculously gorgeous Tyrone Power. And for the studio system at the time that was quite a lot.
1939 was a busy year for Tyrone (Witness for the Prosecution, The Razor’s Edge). He starred in five films for 20th Century Fox, which in addition to The Rains Came included the Technicolor piece Jesse James with Henry Fonda, Rose of Washington Square with Alice Faye, Second Fiddle with Sonja Henie, and Day-Time Wife with Linda Darnell. Tyrone would never again be so busy with so many high profile projects all at the same time. And of all of his films of 1939 The Rains Came was undoubtedly his most prestigious project featuring spectacular Academy Award winning special effects that include an earthquake, torrential rain, a flash flood, and plague. All completed old school style with the effect of reasonable believability. In fact, the effects are considered by many to be one of the most incredible natural disaster scenes captured on film. It’s not just good for the time, it’s actually just plain good and worthy of the Academy’s honor.
Of course, it wasn’t just the special effects that brought in theater goers, the cast was a strong and powerful lure too. Produced by David O. Selznick (Gone with the Wind), the film was spared no expense when it came to actors. Led by the very popular Myrna Loy (of The Thin Man series) the impressive list continues with George Brent (Dark Victory), Nigel Bruce (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes), Jane Darwell (The Grapes of Wrath), Maria Ouspenskaya (Notorious), H.B. Warner (Lost Horizon), Henry Travers (Meet Me in St. Louis) and Joseph Schildkraut (The Dairy of Anne Frank). It’s truly a rather impressive group whose faces are likely more recognizable than their names. However, their talent shines through and turns what could otherwise be a somewhat typical melodrama into an entertainment worth watching as you spy your favorite character actors from the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Set in India, the film strives to be more than a “three hanky”, romantic drama in an exotic location with extremely rich people living amongst the extremely poor. Many of the cast worked against type to varying degrees of success, including Tyrone who plays a native nobleman, doctor (no, really). Loy is the philandering wife of a self-centered member of English aristocracy (Bruce), and Brent is her heavy drinking ex-lover who has abandoned the world and its morals. Neither is particularly worthy of survival. However, their trial by nature (and association with Tyrone’s character) creates better versions of themselves. Their new conditions force them to discover that they are capable of doing great things, the things that a great person such as Tyrone’s character has always deemed worthy regardless of his stature.
The message of nobility for nobility sake is an easy one to impart when you have someone like Tyrone Power personifying its value. The story gives the impression that after the physical attraction it is Tyrone’s good deeds and inner strength of being that persuade Loy to fall deeply and truly in love with him. And it is her turnabout into a selfless woman that causes him to care equally for her. So, much so, that he is willing to give up his position as heir to the throne to be with her. But I have a feeling that the ending might have been a tougher sell with anyone other than Tyrone, an overall model of physical perfection. After all, who wouldn’t want to do as Loy does and give up her position and comfort to work tirelessly by the side of a man with a face like that? Yes, 1939 was a very good year.