Thursday, March 16, 2017

Charge of the Light Brigade

     While my wife was in Maryland, I spent one night watching the 1968 movie, "Charge of the Light Brigade". The first time I watched this, I really didn't care much for it, except the actual day of Balaclava. I then read Cecil Woodham-Smiths' "The Reason Why", and found that the movie follows the true story, with some "artistic license". It is certainly better than "The Charge of the Light Brigade" with Errol Flynn.  I now find it among my favorite movies.

   After watching the movie, I did some research online and read that the Director also recreated the charge of the Heavy Brigade, but this was removed from the final cut. I have an old issue of Military Illustrated Past & Present, which had the second part of an article " The Making of the Charge" by John Mollo. John Mollo served as advisor on the uniforms in the movie.  I went on Ebay and managed to find the first part of the article. In it Mr. Mollo mentions the charge of the Heavy Brigade, stating; "Impressive as the scene was, it was probably just as well it 'ended on the cutting room floor'- since apart from the excellent brass helmets made in Rome, the Heavies were, at the Directors insistence, incorrectly uniformed in Light Dragoon blue."  In the one photograph in the magazine of the charge of the Heavy Brigade,  I believe the scene would have added much to the movie, even if the uniforms are wrong. Someone mentioned that the BFI has a 4 hour uncut version of the movie. I was wondering if anyone has seen this missing scene?

My Peter Laing Light Brigade

Peter Laing Heavy Brigade


  1. Oddly enough, I preferred the earlier movie for the charge, mainly (if memory serves) because the cavalrty preserved their lines throughout the charge. For a stirring (semi)fictional account, check out G.M. Fraser's "Flashman at the Charge".

  2. For me the great scene in the 1968 movie is when the Brigade starts forward, but the advance is shot from on top of the ridge, from where Raglan supposedly was, although in actuality he was behind the Brigade. I read one Flashman novel years ago; perhaps it's time for me to revisit it.

  3. The Alma does look good but I rather like the earlier movie as well despite the mixed up story line with Cawnpore coming before Crimea etc. The cavalry feels more authentic and of course the lancers aren't wearing cherry picker pants.

    The latter movie seems to carry a heavy 69's social and political agenda but then The Reason Why has a fair amount of bias as well. The whole thing doesn't​ seem to have been that clear.

    Anyway the movie does appear to be slanderously unfair to Fanny.

    But I do like your Light Brigade and should watch both movies again soon!

    1. Certainly there are some things in the movie that bother me, especially the treatment of Mrs. Duberly. Certainly the entire Light Brigade wearing the cherry pants can distract from the movie. However, I think showing how recruiters scrounged for new recruits and and the training scenes were interesting. I must admit that most movies I enjoy I don't put much effort in hidden meaning, though plenty of movies do have them. When reading "The Reason Why", the book tells of how the soldiers were brought to tears at the loss of their horses, that they grew to love. In one scene there is a soldier trying to get his horse to stand. This movie and book actually made me think of the brutality the horses went trough. I guess in the end the fact that the 1968 movie stuck closer to the facts of the campaign is what won me over.

  4. Love your Peter Laing Brigades. I like both movies for different reasons. Whether they are historically accurate or not does not bother me. They are both dramatic and have great battle scenes. If pushed to choose, I would say that I prefer the earlier Errol Flynn film.

  5. I think that the scenes in between the battle scenes are what makes the movie for me. They point out how poorly planned and led the war was. Of course, it has been years since I have seen the 1936 movie.

  6. My father was in the 1968 film. He is seen in command of the lashings given to the corporal, during the charge I can spot him being hacked to the ground and at the end of it he is seen holding his limping horse among the group of cheering men. Sadly that horse had to be put down(as were I believe many others during the filming)which distressed my father as he had felt a great affinity with it even though he had only been with it for a few weeks. It is easy to imagine that the soldiers who took part in the real battle would have had an far greater attachment to their animals. I don't believe any of the actors who took part in the charge were paid danger money despite the obvious risks but my father always said that it was a once in a lifetime opportunity, when else would he get to be involved in a charge with so many horses! I was only 4 when the film was made and rather amazingly I was taken to see it at a special screening when it was released, though seeing it is perhaps an exaggeration as I spent most of the film with my mother's hands over my eyes! Captain Nolan's scream, the subsequent battle noise and images of my father's "battle injuries" (I have some rather gruesome photos) haunted many a childhood dream.