Work on Lancer commenced four years earlier when Ernest Schoedsack went to India for exteriors and atmosphere. Some of the Schoedsack stuff is still in, but in those four years the original plans were kicked around until lost. Included in the scrapping was the Francis Yeats-Brown novel.
From the book only the locale and title have been retained. With these slim leads five studio writers went to work on a story, and they turned in a pip. In theme and locale Lancer is of the Beau Geste school. A sweeping, thrilling military narrative in Britain’s desert badlands.
There is a stirring emotional conflict between father and son, the former a traditional British commander with whom discipline and loyalty to the service come first, and the boy rebelling at his father’s cold-blooded attitude.
Gary Cooper and Franchot Tone, as a pair of experienced officers, are not directly involved in the main theme beyond being actuated by it, but they are the picture’s two most important characters and provide the story with its dynamite.
Story concerns their rescue of the colonel’s son after the latter’s disillusionment over his father’s reception of him makes him a setup for capture by a warring native chieftain.
Tone establishes himself as a first-rate light comedian. But in their own way Cooper, Sir Guy Standing, Richard Cromwell, C. Aubrey Smith and Douglas Dumbrille also turn in some first-rate trouping.
1935: Best Assistant Directors (Clem Beauchamp, Paul Wing).
Nominations: Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Art Direction, Editing, Sound