Song of the Day #2087

Song of the Day: Gunga Din (“Across the Bridge / Battle at Tantrapur”) [YouTube link], composed by Alfred Newman, is from the 1939 George Stevens-directed adventure film, starring Sam Jaffe in the title role, along with Cary Grant, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and Victor McLaglen. Loosely based on the 1890 Rudyard Kipling poem, the film concludes with the same classic line: “You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din.” But the movie offers up quite an adventure, both comedic and tragic, before we get to that conclusion. There’s been a long debate over the film’s legacy, its British colonialist and racist subtext, and the controversial use of dark make-up in Hollywood. That said, this cue from the score by Alfred Newman is one of his most stirring, a highlight from Hollywood’s Golden Year of 1939. The movie’s adventurous scenes influenced Steven Spielberg’s “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”, and Alfred Newman had a significant impact on Spielberg’s musical comrade, John Williams, to whom our attention turns tomorrow.

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